Objectives: To develop and compare the reliability of 2 methods of scoring pelvic limb gait in dogs recovering from thoracolumbar spinal cord injuries and to use this scoring system to determine the rate and level of functional recovery of dogs with acute thoracolumbar intervertebral disk herniations.
Animals: 46 dogs with spinal cord injuries resulting from intervertebral disk herniations.
Procedure: Dogs' gaits were videotaped at different time intervals after injury. In phase 1 of the study, the stages of recovery of pelvic limb function were identified, and a numeric scoring system was devised to reflect that recovery. In phase 2, pelvic limb gait was scored by different observers, using a numeric and a visual analog scale. Intra- and interobserver coefficients of variability of both methods were compared. In phase 3, pelvic limb function was scored, using the numeric scale at various intervals after acute thoracolumbar disk herniations.
Results: The numeric scale was significantly more reliable than the visual analog scale when both intra- and interobserver coefficients of variability were evaluated. Dogs that were paraplegic with no deep pain sensation recovered at different rates during the first 3 months, whereas dogs that were paraplegic with deep pain sensation typically recovered within 1 month of injury.
Conclusions: Pelvic limb gait of dogs recovering from thoracolumbar spinal cord injuries can be reliably quantified, using a numeric scale. This scale will facilitate the performance of clinical trials aimed at improving the outcome of acute spinal cord injuries.