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The Sartorius Muscle - Health

Updated: Jun 30

The Sartorius muscles of the hind limbs

This is one of the muscles that flexes the hip and stifle when the leg is lifting and plays a part in the extension of the stifle when standing. Activities like excessive stretching and standing on hind limbs reaching, jumping or crouching to go under things, hard turns and uneven or rocky ground can negatively affect this muscle if it is not prepared. Jumping through and over hard items that can hit directly or just above the patella (kneecap) are also something to watch for.


The muscle is located on the hind legs at the front of the Femur. There are 2 sections of this muscle, with 2 main origins and 2 main insertions.


1: The cranial section (toward the head) of the sartorius – originates from the Ventrocranial Iliac spine (top of rounded section of pelvis) and follows along the front of the Femur and joins into the Patella which is a bone embedded within a tendon aka Sesamoid bone commonly called the kneecap.


2: The Caudal Section (towards the tail), the muscle wraps around to the inside of the leg and is closer to the tail. It begins in the Iliac crest (rounded section of the pelvis) and slightly below the origin of the Cranial section and connects to the medial edge of the Tibia (lower leg bone / Shin).


So, there are 2 main origins on the pelvis edge, one above the other, and 2 main insertions- 1 above the knee and 1 below the knee. 

Where is the cranial sartorius muscle on a dog
Illustration of the cranial section of the sartorius, on dog sleeping.

Cranial and Caudal Sartorius comparisons on a dog
Illustration of the Cranial and Caudal Sections of the Sartorius muscle on sleeping dog.

When a dog is experiencing hip discomfort, trauma to the sacrum, hip dysplasia, Sacroiliac joint issues or spinal conditions it can directly affect the gait. It will change the dogs’ ability to lift and utilize the hind legs due to the created tension, spasms and referred pain as the muscles and Fascia are trying to support the underlying issue.


For example: If the pelvis is not able to flex and move naturally due to other muscle tension or spasms, it can cause the Sartorius to over stretch, over work and create unique retraction of the hind leg due to the extra pressure being place upon it.


The opposite can also happen, if the sartorius muscle has been affected it can cause a disruption to the hip, spine and pelvis function etc.


For example: A tight or spasmic sartorius will pull the Kneecap, Tibia and pelvis toward each other making it very difficult to flex and retract the leg and bend at the knee. This action will pull on the Lumbar and sacral region of the spine, which has a knock on affect back down the hind legs.


If there is CCL (Canine Cruciate ligament) tear or rupture in the knee this can also highly affect the sartorius.

The loose movement of the stifle joint created by the tear or rupture causes sartorius to heavily support the joint in an attempt to keep the knee in position and the tibia from separating, which is often in a retracted position due to the forward pulling on the tibia, and also an affected or damaged sartorius can also put pressure on the CCL and stifle joint.  


If there is atrophy (deterioration of muscle mass) in either sections of the sartorius muscle this can be one sign of skeletal conditions, or weakness from lack of use, which can also be from referred pain and conditions.

Hypertrophic (excessive increase of muscle mass) can also signify that the dog has an underlying issue, this can be from over working supporting a condition, and often is where there are comorbid symptoms.


The femoral nerve also runs along the muscles closely and attaches to the Sartorius and other muscle responsible for the lift movement. When this Nerve is damaged or inflamed it can create extreme amount of pain for the dog. Even if the nerve itself is not directly affected, the Fascia surround the muscle or other muscles can stiffen and contract causing tension and pressure on this nerve.


Due to how this muscle works and the number of insertions to different bones, it can create misdiagnosis quite easily. It is especially important to have an orthopedic exam done by a veterinary professional if your complementary therapist request a diagnosis, this can also help eliminate other conditions and targeted therapy and corrections can be implemented.

With muscles like the sartorius it is also extremely important to increase flexibility and strengthen it with targeted exercises especially to the sartorius and quadriceps.

Releasing the tension can assist to readjust the spine within the Lumbar section, release stifle discomfort, alleviate cow hocking, take pressure off of the sacroiliac joints, iliopsoas, abductors and adductor groups within the groin area alongside the femoral nerve which travels from the spine down to your dog’s stifle.


So, I will wrap up this article with a few tips.


Many working dogs and active dogs tend to have troubles quite often with the sartorius muscle. To minimize impact and damage, always warm up and stretch your dogs’ muscles before attempting anything strenuous with them. This could mean a walk or jog around for 10 minutes before going to work or activity, flat palmed massage and rubbing is a great way to prepare your dog. Also allow them to cool down slowly after exercise, this could be a walk before crating, in cold weather keep them out of the wind and moving and always keep them warm when resting during the colder months.

It is always best for your dogs’ joint health to minimize games and activities where they will be sharply turning and stopping.

If you do happen to notice the dog is suddenly sensitive to touch in the area or has become lame and that is the area that is sensitive. Go gently and steady with a flat handed stroke and feel for any abnormal warmth and look for redness or swelling on the inside leg and compare with the other leg. If abnormally warm, apply a cool compress like a wringed out wet face washer, turning every few minutes to keep it cool, or a double layered and covered ice pack ensuring you do not freeze skin or apply frozen directly to skin. In hotter climates you can use an ice cube for this method. At a rate of 1 minute on, 1 minute off up to 4 times, you can also do this on other areas of the dog which feel abnormally hot, it will reduce and swelling or inflammation in the area.


If the area is abnormally cold, which is usually prior to exercise, apply a warm water bottle or heat pack if they allow, place for 1 minutes and take off for 1 minute, repeat this around 4 times. Do not use boiling or hot water or a hot product and avoid applying any unapproved topical lotions.



Make sure your dog rests! Some dogs like working breeds will not rest and it may increase their activity or become neurotic, hard to touch or handle, this is because they are in pain and due to their breed, they are genetically wired to not show weakness.

If your dog is still struggling the following day, it is recommended you book in and have an exam done by your Vet or therapist. If your dog is in extreme pain, limb is dislocated, paralyzed or trying to attack you from pain this is an emergency, do not wait, call your vet immediately and discuss the situation.

If you cannot get an appointment straight away for acute pain, there are products like MSM (Methyl Sulphonyl Methane) which is a natural product that will help with pain relief and inflammation as quickly as 20 mins after taking, and also increase the healing time while you wait. Remember: Do not give your dog MSM on the day of exam, directly with other pain relief or a few days before a surgery and advise your vet they have been on it for pain relief. Post exam and for longer term pain and inflammation, other than continuing with MSM, you can also add green lipped, black or blue mussel products as the omega3 content will assist in reducing inflammation and pain. You may also find collagen products boosted with vitamin C as a great way to support the muscles and repair any damage. Lolli’s Lollies stocks MSM, Mussel products and the Regen Remedy that is a collagen-based product.


Don’t forget to do regular checks on your dog so you know what their normal is, so you know the difference between normal and abnormal heat, coolness and swelling.

This information is for CMFT Canine Myo Functional Therapy and rehab and basic =First Aid and is not intended to replace veterinary advice.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this article


Chevelle Williams CMFT, HCN, DipCanCom, DipMBSR


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