Tendon Trauma in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 08/11/2017Updated: 12/03/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS
Tendon Trauma in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

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.

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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 of 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 a 'plantigrade stance'


Because tendons connect muscle to bone all over the body, tendon damage can occur in many locations. 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.

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

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 will 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 performed in order to determine the severity and/or possibility of ruptured tendons. However, studies suggest that arthroscopy is the optimal diagnostic tool for determining joint health.

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 involves reattachment of tendon to bone and can be done through suturing and other forms of scaffolding. Suturing may involve either a loop pulley or locking loop pattern. These methods of suturing have been suggested to improve mobility and are associated with quicker recovery of associated joints.

For mild cases involving straining or spraining of tendons, veterinarians may simply advise on rest and oral medicine. 

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 examples of 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, in 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 the 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.

Tendon Trauma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


German Shepherd



Three Years


7 found this helpful


7 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Dragging One Back Leg
our dog woke us at 5 am, couldn't use back leg. is now up and moving, back leg walks fine and then gives out and she'll drag her back foot a bit. Doesn't seem to have much pain, and I have been doing range of motion with her and no pain.

Sept. 28, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

7 Recommendations

Thank you for yoru question. German Shepherd dogs are quite prone to joint or neuromuscular disease, and this is something that you should have examined by a veterinarian. There may be treatment that will help if started early in the process, and your veterinarian will be able to see her and see what might be going on. I hope that all goes well for her!

Oct. 5, 2020

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Pit bull




6 Years


2 found this helpful


2 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
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

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

2 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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