Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Shoulder and Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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 promptly to get an accurate diagnosis and mode of treatment.

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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

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 shows lameness – as if a shoulder just goes out of place. 
  • He may suddenly fall when walking, or avoid walking altogether.
  • He might likely have swelling around the shoulder area and may whine or whimper, especially when it is touched 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. Some dogs 'hip hike' and 'head bob'.
  • The dog may also seem depressed, lethargic, and may also just want to be left alone for a while.
  • Some dogs become irritable and aggressive due to the discomfort.
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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, a CT scan, 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 and pain relief 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 an orthopaedic 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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Worried about the cost of Shoulder Joint Ligament And Tendon Conditions treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

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 first 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

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Chihuahua

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four

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7 found helpful

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7 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Swollen Foreleg

my dogs left forelegs is swollen.i cant seem to figure out the cause and im not sure how to heal it

Dec. 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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7 Recommendations

Thank you for this photo and I'm sorry your little one has this issue. Swelling can be a consequence of a muscle strain, insect bite, infection etc. This level of swelling warrants a vet visit and check over +/- xrays. We will likely need to prescribe some medicine such as antibiotics or anti inflammatories.

Dec. 21, 2020

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mix

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Five Years

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3 found helpful

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3 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Limping

She got hit by a car about 2 years ago and hurt her paw. She still occasionally holds that paw up. But today she started limping on that same leg and after touching her leg and testing for the pain area, it seems as though her shoulder? area is bothering her. What can I do for her?

Dec. 19, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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3 Recommendations

Hello sis sorry to hear that your dog is having issues. There are not any good over the counter pain medication me but you can try glucosamine joint supplements. If this continues yes, your dog would need to see your vet for pain medications. Good luck I hope your dog starts to improve soon.

Dec. 19, 2020

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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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