Why Our Pressure Plate Treadmill Is the Best Bit of Technology We’ve Invested In

Where Did We Get The Idea Of Walking Dogs On A Treadmill From?

 
The idea of using some sort of pressure plate to measure our patients’ gait (walking) sprouted in the early days of conceptualising the Animal Rehab Klinik. One day during our studies, we were practicing on a patient and we ran in to a problem – was this old, arthritic dog actually feeling better, or was it just our wishful thinking? The owner was in the same boat, some times his dog seemed better but other times he was just as bad. Thinking on our feet, we pulled out a small pressure plate that Matt used to use to fit his human patients with orthotics, so we set that up to see what would happen if we put our not-so-human patient on it.
 
It wan’t perfect – it could only fit either the two fore or hind limbs on at a time, but what we could do is see the balance from left to right and compare that to before and after our treatment. It was clear that our ABM treatment was having a positive impact, the owner was impressed now that he could actually visualise the changes and we knew we were on to a winner.
 
It took about 6 months of searching, but we eventually found what we were looking for.
 

Why We Needed More Information About Our Dogs Injuries

 
With our background coming form the human world, one of the key differences between treating animals and humans was that animals don’t speak. With a human patient, questions such as what exactly did you do, where does it hurts, what the pain feels like, have you had similar pain before, what aggravates it or what makes it better can help us drill down to help find the root cause of the pain. In some cases, questions like these are enough to form an accurate diagnosis before we’ve even done a physical examination. Not being able to ask many of these questions leaves a significant gap in the information we can gather which can be problematic…but this is the exact problem that our pressure plate treadmill solves.
 
 

How Does A Dog Presure Plate Treadmill Work?

 
A lot of us might have seen or even used something similar before. If you’ve ever bought new shoes from The Athletes Foot before you’ve probably walked on their ‘my fit’ pressure plate. It’s fitted with thousands of sensors which show their staff exactly how your foot bears weight on the ground. If you put this pressure plate underneath a treadmill, and adjust the software to be looking for 4 feet instead of two, then you’ve got our pressure plate treadmill.
 
We get our patient up on the treadmill, start the belt and bring it up to a good speed then press record on our software. Using the pressure felt on the sensors, and with a high speed video camera It’ll record up to 30 seconds of gait which is then processed in to an easy to read report.
 

What Does It Tell Us?

It tells us a lot of information, but not to bore you we’ll go through the key things that we look at with most patients.

  • Overall Paw Pressure – Easy to visualise, it’s a simple way of telling us if a dog is avoiding putting pressure through one limb, as well as which ones are compensating more than others.
  • Pad Pressure – The paw can be broken down into fractions of each pad, showing us of some parts of the paw aren’t taking pressure. It’ll even show up nails if the dog is clawing at the ground.
  • Step Length – Compares each leg to show how far each one steps, down to the mm. Dogs will usually shorten their stride if there’s pain or instability which this report will show very accurately.
  • Stance Phase – How long in time a dog is weight-bearing on each paw. Usually, when there’s pain in a limb, a dog will typically try to spend as little time as possible on it.
  • Centre of Pressure – Shows how stable a dog is through its gait. Pain or weakness will often result in instability on the affected side which is shown in this report.
  • Pressure Throughout a Step – Shows how a dog transfers weight on and off their paw throughout their gait. Pain, weakness, instability or lack of motor control can manifest in different ways, such as causing a dog to land really heavy on their paw upon contact with the ground.
 
If you want to see a sample report, you can download it here.
 

How This Works In With Our Animal Rehabilitation Treatments

It’s important to understand is that this doesn’t tell us what the problem is, but rather it helps tell a story of a dogs pain experience which fills that gap of the fact that they can’t talk to us.
 
We use the dog gait analysis treadmill at multiple times throughout a patient’s journey with us:
  • Every patient’s initial assessment
  • To check our patients progress to check if our treatment plan is working, or just as important if it isn’t working
  • Recheck when existing patients return with a new issue and compare to their initial report.
  • To send to your treating vet to help explain the biomechanical implications of your dogs’ complaint
It’s not limited to those applications either. Some vets have sent their patients to us to help identify subtle lamenesses, we’ve used it on Matt’s dog Sunday to help refine her prosthesis designs and we want to use it for research in the future.
 
If your dog is suffering from a problem that you think could be helped by getting an accurate reading on our pressure plate treadmill, then get in touch with us to book in for their initial assessment.