Dog Weight-Bearing Evaluation: Using Pressure Pads to Evaluate Lameness in Dogs—My Observations

An accurate evaluation of weight-bearing in your dog is nowhere as easy as you’d think.

Up to 25% of reduction in weight-bearing on any particular limb cannot be observed. The only way to catch such subtle issues is by monitoring leg circumference. That, however, doesn’t work as well when the problem is bilateral.

Stance analysis using pressure pads

While on our travels, we were able to continue Cookie’s physical therapy at a local clinic. I was very happy about that because we ended up being gone for a month which would otherwise mean Cookie missing out on therapy for all that time.

As part of its services, the clinic offers stance analysis using pressure pads.

Dog Weight-Bearing Evaluation: Using Pressure Pads to Evaluate Lameness in Dogs—My Observations
This is the one the clinic has.

It can be a tool to evaluate how much pressure is a dog putting on each of the limbs, helping to pinpoint lameness and favoring which could otherwise be invisible to plain observation. But, it depends.

How useful are they?

Pressure pads offer high-tech evaluation. I was quite excited about what we’re going to learn from that. Force plates, dog gait analysis mats, and pressure pads are a few products out there available for this purpose.

As great as it sounds on paper, seeing it in action didn’t look all that pretty.

Our experience with pressure pads

Initially, the pad was against the wall in such a way that Cookie had to walk on it, then turn around and stand on it facing away from the wall with each leg precisely in the right section of the pad.

She got on there and turned around but couldn’t possibly understand where exactly each foot should land and why. The end result of that was that the tech was manually moving her legs in an attempt to place them in the correct positions on the mat. Cookie allowed her legs being moved around but was pretty confused by all that not knowing which leg to stand on. The positions she ended up at looked nothing like a normal, or even abnormal dog stance.

Think playing Twister.

I then suggested turning the pad around so Cookie could walk on it normally, rather than having to turn around. This worked better but she still didn’t understand that she has to get and stop right in the center. So yet again, her legs ended up being moved up to the right places with her stance ending up looking everything but natural.

How reliable are the results?

I honestly don’t know. We did this several times and the machine then averages the values. That probably helps to get some more comprehensible information. But still …

Both evaluations showed what we expected, more pressure being put on the front than the back end and more pressure being put on the right than on the left side. However, from what I saw, Cookie always ended up walking onto the right-hand-side sections and it was the left legs that were being moved into position.

While the results seemed to confirm what was suspected, were they really?

Or was it just a function of the part of the mat Cookie was consistently ending up on? Perhaps a bit of both.

I actually think that having the dog walk onto it from one end to the other, rather than having to turn around was the right idea. But getting them dead center is still a challenge.

Maybe the idea needs improvements

I wonder if creating some kind of a “walk through” which would keep the dog in the center would help improve accuracy.

Similarly to what one does what teaching a dog backing up in a straight line.

It would need to be light and adjustable depending on the size of the dog and it would have to not interfere with the pad itself. Perhaps something such as the cavaletti cones except the poles would need to be longer. Or just something a self-standing pole on each end with some fabric or light construction fencing between.

Having seen how contorted Cookie always ended up makes me wonder how reliable the data we gained really are.

Having said that, the vet was very happy with the way Cookie looked overall.

She was so impressed with how Cookie’s legs were working that she’s looking into platelet-rich plasma therapy. While I’m seeing some issues with Cookie’s gait under certain circumstance, she walks and trots very well using both hind legs equally. Possibly, according to the vet as well as Cookie’s physical therapist, the degree of favoring the hind left leg during certain movement might have to do more with Cookie not really trusting the leg rather than the leg not functioning properly. I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, we’ll continue working at it as see where it takes us.

Do you have any experience with such stance analysis done for your dog? How did it work for you?

Related articles:
Cookie’s PRP Treatment for Partial Cruciate (CCL/ACL) Tear and Leg Circumference

Further reading:
Canine Gait Analysis

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