Muscle mass measurements are a useful tool to evaluate the use of limbs.
Muscle mass can be estimated by the following methods:
- limb circumference measurements
- ultrasound, computed tomography (CT)
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA)
Clearly, measuring leg circumference is the option that is easily available and affordable.
Further information: Assessing and Measuring Rehabilitation Outcomes
Jasmine’s vet always said that up to 25% of the favoring of a leg is invisible to a human eye—you will not notice it. In other words, your dog might not be using their legs equally without you having a clue.
Evaluating muscle mass
That’s where measuring circumference comes in.
It is one of the objective measures to assess how the legs are truly used. Substantial muscle loss on one side can be readily apparent but smaller differences aren’t something one can just see.
At the last evaluation, we were very happy to learn that both Cookie’s knees felt stable and that there was no swelling and no thickening.
Swelling would have meant that the joint is inflamed and unhappy. Thickening would have meant that the joint did stabilize itself by forming scar tissue. That’s what happens if the knee heals in spite of the ligament being dysfunctional.
No thickening indicates that the ligament did indeed heal.
Unequal muscle mass
However, through that whole time, Cookie’s muscle mass on the hind legs was not equal. The difference became smaller but it was still there. Meaning the legs were still not equally used. Why?
Considering that Cookie’s hind end has had a number of other challenges, as well as one of her hind legs, is shorter than the other, was a possible explanation. It could also have been from Cookie simply not trusting the leg enough.
Every time there is an imbalance, though, other parts of the body end up paying for it.
I was very happy to learn that on her last physio appointment, the circumference of both Cookie’s hind legs is now equal.
Her physical therapist also said it was the first time she saw Cookie do a functional sit and stand.
Functional sit is the “tuck sit” when a dog pulls their feet in under their pelvis as opposed to just slumping down. A functional stand is to push up with the back legs, not the back and forelimbs.
I feel there are still things to work on but lately, it’s been all a series of good news.
I am very glad that we decided to try the platelet-rich plasma instead of jumping to surgery. We’ll continue working on getting Cookie to tip-top shape and hoping that we can keep her there.
PRP Treatment for CCL Injury: Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Treatment for Cookie’s Bad Knee(s)
Uneven Stance in a Dog: You Don’t Always Have to See a Limp—Cookie’s Physio Update
Dog Weight-Bearing Evaluation: Using Pressure Pads to Evaluate Lameness in Dogs—My Observations