Dogs are known for being fun-loving creatures who enjoy running, jumping, and playing both outdoors and inside. Whether a large or small breed, dog owners know that keeping your pet active is a key to keeping it healthy.
Unfortunately, with all of that twisting, turning, diving, and jumping comes the possibility of injury. Combined with exposure to the elements like extreme heat or cold, the risk of injury in a dog park setting, and all of the fun things your pets might find to chew while they’re outside, it can be challenging to make sure your pet stays safe.
According to pet health insurance provider Pet’s Best, there are 10 fairly common types of insurance claims for dogs that they see yearly, several of which are related to preventable injuries. Furthermore, in 2011, Veterinary Pet Insurance (now Nationwide Pet Insurance) released information detailing the 8 most common types of injuries pet owners reported at dog parks over the course of the year.
Here we’ll take a look at five of the most common preventable dog injuries, and give you tips on how to help your pet avoid getting hurt.
Otitis (Ear Infection)
Ranked as the second highest insurance claim received by Pet’s Best in 2015, otitis, or an ear infection, is a common dog ailment that’s easily prevented––yet one in five dogs brought to the vet have one.
All dogs can benefit from a little extra TLC on their ears, especially those breeds who have ones that are long and hang making it easy for the environment to become damp and breed infection.
The key to preventing an ear infection is to keep your dog’s ears dry and clean. Take the time each month to use a solution to remove excess debris and flush out their ear canal while also inspecting to make sure there isn’t any discharge or unpleasant odor.
Ranked just below the ear infection, dogs suffering from arthritis are another very common insurance claim and injury that vets see.
Much as with humans, osteoarthritis isn’t completely preventable, but there are several things that pet owners can do to help ensure that your pet stays healthy and mobile as long as possible. If your pet is growing older, has diabetes, or is a breed that’s prone to joint issues, it’s important to take preventative measures early to ensure a good quality of life in your dog’s later years.
Here are four non-medical ways to help prevent arthritis in your dog:
- Control their weight. Overweight and obese dogs put more stress their joints, which causes more damage over time, contributing to the painful symptoms of arthritis. If your dog is heavier than what’s normal for their breed, help them to lose weight by reducing their portion sizes and increasing their physical activity daily.
- Feed them a balanced diet. Along with how much your dog eats, what they’re eating remains equally important. Diets high in healthy fatty acids like the Omega-3 and Omega-6’s found in many dog foods can help reduce joint inflammation.
- Take them for a walk. Daily exercise with your pet isn’t just fun: it can help to control their weight and keep their joints lubricated and mobile. Aim for two walks of at least 15-20 minutes in length daily.
- Use joint supplements. There are several supplements that can be purchased over the counter that promote health in the joints. Glucosamine and chondroitin are commonly known, while elk velvet antler supplements are lesser-known but perhaps even more effective. In a 2004 study, elk antler velvet reduced the symptoms of arthritis in dogs significantly and was found to be an effective and natural means of treating the disease.
Ligament, Muscle and Tendon Injuries
Strains, sprains, and cruciate ligament injuries made many different lists of commonly seen problems in dogs. Broadly described as soft-tissue injuries, these injuries can happen in the blink of an eye with one wrong step, twist, or turn. They often occur while dogs are doing something as simple as jumping off the couch, or as vigorous as chasing another dog around the dog park.
If your dog has suffered a strain, sprain, or torn ligament they may be limping, favoring one leg over another, or lose interest in play––all because they’re in pain. If you’ve determined that their limp isn’t a result of an injured paw, take them to the vet to diagnose the injury.
The best way to help prevent soft tissue injuries in your pet is to help them to be active year-round. Injuries often occur in the spring after a long winter of sitting indoors, losing muscle strength and endurance. When our pets return to playing outside at the park, their bodies may not be as capable of doing things that were natural to them last season.
By helping your pet stay active even during cold winter months, you can help prevent soft tissue injuries.
Cuts, Abrasions, and Bite Wounds
Playing outside and with other dogs has some inherent risks. Dogs playing in unfamiliar areas may come in contact with broken glass, a rusty fence with sharp edges, or any other number of things that could cause a cut on their face, body, or paws.
Abrasions can occur when your dog is pulled or dragged across a rough surface like cement or rocks, which can happen when playing with other dogs. Even the most well-behaved dog can still inflict a bite wound on another, making this is a common injury that pets incur at dog parks or other areas where they mingle.
Preventing injuries like these to your dog’s skin requires diligence. Take the time to inspect the area where your dog will be playing, and stay away from places that have sharp debris or rough surfaces. Get to know the other dogs and owners at dog parks and other places where dogs play and socialize, and make sure your pet is comfortable before allowing them to interact with a new friend.
While pet injuries happen, it’s possible to take steps to avoid the most common ones. This will not only help to keep your pet happy and healthy, but will cut down on how often you have to visit the vet. Ultimately, this will reduce the cost of giving your pet a great quality of life.