How to Treat a Sprained Ankle in a Dog: 9 Steps

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How to Treat a Sprained Ankle in a Dog: 9 Steps
How to Treat a Sprained Ankle in a Dog: 9 Steps

A sprained ankle is an injury to the tendons, ligaments, and muscles associated with the joint in question and can occur as a result of an accident or heavy play. Knowing how to quickly recognize the problem is essential for the treatment, preventing the situation from getting worse.


Part 1 of 2: Identifying the twist

Treat a Sprained Ankle on a Dog Step 1

Step 1. Understand canine anatomy

Dogs stand up and walk on their toes. When a dog is standing, you can see his ankles between his knee and his toes. The position is very similar to ours when we stand on tiptoe.

They don't have ankles on their front legs, just as we don't have on their arms. Sprains can also occur on the front legs, and the treatment is very similar. Still, the ideal is to look for a veterinarian

Treat a Sprained Ankle on a Dog Step 2

Step 2. Know the possible causes of sprains

Many dogs are athletic and engage in activities that can cause extreme amounts of strain on the joints, which in turn causes injury.

  • Running, jumping and skidding can put strain on a dog's leg joints.
  • Even a dog that is not athletic can experience more stress on the joints than they are able to handle. The twisting can occur due to a slip, a fall, a false step and even simpler activities such as getting off the couch.
Treat a Sprained Ankle on a Dog Step 3

Step 3. See if he is limping

The most recognizable sign of sprained ankle is limping with the hind legs. This is usually the first apparent effect of the injury.

  • The dog will likely try not to put weight on the affected leg so it doesn't feel pain.
  • Depending on the severity of the injury, the animal may have its paw raised and not use it.
  • Also know other reasons that can cause the dog to limp. Hip, knee or leg injuries are also serious and are often compensated for with a limp walk.
Treat a Sprained Ankle on a Dog Step 4

Step 4. Look for visible injuries

Is the site swollen and red? Sign that the dog has some injury.

Also pay attention to the animal's behavior. If he's licking the same spot too much, maybe something's wrong

Treat a Sprained Ankle on a Dog Step 5

Step 5. Watch for behavioral signs

An injured dog may behave differently. Some examples that usually suggest injuries:

  • Change in appetite, usually represented by an apparent lack of hunger.
  • A change in activity levels, such as sleeping more or not wanting to exercise.
  • Injury-related vocalizations, such as barking, growling, or whining whenever you touch or move your ankle.

Part 2 of 2: Treating a Sprained Ankle

Treat a Sprained Ankle on a Dog Step 6

Step 1. Let the dog rest, as this is the first step in treating any sprains

To do this, restrict the animal's activities by confining it to a place where it is not possible to run or play. The less active the dog is, the better.

  • If necessary, take the dog for a walk with a short lead, taking slow, brief walks to relieve himself. Get him back to confinement as soon as possible.
  • Restrict activities for 48 hours so the injury has enough time to recover.
Treat a Sprained Ankle on a Dog Step 7

Step 2. Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain and speed recovery

Apply for 10 to 15 minutes, if the dog allows it.

  • Wrap the compress in a cloth to protect the dog's skin from excessive cold and prevent burns.
  • Repeat as needed, taking two-hour intervals between applications so that the skin is not irritated and blood circulation is not impaired, as these things can delay recovery.
  • It's a good idea to use a packet of frozen vegetables as a compress, as it can be "moulded" around the ankle, applying the cold temperature evenly over any damaged tissue.
Treat a Sprained Ankle on a Dog Step 8

Step 3. Apply hot compresses

If the dog has recurrent, chronic or older injuries, low temperatures are not recommended. At this stage, it is ideal to apply moist heat.

  • The heat improves circulation and helps to reduce muscle stiffness, in addition to relaxing the dog.
  • For the compress, moisten a clean towel in warm water. It is important that the fabric is not hot enough to burn the skin, however.
  • Apply for 10 to 15 minutes and remove. Wait at least an hour before repeating.
  • Do not do heat treatments immediately after exercise.
Treat a Sprained Ankle on a Dog Step 9

Step 4. Watch for signs of improvement or worsening

During the 48-hour rest period, it is important to observe the dog closely. With rest and treatment, it is common for the sprains to recover quickly.

  • If the leg is not better after 48 hours, see a veterinarian. If the situation worsens at any time, consult the professional.
  • If you don't notice improvement, the dog may need more rest and medications prescribed by a professional.
  • Sometimes an injury in another region hinders recovery. If there is a more serious injury, such as a dislocation or fracture, it is best to have a thorough examination at the nearest veterinary hospital.


Treat the sprain as soon as possible so the dog has a better chance of recovery. This way, you also prevent the injury from getting worse or causing more damage


  • Do not attempt a bandage without the advice of your veterinarian. Improper application of bandages can cause serious problems, such as skin irritation and poor blood circulation to the site, which can impair recovery and cause tissue damage.
  • Do not medicate the dog without veterinarian supervision. Giving over-the-counter human or canine medications without professional assistance is dangerous. Some human remedies are also prescribed for animals, but the dosages are very different and any mistake can be fatal.
  • If you do not notice improvement in 48 hours, see your veterinarian. If the leg is getting worse, take the animal to the hospital as soon as possible. Perhaps the problem is just a kink, but it's possible that you don't identify other, more serious problems that might have occurred.

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