Here are a few things to consider when assessing your dog’s gait for abnormalities.
Record videos when they are well. This will give you a point of reference for if your dog does injure themself. You can look back to see how they usually walk, and will be invaluable to compare their movement if they develop an issue.
Observe your dog moving around. This includes front, back, and both sides. Compare different angles, and compare the stride length of each back and front leg against each other. Everything should be symmetrical.
Do they only ever turn in one direction? Walk them in a circle each direction, and watch if they always turn one way during play time or off lead. Can they walk backwards? Difficulty turning or walking backward could signify a neurological condition.
Look at them from the rear. Do the front and rear end look equally muscular? Have they recently lost or gained weight and muscle? Are the muscles on both thighs the same size, or are they unequal?
Observe your dog at different speeds. They may look normal at a walking pace, then at a different pace a limp or abnormality may show up. The same with many people, they can walk normally, but an increase in pace shows up an injury or limitation.
Do they distribute weight evenly? Is there equal weight distribution between the left and right sides? Do they put equal weight on their front and hind legs? All their weight forward can mean hindquarter issues, favouring their front legs can mean forequarter issues.
Dog breed specific gait. Look up videos on how your dog breed SHOULD look when moving. Is their movement standard, or do you notice it’s nothing like in the videos? There is a lot of information available for pure bred dogs.
Check their nails. Are their nails wearing evenly? Do the nails of one foot always seem longer than the other feet? This can mean they are favouring that foot (not weight bearing on it) due to pain in that foot/ankle/elbow/knee/shoulder/hip.
Look at them from above. Are both sides symmetrical? Does one side have bigger muscles than the other? Does their tail or head pull off to one side? Not being symmetrical could mean one side is being used more than the other side.
Watch how they get up, start, and stop. Watch how they change speed, how they turn, and how they take angles. Do they slow down or stop completely? They will move differently over different surfaces. Are they able to walk over slippery or sloping surfaces? They should be able to accommodate for a change in surface.
Sudden pain or injury requires attention by a vet. Once a vet has been seen, contact me. The sooner you start, the sooner the issue is fixed.
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Animal Bodywork Therapist