Lameness is defined as a variance from normal gait. There are two types of lameness: anatomical and pathologic. Anatomical
lameness may not necessarily be from pain, and can be genetic or acquired. Chondroplasia in the Alaskan Malamute is a genetic
condition that would produce lameness. An example of an acquired lameness would be rickets as a result of a Vitamin D, calcium,
or phosphorus deficiency. Pathological lameness can be neural or musculoskeletal. Cauda equina lesions are an example of
a neural lameness. Musculoskeletal lameness is usually caused by pain.
It is important to understand that if any joint is affected it will affect the rest of the dog's structure. This applies
to any joint lameness or joint restriction that we may apply. It is important to address and repair any lameness as soon
as possible. When possible it is also important to select a treatment and/or therapy regimen that returns the structure to
normal movement as soon as possible. The longer the movement of any joint is restricted, the more it affects the rest of
the body. Although this applies to all pet dogs, these issues are magnified in the athletic and working dog.
Physical palpation can be used to determine location of any primary, secondary, and/or tertiary pain associated with lameness
or a drop in performance. Canine palpation is an art and gets easier with experience. Try to be consistent during the manipulation.
This allows for left and right comparisons. Understand musculoskeletal anatomy and remember the body should be symmetrical.
If the technique is consistent and there is variation between the left and right side the deviation should be documented.
The examination should be performed in an environment comfortable to the dog. The surface of the examination location should
allow the dog to walk around without slipping. This helps to eliminate any fear associated with falling or slipping. Begin
the examination by discussing the history with the owner. This allows the dog time to acclimate to the setting and helps
to put the owner at ease. Allow the dog to approach on its own. Getting down on the dog's level will be less imposing to
the dog and their curiosity will bring them towards the examiner for an investigation. Once the dog feels comfortable, begin
to pet the dog and stand up for the examination.
Begin the examination by standing over the dog while stroking its back. This is done to assess body symmetry and any back
pain. After the vertebral assessment move to the head and neck. The occipital-atlantal joint is analyzed by placing the
index finger and the thumb on the wings of the Atlas vertebral bone and using the other hand to flex and extend the joint
up and down and to the left and right. Next one hand is placed upon the dorsal points of the Scapula and the neck is flexed
and extended up and down and to the left and right.
The appendicular skeleton is always analyzed beginning distally and then move proximally. Start with a sound leg first.
This allows the examiner to assess how the dog is going to respond to normal palpation. Responses elicited on the other legs
can then be referenced to the responses of the normal leg. Begin by assessing the pads and webbing. Then flex and extend
each phalangeal joint. Special attention should be paid to the sesmoids. These are a common problem in athletic and working
dogs. The second and seventh sesmoids of the front paws are the ones most commonly affected. Palpate the long bones and
soft tissue structures of the foot and then move proximally to the carpus if palpating the front leg. The joint should be
flexed and extended and then stressed medially and laterally. Palpate the long bones and soft tissues of the antebrachium
and then move proximally to the elbow. Flex and extend the elbow joint, stress it medially and laterally, and then rotate
clockwise and counterclockwise. Palpate the long bones and soft tissues of the brachium and move proximally to he shoulder
joint. It should be flexed, extended, and then brought up to the flank. The back legs should be examined in a similar manner,
working distally to proximal.