I’ve been nursing a neck sprain with back and arm muscle spasms since Christmas, making it next to impossible to write (let alone sleep). As usual, researching the condition had me automatically applying what I’d learned to pets. I can’t imagine going through such discomfort without being able to express to a doctor or therapist where the problem is, so I hope the following information about animal sprains, strains and muscle spasms will help you provide relief.

Muscle spasms and irritated nerves are the most painful part of a muscle strain or sprain in dogs, cats, horses and other animals. These spasms begin as the body’s attempt to stabilize the area around the injury so it can heal. Unfortunately, once muscles start to spasm they can continue long after the initial problem has been resolved. Combine that with inflammation and the pain can be excruciating and relentless.

A professional should diagnose suspected muscle strains, sprains and spasms. During the assessment and diagnosis, ask your veterinarian to show you specifically where the injury and spasms are located so you can effectively treat and provide therapy at home.

Initially your pet’s muscles may be inflamed, which can cause pain and spasms by putting pressure on nearby muscles and nerves. You should be able to feel heat and swelling if this is the case. Applying ice to the site for about 15 minutes, three times/day is the usual course of action. Ice is also suggested after deep tissue massage.

However, scientists have recently begun to debate the use of ice, with some saying it relieves pain but may make do more harm than good. If you choose to use it, make sure it’s wrapped in a cloth so the ice never directly lays on the skin/fur.  Once the inflammation is reduced, you can administer heat for 20 minutes, three times/day to increase the blood flow and relax the muscles.

Nutritional Healing and Support of Your Pet’s Muscular System

The nutritional requirements of the muscular system is quite involved, but simple enough to provide with a little knowledge.

Macronutrients: Vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamins, A, B complex, C, iron and zinc.
Micronutrients: Carbohydrates and protein (amino acids).
Electrolytes: Calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride.

Interestingly, the one plant group that meets all of the above requirements is seaweed.  While the tolerable amount will vary between species, virtually all pets can enjoy the benefits of seaweed because it doesn’t have the binding and high-carbohydrate issues that terrestrial plants have.

Herbal Healing & Natural Supplements for Your Pet’s Muscular System

  • Herbs, natural supplements and functional foods can assist in healing with anti-inflammatory properties and the removal of toxins from the connective tissues. For a list of anti-inflammatory foods, have a look at our article, Pet Arthritis: Holistic Prevention and Natural Treatment.
  • Turmeric powder can be used as an effective external treatment of muscle strain, sprains and bruising. Mix powder with a bit of hot water to make a poultice and apply to the affected area. Cover to prevent licking.
  • Calcium Montmorillonite Clay expels toxins so effectively, it has been used to treat people exposed to high levels of radiation. It also provides mineral support to the muscular and skeletal system.
  • Krill offers a wide range of amino acids and a host of other benefits that support healing, along with support for every system in the body.

Pet Massage for Muscle Strain and Spasms

The easiest, safest, and most effective therapy that you can provide at home for your dog, cat, horse or other animals, is massage. In fact, I’d still be whining on the couch were it not for the talented folks at Legacies Massage.  Pet massage relaxes the muscles and tendons, loosens muscle spasms, assists the lymphatic system, moves toxins through release, improves blood flow, and increases oxygen flow to the area.

There are several pet massage techniques that may be used alone or combined:

Horse muscle sprain, strain or spasm
Working animals require extra support for their muscular system.

Effleurage: Use long strokes, slowly over the full length of your pet. This technique is often used at the beginning and end of a massage.

Circles: Gently press down with your fingers and rotate in small circles.

Rissage: If it isn’t too painful, gently wrap your fingers around muscles that are not over bones and knead.

Trigger: If you feel a ‘knot’ or spasm, gently press on it, hold for 5-10 seconds and release.

There are some excellent guides available for healing pet massage, including:

Pet Acupressure

Acupressure therapy has proven to be very effective in the treatment of musculoskeletal issues, especially in dogs, horses, and small animals such as rabbits. It can be used to relieve pain and/or address the muscular issue directly. There are several books on the topic that you’ll find yourself referring to repeatedly, including Animal Acupressure Illustrated and Equine Acupressure: A Working Manual.

Pet magnet therapy that utilizes pressure points has been proven effective in animal treatment as well, although care must be taken to prevent swallowing or choking. You can place a bandage over the magnet, or purchase a magnetic dog collar, magnetic pet bed, or a magnetic horse cuff.

Aromatherapy for Pets

The calming benefits of aromatherapy on pets  is well documented, especially with dogs and horses (extreme caution should be used around other pets, including cats, rabbits and birds). Never use full-strength oils directly on an animal.

Stress compromises the immune system, inviting illness, parasites and muscular maladies. Additionally, when an animal is already suffering from muscle irritation, it’s important to relax their muscles as much as possible.

Calming oils include Lavandula angustifolia, Valeriana officinalis, Anthemis nobilis, and Salvia sclarea.

In her book, Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols with Animals, Kristen Leigh Bell provides several calming essential oil remedy recipes for pets, along with unsurpassed information on the topic.

High quality is an absolute must for effective treatment with essential oils. You can order them from Starwest Botanicals in the USA.

Bach Flower Remedies are often recommended as the safest form of aromatherapy for pets. They are so effective they’re often used to calm animals in shelters and in veterinarian offices (Rescue Remedy).

What worked for me?

  • Massage therapy
  • Heating pad
  • Increased Calcium Montmorillonite Clay supplement from twice/week to daily.
  • Topical magnesium
  • Added a variety of seaweed & algae species to practically everything I ate.
  • Increased Omega supplements (Krill oil and a combo Omega 3-6-9 with flax seed oil, borage seed oil and fish oil).
  • Avoided inflammatory foods

??? Have you ever nursed your pet back to health from a muscle issue?  Please share your experience in the comments below.


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36 thoughts on “Muscular Sprains, Strains and Spasms: Natural Treatment for Pets

  1. Truly awesome insights here. My puppies don’t need the information yet but someday they might so I filed it on pinterest. I adopted two bonded brothers and they’re a hoot!

  2. I hope everyone’s pets have healed up! Our dog pulled something while we were away for the weekend but the sitter claims she doesn’t know what happened. I don’t think we’ll hire her again.

  3. My dog pulled a leg muscle this week and we haven’t one clue how he did it. I can tell he’s in pain though and appreciate the advice.

  4. I’m happy to hear there are so many ways I can help my baby’s sprained leg. Muchas gracias!

  5. I’m ready to take action if our dogs pull a muscle again. I appreciate it. I felt so helpless last time that I cried right along with them too. They do heal up in about a month and it’s only bad for a week or so. That’s how it was with ours anyway. Lickity licks!

  6. My sweet kitty sprained her leg and paw after getting caught jumping out of a tree. I’ll pamper her with your suggestions tonight.

  7. After pulling a muscle 2 weeks ago my dog is still limping. I found this article on Google and I feel reassured and more in control of his pain, thank you very much.

  8. We usually see one muscle sprain or strain in one of our dogs every summer so this information will come in handy. I’d also like to thank you for all of the wonderful information you provide & for the professional way it’s written.

  9. I feel much better after reading this because my poor cat has been limping for a wek. The vet says it’s a sprain but she hasn’t been much better yet and I want to help her!

  10. Our dog sprained his hind leg on our first swimming hike of the season. He’s limping but seems to be in good spirits. He’ll enjoy the massage.

  11. Our dog never had muscle strain until he got arthritis so I guess that weakens the muscles or it just happens when they get old. Appreciate the tips!

  12. We’ve had our dog treated with a combination of pet massage and acupressure before and it was very effective. His muscle spasms stopped within a week and the sprain healed up quickly after that. We didn’t have to give him any muscle relaxants or other medication. 🙂

  13. We do a ton of sports massage on our race horses. What most don’t know is massaging BEFORE exercise and again AFTER exercise is the best prevention. It loosens their muscles and improves blood flow to them. Try it!

  14. Muscle sprains and spasms are common for my dog but no vet can tell me why. I sincerely appreciate the information you’ve supplied to help pets because it’s quite painful for them.

  15. Our dog scared me half to death last night with his jumping around and crying. The vet said it was a muscle spasm like a charlie horse in people.

  16. Like people pets can sprain things too, such as a dog spraining a paw for instance, and the only indication we may have that they are suffering is a limp or whimper etc. We really can’t know for sure whether the injury is mild or severe so just like people we need to take the pet to the vet immediately without delay. Imagine how your leg may feel if left untreated for a week and the injury could also be compounded in that time. I’m not saying that anyone here is not doing this, rather I am just taking it from the animal’s point of view and as a pet owner myself 🙂

    • Always warm up working dogs before competition and give them natural antiinflammatories daily. It’s helped us avoid injuries to our show dogs for years.

  17. My dog is yelping in pain from muscle spasms now and the vet couldn’t do much for him. Thanks for giving me some ideas to ease his pain.

  18. I massage my dogs a few times per week and that seems to control their muscle spasms. They get them with their arthritis.

  19. HI,
    I have a cat who has injured herself some how. 2 wks ago I came home to her limping on both front legs, one worse than the other. Took her to the vet to make sure there is no break (there isn’t any swelling that i can notice and no breaks) They took blood aswell and everything is perfect except her CPK is almost 1000 which indicates a muscle injury…of course they suggested steriods but i have refused. I have been giving her omegas and comfrey as I am a bit of an herbalist and have a stock of it. I’m wondering how long can the recovery be for a torn muscle or strain/sprain?? I haven’t seen much improvement at all…she eats well and is alert and no fevers ect..just can’t bare any weight on the front leg(s). My next option is to get a CT or MRI which i am told is about $1800 to $3000. I’m not sure if I need to have more patience because I know with humans it can take weeks but not sure about cats.
    Thanks looking forward to you replies!
    Stacey and Daisy

    • Hi Stacey, I’m so sorry to hear about your kitty. I’m not a Veterinarian, but I have read that it can take up to six weeks for sprains to heal on their own. The spasms may remain and require massage therapy. It was six weeks almost to the day before my symptoms were entirely gone, but I was doing quite well by four weeks. Cat’s are quite similar to humans in this respect, with the big difference being they don’t wallow in it and simply go on once the pain eases somewhat. I whined for the full six weeks…LOL. I sure hope it’s over for her soon!

      • Thanks so much! I will just relax and let it run its course and massage her daily and continue what I’m doing…I’ll keep you posted! LOL I whined too for weeks with a pulled muscle…my husband will agree i’m sure…lol thanks again! 🙂

  20. My old irish setter has muscle spasms and I’ll enjoy trying to help relieve her pain. Thank you so very much.

  21. My dog was in so much pain with muscle spasms I sat there and cried with her. It was so heartbreaking!

  22. I appreciate the comments, thank you! Please continue to share your experiences with muscle sprains, strains and spasms, I’m sure everyone will find them helpful. 🙂

  23. My dog is lame but I can’t get him to the vet until Monday. I’m glad google brought me to you.

  24. I have used pet massage on my dogs many times when they have stiff or strained muscles. Even the cat likes it.

  25. My dog sprained his hind leg muscles so often that we stopped competing with him. He just seem to have weakness and we didnt want to make him permanently lame. If competing isn’t fun for him, it isn’t fun for us either.

  26. I have the magnetic dog bed for my dog’s arthritis and it seems to help him. The cat likes it too but she doesn’t need it. I had a horse that always seemed to pull muscles but I didn’t know they had magnetic cuffs for them then.

  27. OWIE!!! I hope you’re feeling better. I’m glad it inspired you to write this post and I printed it for my binder. We have 2 dogs, 2 cats, a horse and a pony. We had chickens up until last year too.

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