Aquatic treadmill water level influence on pelvic limb kinematics in cranial cruciate ligament-deficient dogs with surgically stabilised stifles

Bertocci G, Smalley C, Brown N, Bialczak K, Carroll D. J Small Anim Pract. 2018 Feb; 59( 2): 121-127.

OBJECTIVE: To compare pelvic limb joint kinematics and temporal gait characteristics during land-based and aquatic-based treadmill walking in dogs that have undergone surgical stabilisation for cranial cruciate ligament deficiency.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Client-owned dogs with surgically stabilised stifles following cranial cruciate ligament deficiency performed three walking trials consisting of three consecutive gait cycles on an aquatic treadmill under four water levels. Hip, stifle and hock range of motion; peak extension; and peak flexion were assessed for the affected limb at each water level. Gait cycle time and stance phase percentage were also determined.

RESULTS: Ten client-owned dogs of varying breeds were evaluated at a mean of 55·2 days postoperatively. Aquatic treadmill water level influenced pelvic limb kinematics and temporal gait outcomes. Increased stifle joint flexion was observed as treadmill water level increased, peaking when the water level was at the hip. Similarly, hip flexion increased at the hip water level. Stifle range of motion was greatest at stifle and hip water levels. Stance phase percentage was significantly decreased when water level was at the hip.

CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Aquatic treadmill walking has become a common rehabilitation modality following surgical stabilisation of cranial cruciate ligament deficiency. However, evidence-based best practice guidelines to enhance stifle kinematics do not exist. Our findings suggest that rehabilitation utilising a water level at or above the stifle will achieve the best stifle kinematics following surgical stifle stabilisation.