It’s a beautiful day outside; the sun is shining, there’s a light breeze, and your dog has been cooped up in the house all day. Like any pet owner, you want to take good care of your dog and offer them many opportunities to enjoy themselves and get out their excess energy in a productive, appropriate way. Letting your dog play outside is a great way to spend quality time with your pet — and they’ll enjoy it, too!
Before you set out on your playdate, keep in mind that your pet may sustain injuries from playing outside. These injuries can range from relatively minor issues, such as a small cut or scrape, to other, more serious injuries that would require attention from your dog’s veterinarian. . Your dog’s awareness, their conditioning and coordination, the weather, and the environment may all factor into the likelihood of your dog getting hurt.
Though your dog probably won’t get injured the next time you two go out and play, it’s a good idea to think through the following questions to minimize, or possibly even prevent, possible injuries, saving you and your dog both some pain and heartache. It may even prevent a lifelong disability from an injury, ensuring that you and your dog can play together well into their old age.
Is Your Dog Likely to Be Prone to Injury?
Just like humans, dogs are going to experience injuries throughout their lives. Fortunately, healthy dogs are usually able to recuperate from their injuries quickly.
However, other dogs may not bound back as quickly. If your dog fits into the following categories, make sure to take special care with them as they are playing outside.
Make sure to monitor your dog closely as they play if they are
- A puppy under one year of age,
- An older dog with brittle bones and joints
- Predisposed to hip dysplasia, which includes breeds like Great Danes, German Shepards, Retrievers, Pugs, and Bulldogs
What’s Your Dog’s Play Environment Like?
The environment is the factor that is most likely to contribute to canine injuries during play. Though we know you cannot always control every aspect of the environment your dog is exposed to, be on the lookout for the following hazards and stay extra vigilant when letting your dog play in unfamiliar places.
- Extremely hot or cold surfaces
- Deep water
- Sharp objects or terrain
- Steep dropoffs or quick elevation changes
- Terrain with low visibility (one covered with leaves or snow, for example)
Common Injuries Caused by Play
Here are some of the most common injuries dogs sustain while playing:
- Cuts and scratches, especially in the area of your dog’s face
- Injuries due to extreme temperatures such as frostbite or heatstroke
- Sprains and strains of muscles
- Bone fractures and breaks
- Ligament Injuries
- Injuries to paw pads such as burns, scrapes, or overwearing
- Split or broken nails
One of the most common injury scenarios is a dog injuring a tendon or straining a muscle from overuse. This can happen during short bursts of high-impact play, especially if the dog is jumping, rolling, or wrestling. Recognize that the roughness of the play is directly proportional to the likelihood of injury, so try to limit roughhousing between dogs.
Also, try to avoid situations where a dog is making high jumps down or up to a different level, especially when it’s a puppy. The American Kennel Club recommends no extreme jumping until puppies are 12-15 months of age, because “ puppy growth plates aren’t closed until at least 12 months of age and jumping on open growth plates can cause long term damage.”
Though there is nothing dog owners can do to 100% ensure their dogs never get injured, there are some steps you can take as you play with your dog to reduce their chances of injury
Warm Up/Cool Down
Much like humans, dogs can benefit from a slow warm-up and cool down before and after play to avoid injuries. Before you begin to play, you may want to do some loose leash walking, position changes, or Figure 8 walking loops to give your dog’s body a chance to get used to the increased activity. You may also want to do the same when your dog is getting tired, to give their muscles and joints a few minutes of slow play before stopping completely.
Though our pets need exercise to stay healthy, it is possible for them to get too much, especially when they are young. A good rule of thumb is five minutes of play for each month of your dog’s age, up to twice a day. Also, keep in mind the level of activity from day to day. In other words, give your dog some downtime or light exercise after a day of heavy play.
Learn to Recognize Signs of Injury
Some injuries your dog sustains may not seem obvious right away. As a dog owner, learning to recognize signs of injury in your dog will help you to make sure your dog keeps feeling its best. Your dog can’t tell you when it’s in pain, but it may show you by demonstrating increased anxiety, restlessness, trembling, or vocalization.
Other signs of injury include limping, bleeding, or antisocial behavior. In the event of a mouth injury, your dog may have excessive drooling or display difficulty eating. If you suspect your pet is injured, it is important for you to stay calm. Do not try to treat your dog with human medications. If you suspect your dog may be injured, you should call your veterinarian and get professional advice about how to proceed.
Even though they may look silly and maybe a pain to keep on your pet, having them wear some type of booties on your pet’s feet will give you the best chance of avoiding injury to the paw pads and your pet’s nails. This is especially important when walking on very hot or cold sidewalks or walking on rough trails. If you see that your dog has overused paw pads, there are waxes and ointments that you can purchase to help treat the injury and provide relief to your dog.
Choose safe toys for your dog. For instance, choosing to throw an undamaged Frisbee instead of a stick can help prevent mouth and eye injuries when playing fetch.
Have Your Dog Play at Greenlin Pet Resorts
Life can get busy, and you may not always have time to play with your dog as much as you would like. At Greenlin Pet Resorts, your dog can play with our canine professionals in our safe, environmentally controlled facilities. Whether they are coming to play for the day in our doggie day-care or staying for a week with our pet boarding services, they will have the chance to play safely, both indoors and out.