Dogs With Sports Injuries

Helping your dog recover.

When you have spent months or years training a dog for one of the various dog sports, one of the saddest things that can happen is for your competition partner to be injured pursuing the sport that he loves. Injuries can be minor, only keeping the dog out of an event or two, or major and career ending.

Whether your dogs compete in conformation, agility, obedience, Frisbee, lure coursing, field trials, sled dog racing, straight racing, or oval track racing, there are some common things you can do to prevent injuries.

Foot Injuries
The most common sports injuries are to the feet – mainly because that’s the part of the dog that contacts the ground when he is running, jumping, or making contact with the A-frame or dog walk in agility. Fortunately, these are seldom career threatening.  There is a common saying in the horse world that goes, “No foot, no horse,” and a story that when young Arabian horse fanciers were being taught to evaluate horses, equine prospects were first shown behind a screen so that only their feet and lower legs showed. The lesson was, no matter how good the rest of the horse’s body was, it was of no importance if the feet and legs were blemished.

If you are showing in conformation or obedience, beware of broken glass in the event’s parking lot. A number of dogs have stepped on glass on the way to the show ring, and had to be excused as lame. Another parking-lot hazard in hot weather is hot asphalt that can burn the pads on the dog’s foot. In hot weather, minimize the number of trips the dog makes across the lot, or you may end up with a dog with the equivalent of sunburn on his pads the next morning.

Foot injuries that occur during events include peeled pads, torn nails, broken toes, dislocated toes, torn dewclaws, and broken bones higher in the foot. Foot care starts long before the event with proper nail care. Assuming that the dog’s nails are kept at a sensible length, I like to grind them at least 10 days to two weeks before the event. The interval before the show gives the dog time to wear a new point on the ground-off nail. That small point provides better traction on smooth grass.

Pads can be toughened by working a dog on rough surfaces. My Greyhounds get to run in a yard that has grass, asphalt, concrete, and dirt surfaces, and they love to run on all of them. It gives them tough pads. I haven’t had a torn pad in years. Some dogs are kenneled on pea gravel to toughen their feet. Other dogs are road worked on pavement to the same end. Dog supply companies sell a variety of products to toughen the pads of sporting dogs in the field, and racing sled dogs.

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