Objective: To characterize the gait of small-breed dogs walked on a pressure walkway by handlers moving at a metronome-set tempo and to determine the influence of handler and leash side on gait characteristics.
Design: Prospective study.
Animals: 5 healthy adult small-breed dogs weighing < 11.4 kg (25 lb).
Procedures: Dogs were walked by each of 5 handlers moving at a metronome-set tempo (100 beats/min). Velocity, cadence, stance time, number of activated sensors, total pressure index (TPI), left or right hind reach, and symmetry indices were obtained with the leash on the left and right sides of each dog for each handler.
Results: Coefficients of variation for TPI and stance time approximated 30%, whereas coefficients of variation for symmetry indices remained < 20%. Changing handlers and leash side did not influence hind limb variables. Changing handlers influenced the TPI of the forelimbs, inducing changes of up to 8%. Leash side accounted for 12% and 14% of the variation in symmetry indices of TPI and number of sensors activated between forelimbs, respectively (mean alterations for recorded variables, 9%).
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Symmetry indices appeared to vary less than variables obtained for individual dog limbs, and it may therefore be advantageous to determine those indices during large trials. Handlers or leash side may be changed in studies focusing on dogs' hind limbs without affecting results. Use of symmetry indices is recommended in forelimb studies requiring multiple handlers. Pressure walkway analyses of the forelimbs should include equal distribution of left- and right-sided leash-led trials, given that small-breed dogs tended to shift weight toward the forelimb opposite the leash.