In my ongoing quest to keep our senior dogs safe and well, I’m going to be talking about common dog injuries and how to prevent them.
Age has nothing to do with ability to get hurt, making our dogs vulnerable at any stage of life. What can make a common injury much more problematic in some old dogs, especially those who face health challenges are things like: slower healing and recovery time due to weaker bones and compromised immune systems.
That does not mean you should lock your dog in the house and keep him in a bubble, he needs to be out and about, just be aware of what’s going on around him.
Listen, accidents are going to happen no matter how diligent we are, but we’re still going to do everything we can to prevent them aren’t we! The best way to deal with common injuries is to do our best to prevent them in the first place, and when that isn’t possible know what to do when they occur.
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Common dog injuries
Being hit by a car
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the waiting room of the vet’s office talking to someone whose dog was hit by a car. You can be the most responsible pet parent ever, but sometimes things just happen.
Obviously the trauma can be anything from minor to fatal, and even if your dog gets up and walks away, take him to the vet immediately. Many injuries worsen over time, while others can go unnoticed for days, even weeks.
As I’ve said, accidents can happen to the most diligent, but here are some precautions to take:
Drum the message “do not leave the door open” into the head of everyone who lives in your house, and make sure they take you seriously.
Teach your dog recall, and make sure he knows it well before letting him off a leash.
If he is off leash stick to quieter areas, far from roads.
I never let a dog out without a harness (okay except for Red). I’ve heard many people say their dog would never chase a squirrel or try and get to the dog on the other side of the road…until they do. Perhaps you just adopted a new dog and you don’t know what he’s like when you’re out and about. The next thing you know you’re holding a leash and collar with no one attached to it. Do everyone a favour and buy a harness for safety.
Sprains and tears
Sprains and tears are so common, yet can most often be prevented. For example…
Most of us experience cold, if not very cold winters, and the dog park is usually a distant memory for several months. The first nice day and we’re so excited we can’t get the dogs to the park fast enough. Hang on!
You’ve been doing your best to exercise your dog in the winter weather, but it’s unlikely he’s as fit as he was. He’s been more sedentary, his muscles have weakened and you’re going to have to gradually work up to his previous fitness level.
I live with dogs that can’t stand the cold and snow, so I know how hard it can be to keep up a good exercise routine, but do your best. How about a dog pool or indoor dog park? Are there any in your area? What about some indoor agility training? You want him to stay as strong as possible, so when it’s dog park season again he’ll avoid strains and sprains.
Of course these types of injuries don’t only happen in the dog park. He could be having a good old run around with his other doggie pals, stumble over a rock or when running down a slope, even jumping off the couch or bed.
If your dog has arthritis or is blind like mine is, it’s easy enough for them to stumble over an item left on the floor.
You don’t want to deprive your dog of fun, but perhaps you could manage the terrain he runs over, and pet steps or a ramp against the couch or bed are a big help as well. Keep your floors clutter free will help all dogs, but especially those with mobility or vision challenges.
If you notice your dog limping, refusing to walk, licking his foot, swelling or anything out of the ordinary, see your vet at once.
Heat stroke is extremely serious, even deadly, but the good news is it can easily be prevented.
- Avoid walking your dog during the hottest part of the day. Early morning and evening are best. A quick pee and poop in the middle of the day is fine, just keep your eye on the time.
- Bring water on walks and take breaks in the shade
- If your dog lives outside (which I sincerely hope he doesn’t!) provide plenty of shade and fresh cool water
- Fill up a kiddy pool for your dog to cool off in and have a big old splash
- Never leave your dog unattended in a car, even if only for a second (which it never is), and even if the windows are open which doesn’t help.
- If your dog is panting, stumbling, lethargic or seems disoriented take him to the vet immediately.
Heatstroke is too dangerous to adopt a “wait and see” attitude. If you do wait you may not like what you “see” as a result.
Eating things they shouldn’t or eating unsupervised
Some dogs are notorious when it comes to eating anything and everything off the ground. If you see me walking my dogs you’ll notice my head is constantly turned to the left and down. The left because that’s the side my dogs walk on and down in order to keep an eagle eye they don’t eat anything. In a split second they found that chicken bone and aren’t letting go! Of course it’s a worry for Jack but worse for Red because she no longer has the cast iron stomach she used to have. She may be blind, but if there’s crap on the ground she’ll find it…and good luck prying it out of her jaw.
Never leave your dog unattended while he’s chewing a bone, and no toy should be a choking hazard, meaning pay attention to the size.
Before you buy any new plants for your home, or if you already have some, check if they’re poisonous. My dogs never ate plants, only the cats did, but better safe than sorry. Move them out of reach or perhaps a friend or neighbour would trade you a non-poisonous one for yours.
Medications and cleaning products are dangerous, keeping them locked away is the easiest way to prevent injury.
Some human foods are on the “no” list as well such as onions, grapes and chocolate to name just a few.
Despite your best efforts things happen, so if you suspect your dog did ingest something he shouldn’t have, or know what he did eat, call the pet poison hotline or take him to the vet.
Injuries to the mouth
Does your dog chase bees, hoping against all hope he’ll finally catch one? His sense of accomplishment won’t last long once he’s stung in the mouth.
Does he love to chew on sticks, ripping them to pieces in the process? How about running with one in his mouth? Sticks can splinter and be swallowed or get lodged in his mouth when running. Remember your mother told you never to run with a lollipop in your mouth!
Certain bones can also splinter and cause mouth injury.
Again, not everything is preventable, but other than the bee stings, you could control what your dog chews on and when. Ideally anyway!
Dog fighting and bites often go hand in hand. Clean any obvious wounds, but just because you can’t see an injury doesn’t mean there isn’t one. To prevent dog bites don’t leave dogs alone, unsupervised, especially if they’re unfamiliar.
Not as uncommon as you might think! If there are snakes in your area, or are found on trails you like to hike on, your safest option would be to keep your dog on a leash, or walk him elsewhere so he can enjoy his freedom.
Most bites are not life threatening, but it is critical to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Being able to identify the snake, or at least what it looked like, would be helpful, if you can’t don’t panic just go.
If you do hike with your dog in an area that has snakes, I recommend you research the types found there, what they look like and how dangerous they are. If they are dangerous avoid the area, surely there are others places to go.
If the snakes are not dangerous, find out exactly what to do in case of a bite and be prepared to act.
Prevent encounters with wild animals like raccoons and even coyotes, by keeping an eye out when hiking with your dog and keeping him in at night.
Wounds may require stiches, bandages or even antibiotics, so if there is an altercation best take him to the vet to check for any trauma that isn’t obvious.
The result of stepping on a sharp object such as a nail or piece of glass, these can be dangerous because you may not see the problem. If you see your dog licking a particular area or something seems “off” have a good look around his body for signs of a wound. If you can’t find anything have your vet do it. Leaving it alone can lead to abscess, infection…
Eye injuries are tough ones to prevent. Dogs stick their head out the car window and dust and debris get in, they play with other dogs or cats and get a scratch, they run through high grass or woods… Other than allowing your dog to hang out of a moving car, there’s not much you can do to protect him from every eye injury. If you do see your dog pawing at his eye, they’re red, tearing, or anything else that doesn’t look quite right, call your vet immediately. You don’t want to ignore these symptoms and risk a major problem developing.
Ear injuries are most commonly the result of bite wounds from enthusiastic play. You can’t deprive your furry pal of fun time with his mates, but you can keep an eye out when play starts to get a bit rough. If you’re too late, put some ice or a cold compress on it and call the vet for recommendations of a good antibiotic cream. More serious wounds may require stitches but your vet will let you know what’s what.
A torn nail can happen when it gets caught in a towel, rug, mesh or it tears on cement or stones. That’s what happened with our dog Jack, during his recovery from spinal surgery. For a few months he dragged his back legs a bit and one day I saw blood on his paw. I checked and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. It turns out his nail was ripped, so I kept his foot bandaged when out to protect it.
I know this is obvious but I like to be thorough when I write, so I have to include major trauma.
That means things like injuries caused by:
- Being shot (I can’t believe I even have to write this but sadly it happens)
- Involvement in a car accident
- Being hit by a car
- Falling from a height
It doesn’t matter if your dog seems fine, the likelihood is that he isn’t. Shock, internal bleeding, organ damage, sprains or injuries are all realistic consequences of a major trauma, and something that needs to be seen to immediately. Take him to the vet now, don’t wait for an appointment for another day.
Common dog injuries – conclusion
Our dogs can certainly get into some mischief can’t they? That’s life, you can’t keep them safe from everything although we can certainly try. I hope you found this article on common dog injuries helpful, and the tips on prevention handy.
Has your dog been getting into some mischief lately? What kinds of injuries have you had to deal with (nothing serious I hope), and what tricks have you found to prevent them. Sharing helps others so leave your comments below or on my Facebook page.