I hike, run through city streets and mountain trails, and play volleyball, so sometimes I find myself sitting on the sidelines due to injury. My dogs are a lot like me – we walk three miles a day, go hiking in rugged terrain, go swimming and play fetch. With all this activity, my dogs are bound to get injured too.

Dog injuries are a bummer. No one likes to see their dog down and if the pups had their way they’d keep running and playing. And as dogs get older, they are more prone to injury (just like us).

I treat each of my dogs for some sort of injury several times a year. Usually, it’s a brief limp, but sometimes it can be worse. Here is a list of some of the common injuries we’ve dealt with and simple advice to get through it.

Swimmer’s Tail

Several years back, I took Daisy swimming at a lake. She had a great time. I think we played for about an hour with breaks. But the next day I noticed something rather odd – a completely limp tail. After scouring the Internet, I learned Daisy had swimmer’s tail. Also called “limber tail,” and “cold water tail,” this injury is actually quite common, especially in sporting breeds.

Fortunately, most cases of swimmer’s tail resolve themselves within a week or so with rest. Daisy’s tail was limp for a few days before she was back to her normal self. Certainly don’t take your dog swimming again until their tail is back to normal. Also, you can inquire with your veterinarian about possible pain medications if your dog appears to be in pain.

Slipped Paw Pads

Slipped paw pads are another common injury. These are rather superficial peeling or cracking of a dog’s paw pad (think about one layer of an onion peeling off). Early this week I noticed that Rosie was limping on our walk. I assumed she had a sticker in her paw (we live in the desert where “goat heads” are plentiful). I was surprised to find that there was a layer of pad about the size of a nickel that had peeled off.

Luckily, this is another injury that will heal itself. I would suggest washing out the pad and wrapping it to keep debris out while it heals. I rested Rosie for a few days and then slowly reintroduced her to activity at a grassy park before walking again. If you are afraid of infection, you can also use a triple antibiotic cream made for dogs.

Torn or Split Nails

Split nails were the story of Daisy’s life for a long time. We used to play fetch a lot at a community dog park. The parks where I live don’t have much grass, so she was basically playing on dirt and wood chips. And Daisy is serious about fetch, so we dealt with 1-2 nail injuries a year. The worst was when she actually tore off her dew claw (that required the cone of shame).

Torn and split nails are another very common injury. Make sure you trim your dog’s nails on a regular basis to help prevent this injury. If you do find a split nail, try to cut down the nail as close to the quick as possible to try to stop the split from getting worse. Some people also suggest using some super glue to keep the nail together. If it is a serious split with bleeding, you may opt to take your dog to the vet. You may also have to rest your dog for several days to weeks, depending on the severity of the injury.


Limping is the worst, because you never really know what happened. Sometimes your dog might limp for a day or so – luckily that means it was a minor strain or sore muscles. If your dog continues limping longer than that, I’d highly suggest taking them to the vet – better to be safe than sorry because it could be a serious injury. For older dogs, it could also be the onset of arthritis.  If you do have an older or middle aged dog, you may consider giving them a glucosamine supplement for joint health.