The trademark wiggle of a dachshund’s stride could point to more than just life with little legs.
Over the summer, a team at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine set out to characterize what the breed’s normal gait looks like in order to better detect abnormalities like back injuries.
Supervised by Drs. Romany Pinto, Danielle Zwueste and Kira Penney, veterinary student Rachel McCann trotted 30 dachshunds through the Veterinary Medical Centre’s canine rehabilitation centre and looked at how they moved.
Ultimately, the findings will go toward a second project looking at rehabilitating dogs of various breeds with spinal injuries. Because it’s expected that many of the subjects involved in that project will be dachshunds, it made sense to establish a norm to work from, McCann said.
The research, already completed on a handful of breeds like labradors and beagles, is the first to focus on dachshunds.
“There hasn’t been any papers published on them and what the normal parameters for them are,” she said. “They’re a breed that suffers from intervertebral disc disease, and that comes in so often for rehab medicine. So it would be really useful to the veterinary community to know what’s normal in them.”
The subjects, volunteered by owners in Saskatoon, walked across a computerized pressure walkway connected to an interface that measured various aspects of their gait, like pressure distribution and length of stride.
“One thing that we focused on, because we found it was different in dachshunds from other breeds that have been studied before, is how much weight they place in their front limbs compared to their hind limbs,” McCann said.
The project found that dachshunds have a higher thoracic to pelvic force ratio than other breeds, meaning they put more weight on their front limbs.
McCann said she was initially drawn to the field of veterinary rehabilitation while working with her own dog when she suffered from a torn ligament.
“I brought her in for the treatments and it was really a fun time. They gave me a treatment plan where I had to go home and work with her on rehabilitating her,” she said.
“What I like about veterinary rehabilitation is that it really harbours the human-animal bond. This summer has been one of the best experiences of my life.”