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Shoulder Injuries In Dogs

Updated: May 5, 2022

Did you know your dog takes up to 5x their weight through their forelimbs as they land from a jump?

Now let's take into consideration how often they jump out of the car, down steps and stairs, off the sofa, off the bed, landing from clearing an agility or flyball jump, maybe landing from a trick you perform with them. There are so many times our dogs jump during the day.

Dog shoulders taking pressure as dog jumps out of car

And we must also consider the range of motion we put the joints through as they land as well, asking them to turn sharply as they land from a jump to make the next catch or take the next obstacle or perform their next trick. Or even when we don't ask them, they may do it of their own accord, or then run off to play with another dog.

Dog walking down stairs

Is this why there are so many forelimb injuries? In agility, flyball, frisbee or any other sports or activities where your dog has to jump? But not even just then, pet dogs who play a lot of fetch, or hand to use a lot of stairs on a daily basis? Maybe the dog who jumps off the sofa and gets excited every time someone comes into the room?

dog jumping in agility landing with force on shoulders

A dog's shoulder motion requires the action of over 25 muscles to help with flexion, extension, abduction, adduction and rotation. It’s not surprising why there are such a high number of muscle strains in sporting and working dogs. Even just a minor strain can greatly affect the power and strength of a muscle contraction. Not only that but the scar tissue that will form when a strain heals is often near the muscle-tendon junction, which causes a loss in flexibility.

Just a few forelimb injuries that may occur:

🐾 Biceps brachii tendonitis

🐾 Collateral ligament ruptures

🐾 Infraspinatus contracture

🐾 Medial shoulder instability

🐾 Supraspinatus tendinopathy

🐾 Subscapularis tendinopathy

🐾 Teres minor myopathy

Physiotherapists, hydrotherapists and other veterinary rehabilitation professionals do such an amazing job of helping us get our sports dogs back on track, and we cannot express our gratitude enough for the work they do. If you suspect your dog has a shoulder injury then we always recommend speaking to your vet and then getting a referral to a rehabilitation specialist.

dog flyball sports training and improving fitness

But is there something we can do to reduce the risk of those injuries from happening in the first place?

Conditioning! We can better condition our dogs to help them to cope with the stress put on their musculoskeletal system. By building those muscles and creating more flexibility in the whole of the front of our dog we can help reduce the risk of those injuries.


Our top 3 starter exercises that can help target that shoulder musculature are:

  1. Back paws on - This exercise will target your dog's front muscles surrounding the shoulder and thoracic area, including their trapezius, triceps, biceps, deltoids and lats. We often include a weight shift from side to side in this position too.

  2. Sidestepping - This exercise will target your dog's hip and shoulder adductors and abductors, as well as work their core, improve their proprioception and work on their coordination. It will also help with overall shoulder and hip strength and stability.

  3. Lateral Stepping Up & Down with Forelimb - This exercise targets muscles in the front of the dog, particularly surrounding the shoulder area. The biceps, triceps, pectorals and upper thoracic muscles are the main muscles used in this exercise. You will also engage the dogs core muscles when performing this exercise, and improve proprioception and coordination as the hind end stays on a raised platform.

If you would like more help with these exercises, please contact us today! We always recommend you have a professional's opinion on which exercises are right for your dog if they have ever had, or ar currently recovering from an injury.

To book a fitness 1-2-1 session with us if your dog has no clinical conditions or injuries, or they have completed a rehabilitation program and their therapist has agreed they can start further fitness please contact us by clicking here.

For a list of qualified hydrotherapists in the UK you can check out these three websites:

For a list of qualified physiotherapists in the UK you can check out this website:

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