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Shoulder Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Dogs

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If the disease is severe and long-term your dog will need to be hospitalized for surgical intervention. If the condition is not severe, your dog may be treated on an outpatient basis, especially if the shoulder joint problem was found early.


With bicipital tenosynovitis (inflammation of the tendon and surrounding sheath of the biceps tendon), there is a 50-75 percent chance of success with medical treatment. Surgery is usually required when there is evidence of long-term (chronic) changes and failure to response to non-invasive medical management. Rupture of the tendon of the biceps muscle generally requires surgery. Mineralization of the tendon of the shoulder muscle may be an incidental finding. This condition may require surgery after excluding other causes of lameness and attempting medical treatment. Forcible separation (avulsion) or fracture of the tendon of the shoulder muscle often requires surgery because of persistent bone-fragment irritation of the tendon. Deterioration and scarring of the shoulder muscle requires surgery.


Ice packing (known as cryotherapy) immediately following surgery can help to reduce inflammation and swelling at the surgical site. It will need to be performed five to ten minutes every eight hours for three to five days after surgery, or as directed by your dog's veterinarian. Regional massage and range-of-motion exercises can improve flexibility and decrease loss of muscle mass (muscle atrophy) after the initial recovery period. Your veterinarian will advise you on when you should begin physical therapy with your dog.



Medical treatment will require strict confinement for four to six weeks. Following surgery, how much activity your dog can participate in depends on the procedure performed; your pet's veterinarian will provide instructions regarding postoperative activity and restrictions. It is important to follow your veterinarian's recovery protocols closely to avoid a recurrence or worsening of your dog's physical health. A premature return to normal activity will likely worsen signs and lead to a long-term (chronic) condition.


Weight control will be a part of your dog's long term care as well, so that excess pressure on the limb does not aggravate the tendons. Depending on your dog's starting weight, your veterinarian may recommend a strict diet for weight loss, or merely a maintenance diet to prevent weight gain.


Living and Management


Most patients require a minimum of one to two months of rehabilitation after treatment. Medically managed bicipital tenosynovitis is often successful after one or two treatments in 50-75 percent of cases, with no long-term (chronic) changes. Surgically treated bicipital tenosynovitis has good to excellent results in 90 percent of cases. Recovery will need to be taken slow, with gradual increases of physical movement. Full function may take two to eight months.


Surgically treated rupture of the tendon of the biceps muscle has a good to excellent prognosis; more than 85 percent of patients show improved return to function. Surgically treated mineralization of the tendon of the supraspinatus muscle has a good to excellent prognosis; recurrence is possible, but uncommon. Surgically treated forcible separation (avulsion) or fracture of the tendon of the supraspinatus muscle has a good to excellent prognosis; recurrence is possible, but uncommon. Finally, surgically treated deterioration and scarring (fibrotic contracture) of the infraspinatus muscle has a good to excellent prognosis; patients uniformly return to normal limb function with appropriate recovery time and physical therapy.


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