If you have a dog with a difficult, can’t put your finger on it, lameness have your vet check the iliopsoas muscle.
Iliopsoas injuries can not only be hard to treat but also hard to diagnose and detect. Signs can be as subtle as a male dog no longer lifting a leg to pee.
After all the medical challenges we’ve been through with our dogs, I thought that I could tell whenever ANYTHING was wrong.
I’ve seen it all, what could surprise me?
We’ve been through various soft tissue injuries, busted knee ligaments, hip problems, elbow problems, spine problems, infections, stings, and cuts … I’ve seen about every kind of lameness there is. I could tell if a dog was having a problem with a leg just by hearing how they got up and how they walked; I didn’t have to see anything. Or so I thought.
It’s a doozie
Cookie’s sore iliopsoas eluded me.
It is true that every now and then I didn’t like her gait when running. I fact, I never really liked her gain when she was running. But given the state of her pelvis and one hind leg being shorter than the other it seemed to make sense that it would reflect in how she moves.
And since her back end often needed a chiropractic adjustment, when I saw some discrepancies, I figured it was time for another one. Even though we’ve been doing those regularly, sometimes Cookie needed an additional appointment. Or so I thought.
Not that her spinal alignment wasn’t messed up at those times.
I think there were only one or two times when Cookie didn’t need [much] of an adjustment.
And then, somehow, at some point, she messed up her iliopsoas. And apart from the weird scary events, there wasn’t anything to see.
I did not see it
There wasn’t anything I saw. So much for my all-seeing eye, huh? I still don’t understand it.
Sure, in retrospective, there were some subtle things. But unfortunately, those could have been chalked up to any other ol’ reason.
In the summer, Cookie would sometimes go for a walk a bit, play around and hunt her critters a bit, and then she’d decided to lay down. This could be half an hour or two hours into the outing. Could that mean something? It was hot. Was that all that was? That’s what I thought at the time.
A couple of times, after she went running through the bush chasing critters, she’d come out slowly instead of her typical happy, rambunctious self. But she was running hard for quite a long time and it was hot. Did that mean more than that?
There was some reluctance when jumping out of the truck some of the time. But we too figured it would have been from the pelvic region.
She didn’t offer her belly for rubs as often. We figure she outgrew it. Ha, such a rookie mistake, wasn’t it?
No visible lameness
There was no lameness, no stiffness, no favoring of any leg a human eye could see.
Cookie’s first scary event happened at home when she was resting in the afternoon. Nobody had any idea what that was all about. It came and went quickly and that was that. Everything was back to normal after that. No lameness, no stiffness, no nothing. Cookie was back to her active self.
Was that when the iliopsoas got initially injured? Were they sore the whole time since? Were they sore ever before that? There was no way of telling.
All was perfectly fine until the next event in October. And right after that everything was normal again. Cookie’s vet didn’t find anything other than some pain response in the pelvic area. Cookie got an adjustment and the chiropractor’s findings confirmed that there was indeed a problem there again.
Nothing else was amiss. Cookie was playing, running, jumping and hunting her critters as always.
Nobody was any wiser. I have seen all kinds of limps. There was none. After the event was over, it was over. The next event came sooner, a month later. That’s when I decided that we have to get to the bottom of this and see what we can do to prevent these things from happening. We were all still convinced that the pelvis and the lower back were the culprit.
Veterinarian saw nothing
Nothing was found wrong with Cookie’s knee or hips. No neurological issues were found, though the events surely did look like a neurological problem.
We decided to get a consultation with an orthopedic specialist.
And that’s when she diagnosed this as iliopsoas injury.
Post diagnosis symptoms?
Now, the day after the last event, Cookie’s back muscles were in spasm. And after the exam, she did exhibit visible issues. The exam was rather painful and I wonder whether it actually made things worse. It sure looked like it.
That all lasted about a couple of weeks and after that she again seemed perfectly normal.
Only on her underwater treadmill, it was apparent that some things are going on. Only with gentle stretching and manipulation resistance could be felt.
But how come things weren’t way more obvious than that?
The typical signs of iliopsoas injury include:
- difficulty or stiffness when rising — Cookie never showed any of that.
- crying when rising or laying down — Cookie never showed any of that
- outward rotation of the leg when walking — that we saw but didn’t understand
I saw outward rotation of the leg when she was running, shortly before the last event. As I mentioned I did have issues with her gait when running in general but it was assumed that the pelvis was the reason.
Depending on the degree of the injury, other signs might include:
- Decreased performance
- Avoiding lifting leg when urinating, not squatting all the way down, avoiding full defecation position
- Decreased extension on the affected side
- Changes in weight-bearing
- Pain behavior; painful lumbar region
- Decreased activity level/performance
- Pain with stretching of the hip
- Pain with stretching into an abduction
- Spasm and pain in the groin and lumbar region
Sometimes, though, the only thing one might see is the lack of a smile after a performance, which, in Cookie’s case, is the return from critter chasing.
That’s how subtle this mess can be. Which brings me back to those times when Cookie came back from the bush slowly and looking tired, rather than bouncing back happily.
As if I needed any more excuses for seeing ghosts.
I think my only reasonable option is to learn how to palpate the iliopsoas and gently manipulate the legs to be able to find an issue that way.
Every other lameness, including Cookie’s latest injury, was perfectly obvious, at least to me. The dog is either lame or not, right? Well, as I’ve learned, with the iliopsoas, not always.
Canine Iliopsoas Injury: A Common Undiagnosed Injury in Dogs
Iliopsoas Muscle Tears: Clinical Signs, Diagnosis and Treatment