Muscle mass measurements are a useful tool to evaluate the use of limbs.
The following methods can estimate muscle mass:
- limb circumference measurements
- ultrasound, computed tomography (CT)
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA)
Measuring leg circumference is an option that is readily 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 see.
At the last evaluation, we were thrilled 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 was inflamed and unhappy. On the other hand, thickening would have suggested that the joint stabilized itself by forming scar tissue. That’s what happens if the knee heals despite the ligament being dysfunctional.
No thickening indicates that the ligament did indeed heal.
Unequal muscle mass
However, Cookie’s muscle mass on the hind legs was not equal throughout that whole time. 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 several other challenges, and one of her hind legs is shorter than the other, was a possible explanation. However, it could 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 delighted to learn that the circumference of both Cookie’s hind legs was equal on her last physio appointment.
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 instead of just slumping down. A functional stand is to push up with the back legs, not the back and forelimbs.
I felt there were still things to work on, but lately, it’s been all a series of good news.
I was happy 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