Shoulder Injury in a Dog: It Never Rains … though Rain Did Have a Lot to Do with It

Playing in the snow is usually quite safe fun. Unless there are layers of ice buried underneath.

We did get to the bottom of Cookie’s uneven stance. We treated, got her chiropractic adjustments and paid close attention to the right hind leg.

Shoulder Injury in a Dog: It Never Rains ... though Rain Did Have a Lot to Do with It

Then I noticed that she seemed to have been dropping her front left shoulder when walking.

It’s not easy to make a conclusion about a dog’s gait when you’re both stumbling through the messy terrain. Did she just limp or did she break through the crusty snow? Did she just drop her shoulder or did she step into a hole left from busting through the crusty snow the last time? Ugh. Gait assessment in this kind of a mess is hit and miss.

But then I felt I noticed her favoring that leg in the house as well. Was she favoring the leg or trying to avoid tripping over a toy?

One time I thought I even saw her doing the “head bob.”

It took a while before I was able to conclude she indeed favors her front left leg at times.

Eventually, I did conclude that her front left leg or shoulder is sore. Because going out with mommy is all fun and games and I wanted her to take it easy for a while, I enlisted daddy to take her out, explaining my reasons. Daddy didn’t see any problems but took my word for it. Going out with daddy is serious business and Cookie is less likely to do something silly. That is until daddy decided that he was too boring of a walking partner and took Cookie bunny poop hunting in the deeper snow. Bunny tracking and bunny poop hunting is something Cookie, and I love doing but, frankly, if I wanted her to do that, I would have taken her myself.

The long and the short of it is that all that bouncing in the crusty snow made her leg worse. It got sore enough that even daddy could see it.

What is happening with that leg?

Primary injury or an issue secondary to the hind right?

Because of how a dog walks, the front left leg could have been compensating for a sore high right, though that one didn’t seem sore anymore.

Since pouncing after bunny poop made it worse, though, it would make a primary issue more likely.

Luckily, because of the first issue, we had a follow-up physio appointment scheduled right after that weekend.

Yes, it happened during the weekend; doesn’t it always?

I talked to the therapist, describing what has been going on. We almost didn’t make it because we had some bad freezing rain. Fortunately, somebody canceled an appointment later in the day, and by the time we had to leave it started thawing out.

Cookie’s leg at that time was sore enough that I broke into my secret stash of NSAIDs and gave her some.

The good news is that the hind right was looking and feeling better, making it be a compensation issue less likely. Another good news is that it appears to be a strained muscle(s) in the shoulder/neck area.

Cookie got her hydrotherapy, laser therapy, and massage.

At this time, I was able to withdraw the pain meds, and she seems to be at about 90%-ish. We’ll follow up with further PT appointments and try to keep her from re-injuring it. Not easy with off and on freezing rain type of weather.

How did it happen?

The most reasonable hypothesis is that Cookie injured the muscle(s) when she busted through the deep crusty snow. In places, it’s quite deep, and you cannot predict where. That’s pretty strange because the ground is relatively flat and the snow looks pretty flat and yet there are spots where the snow is almost up to my hip for no good reason.

So between the horrifying conditions outside and Cookie’s sore leg, she doesn’t get to have a whole lot of fun lately. Hopefully, the mess thaws out for good and Cookie’s muscle(s) heal quickly.

Poor girly.


A muscle injury in a dog as active as Cookie and the terrain being as it were was no surprise. Considering the number of times she slipped, stumbled or broke through the deep, crusty snow, it’s a miracle she wasn’t getting hurt on a daily basis. Most of the time it wasn’t even her crazy self’s fault.

All Is Well in Noel(ville): Cookie's Muscle Injury Update
Exploring with daddy.

It turns out it’s been two years since Cookies last set of back-to-back injuries.

I hate it every time my dog gets hurt or sick but making it two years injury-free with Cookie is actually quite amazing. When I realized that it made me feel a bit better about it. I’ve been working toward no more injuries ever but, given the circumstances, two years is an accomplishment. The terrain is rough, and Cookie is enthusiastic. And yes, that’s an understatement.

My biggest concern was there could be more to it than merely hurt muscle.

Were the knees getting weak again? Was it a compensation injury? You’d be surprised how often the injury you see is a fallout of one you did not.

Sometimes, and in our case really for the first time, things are actually simple; a new thing for me, and I am grateful to be able to have that luxury for once. For both of our sakes, Cookie’s and mine.

Since the terrain has not improved and Cookie didn’t become a subdued dog, she was stuck going for walks with daddy only. With daddy, going out is serious business. With mommy, it’s all fun and games, and she is much more likely to lose her mind with excitement.

At her last physiotherapy session, Cookie’s gait looked even and smooth, and the muscles in the affected areas were happy and relaxed. I myself am not seeing any more issues.

We managed to get that muscle to heal.

Taking it easy, physical therapy and some laser therapy did the trick.

That is great news for Cookie as she can start going out with mommy again. And for me, because I really missed our outings. Now I just wish the ground improved; the snow either got hard enough to safely walk on top of it or melt away.

Related articles:
Observation Skills for Dog Owners: Cookie’s Sore Shoulder
Uneven Stance in a Dog: You Don’t Always Have to See a Limp

Further reading:
Winter lameness in dogs

Categories: ConditionsLamenessLimpingPostureReal-life StoriesSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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