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11 Common Injuries in Dogs: Causes, Treatments & Preventions

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Majid Tanveer, DVM

Nothing is more terrifying than seeing your dog happily leaping up to grab a Frisbee, only to land in pain and distress Or arriving home from work and finding your beloved dog with an injured paw dripping blood onto the floor.

Are you familiar with the injuries that could afflict your dear companion? Do you know how to treat them?

Common injuries may include tail injury from a dog fight or attack, eye injury, cruciate ligament issues, limb damage such as cuts and scratches, spinal trauma, oral distress, soft tissue injuries, and paw injuries.

As a professional veterinarian, I know firsthand how common it is for dogs to suffer from injuries, whether they be minor or severe. Here is a list of some common injuries you may encounter with your pup and tips on how to treat them. Let’s dive in!

Do Dogs Get Injured More Easily Than Other Animals?

Dogs are more prone to injuries than other animals due to their:

  • Size
  • Energy levels
  • Sociable nature can lead to fights.

They also lack some animals’ protective fur or feathers, making cuts and scratches more common and potentially leading to infection.

Some breeds’ fur length and type can make them even more vulnerable when running through bushes and climbing fences. 

All these factors make dogs more likely to get injured in everyday life than other animals.

11 Major Dog Injuries and How to Treat Them

Dogs can suffer from a range of injuries. Here are 11 of the most common ones and how to treat them:

1. Dog Fight or Attack

Dog fights can be pretty violent and result in lasting damage. From minor scrapes to much more severe injuries, dog attacks cause varying levels of wounds on the skin and flesh due to their sharp teeth puncturing or tearing the surface.

Dog bites can cause severe damage to the following:

  • Underlying tissue
  • Muscle
  • Bones
  • Organs

The neck is often the first area affected in a dog bite, but any body part is susceptible. 

Injuries can have varying degrees of severity and affect a broad range of body areas, for example, the head, arms, torso, and abdomen. 

When a larger dog attacks a smaller pup, the consequences can be severe. Neurological or internal traumas may be present if another dog has bitten your small dog.

With the high bacteria levels in their mouths, bite wounds are often prone to infection. When one is bitten, it is important to seek help within an hour of injury and first aid to your dog carefully.

2. Major Trauma

Trauma is a typical medical emergency for dogs, resulting in significant injuries both internally and externally.

Car accidents are the most common source of traumas but fall from heights or automobile accidents can also be responsible.

This trauma often includes:

  • Head injuries
  • Internal bleeding
  • Bone fractures
  • Organ trauma
  •  Joint dislocation
  • Road rash and other skin wounds.

To avoid these potential dangers:

  • Make sure always to keep your dog on a leash when outside.
  • If you have a balcony or patio area, use a gate or barricade as an extra precaution.
  • Close all windows before leaving the house and secure your dog in a car restraint for safe transport.
  • You must administer immediate first aid if your canine companion suffers severe trauma.

3. Oral Injury

Dogs can suffer oral injuries from hard objects such as:

  • Bones
  • Antlers
  • Hooves
  • Soft objects like ropes, sticks, and twigs

Fighting with other dogs can cause biting and facial wounds in the mouth. So it’s essential to monitor your pup’s oral health and habits.

Oral injury may be due to a lodged stick between the molars on the roof of the mouth or damage to teeth, gums, tongue, and other soft tissue.

4. Paw Injuries

Paw injuries are frequent in dogs, who suffer from painful cuts and burns after stepping on hot pavement or broken glass. 

If your dog is limping or favoring one leg due to an injured pad, try delicately removing any foreign objects you find stuck inside.

To stabilize bleeding paws, firmly press a clean cloth on the area. (Be sure to remove any glass shards or foreign objects first.) 

To soothe burns on your pup’s feet, partaking in the application of an icepack is ideal; however, cool running water can also help minimize discomfort.

5. Injuries to the Limbs

Injuries to the limbs, such as fractures and joint dislocations, can cause limping in your dog.

Major fractures usually appear quickly, but minor fractures, particularly affecting small bones or ligaments not carrying much weight, may be more challenging to spot.

An examination by your vet is often necessary; he may recommend radiographs (x-rays) for further examination.

Treatment can range from splints or casts to surgery, pins, or plates in more severe cases. 

Ensuring your dog’s limbs are taken care of is key to keeping him active and healthy.

6. Soft Tissue Injuries

These injuries can occur when dogs bump into complex objects or engage in strenuous physical activity. These injuries include:

  • Bruises
  • Tendonitis
  • Bursitis
  • Muscle strains or sprains

Most dog agility participants experience back or shoulder injuries. Bruises usually heal within a few days without treatment, whereas sprains and strains may cause lasting pain.

Ice packs and heating pads can also help reduce the discomfort before giving medication to your dog.

7. Cuts and Scratches

It’s common for dogs to suffer cuts and abrasions due to their active lifestyle. It can be from many things, such as:

  • Nails
  • Glass shards
  • Sharp rocks
  • Any other hazardous material

These irritants embed in paw pads or between toes as the dog passes them. Thus, leading to wounds on the body and paws occasionally.

To eradicate bacteria and other particles from a wound, it’s essential to have your dog go through deep cleaning.

If the injury is more severe, stitches may be needed. If any foreign material is present in the area of concern, veterinary exploration will likely ensue; this could also involve surgical removal.

8. Tail Injury

Tail injuries can happen to dogs from:

  • Trauma
  • Getting stuck in something
  • Being bitten/stepped on

Large breed dogs may be so excited that they wag their tails with such enthusiasm and force that it causes bruising and scraping when the tail slams into a hard surface.

Treatment for the injury can take weeks or months and might involve:

  • Bandages
  • E-collars
  • Crate restrictions

However, when the dog feels better and starts wagging again, it can re-injure its tail. Thus, care must be taken to ensure that the injury heals properly.

Limber tail syndrome, which a strain or sprain can cause, is often the cause of an animal’s limp tail. Swimming and excessive wagging can also make your dog’s tail flaccid. 

Pain medications can help with comfort and recovery, but in most cases, the condition will resolve itself within a few days. 

9. Eye Injury

Eye injuries in dogs are common and can occur due to various causes – running through the foliage, a cat swatting at it, or a dogfight.

In addition, hanging the head out of moving vehicles may cause road and air debris abrasions. One may observe signs of an eye injury, such as:

  • Squinting
  • Tearing
  • Redness
  • Bulging
  • Swelling

With timely diagnosis and treatment, countless eye injuries can be effectively managed with medication.

10. Cruciate Ligament Injury

Anchoring the femur and tibia, two strong bands of fibrous tissue within each knee joint form a secure hinged connection called cruciate ligaments. This ensures the stifle (knee) functions reliably as one unit.

Injury of the cruciate ligament is a common limb injury in dogs, and it results in:

  • Instability
  • Knee pain

When a dog’s limb is injured, he usually holds it off the ground to avoid further anguish but cannot bear his full body weight on it.

Surgery is usually necessary to repair the rupture; however, successful outcomes are favored. Sadly, dogs often damage the second limb’s ligament too. 

11. Spinal Injury

From minor strains to complete ruptures, spinal injuries in dogs may occur due to an accident or genetic factors.

Spinal cord compression due to intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common medical condition that can lead to severe disability and paralysis. It occurs when the discs between vertebrae bulge or rupture, creating pressure on the spinal column.

Signs may gradually appear or strike suddenly. Treatment involves medication, rest, and in severe cases, surgery.

Spinal fractures are less common and usually the result of significant trauma; surgical repair may be necessary.

Tips for Treating the Injured Dog

Dogs are resilient creatures, but like us, they may require medical attention for their injuries.

Here are some tips:

  • Always keep the area clean before treating any injury; using a soft cloth and warm water is best.
  • Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain, like an ice pack or frozen veggies wrapped in a clean cloth.
  • Administer first aid when needed – stabilize fractures, stop bleeding with a bandage, and use compresses to reduce swelling.
  • Clean wounds with tincture iodine or saline solution, not rubbing alcohol which can be toxic.
  • Stabilize severe fractures and dislocations with splints or casts.
  • Provide plenty of rest during recovery, pain medications may be needed for management.

Tips to Prevent Injuries in Your Dog

Take the necessary precautions to ensure your pup stays safe and healthy and avoids costly vet bills. Keep your pup safe by taking proactive steps:

  • Keep your dog well-groomed: Regular grooming helps prevent matting, skin problems, and other issues caused by unclean fur.
  • Be vigilant when walking your dog: Stay aware of your surroundings, any obstacles that may cause falls, and the potential danger from other animals.
  • Ensure that collar and harness fit correctly: Make sure all accessories are adjusted properly, as too-tight gear can result in chaffing and discomfort for your dog.
  • Watch out for sharp edges: Be mindful of furniture, countertops, and other potentially hazardous surfaces that could harm your dog’s paws or skin.
  • Supervise playtime: Monitor all activities to make sure they are safe and enjoyable for your pup; watch out, especially for any sudden movements that could be dangerous.
  • Stay alert around power tools and machinery: If you work with potentially dangerous equipment or electronics, ensure your dog is safe.
  • Be aware of extreme temperatures: Keep your dog cool in the summer and warm in the winter; overheating or hypothermia can cause injury or illness.

Note: Check with your vet for additional advice or concerns about protecting your dog from injuries. Always take their expert opinion into account!

Pet Care Tip: Check out this video on first aiding your dog’s injuries. It will show you the proper way to check their wounds and what you should do while giving first aid to your dog.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Most Common Injury for Dogs?

Bite wounds are the most frequent injury among dogs. These can occur with other animals, such as cats or canines, during altercations. Regarding dogs, aggression often results from behaviors that begin with snarling and growling. 

Do Dog Injuries Heal on Their Own?

Minor cuts can heal quickly over a few days if they stay dry and clean. Ensure you inspect the wound daily while preventing your pup from licking it until it has healed completely. To keep them away from the contaminated area, utilize a buster collar or a protective body suit for additional protection.

What Should I Feed My Dog After an Injury?

For a speedy recovery, your pup needs a diet high in protein for lean body mass maintenance, fat and protein for lower carbohydrates, and plenty of energy to combat loss of appetite and increased metabolic rate.