Soft tissue injuries include injuries to muscle, tendons and ligaments. They come in the form of sprains or strains and tears or ruptures.
1. Sprains and strains.
Dogs spend most of their days standing on their toes, with their ankles raised and their knees often bent. Sounds awkward, but normal for them.
This positioning, while allowing them to be agile, may put a lot of stress on their joints and muscles. Chasing after things, leaping in the air and running about can take its toll.
Actually, it’s very common for dogs to overdo things and move with gusto and excitement. So be it their wrists, toes, elbows, hips, knees, ankles or shoulders; strains and sprains are not uncommon.
A strain can injure vital tendons in a dog’s body. The tendons are an important part of the body which links the bones and muscles together.
If your dog stretches too much, too often or further than his body can, this can result in a strain. Strains in the thighs and hips are very common and can also occur after a fall, a jump or a slip.
Sprains can also affect ligaments which join bones to each other. This can lead to joint damage.
Another serious injury is Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) sprain or tear. A torn CCL can cause a dog immense pain.
Strain in a dog can come in differing strengths or severities. They can range from mild to severe. They can also be an ongoing sprain or an acute (sudden) sprain.
2. Ruptures and Tears
A torn muscle can be a very painful experience. When normal functioning muscles are strained or interrupted, the result can be a nasty contraction of the muscle. Normally, the weakest part of the tendon gets torn. It is generally overstretching that causes a muscle tear in a dog.
Acute or sudden muscle tears can occur after high-impact agility movements. Examples are chasing over-enthusiastically after a ball, turning sharply on the ground or in the air or even playing with other dogs. A common but rarely diagnosed injury is a tear of the iliopsoas muscle.
Although there is a higher risk of muscle tears in working or sporting dogs, there are many reasons that can cause a muscle to tear in a dog.
Some causes of soft tissue tears:
- Improper warm up before exercising
- Overextension (pulled or overstretched muscle)
- An orthopaedic (bone and joint) issue
- A neurological condition
- Post-Surgery (after CCL is common)
- Recurring training with little variation in activities or movements
- Trauma (such as an accident)Overextension (pulled or overstretched muscle)
- Myositis (inflammation in the muscle)
- Degenerative muscular disease of unknown cause
- Apparent risk factor for dogs is involvement in hunting, tracking, sport, or similar activities in the outdoors that put stress on the muscles
Muscles and soft tissues can be stretched or pulled, pinched or injured directly. These injuries will result in fibre disruption and weakening of the muscle.
Soft tissue ruptures/tears may be complete or incomplete. They may be in the middle of the muscle or where the muscle and tendon come together.
These tears may over time, cause chronic problems such as adhesions and scar tissue to develop. Adhesions and scar tissue may lead to weaknesses in the affected muscle areas.
Many times the acute phase is overlooked. The signs may be temporary and respond well to rest and then we forget about them. The chronic (longer term) effects are often ongoing and intensify over time. This may cause some injuries to become unresponsive to supporting therapies.
Ruptures and tears that appear unrelated to trauma seem to affect middle-aged to older working dogs, both male and female.
Symptoms of muscle and soft tissue injuries:
- Immediate lameness that is characterized by the specific muscle affected
- Localized swelling, heat, and pain
- Generally present for a few days to a week
- Chronic phase (if it develops)
- Appears to be painless
- Sometimes intermittent and/or subtle changes in gait or body movement (dog is “not quite right”)
- Usually associated with scar tissue that impedes normal function of an extremity
Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination. This may include X-rays, ultrasounds or MRIs and sometimes even biopsies of the affected muscle.
These tests help to determine the cause and type of the injury. They allow your vet to see if the injury has affected the joints or is caused by a misaligned joint or fragment, scar tissue, contracted areas of fibrous tissue etc.
Your vet will also test your dog’s joints for evidence of joint instability or misalignment. He or she can measure differences in muscle size due to atrophy (wasting away due to lack of use).
How can you help?
When an injury occurs, ensure swift veterinary action along with physio and rehab!
Many times injury prevention is key through proper preparation before, during and after exercise and training!
Soft tissue injuries (through exercise, accident, wear and tear or surgery) may affect your dog’s gait and muscle movement for the short or long term depending on the injury. Scar-related problems can affect your dog’s gait and movement in the long-term.
A change in gait and movement causes stress and imbalances in the body, thereby also placing extra strain on joints and tension in compensating muscles.
Healthy joints help prevent improper gait and provide a smooth moving action for your dog. Healthy joints may also help prevent muscle sprains and tears.
Keep your dog’s joints healthy before a soft tissue injury occurs and also during soft tissue injuries with Sashas Blend. It helps with inflammation and pain relief that occurs with extra stresses placed on the joint while the soft tissue injury is being addressed. Sashas Blend is safe to use with other medications and even before and after surgery.