Take a general history and then ask specific questions about the lameness (e.g. trauma, duration, progression). Perform a general physical exam before beginning the orthopaedic exam.
1. Observe the animal weight bearing and seated
Let the animal wander around the consult room and observe the animal from all sides/angles and observe whether the animal moves with ease or difficulty. Pay attention to: weight bearing (digits should spread evenly), joint angles, conformation, symmetry, stance abnormalities, muscle atrophy and gross abnormalities.
2. Gait Assessment
• Watch the dog at a walk, trot and run (if possible). Videos from the owner are also useful. The aim is to identify the lame limb(s). Watch the dog from all sides.
• Thoracic limb lameness: might see a head nod which goes ‘down on the sound limb’.
• Pelvic limb lameness: The sounds limb is closer to the central body axis where as the lame leg can be abducted or circumducted. There is increased vertical displacement of the hindquarter on the lame limb side. Spinal sway can be seen in dogs with bilateral hip dysplasia.
• Be aware of neurological conditions that may present as orthopaedic conditions e.g. ataxia, reduced proprioception, dragging feet.
3. Physical Exam General Points for ALL LIMBS
• General anaesthesia, sedation and/or a muzzle may be required for a complete exam depending on the temperament and pain levels experienced by the patient.
• Start with the animal standing and facing away from you. Assess