Dog leg sprain and strains are some of the most common dog injuries, especially during summertime.

From soft tissue injuries, like dog leg sprains, to torn ligaments in your dog’s knee, these types of injuries can be expensive, frustrating, and hard to watch your dog be in pain.

However, there are ways to avoid these common dog leg sprains, strains, and injuries using natural remedies to treat them if they happen to your dog.

How does a dog leg strain or sprain happen? 

Strains and sprains can happen commonly when your dog overworks itself.

Think about your own self getting out of winter without much activity and you try to run a marathon for the first time without working up to it.

These dog leg strains and sprains come from our dog’s not being ready and can affect the muscles or the ligaments or traumatic injuries.  For example, one of the most common injuries is a torn cruciate knee ligament which is like an ACL tear in people.

Dog limpingThese types of injuries are painful and can lead to surgeries that are thousands of dollars for repair and rehabilitation following surgery.

But here’s an important point to remember that was stated by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS):

“Ligament rupture is a result of subtle, slow degeneration that has been taking place over a few months or even years rather than the result of acute (sudden) trauma to an otherwise healthy ligament (which is very rare).”

Ensuring your dog’s nutrition and joint health is optimized is the number one way to prevent dog sprains and strains from happening in the first place.

Nutrient Deficiency

Unfortunately, more dogs are developing cruciate ligament tears.  And here’s the thing.

Healthy ligaments don’t just tear.

Dr. Karen Becker, a leading proactive integrative veterinarian, has found that there seems to be a link with many of the dogs experiencing ligament tears and strains.

A manganese deficiency. 

Many of these dogs are on a processed, kibble diet that may be lacking in these vitamins and minerals that are crucial for overall ligament health.

Dog food

Dogs require a high level of manganese for optimal joint and cartilage health. Yet, processed foods and home-prepared cooked and raw food diets that are not carefully balanced tend to be low in this crucial vitamin.

Manganese is found in the highest quantities in hair, feathers, and wool, which are not commonly fed to your dog.

To help combat a mineral deficiency that may be leading to weakened ligaments and predisposing your dog to cruciate injuries, add whole-food supplements like Standard Process Canine Musculoskeletal Support to your dog’s diet.

Common Signs of a Dog Strain or Sprain

The most common sign for a dog leg strain or sprain is limping.

Many dogs will not vocalize when they are in pain or when they’ve hurt themselves, but if you notice them not putting the weight down on their paw or leg, it’s painful.

Other common signs include:

  • Swollen paws or joints
  • Getting grumpy if a certain area is touched
  • Lameness after activity
  • Toe touching on their hindleg
  • Licking an area excessively

If you’re noticing that your pet is not acting normal which started after a known injury or you heard a yelp and then your dog is non-weight bearing, your dog may have sprained something.

It can be difficult to determine if it’s a muscle problem or related to a tendon or ligament since the clinical signs are very similar.

How to Diagnose a Dog Sprain or Strain

If you notice any of these clinical signs, make sure to contact your veterinarian.  Your pet may need an x-ray to make sure nothing is broken or that nothing else is going on.

Also, a physical exam by your veterinarian can help identify what’s happening so you can fix it more quickly rather than guessing what happened.

There are certain manipulations and movements your veterinarian can do when assessing for a muscle versus ligament problem.

Your dog may have a developmental orthopedic problem, like hip dysplasia, that hasn’t been diagnosed yet.  Sometimes the first sign is an injury that causes pain to the hip area.

Your veterinarian can do an Ortolani maneuver on the hip to assess the joint laxity along with a radiograph to help diagnose if this is the underlying cause of the pain.

With cranial cruciate injuries, your veterinarian will assess the knee for increased laxity (or mobility) by doing an examination looking for cranial drawer or tibial thrust.

This maneuver involves manipulating the knee to see how much movement occurs with the lower tibial bone in relation to the femur bone.

When the joint ligaments are torn, there’s increased movement in the knee.

cat xray

By doing a physical examination combined with imaging, like radiographs, you’ll be able to get a better idea of where the pain is coming from with your dog so you can better treat it more efficiently and effectively.

Natural remedies to help reduce inflammation and support healing

Number one is to make sure you’re resting your dog.

You can use a crate if you have one and they are used to being in a crate, and if you don’t, make sure to reduce activity.  This means no long hikes or strenuous exercise until your dog is using that leg more readily.

If your pup goes crazy outside, make sure to put them on a leash to go to the bathroom, so they don’t chase after a squirrel or rabbit and make the injury worse.

I’ve seen it over and over again where a dog is healing his injury, goes outside to go to the bathroom, sees a squirrel, takes off, and comes back into the house limping and even more sore than the first injury.

Slow, leash walks can help your dog maintain mobility, and use that leg are valuable as long as they are not showing lameness, limping, or pain.

If your dog is showing signs of pain, then rest (while implementing the below remedies) is best for your dog’s healing.

Here’s the best part though.

There are a few natural treatment options that you can use to help your pet heal even faster after a dog leg sprain.


Acupuncture is powerful at helping to reduce inflammation naturally and help the body produce its own natural pain-relieving chemicals, like endorphins and opioids, when a dog leg sprain occurs.

dog acupuncture for dog leg strain

My own German Shepherd tore both of his cruciate knee ligaments, and we were able to avoid surgery due to acupuncture and some of the other natural remedies I’m going to mention.

This ancient modality has been around for thousands of years and is very powerful for natural pain control.  Read more about how acupuncture can benefit your dogs.


Physiotherapy is another great option to help regain mobility and prevent your pet from losing muscle strength when a dog leg sprain occurs.

This form of rehab can help move the muscles to regain strength, stretch them properly to help regain mobility and most physiotherapists will have

Make sure to ask your veterinarian if they can refer you to a practitioner that provides these services if your vet doesn’t offer these at their clinic.

Top Natural Dog Supplements for Dog Sprains

And finally, there are some key supplements that you can use to support joint health, reduce inflammation, and provide natural pain control without the side effects that can come from conventional pain medications, like NSAIDs and opioids.

Getting your dogs on a good joint supplement that has glucosamine/chondroitin, MSM, and even green-lipped mussel will help reduce chronic inflammation that can lead to more problems down the road.

Here are more natural remedies to managing pain naturally in your dog.

green-lipped mussels for dog leg strain

These nutraceuticals are known to support the joint cartilage and prevent further damage while decreasing inflammatory mediators to help relieve pain naturally.

Other natural supplements that can help your pet’s joints and reduce pain naturally include nutraceuticals like Boswellia, turmeric, and even CBD (use code T101 for a discount).

Dog Food and Treats

Also, using treats and supplements that have collagen present can be powerful in preventing dog leg sprains.  Natural Farm is a great company that provides safe collagen treats that keep your dog happy and healthy at the same time.

Foods like bone broth can be added to your dog’s normal diet, or even collagen sticks from Natural Farm can be helpful in strengthening your dog’s joints.

Not only do using healthy treats provide entertainment while your pup is out of action for a little bit but it’ll provide the necessary building blocks to heal the inflammation and get your dog back on the trail.

Essential Oils

And of course, essential oils work well for reducing pain naturally while avoiding adverse side effects when they are used appropriately.

natural pain essential oils for dog leg strain

Safe, high-quality essential oils include:

When you use high-quality brands at the right dilutions, essential oils are very powerful at helping to remove inflammation and treat pain naturally.

Myrrh is powerful at treating nerve pain and acting as a topical analgesic, and helichrysum and copaiba are two of the most effective anti-inflammatory essential oils.  These essential oils can work as well as NSAID conventional pain medications for many pets.

However, it’s always important to talk to your veterinarian first before starting something new though, especially if your dog is on any medications.


Make sure to follow these simple tips and get your pet ready for those longer hikes or the crazy play at the dog park to help avoid these common dog sprains and strains.

And remember many of these supplements can be used preventatively too, so don’t be afraid to try them if your dog ends up with a sprain or strain.

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*Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. The information contained in is strictly for educational purposes. Therefore, if you wish to apply ideas contained in, you are taking full responsibility for your actions. Please consult your veterinarian for medical advice for your own pets. Dr. Katie Woodley cannot answer specific questions about your pet’s medical issues or make medical recommendations for your pet without first establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.  Links in the blog are typically affiliate links that let you help support us.

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