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What is Tendon Trauma?

Tendons are composed of strong collagen fibrils which, when grouped together, are referred to as collagen fiber. These dense collagenous fibers are enclosed in a thick connective tissue known as an epitenon.

Physiologically, the tendons in a dog’s body connect to muscle and to bone thereby allowing force to be generated, allowing muscle and bone to withstand tremendous pressure. However, once pressure and force exceed a certain limit then injury of the supporting tendon may occur.

A Tendon trauma may be defined as a laceration, inflammation or rupture of the tendon to the joint that results in severe pain and lameness, particularly in larger heavier dogs.

Symptoms of Tendon Trauma in Dogs

  • Lameness defined as the inability to perform regular moving functions
  • Pain in the localized area
  • Resistance to flex or extend the related joint
  • Inflammation on the affected limb may occur
  • In regards to Achilles’s tendon injuries. the animal will drop their paw flat on the ground and may drag the foot; this is referred to as flat-footed

Types

Because tendons connect muscle to bone then there will be a variety of tendon trauma that may occur in different parts of the body.Two types of tendon trauma seen in canines are:

  • Injury to the Achilles tendon
  • Bicipital tenosynovitis

Achilles tendon injuries

can further be classified as either traumatic (resulting from physical injuries) and atraumatic (chronic due to age). Damage to the Achilles tendon may be more common in larger breed dogs such as Doberman and Labradors.

Bicipital tenosynovitis

refers to the inflammation of the biceps brachii tendon and muscle and most commonly affects larger mature dogs. Inflammation of the biceps brachii tendon is not the only form of tendon damage that can occur. Dogs may also experience rupture and hardening of this tendon.

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Causes of Tendon Trauma in Dogs

Causes of tendon trauma may either be degenerative and chronic with aging animals or a result of extensive physical exertion. Some causes may include:

  • Straining and over-working of the muscles and associated joints causing tendons to stretch beyond optimal lengths; for example, racing and working dogs tend to fall victim to over working tendons
  • Laceration of tendons may result in an increase in pressure among tendons, a decrease in blood circulation, inflammation and the possibility of bacterial infection
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Diagnosis of Tendon Trauma in Dogs

In order to diagnose tendon injuries your veterinarian may conduct a physical exam and ask for the history, duration and onset of the particular injury. They may carefully palpate the area to determine if swelling or malformation of muscle is prominent.

X-rays may determine if bone fragments have impacted the nearby muscle. Ultrasonography may be taken in order to determine the severity and/or possibility of ruptured tendons. However, studies suggest that arthroscopy may be used as well to determine joint function.

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Treatment of Tendon Trauma in Dogs

Surgical intervention is the method of choice by most veterinarians when treating severe tendon injuries, particularly ruptures. The aim of most tendon surgeries involve reattachment of tendon to bone and can be done through suturing and other forms of scaffolding. Suturing may involve either loop pulley or locking loop pattern. These methods of suturing have been suggested to improve mobility and quicker recovery of associated joints.

For mild cases involving straining or spraining of tendons, veterinarians may simply use casts or splints to stabilize an affected area.

If the tendon is facing severe inflammation (bicipital tenosynovitis) then your veterinarian may administer a long course of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication) and opium in order to restore blood flow. Some possible NSAIDs used are deracoxib, carprofen, etodolac and ketoprofen.

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Recovery of Tendon Trauma in Dogs

Any form of tendon trauma may take up to 5 to 12 months for recovery depending on the severity of the case and the owner’s willingness to aid in recovery.

Postoperative care may involve the use of bio-scaffolding to promote stabilization of the joint. This may include the use of materials such as polypropylene mesh and bone plates; the use of these implants may, however, pose a risk due to the body’s’ immune system reacting badly to foreign objects. Thus, your veterinarian may require a follow up within 14 days to view the efficacy of the graft.

Your veterinarian will suggest restricting the dog from strenuous activity. Ideally, owners need to avoid allowing the dog to run and jump, to avoid excessive loading (for example, sled dogs) and any physical activity that may over strain the muscle and joints.

It is important to realize that complete restriction of slow movement and exercise will not aid in recovery as your dog may begin to unconsciously depend on the support of scaffolding. Thus, over time the veterinarian will slowly begin to decrease the amount of support given to the affected joint.

In order to rebuild muscle structure and enhance recovery, a slow progressive exercise regime should be considered 8 weeks after surgery. This may include a 6 week healing process involving:

  • Hydrotherapy - this may include swimming in a controlled environment with owner

  • Physiotherapy - particularly focusing on flexion and extension of the joints
  • Slow walking on leash for short periods of time
  • Warm packs to stimulate blood flow to affected area

In regards to dietary changes, your vet may recommend supplements rich in glucosamine, Methylsulfonylmethane and Hyaluronic acid. A few possible therapeutic supplements may include Tri-acta H.A, Glyco-Flex 2 and Traumeel.

It is estimated that approximately 70 to 94% of dogs may regain adequate mobility within 6 to 9 months depending on the efficacy of therapy.

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Tendon Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Peanut

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Pit bull

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Limping
Limping, Lameless

My female pitbull has been diagnosed with flexor tendon avulsion (digits) in both her front paws. Both paws are now very long and flat. This condition happened over a period of a couple of months. Our veterinarian said he has never seen it in both paws simultaneously and that her vigorous daily activity could have played a role. This condition is supposed to be non-painful however she is now displays a degree of lameness on her right front leg . The lameness subsides but then returns out of the blue. X-rays show no broken bones in either front legs. I have manipulated the right front leg a lot and she really signs of pain from below the carpal joint. She is very active (trail dog) and we try to rest her but she just does not want to be confined and really howls and gets anxious if I leave her at home. At the moment she is on Rymadol 100mg when lame,otherwise I give her Nutradyl as a supplement.

July 19, 2018

Peanut's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Peanut may need to see a specialist if her lifestyle and her tendon problem aren't compatible with each other. Her activity level may not work well with that injury, and it would be a good idea to see if there is anything else that can be done to let her have a pain free life.

July 19, 2018

Do you think a long term NSAID like Trocoxil something we should consider?

July 20, 2018

Peanut's Owner

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Bongo!

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Shih Tzu

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Not Moving

25lb ShihTzu ran up a hill and came up lame in right rear leg and is now not putting pressure on it. He doesn’t seem to have pain(doesn’t cry out). Could tendon be cause? Treatment?

May 21, 2018

Bongo!'s Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Bongo could have inured a tendon or ligament, strained or sprained that leg, or had an injury to a joint or a fracture. Since I cannot see him or determine what he might have done, I can't recommend any treatments for him. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian if he isn't putting any weight on that leg, as that is a sign of pain in the leg. They'll be able to examine him, determine what might be going on, and recommend any testing or treatment that he might need. I hope that all goes well for him.

May 21, 2018

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Sniper

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Boxita

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Hopping

Our dog sliced through 4 tendons about 6 weeks ago . He has been in a cast since. He chewed his cast off so the very was happy enough with his healed wound for it to be bandaged up instead of going into cast number 4. He was walking ok but since my partner accidentally put some pressure on the front left leg that was effected he has started hopping again. I want at the vet appointment so this is coming g second hand but the vet said the tendon can "pop" out. I am very worried and am stressing our that he will need another operation . I hope you can help. How would we know if the tendon has popped out?

April 20, 2018

Sniper's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

An ultrasound would be able to see if the tendon has become dislocated, most likely. Without knowing which tendons we are talking about, and what type of surgery he had, I can't comment on how exactly to tell, but typically there is a dramatic change in the structure of the joint when there is tendon damage. It would be a good idea to call your veterinarian and find out more what is going on with Sniper, and what needs to be done for him.

April 20, 2018

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Sami Jack

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Blue Heeler

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lifting Leg Swollen
Lifting Leg, Swollen

My Blue Heeler Sami Jack severed 2 tendons below his paw. I took him to the ER, as it happened at 10:30 pm on Sunday 11 days ago. The ER Vet sewed it up saying tendon repair may or may not work. His 2 middle toes are extended and he licks the toes and wound still. He puts pressure on the door to walk, however, he lifts it to run. He is “normally” high energy and fetches a ball and frisbee constantly. My concern is the he will not be able to resume his playing without injuring those splaying toes. ;( And what is the expected time for the severed tendons to heal. The wound looks good on the outside.

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Cope

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Labrador Retriever

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Cut
Cut, Holding Foot

My dog, Cope, tried to squeeze between my leg and a door frame and cut his leg open near the lower joint on his back left leg. He immediately started limping, he wasn't whimpering, just holding his leg up, we took him to the vet, the vet diagnosed the cut to be just skin, and stitched him up. Its been 4 days now, and he is still walking around holding his leg up, barely applying pressure, I may just be overreacting but I am worried about it being misdiagnosed, and it actually be a severed tendon.

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Ike

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Akita

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Stringy, Tangling

Have a dangling stringy growth on one of my Akitas that I need to be removed, Ike is his name he is up to date on all shots and everything just need to get him groomed before the procedure. I have received a few crazy prices which included added teeth cleaning for an additional 450, and the estimate I also received is 500 dollars shy of what I paid to have an older dogs right front leg with the huge tumor removed. I need this done and with 6 Akitas I can't afford 1200 dollars. Ike is licking it raw, other than a piece falling off it doesn't seem to hurt him just irritates him.

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Boo

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Labrador Retriever

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Cut

My 18mth old black lab had about a 3cm wide gash about 1cm deep we thought it was just a cut but took her to the vets who diagnosed she had broken her tendon Options were amputation or surgury that might not work. We chose surgury hoping to give ger leg a chance. Vet stitched Tendon and wired bone. She has een in a cast for 5 weeks which has caused more issues with her skin on her hock becoming sore. Visits to have her dressing changed every otherday but thjngs looking better now. 6 weeks in now decisions need to be made when does cast cone off and rehab start what sort of rehab. She will need a brace but what sort of brace we just want the best for her.

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Star

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Maltese x

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9 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

Won'T Use Her Right, Rear Leg.

My maltese jumped off the low bench by the end of our bed and ran down the hall to the sound of the doorbell, which she's done 1000's of times. And somewhere in all her excitement hurt her leg. So after her hobbling around on 3 legs for a couple days (it happened over a weekend) we took her the vet, and she was diagnosed with a ruptured tendon. Surgery was the suggested treatment. I want my dog to live a happy normal life, but I'm concerned that because of her age (9 years old), she won't recover completely, and I'm just wondering how successful this kind of surgery is for dogs in general.

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