Injury to the muscle can occur from traumatic events like the dog slipping and ‘splay legging’, from repetitive over use (which often occurs in agility), or if the pet has a concurrent injury causing them to chronically tuck the pelvis and hold the hip in a flexed position to protect the other injury/painful area.
Mild signs of an iliopsoas strain include changes in jumping style, dropped bars, and poor performance in the weaves, as the dog does not want to drive from their rear. These signs can progress to dogs with a tucked pelvis position, limping and weight shifting off the affected hind leg.
Diagnosis is made based on palpation of the muscle for pain, and often the dog will be most reactive and sore at the musculo-tendinous junction near where the muscles attaches to the inside of the femur (thigh bone). Many patients are sore on extension of the hind limb, especially if the leg is also internally rotated or abducted (moved away from the body).
It is very important to have the whole dog evaluated. If the strain is due to compensation from other concurrent injuries or painful areas, successful long term resolution will only occur if these other issues are addressed. If the iliopsoas strain is bilateral (on both sides) there is almost always concurrent disease/dysfunction.
Treatment involves conservative management and exercise restriction as the patients moves through the rehabilitative process. Owner compliance it key!! If the dog continues to jump up, perform other “burst” activities or continues to aggravate the muscle injury in their daily activities (think–scrambling to get up on hard wood floors because the door bell just rang), it will be difficult to resolve the injury. Muscle relaxants and NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatories) are often used with acute injuries. Low level laser therapy can be used to reduce pain, increase circulation and speed the healing process. Therapeutic exercises play a large role in the rehabilitation process. We would start with static balancing and passive range of motion activities. We could then add in strengthening exercises like walking slowing down hill or down stairs, thereby causing eccentric contraction of the muscle: standing on the hind legs to encourage hip extension and weight shifting onto the hind limbs and para standing where both legs on the same side are held up so the dog has to balance on the other two legs. Wobble board activities, etc. could also be used. We would then add in some “burst” activities like throwing a toy a short distance and then releasing the dog to the toy. We could then gradually increase the distance that we are throwing the toy.
When the dog is ready to return to sport, this would also be done gradually, adding in activities like running the dogwalk or teeter first. Jumping in straight lines at low height might be added next and then progressing to gradual curves, etc. Tight turning, jumping at full height, as well as performing the weave poles would only be at the very end of the rehabilitation process.
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