It is understood gait has the potential to be used as a window into neurodegenerative disorders, identify markers of subclinical pathology, inform diagnostic algorithms of disease progression and measure the efficacy of interventions. Dogs' gaits are frequently assessed in a veterinary setting to detect signs of lameness. Despite this, a reliable, affordable and objective method to assess lameness in dogs is lacking. Most described canine lameness assessments are subjective, unvalidated and at high risk of bias. This means reliable, early detection of canine gait abnormalities is challenging, which may have detrimental implications for dogs' welfare. In this paper, we draw from approaches and technologies used in human movement science and describe a system for objectively measuring temporal gait characteristics in dogs (step-time, swing-time, stance-time). Asymmetries and variabilities in these characteristics are of known clinical significance when assessing lameness but presently may only be assessed on coarse scales or under highly instrumented environments. The system consists an inertial measurement unit, containing a 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope coupled with a standardized walking course. The measurement unit is attached to each leg of the dog under assessment before it is walked around the course. The data by the measurement unit is then processed to identify steps and subsequently, micro-gait characteristics. This method has been tested on a cohort of 19 healthy dogs of various breeds ranging in height from 34.2 cm to 84.9 cm. We report the system as capable of making precise step delineations with detections of initial and final contact times of foot-to-floor to a mean precision of 0.011 s and 0.048 s, respectively. Results are based on analysis of 12,678 foot falls and we report a sensitivity, positive predictive value and F-score of 0.81, 0.83 and 0.82 respectively. To investigate the effect of gait on system performance, the approach was tested in both walking and trotting with no significant performance deviation with 7249 steps reported for a walking gait and 4977 for a trotting gait. The number of steps reported for each leg were approximately equal and this consistency was true in both walking and trotting gaits. In the walking gait 1965, 1790, 1726 and 1768 steps were reported for the front left, front right, hind left and hind right legs respectively. 1361, 1250, 1176 and 1190 steps were reported for each of the four legs in the trotting gait. The proposed system is a pragmatic and precise solution for obtaining objective measurements of canine gait. With further development, it promises potential for a wide range of applications in both research and clinical practice.
Keywords: accelerometer; dog; exercise; gait; gyroscope; inertial measurement unit (IMU); locomotion; movement science; stride segmentation.