Exercises in canine physical rehabilitation: range of motion of the forelimb during stair and ramp ascent

J Small Anim Pract. 2013 Aug;54(8):409-13. doi: 10.1111/jsap.12111. Epub 2013 Jul 13.


Objectives: To evaluate overall joint range of motion of the forelimb in healthy dogs ascending stairs compared with incline slope walking.

Methods: Normal canine forelimb kinematics (range of motion, flexion and extension) were compared during ascent of stairs or a ramp, and compared to unimpeded trotting on a flat surface. Eight adult dogs with no evidence of orthopaedic or neurological lameness were assessed using a 2-dimensional kinematic system as they walked up a custom built ramp and stairs.

Results: In healthy dogs, ramp and stair ascent consistently had greater range of motion compared to trotting on a flat surface, and ramp ascent had significantly greater range of motion compared to stair ascent (P<0·05). Shoulder flexion and extension, elbow extension and carpal flexion were all significantly greater while ascending the ramp compared to stairs. Shoulder extension on the flat was significantly greater than while ascending stairs.

Clinical significance: When planning physical rehabilitation exercises following injury to the forelimb, stair and ramp ascent may be considered, as both augment range of motion of joints. Ramp ascent provides the greatest increase in range of motion of forelimb joints.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology
  • Dog Diseases / therapy*
  • Dogs / physiology
  • Female
  • Forelimb / physiology*
  • Gait / physiology
  • Lameness, Animal / physiopathology
  • Lameness, Animal / therapy
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / methods*
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*