• Tiffany Downing, RVT

Iliopsoas Injury

The Iliopsoas (pronounced like ill-ee-oh-soh-az) is a grouping of muscles that flexes the dog’s hip. Highly active or sporting dogs are frequently affected by this type of injury since the activities they participate in are high intensity like jumping, sprinting, or rough play. Injury to this muscle group usually happens when it is overstretched during activity.


Anatomical drawing of a dog skeleton highlighting the iliopsoas muscle
The iliopsoas is attached to the lumbar spine, pelvis, & femur

There are some conditions that can make your dog more likely to experience an Iliopsoas injury like Hip Dysplasia, Intervertebral Disc Disease, or Cranial Cruciate Ligament Tear/Rupture but a dog’s overall fitness level and lack of preparation for high intensity activity can also be primary causes. Just like us, if the dog’s body is not properly strengthened and trained for these activities before attempting, we are set up to overwork the body and cause injury. Dog sports are very similar to human professional sports in that structured and staged exercises are done to work up to that level of ability. Human professionals also routinely warm up and stretch before exerting themselves to their full potential but this is all too often overlooked in our canine athletes.



Mixed breed dog resting on bed

Signs and symptoms of Iliopsoas injury vary, with some being extremely difficult for dog parents or even general practice veterinarians to notice. Sometimes, a change in the dog’s gait is the only outward sign. Dogs with significant injuries/pain present with their lower back in a rounded posture, standing with their hind legs brought closer to their front legs in an attempt to avoid the painful stretch their normal posture requires. This injury is usually diagnosed by palpating the dog’s groin muscles along with evaluating symptoms but there is otherwise no specific test or imaging for it.


Just like human medicine, Physical Rehabilitation is the treatment of choice for muscle strain. Previously, clients were advised to keep their pets on strict crate rest, but this is now no longer recommended. Instead, treatment starts by managing the dog’s pain including pain in other areas of the body caused by compensating for this injury. Pain management is key, as a painful dog will not be able or willing to participate in the exercises necessary to recover. As part of your consultation, we will discuss all current medications that your dog is on and if their pain is not adequately managed, we will refer you back to your regular veterinarian to adjust their medication as needed. We will alert you to any signs of pain seen in clinic, but make sure to keep us updated on your dog’s comfort level at home with daily routines as well.


Besides medication, we also have multiple treatments like thermotherapy, therapeutic laser,

and therapeutic massage and stretching to relieve the pain your dog is experiencing. Once we feel that your dog is comfortable enough to start exercises, we will create a customized plan of foundation exercises to carefully reintroduce the Iliopsoas to normal movements and functions. It might seem counterintuitive to work this injury, but specific exercises are

German Shepherd Dog in an underwater treadmill

integral to bring blood flow and movement back to this tight and overstrained muscle group. As your dog starts to tolerate more of these exercises, we will introduce more challenging exercises to strengthen not only the injured muscles, but also other supporting muscle groups. This balance is essential to return to normal function. Consistent rehab sessions are best, but the custom homecare plan we create for you and your pet to do at home is also an essential part of your dog’s optimal recovery. These controlled and measured exercises will help your dog get better, but if your dog is allowed to return to normal exercise, free play, or even their sport too soon, they quickly reinjure themselves and lose any progress gained by the previous weeks or months of therapy. Remember that every dog is different in how their body heals, so the length of time required to heal from this injury is unpredictable. Sticking to the prescribed exercises and patience with the process are a necessity.


Our goal is always to prevent injuries like this, but once they occur, we can help get your dog feeling and moving better, faster. Iliopsoas injuries left untreated can become a chronic source of lameness and pain, so professional rehabilitative services started directly after diagnosis are always recommended for this type of injury.


Think your pet might have an Iliopsoas Injury? Let’s get you in for a consultation to find out! Give us a call at (949) 444-2451 to schedule with our Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner and one of our Veterinarians so we can get your best friend back to what they love most.



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