Shoulder Luxation in Dogs

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Shoulder Luxation in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Shoulder Luxation in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Shoulder Luxation?

When bone is displaced or completely separated from a joint because the ligaments that hold the joint in place break, it is called luxation. It is considered a subluxation when the separation is partial. The shoulder joint of dogs is more mobile than all other main limb joints and after a luxation will need to be put back in its usual position and held in place so that the surrounding casing is able to heal. 

Shoulder luxation in dogs is most often the result of trauma; for example, when the dog is hit by a car. The sooner that a luxation is treated, the better the outcome will be for your dog.

The complete displacement or separation of the shoulder bone from its joint is a shoulder luxation.

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Symptoms of Shoulder Luxation in Dogs

The most common signs of a luxation in your dog include:

  • Your dog is suddenly limping or showing lameness, leading to hopping on the unaffected front leg
  • He is hesitant to walk or jump
  • He shows pain when the joint is touched or moved
  • Swelling or warmth in the joint
  • Your dog is continually licking at the joint
  • Reduction in appetite
  • Decrease in activity level

Types 

Congenital luxation is mainly an issue for miniature breed dogs (Miniature Poodle, Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Miniature Pinscher, King Charles Spaniel). The luxation occurs equally in male and female dogs and it is thought that there may be a hereditary predisposition. The condition can occur on one or both sides. Typically, congenital shoulder luxation will appear as shoulder lameness when your dog is around 4 months old. 

Acquired dislocation can occur as a result of trauma to the shoulder area. Typically, this is caused by a car accident, however it can also occur when your dog falls from a high place or experiences a twisting injury to his shoulder. The luxation can be cranial, lateral or medial. The most often seen is medial, which is connected to a tear of the medial glenohumeral capsule and ligaments. Lateral luxation, which is more likely to occur in large breeds, is connected to a rupture of the medial glenohumeral capsule and ligament.

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Causes of Shoulder Luxation in Dogs

Shoulder luxation can be a congenital condition, particularly in miniature breeds. This condition will cause shoulder lameness and can affect both sides, making walking very painful. Most often, shoulder luxation is the result of trauma, particularly car accidents. Most often, the cause of shoulder luxation is a medial one, affecting the function and mobility of the shoulder.

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Diagnosis of Shoulder Luxation in Dogs

In the case of congenital shoulder luxation, you may notice shoulder lameness in your dog when he is between three and eight months of age. Upon your veterinarian conducting a physical examination, it is important to mention any symptoms you have noticed in your dog and when you first noticed them. Your veterinarian will examine your dog’s shoulder region, keeping an eye out for whether your dog’s range of motion and ability to extend the limb is limited. He will try and determine if your dog is experiencing any pain or discomfort and if he is able to return his shoulder to its normal position. If the luxation is chronic, your veterinarian will notice that the supraspinatus, infraspinatus and pectoral muscles have atrophied.

If your dog has experienced trauma or has developed an injury as the result of recent intense activity, you will want to bring your dog to the veterinarian for an examination. Your veterinarian will conduct a full physical examination of your dog, and ask you for information regarding the traumatic event or activity that may have caused him to be injured. An x-ray will likely be taken and other tests your veterinarian may consider include computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

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Treatment of Shoulder Luxation in Dogs

It is important that the luxation be treated as soon as possible as that will lead to a better outcome in his recovery. Your veterinarian will consider a closed reduction, which is a procedure where the joint can be put back to its original place. Your dog will need general anesthesia and a bandage or support wrap will be used to hold his joint in its correct alignment while the joint capsule heals. 

In some cases, an open reduction is required; this is where surgery will take place to open the joint and replace the bones that have been dislocated.

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Worried about the cost of Shoulder Luxation treatment?

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Recovery of Shoulder Luxation in Dogs

The prognosis for shoulder luxation will depend in part on how quickly the injury is diagnosed and treated. Without quick treatment, the injury can be aggravated and more damage can occur. 

After closed or open reduction you will want to limit your dog’s activity. He will likely require the sling or splint for up to two weeks during the healing of his joint capsule. A follow up examination will likely be necessary so that your veterinarian can make sure that your dog is healing well. During his recovery, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your dog to look for signs of swelling or discomfort. After the sling or splint has been removed, you will want to continue to limit your dog’s activity to minimize the risk of additional trauma while the joint heals.

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Shoulder Luxation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

Chulo

dog-breed-icon

Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

12 Years

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0 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Limping, With Some Weight On It
Limping

My 12 yr old Chihuahua injured his shoulder late Saturday night. We think it might be out of place, but he will sort of walk in it with some weight on it. He will let me massage and touch the entire leg and shoulder. The closest vet is over 200 miles away. What can we do?

March 13, 2018

Chulo's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without examining Chi, I don't know if he has a dislocation, fracture, arthritis, infection, a tendon or ligament strain, muscle damage, or cancer. If it is continuing to be a problem for him, he will need to see a veterinarian, and possibly have x-rays, to determine the best treatment for him.

March 13, 2018

He has full use it seems now if his leg. I don't have any transportation and I live too far away from the nearest vet. Also we are snowed in and can not leave.

March 15, 2018

Chulo's Owner

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dog-name-icon

Chi

dog-breed-icon

Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

12 Years

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Limping, Some Use Of Leg

Hi my Chihuahua injured his right shoulder, looks like it might be out of alignment, but he will use it some. Possible injury happen Saturday night. We don't have access to a vet. What do we do? I can touch and massage his shoulder some times he acts like it is his elbow joint.

March 13, 2018

Chi's Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without examining Chi, I don't know if he has a dislocation, fracture, arthritis, infection, a tendon or ligament strain, muscle damage, or cancer. If it is continuing to be a problem for him, he will need to see a veterinarian, and possibly have x-rays, to determine the best treatment for him.

March 13, 2018

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