Unusual Surgical Case at Den Herder Vet

Infraspinatus Muscle Contracture

Say that ten times fast.

Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz. We are sharing a story about a neat patient with an unusual condition. So rare, that our doctors have only seen two cases of it prior to now. Infraspinatus muscle contracture happens in bigger or active dogs. Our patient fits that profile. Bo is a 90-pound lab who loves to run and hunt.

The Medical Mumbo-Jumbo

The infraspinatus muscle runs from the scapula (shoulder blade) to the humerus (upper arm bone). Muscle connects to the bone with a tendon.

infraspinatus muscle diagram

image credit: Vet Surgery Central, Inc.

What happens is this muscle will spasm and not release or relax. Your dog will likely limp and be a little lame for a few days. Rest usually seems to help things on the surface. Underneath is a different story.

Scar tissue forms around the inflammation from the spasm. Scar tissue is not flexible so this is where the “contracture” comes in. It shortens the dog’s stride. Imagine not being able to take a full stride when you walk because you can only move part of the way on one side. You are mobile and can get around, but your gait will be unusual.

The Diagnosis

What Dr. Taylor noticed was an unusual flip of the paw on Bo’s right side. If you watch the before video, you can see her right front leg has a swing out to the side. You don’t see that on the other leg.

Based on watching the dog walk and a physical exam, Dr. Taylor diagnosed Bo with infraspinatus muscle contracture. In some cases, running a CT scan or MRI helps to confirm a diagnosis, but Bo’s case was clear without those.

The Treatment

This condition is painful at the beginning (from the spasm), but overtime it doesn’t seem to bother dogs. What does grow over time is the limitation in mobility. The fix for this condition varies, but surgery is often successful. In this case, Dr. Taylor felt surgery would be the best remedy. He cut the tendon for the infraspinatus muscle and removed the scar tissue. This frees up all that tightness and restores a full range of motion.

Now, it sounds terrible to cut a tendon, but for dogs, the infraspinatus muscle plays a minor role in shoulder movement. Dogs will compensate nicely with the remaining healthy muscles.

Did It Work?

If you love a good before and after—you are in luck! The first after video is just 1 day after surgery.

The second video is 2 weeks after. And look at the difference in Bo’s movement! The ability of our dogs to heal and bounce back so quickly is phenomenal.

Loving What You Do

Our doctors love all the surgeries they do. But cases like these spice up the routine and help to expand their surgical skills. We appreciate the confidence our clients have in us in our diagnostic and treatment capabilities. Bo’s owner was trusting and willing to let us try a procedure for the first time. Dr. Taylor is grateful for the opportunity and honored by the trust his clients have in him.