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Active dog running free on the beach

Tips for avoiding common injuries to active pets

Several years back, our mastiff mix, Hammer, was playing with another dog at a beachside campground. He romped and spun and ran and wrestled with complete joy, but the next day he began to favor his right rear leg. We took him to the vet and learned he had a torn cruciate ligament that would require surgery. The procedure was only performed by one veterinary surgeon in our area, and it was not cheap. We scheduled the operation for late autumn so the required period of immobilization would fall during December and January, when Hammer was less active. Hammer bravely endured his cast and made a complete recovery, but the experience taught us that even seemingly safe play can result in costly injury.

The ASPCA estimates that 37% to 47% of U.S. households have one or more dogs, and 30% to 37% have at least one cat. And while nearly all of us strive to provide a safe environment for our furry friends, active pets are more likely to experience a traumatic injury—everything from scrapes and sprains to dislocations, broken bones, and internal injuries.

Each year thousands of active pets are brought to the vet for treatment of injuries. The most common injuries to active pets tend to be abrasions and scrapes, nail or pad injuries, sprains or joint injuries, oral and dental injuries, eye wounds, lacerations or bites (from other animals), cruciate ligament tears, and soft-tissue trauma.

So what can we, as pet owners, do to keep our active pets injury-free without limiting the active lifestyle they enjoy so much? While there are no foolproof answers, there are ways to reduce some of the more prominent risks and costs.

  • When traveling with your pet , be sure the animal is safely secured with either a barrier or harness within the vehicle.
  • Watch what your pet eats and chews. Hard objects (like sticks and even some chew toys) can cause oral injury, so be sure to provide a soft chew toy for your dog.
  • Keep cats indoors to avoid road accidents.
  • Keep outdoor dogs fenced.
  • Avoid walking your dog off-leash, especially in heavy traffic areas.
  • Limit jumping hazards in and around your home. Some very small dogs have been known to dislocate a hip or suffer a spinal injury simply by jumping from the bed to the floor.
  • Educate yourself about any breed-specific vulnerability your pets may have.
  • Explore the various pet insurance options available to minimize the costs of treating a traumatic injury to your pet. Here is site for comparing pet insurance companies.

It is also important to know and recognize any signs of injury in your pet. An animal’s behavior will generally change if it is injured or in pain. If your pet is suddenly lethargic, sensitive to being touched or handled, shows a change in appetite, or favors one part of its body, it may be because of an injury that is not immediately apparent.

For those with long-haired pets, you may need to check more carefully for abrasions or lacerations and identify areas that may be sensitive to the touch. A veterinarian will be able to provide an accurate diagnosis and help you formulate the best treatment plan.

With these tips in mind, we hope you and your pets will have a safe and active summer!


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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