How to Diagnose a Dislocated Shoulder in Canines

The shoulder joint of the dog functions like a ball-and-socket. The head of the humerus (the bone extending from the shoulder to the elbow) is rounded and acts as the ball fitting inside of the socket created by the glenoid fossa at the bottom of the scapula (shoulder blade).

A dislocation occurs when the ball is displaced from the socket.

Shoulder dislocations in dogs can result from congenital malformations, degenerative changes, or traumatic injuries to the joint. When a dislocation occurs, the ligaments, tendons, and muscles of the joint, as well as the joint capsule which surrounds the joint, are damaged and the shoulder becomes painful.

Perform a physical examination on the injured joint. Observe the dog at a walk. Manipulate the injured joint while watching for evidence of pain. Note whether crepitus (grating, popping, or crackling noises or sensations) is present within the joint. Lay the dog on his side with the injured leg uppermost and palpate the joint for instability.

Radiograph the injured joint by taking two views: one medio-lateral (from side to side) and the other cranio-caudal (from front to back). Examine the radiographs for bone injuries such as fractures and to access joint damage.

If the radiographs are not diagnostic, perform an arthroscopic examination of the shoulder joint by introducing the arthroscope into the joint through a small incision through the skin, underlying tissue, and joint capsule.