What is Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs?

What is Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs?

What is it?

Soft tissue trauma in dogs refers to any injury or damage to the skin, muscles, ligaments, tendons, or other soft tissues of the body. This can occur due to various reasons like accidents, falls, fights or overexertion. Soft tissue trauma can range from minor injuries such as abrasions or contusions to more severe conditions such as ligament tears or fractures.

How is it Treated?

The treatment of soft tissue trauma in dogs depends on the nature and severity of the injury. In many cases, rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) may be recommended to reduce swelling and inflammation. Additional treatments such as pain medication, physical therapy, or surgery may be necessary in cases where the injury has caused significant damage to the soft tissues or affected the dog’s mobility or quality of life.

Breed Predispositions

Any dog, regardless of breed or age, can be affected by this condition. However, factors such as activity level, lifestyle, and environment may increase the risk of soft tissue trauma in some dogs.


While playing fetch with her beloved Australian Shepherd, Milo, in their backyard, Nicole noticed him suddenly yelping in pain and limping after an awkward landing. Concerned about her furry companion’s well-being, she carefully examined him and realized that he might have sustained an injury to his muscles or tendons. After taking Milo to the veterinarian, he was diagnosed with soft tissue trauma, a common type of injury in active dogs.

Soft tissues are connective tissues that surround bones and organs. They provide support and protection for these structures. Mild tissue trauma is a general term that describes any injury involving soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, and cartilage. These injuries include sprains, strains, contusions, tendonitis, lacerations, and fractures. They’re often referred to as “soft tissue injuries.” What are the causes of soft tissue trauma in dogs?

soft tissue injuries in dogs


Sprains are musculoskeletal injuries to ligaments, tendons, muscles, and cartilage. They’re common injuries among dogs because they often run and jump. Sprains occur when the body twists too far or moves too fast.

They usually happen when the dog lands awkwardly after jumping or running. The injury may be minor or severe, depending on where it occurs and how long it lasts.

Dogs who suffer from sprains should receive immediate treatment at home. This includes ice packs, elevation, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy.


Strain injuries occur when muscles become overstretched and tear. Muscle tears can be painful and cause dogs to limp. Strain injuries usually happen during exercise or play, running, jumping, playing rough, and pulling on toys. Strains typically occur during training but can also be caused by playing too roughly with another dog or pulling on a leash. This condition is most in puppies.

Dogs who suffer strains often limp and may be unable to walk normally for several days. The injury should heal within two weeks, but some dogs take longer.

If your dog suffers a strain, he must stay off his feet until the pain subsides. He should also avoid strenuous activity for at least three weeks. After that, he can resume light exercise only after consulting your veterinarian.


Contusions are bruises caused when the skin is broken or damaged. Common dog injuries usually result from falls or collisions with hard surfaces. Contusions may be painful, but most dogs recover quickly, and there’s no need to rush them to the vet.

However, call your veterinarian immediately if you notice swelling, redness, or discoloration. Swelling indicates fluid accumulation inside the body, which can cause severe problems if not treated promptly. Redness means blood vessels have been ruptured, causing bleeding. Discoloration comes from bruising.

When treating contusions, keep your dog calm and comfortable. Use cold compresses to reduce pain and inflammation. Do not use ice packs because they can damage tissue. Instead, apply cool water directly to the injury.

Keep your dog hydrated by providing plenty of clean drinking water. Also, avoid giving him any medications unless directed by your veterinarian.

Please keep your dog off rough surfaces to prevent further injury until he heals completely.


Tendonitis is the inflammation of tendons. Tendons connect muscles to bones. They’re strong, flexible bands of tissue that allow us to move our arms, legs, fingers, toes, etc.

When tendonitis occurs, the muscle becomes inflamed and painful. The pain may be sharp or dull, depending on where the injury occurred.

If you suspect your dog has tendonitis, immediately take him to the vet. Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination and diagnose the problem. Then, they will recommend treatment options, including medications and surgery.

Your vet may suggest home remedies, too. Some common ones include icing the affected area, applying heat therapy (such as heating pads), and giving your exceptional pet food.


Some dogs recover quickly from tendonitis, but others need longer treatments. Recovery times vary among breeds, ages, and individual dogs.


Lacerations are cuts or wounds that penetrate through the skin. They’re usually caused by sharp objects, such as glass, knives, nails, etc., and may be superficial (on the surface) or deep (underneath). Lacerations are common injuries in dogs, especially those who play rough or chase after balls.

They can cause bleeding, pain, swelling, infection, and scarring. Lacerations can heal quickly or take weeks to months to heal completely, depending on where the wound occurs.

There are two main treatment options when treating lacerations: conservative and surgical. The type of treatment depends on several factors, including the severity of the injury, location, depth, and whether the dog was playing rough or chasing after a ball.

Conservative treatments include bandaging, ice packs, topical medications, and antibiotics. Surgical therapies include stitches, sutures, cauterization, and debridement.


Fractures are breaks in bone structure. They’re usually caused when bones break because of trauma (an injury) or disease. Fractures may be open wounds or closed injuries. Open fractures require immediate medical treatment. Closed ones are usually minor fractures and often heal independently within two weeks.

If your dog suffers a bone fracture, he must go to the vet immediately. The sooner you take him there, the better his chances of healing properly.

Your veterinarian should scrutinize your dog’s body. He’ll need x-rays to determine whether your dog has any broken bones. Your vet will also ask about your dog’s health history, including previous injuries.

Once your dog’s diagnosis is confirmed, your vet will recommend a course of action. Depending on the severity of the injury, your vet may suggest surgery, medication, physical therapy, or some combination of these treatments.

Whatever the case, your dog must receive proper care and nutrition during recovery. Make sure your pet receives plenty of fluids and eats nutritious food. Also, be sure to keep your dog active and out of pain.

Diagnosis of Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs

An X-ray is the most important test for diagnosing soft tissue injury in dogs. Radiographs allow the veterinarian to view bone structures, determine whether the bones are fractured, and evaluate the position of joints. An ultrasound may also be used. Ultrasounds use sound waves to produce images of internal organs and tissues.

Arthroscopic examinations are performed under general anesthesia. During arthroscopic examinations, small arthroscopes are inserted into the joint space. The surgeon uses the arthroscope to examine the joint’s interior and perform procedures like cleaning debris, debriding damaged cartilage, repairing ligament injuries, and removing loose bodies.

A thorough physical exam, including radiology, is essential to diagnose soft tissue injuries. Muscles and tendons can become swollen and bruised due to inflammation. Some muscles can even tear apart. When this happens, it causes lameness, which needs immediate treatment.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has suffered an injury. They will conduct a complete physical examination and recommend appropriate treatments.

Treatment Options for Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs

Many other treatments are available to help manage these symptoms, including cortisone injections, acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, cryotherapy, and hydrotherapy.

Treatment Options for Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs

Cortisone Injections

Cortisone injections are commonly used to treat soft tissue injuries in dogs. They’re typically given once per day for three days after injury. Cortisone reduces inflammation and swelling and helps speed healing.

However, puppies should avoid cortisone injections because they may cause long-term health problems. So, when treating a puppy, use only short cortisone injections (no longer than two weeks).


Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine used to treat pain and illness. Acupuncturists insert needles at specific points along the body to stimulate acupuncture points. These points correspond to organs and glands throughout the body.

When these points are stimulated, they release chemicals called neurotransmitters that help reduce pain and inflammation. This allows patients to feel better faster.

There are many different types of acupuncture treatments available. Some use heat, some use pressure, and others use electricity. The type of treatment chosen depends on the patient’s condition.

Acupuncture is not considered a substitute for conventional medical care. However, it may be helpful when combined with traditional Western medicine.

Chiropractic Care

If you’ve seen a dog limping after playing too rough, you already know that chiropractic care can help treat some injuries. Chiropractors use gentle techniques to adjust the spine and correct misalignments to relieve pressure on the nerves and muscles.

Because chiropractic adjustments are performed at the spinal level, they can quickly alleviate pain and restore mobility. And since chiropractic care is safe and effective, it’s an excellent option for treating STTs in dogs.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a great way to help dogs recover from soft tissue injuries. Massaging helps reduce inflammation and pain, increases circulation, improves muscle tone, and promotes healing.

Many massage therapies include Swedish, deep tissue, sports, trigger point, reflexology, and pet massage. The type of massage used depends on the injury and the dog’s needs.

When performing massage therapy, be gentle and avoid overworking any area. In addition, your dog should not feel uncomfortable during treatment.


Cryotherapy is a treatment used to relieve pain associated with soft tissue injuries. Cryotherapy works by cooling injured areas to reduce inflammation and swelling. This helps speed healing and reduces discomfort.

There are many different types of cryotherapy devices available.

The most common type is called a cold pack. Cold packs work by applying ice directly to the affected area. They’re inexpensive, portable, and effective at reducing pain. However, it could be more comfortable because it uses direct pressure.

Another popular device is a cryo balloon. These are filled with liquid nitrogen and applied to the skin. They cool the area below freezing, which numbs the nerves and reduces pain. They’re expensive, bulky, and not very portable. But they’re great for treating large areas of the body.

Other options include electric heat pads, infrared lamps, and ultrasound machines. Each method offers unique benefits and drawbacks.


Hydrotherapy is one of the most frequently used therapies for soft tissue injuries. Water is soothing to animals and provides a distraction for pets during recovery. A warm water bath helps reduce inflammation and promote healing. Cold water baths help reduce muscle soreness and improve blood flow. Hydrotherapy is particularly helpful for deep tissue injuries, such as those caused by car accidents, because it allows you to work directly on the affected area without moving the animal.

How to Prevent Soft Tissue Trauma in Dogs?

Injuries can happen anywhere on the body but tend to occur most frequently in the legs, elbows, shoulders, hips, tailbone area, and feet.

Here are some tips to help prevent soft tissue injuries in your dog.

  • Exercise Regularly

Exercise helps maintain muscle tone and strength. For example, if your dog has arthritis, exercise can help strengthen joints and muscles.

It also reduces stress levels and improves overall health. Dogs that don’t exercise regularly become inactive and develop unhealthy habits such as excessive chewing and licking. This leads to soreness and inflammation in the tissues.

Regular exercise also keeps your dog fit and trimmed. As a bonus, exercising regularly makes your dog happier and calmer.

  • Use Safe Toys

Dogs that play fetch are prone to injury. This is because fetch balls are made of rubber or plastic, and these materials can break easily.

This causes painful cuts and scrapes on the paws and legs. Instead, use safe toys such as rope toys, tug toys, and chew toys. These toys won’t hurt your dog’s teeth or gums.

  • Watch Out For Hot Spots

Hot spots are areas of skin that are particularly sensitive to heat. They may appear red, swollen, tender, or warm. These spots are usually found on the head, ears, lips, nose, eyes, and groin.

  1. Watch out for hot spots on your dog’s face, especially near his eyes.
  2. He may rub his eyes excessively, causing irritation and tearing.
  3. He may lick or bite his lips, causing bleeding and infection.
  4. Do not give him water mixed with medications or supplements.
  • Check His Feet Daily

Checking your dog’s feet daily is one of the easiest ways to prevent soft tissue injuries. Look for signs of swelling, warmth, or discoloration. A veterinarian should examine your dog’s feet once a month. Be sure to ask your vet about changes in your dog’s behavior or activity level.

Frequently Asked Questions

The average length of time required for a soft tissue injury to heal depends upon several factors, including the type of injury sustained, the severity of the damage, and whether treatment was sought. For example, a mild sprain typically heals in less than two weeks, whereas a severe strain may take up to six months to fully recover. If your pet sustains a deep wound, such as a puncture from a thorn, it may require stitches or sutures to close the wound. In addition, some cases may require surgical repair to treat ligament rupture or torn tendons.

The following list describes some of the dogs’ most common signs of soft tissue injuries.

  1. Swelling around the injured area
  2. Lack of movement at the site of injury
  3. Pain when moving the affected limb
  4. Redness around the injured area
  5. Tenderness around the injured area (especially if you touch it)
  6. Decreased appetite
  7. Difficulty walking

The severity of soft tissue injuries varies depending on the type of injury and how long they last. Most soft tissue injuries heal without surgery and do not require medical attention. However, some soft tissue injuries may cause pain, swelling, bruising, bleeding, stiffness, loss of function, or permanent disability.

Medications for soft tissue damage include corticosteroids, NSAIDs, antibiotics, antifungals, antihistamines, analgesics, and pain medications. The most common medications used for soft tissue damage are steroids, which help reduce inflammation and swelling. Other medicines used for mild tissue injury include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, ketoprofen, celecoxib, diclofenac, and indomethacin; antibiotics, including amoxicillin, cephalexin, and clindamycin.

If your dog has soft tissue damage, you can bathe them and give them aiotics (an all-natural supplement) to help heal. Next, you can either clean them with warm water and mild soap or use a canine shampoo made explicitly for soft tissue damage. Apply the wash to their skin and rinse off thoroughly. Finally, give your dog an all-natural supplement like glucosamine or chondroitin to help with their healing process.

To check for soft tissue damage, you must examine the area closely. Look for swelling, redness, and bruising. If there is any significant damage, your pet may require veterinary care.

Dogs can get soft tissue injuries from a variety of sources. Common accidents that can lead to soft tissue injuries in dogs include being stepped on, falling off furniture or stairs, being struck by a car or other object, and getting bitten by another dog.

In general, however, shoulder injuries can often be relatively severe and may involve damage to muscles or tendons in the shoulder area. Left untreated, these injuries may lead to a loss of function in the arm and difficulty moving that limb. Therefore, if your dog exhibits any signs of pain or discomfort when raising its arm (e.g., reluctance to use it), it may be worth seeking veterinary attention for further evaluation.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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