Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA
Little information exists regarding the prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions in service and working dogs.
The objective of this study was to evaluate working dogs for musculoskeletal problems that could affect performance and longevity. We hypothesized that less than 5% of dogs would have significant musculoskeletal conditions.
The main aim was to raise awareness of musculoskeletal conditions in service dogs so that early treatment may be initiated.
Materials and Methods
Gait and orthopedic examinations were performed on service and working dogs by a single examiner. Ground reaction forces were determined at a trot. Clinically significant differences between forelimb and pelvic-limb peak vertical force were set at 10 and 5, respectively, as a percent of body weight. Data regarding orthopedic examination findings were recorded.
Thirty-four working and service dogs were evaluated. Activities included search and recovery (13), society activities (9), handicap assistance and guide dogs (7), and police dogs (5). Problems were identified in 14/34 dogs, including cranial cruciate ligament rupture (3 stifles in 2 dogs), hip laxity (2), lumbar pain (5), pain and excessive shoulder abduction angle (2). Gait abnormalities were suspected in 11 dogs at a walk and 10 dogs at a trot. Seven dogs had > 10% and 5% difference in weightbearing between the forelimbs and pelvic limbs, respectively.
A significant number of dogs had musculoskeletal problems, some of which were serious. Counseling handlers and close followup of working and service dogs may result in earlier treatment of potential career-ending conditions.