Canine Gait and Posture – a Breedwatch 2016 presentation

Dr Constanza Gomez Alvarez is a lecturer in musculoskeletal biology at Surrey University Vet School. She has worked on several projects with the Dachshund Breed Council, looking at gait in relation to IVDD. Her presentation at the KC’s Breedwatch Education Day 2016 covered canine gait and posture.

Locomotion or gait is the means of transport of animals. Dogs are able to perform several different gaits, including the walk, trot and canter. In the walk (and amble) 3 feet are on the ground simultaneously. In the trot, 2 feet, diagonally opposed, are on the ground simultaneously. In the canter (and gallop), the gait is not symmetrical.

Dogs maintain a specific dynamic posture during each of these activities. Kinematics is the study of this motion and Kinetics is the study of the forces associated with motion. Constanza uses pressure plates and motion markers with video filming to capture canine movement. The data can be converted into a 3D model of a dog’s movement.

Static posture can be defined as the way a dog stands. This is the result of conformation but is also acquired due to compensatory mechanisms that may be linked to pain, lameness and weaknesses. Dynamic posture can be defined as the way a dog moves. Both static and dynamic posture can be different between dog breeds, due to a range of factors.

Standing aims to save energy, be comfortable and to be pain-free. The Centre of Gravity of a dog is always biased towards the front due to the weight of its head. Typically this bias is 60:40, but can be more like 70:30 in a Greyhound. Body Condition Score also affects these pressure weightings.

lame_dogConstanza described how lameness can be observed and how it translates into pressure readings which provide an objective measurement of what is happening. Observing transitions between different gait states is also useful in identifying lameness. She defined lameness as gait abnormalities due to pain.
Examples of abnormal gait and lameness:

  • Distal limb injuries – Wounds, cuts, thorns – sudden lameness, unilateral, attention to the foot (licking)
  • Upper limb disease – bilateral, insidious – intermittent – chronic, difficulties raising, getting into car, well-muscled forelimbs, weaker behind
  • Stifle lameness – cranial cruciate ligament rupture. Sudden, unilateral, compensates with weight on front, tail lifted during lame hind stance
  • Intermittent skipping – medial patellar luxation, unable to extend the limb while walking, toed-in, squat gait
    • Surgery is usually required at Puttnam scores of 2 or more. Pain correlates with Score.
    • Exercise and muscle-tone are important.
  • Forelimb lameness in giant breeds – OCD – unilateral, shortened stride. Need arthroscopic exam
  • Elbow dysplasia – gradual forelimb lameness, bilateral. Very painful, weight pushed back

lameness_definitionsThe presentation demonstrated the subtle differences between different types of gait abnormalities and showed how important it is to understand the mechanics of what is happening. Many of the questions asked by the participants suggested this is a topic which some judges find particularly hard to understand. I feel it would be really useful to have video clips illustrating the various types of lameness available in the KC Academy for judges to view.

The other excellent resource for breeders, owners and judges is Rachel Paige Elliott’s Dogsteps.

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