Dog sporting competitions, including agility, disc dog, tracking, dock diving, flyball, and earthdog, are growing in popularity. These sports provide much-needed mental stimulation and energy expenditure for active dogs, but increased activity can lead to occasional injuries. Our Central Houston Animal Hospital team knows how much you care for your canine athlete, and we provide information about common dog sporting injuries.
#1: Biceps brachii tenosynovitis in dogs
Biceps brachii tenosynovitis commonly causes forelimb lameness in dogs. The biceps tendon originates on the shoulder blade, passes through the shoulder joint through the bicipital groove, and attaches to the radius and ulna on the dog’s forearm. Biceps brachii tenosynovitis is inflammation of this tendon and the surrounding sheath. Important information includes:
- Affected dogs — Mature, medium- to large-breed dogs are most commonly affected. Agility dogs and racing greyhounds frequently acquire this injury, because these sports damage the tendon.
- Signs — Intermittent or continuous front limb lameness may be present and is typically made worse by exercise. Shoulder flexion, elbow extension, and touching the tendon near the shoulder joint usually cause pain.
- Treatment — Medical management involves weight loss, rest, and medications to reduce pain and inflammation. Corticosteroid injections in the joint may also be beneficial. Surgery to cut the tendon may be necessary, if the dog doesn’t respond to medical treatment.
#2: Supraspinatus tendinopathy in dogs
The supraspinatus muscle is responsible for shoulder extension. Tendon fiber tearing causes inflammation that can result in tendon mineralization and calcification, similar to rotator cuff injury in humans. Important information includes:
- Affected dogs — Active, adult, large-breed dogs are most commonly affected. Agility and flyball competitors frequently are injured this way.
- Signs — The most common sign is front limb lameness that worsens gradually with only minimal or moderate activity. Flexing and internally rotating the limb can also cause pain.
- Treatment — Medical management involves rest, pain medications, and physical therapy. Surgery to remove the mineralizations and calcifications may be necessary if the dog doesn’t respond to medical treatment.
#3: Carpal hyperextension in dogs
Normally, fibrocartilage and ligaments at the back of the carpus (i.e., wrist) support the joint and prevent overextension, but the joint hyperextends when tissues are damaged (i.e., luxations, subluxations). Important information includes:
- Affected dogs — Active large-breed dogs who compete in flyball and dock diving are most commonly affected.
- Signs — Initially, affected dogs will not bear weight on the injured limb. When they do, the carpus sinks to the ground.
- Treatment — In mild cases, medical therapy involving splints, physical therapy, and pain management may be an option, but surgical repair is required in most cases.
#4: Cranial cruciate ligament rupture in dogs
The cruciate ligaments crisscross inside the knee joint to provide stability and prevent the tibia from sliding out of position. Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture, which can occur because of a traumatic event or from chronic degeneration, is one of the most common causes of hind limb lameness in dogs. Important information includes:
- Affected dogs — Dog breeds including Labrador retrievers, rottweilers, and German shepherds are at higher risk for CCL rupture and frequently acquire this injury in disc dog competitions.
- Signs — Affected dogs exhibit a hindlimb lameness, because of a swollen and unstable joint.
- Treatment — Surgery is typically needed to stabilize the joint and provide the best chance for return to function.
#5: Achilles tendon rupture in dogs
The Achilles tendon is composed of five tendons, with the superficial digital flexor and the gastrocnemius tendon, which attach to the heel bone and function to extend the ankle joint, the two most important. A partial Achilles tendon tear occurs if only the gastrocnemius tendon is affected, and a complete tear involves all five tendons. Important information includes:
- Affected dogs — Large sporting and working breeds are most commonly affected, and Doberman pinschers and Labrador retrievers are at higher risk for the condition.
- Signs — Dogs with a partial rupture have a partially dropped ankle, lameness in the limb, and curled toes. Dogs with a complete rupture have a completely dropped ankle and limb lameness.
- Treatment — Surgical repair is necessary, and the ankle must be kept in extension for about two months after surgery.
#6: Iliopsoas strain in dogs
The iliopsoas muscle is the major hip flexor that functions to bring the knee toward the abdomen and the muscle is commonly strained when a running dog “does the splits.” The injury can also occur secondary to a knee injury when the dog maintains a non-weight bearing stance, keeping their hip flexed. Important information includes:
- Affected dogs — Any dog can experience an iliopsoas strain, but disc dog, dock diving, and herding competitors are commonly affected.
- Signs — Affected dogs may not be lame, but they may have decreased performance, difficulty rising, and a shortened, stiff gait in the hind end.
- Treatment — Surgery is usually recommended to reattach the damaged muscle.
Competitive sports are great for your dog, but serious injuries can occur. If your canine athlete is injured, contact our Central Houston Animal Hospital, so we can assess the situation and determine the best treatment course.