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What are Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions?

Ligaments and tendons both support the many bones of the dog’s body. Many people think of the  terms “ligament” and “tendon” simultaneously; however, there is a difference between the two. A ligament is a strong band of tissue that connects cartilage or bones at any joint. A tendon is a strong band of tissue that attaches any muscle to a bone. The shoulder of a dog (and the other four-legged animals) has bones attached by ligaments and tendons. These bones that make up the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder are called the scapula and humerus. The scapula is sometimes referred to as the shoulder blade, and the humerus is often called the upper leg bone. These bones, and the muscles and tendons that attach, are vital to a dog’s well-being and his ability to walk and run with ease. 

It is difficult to see your dog in any pain, especially if it inhibits him from walking or running normally. Shoulder conditions are very treatable with a variety of options, so any pain your dog may be in is usually only temporary.

Shoulder joint ligament and tendon conditions in dogs are common painful conditions that can be treated, usually with success. If you feel your dog is in pain in the shoulder area, it is best to consult your veterinarian to get an accurate diagnosis and mode of treatment.

Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,500

Average Cost

$1,800

Symptoms of Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Dogs

  • The dog usually has difficulty getting up from a resting position, difficulty walking without a limp, or is continuously in pain. 
  • He may seem fine one minute and the next minute show lameness – as if a shoulder just goes out of place. 
  • He may suddenly fall when walking, or avoid walking altogether.
  • He will likely have swelling around the shoulder area and may whine or whimper, especially when it is massaged or when he is walking (or getting up). 
  • He will probably forgo steps or jumping up on his favorite couch and may choose to lie down in a comfortable spot. 
  • His head and body weight may appear to be kept on one side more than the other side, as he is favoring the affected shoulder area. 
  • The dog may also seem depressed, lethargic, and may also just want to be left alone for a while.
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Causes of Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Dogs

Sometimes dogs suffer from shoulder joint conditions due to several issues with the ligaments and tendons. These can range from mild pain where a dog has a little difficulty getting around, to serious pain that inhibits walking. Three to seven years of age is usually when these disorders begin to develop, and without treatment, can become worse over time. There are different reasons for shoulder joint dysfunction, and different alternatives for treatment. Most causes stem from repeated overexertion or overextending the shoulder, which puts stress on the muscles and tendons in that area. Older dogs and overweight dogs are more apt to getting shoulder joint ligament and tendon conditions, and athletic dogs who run, participate in agility training and competitions, or hunt are also susceptible to shoulder ailments.

Types

Biceps Brachii Tenosynovitis

This common shoulder issue usually develops over time. It is caused by inflamed tendons of the muscle of the biceps brachii and the sheath that is in front of the shoulder blade. Medium to large dogs that are athletic are susceptible to this condition, since repetitive use and injuries of the tendons cause this disorder. Also, older dogs can develop this condition if they are not used to running or jumping and suddenly do so, thus injuring the bicep tendon.

Supraspinatus Insertionopathy

The tendon of the supraspinatus muscle is attached to the front section of the forelimb’s humerus bone, and enables the shoulder joint to extend. Repeated, harsh hyperflexion of the shoulder from extreme exercise or hunting can cause supraspinatus insertionopathy. The tendon becomes torn or strained, and calcium deposits (mineralization) can form after this tendon becomes overly inflamed. These calcifications can cause lameness and pain in some dogs.

Infraspinatus Muscle Contracture

The infraspinatus muscle is very close to the front shoulder and severe conditions, such as injury, usually only occur to dogs that are very athletic. When dogs are not properly conditioned and suddenly overwork the muscle, injury can occur that sometimes can be quite debilitating. The reason for this is the scar tissue that can form after a tear or severe strain can limit the extension of the shoulder joint.

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Diagnosis of Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Dogs

When you bring your dog to the veterinarian, be prepared to relay all of the signs of lameness or pain that you have noticed in your pet. Note the onset of symptoms, and any behavioral changes you may be seeing your furry family member display.

After the initial physical examination, your veterinarian will do x-rays, an ultrasound, an MRI, or draw fluid from the joint that is inflamed. Once the veterinarian gives you the diagnosis, she will give you treatment options. Although there are several different causes of shoulder joint ligament and tendon ailments, treatment is very similar for each one. The most important thing you can do, along with properly treating your dog, is to be sure to acknowledge new and unusual symptoms and not hesitate to take him to the veterinarian if you feel he is in too much pain.

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Treatment of Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Dogs

Lots of rest may be required, and the veterinarian will probably suggest hot or cold packs throughout the day to help with pain. She may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication as well. Your veterinary caregiver may suggest investing in a ramp for any stairs your dog faces as he leaves the house to go outside, keeping him off full flights of steps altogether. You may need to rearrange your living situation a bit by keeping him on one floor of the house and blocking off any stairs. Purchasing a slightly raised bed to allow for less stress on him as he is resting or getting up from a resting position may be a good investment, too. There is a chance your veterinarian may suggest you try these types of treatments and consider surgery as a last-resort option. 

If you have an overweight dog or a dog that is usually not active, it is important to avoid sudden runs and rough play if this is not part of his regular routine. This can prevent any shoulder injury. If your companion has the symptoms of a shoulder injury, it is important to not take him on walks or runs and to just encourage rest. 

In severe cases where the shoulder injury greatly impacts the dog’s lifestyle and well-being, your veterinarian may suggest the option of surgery. This may occur if the tests show severe damage to the tendon or if the dog is not healing properly after a few weeks.

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Recovery of Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Dogs

Everyday observations of your loved one and just being aware of your dog’s behaviors can keep you proactive rather than reactive in this type of condition. Getting him the help he needs as soon as the symptoms appear will help him heal faster and quite possibly avoid any future compounding injuries that could lead to a surgical procedure.

Remember that your veterinarian will give you the proper diagnosis and best advice when dealing with a shoulder injury (or any injury or health concern), so it is vital that you take the dog to the clinic at the sign of any odd behaviors or symptoms.  If surgery is required, for example due to chronic lameness and pain, or non resolution of symptoms, recovery will require limited exercise and leash walking only for a period of a month to two months, depending on the severity of the injury and the extent of the surgery.

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Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,500

Average Cost

$1,800

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Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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German Shepherd

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Nine Weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Whining Difficult Walking

I have a 9 week old puppy that we took to the emergency vet last night because he had a temp of 104 and was lethargic. The vet found nothing wrong and just gave fluids to combat the temperature. Today he exhibits a new symptom he won't put any weight on his front right paw and is whining from the pain. I am able to touch all of his paw but when I get closer to the middle of his chest where his shoulder joint is he crys out in pain.

Sept. 1, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry that your puppy is not feeling well. Sometimes things will progress to where we have different clues as to what is going on. This sounds like it might help your veterinarian narrow down what the problem is, and I think a recheck exam is a good idea. I don't know that you need to go to the emergency clinic, but calling your veterinarian and getting in as soon as possible would be a good idea. I hope that everything goes well for your puppy and he feels better soon.

Sept. 1, 2020

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French Bulldog

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Limping

Front right arm appears to not extend fully and I've noted a more predominant limp over the past 2-3 days. she had one small plop down while walking due to the issue and being unbalanced. She lives solely on the first floor anyway, but now we carry her down the three stairs into the yard to potty. She's not a super active baby anyway in her older age, but we've limited her a little more and are massaging the area while we snuggle. Besides prescribed meds, hydration and rest, is there anything else we souls be doing? Thank you!

July 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If the prescribed meds that she has are anti-inflammatory pain medications appropriate for canine arthritis, then that and rest are pretty much what she needs at this point I would say. If she is not getting better over the next few days with that therapy, it would probably be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian. There may be more that they can do as far as pain control, and once they see her they will have a better idea. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 25, 2020

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Lab pit mix

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Ran Over Sholders

I accidentally rolled over my dog. While I was backing out of drive way. But dog got up n walked. Fine . what should I look for ?

July 16, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Having a two to three thousand pound vehicle rollover one's shoulders may cause some trauma, and it would be best to watch for any signs of pain, lameness, loss of appetite, or just not feeling good. If any of those things with her, it would be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian. I hope that he/he is okay.

July 16, 2020

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Stricker

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German Shepherd

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Shoulder Pain

Hi my dog hurt his shoulder running now he won’t put any weight on that leg took to vet he did an exam said he tore rotator cuff. Gave him anti inflammatory meds. Doesn’t seam to be helping been2 weeks

Sept. 7, 2018

Stricker's Owner

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Kelly

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Pug/terrier

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10 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limps

Hi: My pug/terrier mix has had a limp in the front leg for the past year. I have taken her to a vet who gave her anti-inflammatories, which didn't work. Took her to another vet who said her shoulder is popping in and out of socket, and feels she must have dislocated her shoulder jumping down at some point and damaged it, although we have little stairs for her. She is on meloxicam right now and some codeine. He suggested some weight loss (she is only 21 pounds, but we're trying to get her down to 17 or 18), but if that doesn't work, then an operation. She is 10 years old. A question....is there a brace or something that could possibly correct her problem so we can avoid surgery? We don't want to have to put her through that if at all possible, and I really don't want her to be in pain like this for years to come. Thank you.

July 13, 2018

Kelly's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

The position of the shoulder joint in dogs makes it difficult to brace and bracing is not as widely done in veterinary medicine than in human medicine; without knowing more about Kelly’s specific problem it is difficult to advise, it would be worth having an Orthopaedic Specialist have a look over her medical records. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 14, 2018

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Minmin

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pappilion x

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15 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Shoulder Blades Touching
Saggy Back
Wobbly Legs When First Stands

Hi, My old dog ( Pappilion x ) has a sag in her back and I have noticed her shoulder blades are touching together. Is this normal for her age. I have spent thousands getting her teeth done twice ( even though I told them to take them all out as I did'nt want her to go under again ) and also a unneccessary stomach op due to a misdiagnostic. So before I take her again I would like to know if these are due to her ageing. She is eating,sleeping ok but walks a bit wobbly.She is partly deaf ( selective hearing I say ) and is blind in one eye but still zooms around like she is still a puppy. She is'nt showing any signs of pain.

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Jewel

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Staffordshire Terrier

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10 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Large Mass Bump On Shoulder

I have a 10 yr old Stafforshire Terrier, who suffered a blow to her left shoulder when I had to stop suddenly and she hit the dashboard. Vet took xrays, said it looked like bone cancer, but she didn't have any limp before trauma. She doesn't walk on the leg, and there is a large protrusion on front of her shoulder, there was an abrasion after the accident (not much of one) took her to another vet, $600 later, he said she had bone cancer, but I can't believe bone cancer would only show up after an accident that suddenly. I think I need an orthopedic vet, but I live in Kona and there aren't any. It's been 2 months since accident. No loss in appetite. Her blood count was fine. I'd fly anywhere in west coast to get a good vet. Hope you can help.

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Mako

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Husky mix

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Diarrhea
Pain
Weakness
Increased Urination
Inflammation
Muscle

My dog is only 1 year old and the past few days he hasn’t been eating much. Only every other day. I touched his shoulder and he started crying. I then touched all other 3 to see if his muscles were the issue. He cried at each muscle. He is sleeping 24/7 and uninterested in doing anything else. I tried to give him a treat, and told him to sit. His legs started wobbling and shaking as he tried and he NEVER got his butt to the ground. Just mid squat with shaky legs and then stood bad up. Could this be Arthritis?.... at ONE years old? Or did he pull all of his muscles or tear each one? IF THIS IS RELEVANT: he had runny stool, and has been urinating 3x more than usual when we go outside.

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Dexter

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Labrador Retriever

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Small Ball Around Socket

Kind of a freak accident. Was at the dog park and a small dog ran into my large lab named Dexter. Hes not in pain, but can def tell something isn't right. Definitely going to take him to a vet this week, just wanted some early input. His right shoulder is a lot more solid and there is kind of a ball in his left shoulder. Any info will help.

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Tucker

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Australian Shepherd

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Crying
Shoulder Pain
Trouble Lying Down
Pain When Lifting Paw
Not Walking Or Getting Up

Tucker is about 5 1/2 years old, 25 weeks post op TPLO on back right leg. Yesterday he was outside, as usual playing with his fur-sister outside when I called them in I noticed him holding up the front left paw limping. I immediately called the vet and got him an appointment which he went in and had x-rays which showed nothing. He was crying out horribly when he would go to lay flat on his right side or if you lift that paw up. Right now he is on Caroprofen and Hydrocodine for pain. I don't see any swelling or inflammation and it's not warm to the touch. He is just avoiding walking and getting up all together which we are letting him do, just rest but I am wondering if we need MRIs or if we should continue with a couple days of rest. He definitely seems to be less pained than yesterday but I'm concerned the x-ray may not have shown tendon or ligament damage but also don't want to put him through an MRI if unnecessary. He is eating and drinking fine, able to use his paw to hold his bone but it's just when he goes to lay flat or if that left paw is lifted up at all. When he walks there is no whining but he really isn't using that paw. The vet checked the whole paw and when she got to the shoulder he cried out in horrible pain then was panting in pain. I'm just unsure if I am being over to top and need to give him a few days of rest before jumping the gun but another part of me that doesn't want to ignore this if it is more severe. I would think the x-ray would show some swelling or something if there was a tear but I've read mixed information. PLEASE HELP!!!!! Should I wait on MRIs or does he need to go asap. Vet recommended rest and NSAID plus Hyrdrocodine to control pain but enticing the poor guy to walk is a chore (but again he is eating and drinking like a champ still!)

Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions Average Cost

From 367 quotes ranging from $500 - $3,500

Average Cost

$1,800

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