Top Five Colorado summer activities that can cause shoulder injuries in pets


We love Colorado and all it has to offer and during the summer, outdoor activities are as varied as the state’s terrain. It’s prime season now for outdoor activities with man’s best friend and we’ve identified the top 5 Colorado summer activities that may cause painful shoulder injuries in your dog.

Remember, the shoulder joint is a ball and socket and one of the most important to your pet and its good health. They are jam-packed with bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles, and are also one of the most challenging for veterinarians to work on and repair. Our team of veterinarians at Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado ( is always trying to help pet parents be as observant as possible, particularly after strenuous outdoor activities which may affect pet health. Here are the top 5 activities that may cause a problem.

1. Hiking on steep inclines--We LOVE to climb the “Fourteeners” in Colorado but even a trail with a moderate percentage of incline and uneven surfaces is tough on your dog’s shoulder. It can cause muscle strain and sprains.

2. Vigorous and long running--- Our dry climate here is a dream for distance runners but remember, just because you can run five miles doesn’t mean your dog can. During very vigorous or long duration running, the muscles can become very sensitive to “over doing it” and the muscle fibers get torn and stretched.

3. Obstacle courses/dog competitions--- This is the season for obstacle course and dog pool jumping competitions. These types of repetitive activities can cause shoulder instability, which is a common problem in dogs. The primary cause is chronic, repetitive activity or over use and these activities place a high stress on their shoulder joints.

4. Dogs riding in the back of pickups-You see it in rural Colorado and also in our cities. While this is not illegal in Colorado, it is dangerous. A fall from heights off the back of the flatbed or being thrown out of the vehicle can cause shoulder dislocations, fractures and twisting injuries.  

5. Weekend Warrior Syndrome: People do it all the time and it’s no different for pets. A pickup game of basketball resulting in a torn Achilles tendon or a back pulled out after a rare game of golf are what happen to people. Dogs are no different in that if they aren’t conditioned to a level of activity that their owner suddenly decides on doing, they can also be injured.  

Remember, just as you would with yourself, you need to take into account your dog’s age and what kind of shape they’re in to decide on how rigorous your level of activity together should be.

Symptoms all dog owners should look for that may indicate a shoulder injury may include:

  • lameness
  • refusal to turn a specific direction
  • shorter gait (smaller steps)
  • inability to put shoulder in normal position

Diagnosis of shoulder injuries can be challenging. If your family veterinarian suspects that your dog may have a shoulder injury, you can request a referral to a veterinary specialist experienced in these types of injuries and the surgeries that can be performed, if necessary, to repair the damage.

About Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado:

Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado, (VRCC), is a specialty veterinary hospital offering the highest level of care for pets, including a 24-hour emergency hospital and critical care center.  Some of the world’s leading veterinary specialists are on-site offering expertise in Cardiology, Dermatology/Allergy, Emergency Care, Internal Medicine, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Oncology/Radiation Therapy, Ophthalmology, and Surgery. More information on VRCC can be found at  “Like” us on Facebook at, Follow us on Twitter @VRCC, Watch us on YouTube or pin with us on Pinterest at



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