Canine athletes, working dogs or even active companion pets that :
- accelerate quickly (like sprinters to fetch the ball!)
- jump (either in a trial or on and over a couch)
- brake abruptly (during a dumbbell retrieve or fetching his ball)
- make tight turns (during a retrieve, blind searches, weave poles or just returning his ball to be thrown again!)
- or twist in the air (pick up on a long bite, turning after jumping mid-air to change direction or to catch that ball!)
are prone to iliopsoas strains and injuries.
The torso or trunk of the dog’s body needs to be strong, stable and yet flexible at all times.
A sturdy torso works closely with the nervous system allowing it to spark the muscle groups that move the body and legs in order for the dog to propel itself in the desired direction.
The iliopsoas muscle is one of the muscle groups that is part of this core engine situated at the lower half of the body. These muscles are working hard to both stabilise the dog and drive it into movement.
The femoral nerve runs through these muscles and down the inside of the leg. If an injury results in internal bleeding or inflammation in the muscle, this nerve may become compromised or damaged.
The iliopsoas has an active and important role in the movement as well as providing support for good, strong posture. The main function of the iliopsoas muscles is to:
- flex the hip joint and lumbar (lower back) vertebrae,
- externally rotate the hip (turn the hip out)
- help stabilize the lumbar vertebrae (lower back) and the pelvis
– to visualise this movement, think of a dog lifting his hind leg and rotating his hip to mark a tree while going to the toilet.
Causes of strain or injury to the iliopsoas
The main causes are usually from athletic activities like:
- dock diving
- rough play
- sliding splay-legged on slippery floors
- misalignment of spinal segments
Symptoms of an Iliopsoas Strain
When an iliopsoas muscle injury first occurs there is a sudden lameness of the hind leg (a limp). This limp may be intermittent, or subtly present itself when chronic (the injury has been there for some time) and is usually worse after activity. Any soft tissue strains then cause imbalances in the body, which would lead to the extra strain being placed on other muscles and joints to compensate for the injured area.
An iliopsoas injury is not very easy to diagnose. In fact, it is often misdiagnosed as a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury.
The dog may lean off the affected leg, have a shorter stride or generally use his leg more carefully on the injured side.
He may stand or sit with the leg turned out at the hip with his toes facing outward on the affected side.
Some dogs may be reluctant to extend (stretch) the spine and the hip joint on the affected leg. You may notice this when they refuse to jump into the car, onto the bed, or over a jump. They won’t want to bend their spine sideways (laterally flex) and you may notice this by them popping out of the weave poles or avoiding tight turns in a certain direction.
The symptoms may improve with rest, but usually for only a short period of time if not healed properly.
Treatments and Therapies
Muscle and tendon injuries may take many weeks to months to fully heal. If not treated properly a soft tissue injury will result in permanent scar tissue, fibrosis and ultimately the dog will be left with a weakened muscle and imbalance resulting in decreased function.
Rehabilitation should be followed. Always use a trained rehab veterinarian or a trained professional with veterinary oversight.
Rehab for muscle injury protocol would include medicine, rest, and icing and may also include therapeutic exercises, massage, chiropractic etc.
Later, specific strengthening and balancing exercises may be prescribed.
Always warm-up before any exercises and follow your exercise routine with a proper cool-down routine allowing for dynamic stretching of the iliopsoas to help realign the healing muscle fibres.
PREHAB would be your best bet when it comes to avoiding an iliopsoas strain in the first place. Gain insight into what you can do to help your dog avoid facing lengthy rehab sessions, vet bills and training downtime!
Book an appointment for a free chat and consultation at The Biokinetic K-9 today and prepare your dog’s body for optimal performance!