An iliopsoas muscle injury can be daunting as it can be difficult to diagnose.  Even if treatment is done appropriately, the dog uses the muscle every day in every way and it can lead to chronic discomfort.

Luckily the majority do respond well to rest and treatment and recover fully to return to normal activities in a few weeks.


These are a few signs of pain associated with an Iliopsoas muscle injury:

1. Difficulty rising

Reluctance to climb up stairs or jump into a vehicle or car or bed


2. Outward rotation of the leg when walking

There is possibly a circular outward movement of the hind leg to avoid strain – most obvious when trotting. The dogs show a lack of drive when trotting.


3. “Tucked” position when standing and walking.


4. A Skipping gait

Lateral Flexion to the right in a human


5. Decreased performance in competition dogs

Dogs may indicate a refusal to jump, knocking bars when jumping, slower runs, reluctance to weave. Frequently, dogs will be reluctant to jump due to pain on extension of the hip and lumbar spine on the affected side, or reluctant to weave because lateral flexion of the lumbar spine is painful. (see the video in our article here)


6. Intermittent hind limb lameness exacerbated by activity.

A dog may not weight bear on the affected hip.


7. Pain when the psoas muscle is pressed or stretched


8. Roached back.

A sprained or injured Iliopsoas muscle is often the cause for the lumbar spine to be in a roached position.


Psoas muscle injury presenting in a roached back


9. Can even as subtle as a male dog no longer lifting his leg to urinate.




MRIs are considered the gold standard for evaluating soft tissue injuries, but very expensive. They are useful to rule out other causes of rear limb lameness.

If no orthopaedic or neurological problems are present, conservative treatment is successful in most cases. This includes rest, physical therapy and conditioning.

Psoas injuries can also be diagnosed by palpation (hand examination) and manipulation.

This should be performed by a skilled veterinary physiotherapist or bodywork practitioner. Seeing a physio is also beneficial in preventing and early diagnosis of a problem. Regular visits will also keep the muscles loose and limber.

Many times focusing on relaxing tight and spasming muscles is effective in managing soft tissue injuries.

Heat therapy combined with a neuromyofascial release, trigger point therapy and laser may help. These bring circulation to the area, release tension, and provide pain control.

Always follow up physio treatments with a home exercise program that they recommend. Remember, soft tissue injuries take a long time and a lot of effort to heal. Expect a treatment program of a minimum of 4 – 6 weeks.


Don’t have any conditioning equipment?  Walking up and down steep hills 3 – 5times a week can help strengthen psoas.


CAUTION: Swimming, while a great conditioning tool, can actually aggravate iliopsoas pain.

This is especially true for dogs who are not good swimmers. The panicked sharp pumps of the hind legs in the water may be too much for some dogs. Leashed walks on land or an underwater treadmill at a slow to moderate pace would be a better exercise choice.



Prevention is the key!

When pain is controlled and lameness has resolved, check for triggers. Look to environmental triggers and any source of future strains that may start the cycle of strain all over again.


1. Controlled activity

Many canine athletes and dogs that play fast and hard need to have their activities controlled. This means no ball playing, jumping from an elevated surface and rough-housing.


2. Slipping and sliding

Whenever possible, try to provide good traction for dogs to run on. Avoid slippery surfaces both inside and out. Provide rugs or booties for traction.

If you have timber floors or tiles, keep a towel near the entrance to dry your dog’s paws when he comes in from outside. Wet feet are prone to slipping on hardwood or tile floors.

Place non-slip mats on the floors including the ground where the dog jumps into or out of the vehicle.


3. Massage and stretch

After training, massage and stretch those upper muscles of the leg and hip regularly.

pet physio

Nothing like a good massage!!

Stretch the hind leg back with a slight internal rotation – hold for 15 seconds. Repeat 3 times with each leg only AFTER the muscle is warmed up, such as AFTER training or a walk.

Appropriate warm-up before training or competition

For athletic dogs, the warm-up is THE most important aspect in preventing this injury.

This can be in the form of mild jogging, trotting over cavaletti poles. Include alternating tight circles and figure eights.

Avoid manual stretching before exercise, only stretch AFTER training.


4. Special cases – Dogs with orthopaedic issues

In cases of dogs with arthritic disease or orthopaedic issues e.g hip dysplasia or arthritis, the trigger for an iliopsoas flair up is not going to go away.


But there is no need for your dog to live with chronic muscle pain.

A variety of treatment options are available such as laser and strengthening exercises. These can bring relief and healing.

These dogs will need long-term therapy such as every 4-6 weeks for a tune-up.



~ excerpts from Jackie Crawford of Canine Muscle Works, Australia
Cert. Animal Neuro-Myofascial Release
Cert. Veterinary Thermal Imaging
Cert. Canine Myofunctional Therapy
Cert. Emmett Therapy
Cert. Rocktape Canine Equine course


~ Dr Daniel Beatty (DVM)

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