Infraspinatus Tendon Contracture in Dogs

Key Points

Contracture of the infraspinatus tendon results in a debilitating abnormal gait of the forelimb.

Treatment is to remove a section of the tendon of the contracted infraspinatus muscle.

Prognosis following surgery is excellent with full recovery expected in most cases.



  • The shoulder is supported by tendons and ligaments.
  • The infraspinatus tendon is results in flexion and external rotation of the shoulder joint





Infraspinatus tendon contracture

  • Most owners report that their dog developed lameness after heavy activity such as during hunting or other sporting activities. The initial lameness is caused by damage to the infraspinatus tendon and muscle. Scar tissue develops in the damaged muscle and as the healing process progresses the owner will see a gait abnormality due to a contracted tend on and muscle. The muscle becomes scar tissue and is nonfunctional and restricts the range of motion of the shoulder.
  • The photo right demonstrates a dog with a severe infraspinatus contracture (arrow)


  • The dogs have a gait abnormality characterized by circumduction of the shoulder when walking, trotting and running.
  • Watch the video to the right and note the classic abnormal gait of a dog that has contracture of the infraspinatus tendon (right forelimb flicks outward)
  • When examined, the right shoulder cannot be internally rotated due to the contracted infraspinatus tendon, as seen in the video to the right. Take note that the left shoulder has normal range of internal and external rotation.


  • Clinical signs and examination findings are typically diagnostic for infraspinatus tendon contracture.
  • Radiographs (x-rays) shoulder be made prior to surgery to rule out other concurrent diseases.
  • Blood work is run prior to surgery to ensure that your pet can safely undergo general anesthesia


  • A small incision is made over the shoulder region and the infraspinatus tendon is exposed.
  • A section of the affected tendon is removed.
  • As soon as the tendon is cut, the shoulder will regain normal range of motion and the abnormal gait will resolve
  • View the video clips taken 2 weeks after surgery, which demonstrate that the shoulder has regained normal range of motion (internal rotation) and the right forelimb now moves without twisting (circumduction)


  • Following treatment, these patients are usually cured of this condition and they can return to working activities after a period of about 2 months

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