Like many other cursorial animals, dogs are equipped with powerful muscles which allows them to move about and sprint into action. The muscles in the hips allow dogs to perform everyday activities such as walking and running. In particular, the dog's iliopsoas muscles, which comprise the psoas major and the iliacus muscle, play a major role in getting that hip to flex nicely. Indeed, these muscles are often referred to as the most powerful flexors of the thigh at the hip joint. So today, let's get more acquainted with these muscles, learning how they work and the signs of something potentially going wrong.
Introducing Your Dog's Iliopsoas Muscle
Hello, it's your dog's iliopsoas muscle talking! Yes, I know, my name is quite hard to pronounce, well here is a tip: just try to say "e-leo-soas" that should be somewhat better! For sake of easiness, you can even call me a "hip flexor" muscle, courtesy of my duty.
I am found along your dog's lower spine and groin area and then go down and connect to the inside portion of the thigh bone. To be more precise, I am comprised of a group of two muscles: the psoas major and the iliacus muscles, Ilio +psoas get it?Hence my name!
I Allow Movement
What do I do? Of course, I don't just sit around doing nothing all day, actually, to the contrary I am very useful.
You must thank me if your dog is able to move his hind limb up toward his abdomen and forward. I help accomplish this movement by externally rotating and flexing your dog's hip joint. At the same time, I also work as a stabilizer of the dog's hip joint and vertebral column. Yup, I am a useful dude, indeed!
When Things go Wrong
As with other other muscles, I can be prone to excessive stretching and tearing. I can get injured when a dog slips or falls with his legs splayed out (such as on an icy surface or a slippery floor) or when dogs run a whole lot on uneven terrain or jump out of a car or over obstacles.
I am not very known for being a location of common injuries (perhaps because I am often misdiagnosed), but dogs involved in sports like agility or fly ball are the poster child for this condition.
Sometimes, I may get injured secondarily such as when dogs are affected by some other orthopedic problem (think, cruciate ligament rupture) or neurological condition that causes them to tense up in the groin area in hopes of compensating or protecting the injury.
"A possible cause of an iliopsoas strain might be repeated jumping with extreme extension of the hind limbs (active eccentric muscle contraction)."~ Dr. Sherman O. Canapp, DVM, Diplomate ACVS
Signs of Iliopsoas Strain in Dogs
Owners of performance dogs may know something is amiss when their dogs don't perform well as before. For instance, their dogs may be knocking down obstacle bars more often or they may appear hesitant in weaving in and out poles or they may run more slowly.
Once at the vet, affected dogs may show signs of pain such as during their physical exam when their hips are extended and rotated inwardly. Pressing on the muscle may also cause a pain response.
Since I am responsible for allowing dogs to move their leg up and forward, in a dog with an iliopsoas strain, you will often see a shortened stride, and possibly, a circular outward movement of the leg to avoid the pain.
This is most visible at a trot. When I am the troublemaker, dogs may try to avoid bearing weight on the affected hip so their weight will be mostly distributed on the uninjured side.
Getting me back in top shape is not easy. Affected dogs will need loads of rest. In acute injuries, vets may try to reduce my spasms by prescribing muscle relaxers and medications to reduce pain and inflammation.
Rehabilitation therapy may include acupuncture, laser therapy, passive range of motion exercises followed by, a few weeks later, active range of motion exercises meant to strengthen me. This may include stepping over cavaletti poles and wobble board exercises. According to veterinarian Sherman O Canapp, having the affected dog slowly walk up and down a steep hill (20 to 40 degrees in incline) for 100 feet three to five times can further help strengthen me and my neighboring muscles.
I hope this article has helped you understand me better! If your dog has an injury in his back leg and it's not getting any better or if it appears to be a medical mystery, don't forget about me! Consult with a veterinarian specializing in orthopedics and sport injuries, and he or she may be able to spot the problem and your dog should hopefully be soon on the mend!
Your Dog's Iliopsoas Muscle
Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is having problems with his leg, please see your vet for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
- Blue Pearl Vet, Iliopsoas Muscle Tears, retrieved from the web on August 1st, 2016
- Clean Run, Iliopsoas Strain Revisited, retrieved from the web on August 1st, 2016
- DVM360, Hind limb sprains and strains (Proceedings), retrieved from the web on August 1st, 2016
- Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group, Non-responsive Hind-limb Lameness in Agility Dogs: Iliopsoas Strains, retrieved from the web on August 1st, 2016
Compend Contin Educ Vet. 2013 May;35(5):E2.Iliopsoas muscle injury in dogs. Cabon Q1, Bolliger C.
- Anterior Hip Muscles, by Beth ohara - Own work CC BY-SA 3.0
- A blue merle in a dog agility competition, by Pharaoh Hound- Edit of Australian Shepherd agility Flickr.jpg, CC BY 2.5