Piriformis Syndrome in Canines

Full Title: Piriformis Syndrome in Canines

Author: Tammy Callahan

Date of Publication: April 12, 2019

PDF: https://petmassage.com/wp-content/uploads/Piriformis-Syndrome-in-canines-1.pdf

Research Paper Text:

Piriformis Syndrome in Canines
Tammy Callahan
April 12, 2019

The piriformis muscle is located in the pelvic region. It is a small muscle completely covered by the gluteus superficialis muscle. The piriformis muscle arises on the third sacral and first caudal vertebrae. It inserts on the same site as the tendon from the gluteus medias at the greater trochanter of the femur. It is innervated by the first and second sacral nerves.

The purpose of the piriformis muscle is for the extension of the hip joint.

Piriformis syndrome can be a debilitating issue and was not diagnosed until recently in canines.

Most dogs are diagnosed with dysplasia or possibly nerve damage and piriformis syndrome was never really thought of in dogs until recently. Maja Guldberg, DVM, did a study on a dog named Iris. When the study was started, there was little to no information about the piriformis to find. Since the pelvis region on dogs is similar to humans this vet started with what is available regarding this syndrome in humans. After many tests were done to rule out other possibilities in Iris, they came to a preliminary conclusion that it was probably a sciatica issue. The overall cause of Iris’ sciatica was constriction of the piriformis muscle causing entrapment of the sciatica nerve. The study did conclude that sciatica and piriformis syndrome does exist in dogs and this was causing lameness and pain for Iris.

Piriformis Syndrome is described as an abnormal condition of the piriformis muscle. Characteristics and signs are due to the entrapment of the sciatic nerve at the greater sciatic notch resulting in spasm, edema and contracture of the muscle causing compression, (entrapment), of the sciatic nerve.

In a flexed position, the piriformis muscle internally rotates and abducts the hip. In the neutral position, the piriformis muscle acts as an external rotator for the hip.

There is no information regarding the piriformis syndrome being breed pacific that I could find. Possibly, now that there is more being done with canines regarding piriformis syndrome, they may find that diagnosis of hip dysplasia could be sciatica/piriformis related in some cases. And possibly more relevant to larger breeds.

In regards to relief from piriformis syndrome. Stretches originally intended for humans were adapted for use on canines. Along with chiropractic adjustments in addition to the adapted stretches and the use of acupuncture it was concluded that dogs can possibly be offered relief from piriformis syndrome and sciatic pain and issues. Massage could also be a form of relief for the piriformis as well, however with the piriformis being completely covered by other muscles and “buried” within the region, it can prove to be difficult to get to with hands/fingers . These modalities offered relief and a more normal lifestyle for Iris. So in conclusion, it worked.

In humans, piriformis syndrome can be very painful and debilitating. It causes lower back pain, hip pain, leg pain and knee pain. Anywhere from a dull ache to shooting pains throughout the lower back, hip, leg and knees is possible. Chiropractic adjustments can possibly help to realign certain areas and offer relief of pressure on the piriformis. The use of heat and ice, certain exercises, walking and stretching can offer relief as well.

There was not a lot of information available on this topic. However, it seems with the realization that massage, acupressure, acupuncture and chiropractic adjustment it has been found that these modalities can offer relief from pain and it is now more than ever accepted as a useful tool in offering relief as opposed to the use of medications, surgeries and possibly euthanasia as a final decision.

I believe that more and more people are using alternative therapies to create a better lifestyle for themselves and their pets.

Information for this paper was obtained online from a study done by Maja Guldberg, DVM. As well as an informational paper found online that was created for students attending the school of Ojai School of canine massage.


  1. Sharon Bradshaw on July 21, 2021 at 9:39 PM

    So. Massage over chiropractic care is a better choice for both canines and humans.
    With piriformis syndrome your right(, it deep under the glutes. But u can video how best to get to it on YouTube. A massage therapist would be better. Not physial therapy but MASSAGE. I do t mean those namby Pamby massage clinic Club called massage envy or the like U need to go to a legit non chain massage clinic. Many r able and willing will treat your dog!!! The therapist knows how to get in the deeply. Do piriformis massage first.

  2. Heather Featherstone on February 24, 2023 at 12:32 PM

    Great article and so helpful. I’m just a lay person but piriformis or iliopsoas/psoas issue was what my gut was saying my Rottweiler, Carlos, (not yet a year old) was experiencing. Our vet suggested growing pains until I repeated all of what I was seeing. Then she palpated left hind left and he yelped when she got way up into the groin. Next thing would be a total body Radiographs = several images = $700.00 Decided to try Chiropractics. When I explained our vet visit to our Chiro she immediately said psoas. A few months of chiropractics changed nothing. I’ve found a Physiotherapist now also practicing canine and equine physio. She thought adductor & I should see a change in 4 to 6 Laser treatments along with exercises she would give. We’ve had 9 treatments now – no change. Both she and our vet ruled out hip displacer. Mean time I started some serous massaging of him (from my dog massage book and online YouTube info.) about two months ago and that is when I started seeing improvement. He loves it and his spirits are up. Still an odd gait at the trot but I’m feeling more hopeful.
    I don’t know any sports massage therapist that would work on my dog. I may ask my own Osteopath for advice or if she might know one that works on dogs. She’s very good and took me out of severe Rotator Cuff pain far better than what I was experiencing with physiotherapy i.e exercises. I’ve lived in my current home for 5 years so relatively new when it comes to finding resources. I’m grateful to found this particular Osteopath. I’ve never experience the relief she gave me from any other osteopath, massage therapist, physiotherapist nor chiropractor which I don’t like at all for myself.
    Thank you and I will look at the other resources on this site. ~ Heather Featherstone

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