Canine Shoulder Disorders

Osteochondrosis/Osteochondritis Dissecans (OC/OCD)

Osteochondrosis/osteochondritis dissecans (OC/OCD) occurs in young dogs (i.e. puppies). The surgical treatment most commonly performed for this condition is arthroscopic removal of the OCD flap with a very high percentage of dogs doing very well afterward. Synthetic, or graft resurfacing, can also be done to treat this condition in dogs with particularly large OCD flaps.

Biceps Tendon Issues

The biceps, both in dogs and people, can often become injured and be a source of pain. Usually, the most common treatment for such a condition is to perform an arthroscopy to confirm the diagnosis (because you cannot see the tendon on X-rays). Once this is done (i.e. the diagnosis is confirmed), treatment options often include the use of medications or injections, arthroscopic biceps release, or moving the biceps and re-attaching just slightly below the shoulder joint (tenodesis).

Supraspinatus Tendon Issues
In dogs with shoulder pain, the supraspinatus is commonly suspected as being the cause/culprit. Confirming this diagnosis is difficult but the diagnostic process can be aided with X-rays, CT scans, arthroscopy, ultrasound, and MRI. Of these, one of the most important steps is to confirm the problem is not actually in the elbow. Commonly dogs with suspected shoulder problems actually have an elbow disorder. Physical examination, X-rays, and CT are very helpful in evaluating the elbow as the true source of pain. Beyond those diagnostics, arthroscopy, MRI, and ultrasound (if done by a skilled ultrasonographer), are the most helpful for looking at the supraspinatus specifically. We are very happy to help confirm a diagnosis and then enable a treatment plan. It is worth noting that most cases of confirmed supraspinatus tendinopathy do not have surgery, but rather are treated with injections or other non-surgical management options.
Medial Shoulder Instability (MSI)
Some dogs, particularly active competitors or working dogs, strain the inside of their shoulder (the medial glenohumeral ligament, subscapularis tendon). The best way to make a diagnosis of MSI is to perform an arthroscopy and look inside the shoulder at the medial structures. Fortunately, we can now do this with a very small arthroscope (nanoscope) that provides excellent visualization and diagnosis. Subsequently, some dogs may need surgery to stabilize their shoulder and we have performed and published on surgical treatments of MSI. Fortunately, many dogs likely don’t need surgical stabilization. Rather, once the diagnosis is confirmed with arthroscopy, many dogs are treated with non-surgical management such as joint injections, use of orthotic devices, and physical rehabilitation.