Like most dogs, your dog probably loves to jump, run, roll and zoom around. Exercise is a critical part of dog ownership because our precious pooches need to release their extra energy and build up strong muscles to stay healthy. But sometimes, certain levels of exercise can be too much.
Much like in humans, dogs can reach a point of physical exhaustion—although they may seem like it, they are not running machines, nor are their bodies built for constant movement. If your dog is moving a little too much, there’s a good chance that it will begin to feel stiff and sore. The same can happen after your dog plays too roughly, moves or tumbles in the wrong way or is otherwise injured.
If you notice your dog is moving around slowly or strangely, or doesn’t want to move at all, it may be feeling sore.
Identifying and treating muscle soreness
When your dog’s muscles get sore, they become tight and inflamed. Movement of tight muscles can be difficult, if not painful, which is why your pup might look so stiff when it walks.
Canine muscle soreness usually occurs after your dog has time to rest. If it starts to move in a strange way or limp immediately after exercising, there’s a greater chance that it has been injured or sprained.
The signs of muscle soreness often include:
- Moving slowly
- Refusal to walk up or down stairs
- Crying or whining when trying to move
- Change in body movements or posture
- Unwillingness to run or walk around
While it’s important to help your dog get exercise, it’s equally important to know when it’s time to stop. Dogs that have historically not been very active should be eased into exercise slowly. Without its muscles activated and stretched as it gets used to exercise, your dog’s muscles can tense up after long periods of activity and cause pain.
Exercising your dog on certain surfaces can also put additional strain on its body, potentially leading to soreness. To prevent this, try to always play with your pooch on soft ground like grass or carpeting.
To reduce stiffness, allow your pooch some time to rest. Its body will need to recover on its own, which it should within a day or two.
If you want to help speed up the process and alleviate some of your dog’s muscle pain, you can also try giving it some herbal pain-relieving supplements—these use a blend of natural herbs known for promoting better circulation and relieving pain to make your dog more comfortable.
Additionally, you can try giving your dog a gentle body massage. Gentle pressure on its back and legs may help release tense muscles and let your dog feel better.
Strains and sprains
It’s also important to know how to distinguish between temporary muscle soreness, strains and joint pain.
Strains occur in tendons, or tissue that connect muscles and bones. A strain is most likely to happen if your dog pulls or stretches too far or too often, or if your dog slips or falls. Strains are most common in dog’s hips because of the way they move around.
Sprains, on the other hand, occur in the joints and can be quite serious. Both strains and sprains can be quite serious and may require veterinary intervention. If your dog is limping, crying and refusing to walk for more than a day or two, have it checked out by a vet.
Your dog’s change in movement might also be due to arthritis, not muscle pain. If your dog suffers from pre-existing arthritis, you should already be wary about how hard it works during exercise periods because of the potential shock to its joints. But if this pain is a new development, it may look similar to muscle soreness at first.
Dogs that suffer from joint pain will usually limp or favor one limb over another. The symptoms can look similar to muscle soreness, but, like sprains, joint pain probably won’t go away after a day or two. You should take your dog into the vet to have it assessed and see if it needs treatment for arthritis.
Give your dog a break
Remember, exercise is great for your dog’s health, but overworking your dog can have negative consequences for its body. Make sure to watch for signs of pain and changes in your dog’s behavior to know when it’s time to rest and recuperate before running and playing hard again.