Although we see many serious injuries in pets, including fractures, dislocations and torn ligaments, which must be definitively diagnosed and treated, many other acute injuries that produce discomfort and lameness are sprains, strains and other trauma to soft tissue structures. Unlike fractures and torn ligaments, the treatment for these type of injuries is typically not surgical in nature, but involves minimizing movement and reducing inflammation as well as managing any discomfort, while time and rest heal the injury.
It is important that more serious causes of lameness and discomfort are ruled out, so all pets with acute lameness should be examined as soon as possible. Depending on our findings during a physical examination we may recommend x-rays, or a more thorough orthopedic exam under anesthesia. In many cases however, if we do not suspect a serious injury we will recommend a period of strict rest and appropriate pain and anti inflammatory medication.
Strict rest will usually mean the following:
Cats should be kept indoors and confined to an area where any jumping to or from surfaces is minimized or in some more serious cases a crate or cage.
All pets should not be allowed to run or play with other pets or people.
It is important to remember that often we will use strict rest not only as a treatment, but also as a diagnostic tool. If we recommend strict rest for 7 days for example and after that period your pet is still not better, we will most likely recommend that we proceed with further diagnostics to look for more serious issues, under the assumption that with strict rest and an appropriate amount of time a sprain or strain should have resolved.