In a survey involving more than 1,300 gun dogs and retrievers in Great Britain, veterinary attention was sought for 47% of the dogs.1 About 25% of these dogs were injured during the hunting season, and most of the injuries reported by the owners were considered minor, with foot injuries and musculoskeletal injuries occurring most commonly.1 Less common injuries included lacerations and punctures to the thorax, abdomen, and head.1 These injuries require careful examination by the veterinarian for underlying body cavity penetration, foreign bodies, and infection.1
Unfortunately, many cases of strains or sprains that result in lameness in gun dogs (and likely in other sporting dogs) are not presented to a veterinarian for diagnosis, and many problems become chronic conditions that affect a patient's career longevity.1 Forelimb injuries involving the shoulder or elbow are often treated by gun dog owners themselves, and the lameness in many of these dogs does resolve in a few days.1 Owners of gun dogs usually do seek veterinary attention for forelimb and hindlimb lamenesses that do not resolve within a week.1 How many of these injuries result in chronic problems is unknown.
Agility dogs incur injury to their forelimbs—especially the shoulder—quite frequently, and of the 33% of dogs injured in agility sports, 58% of those are injured during competition.2 Unlike gun dogs, agility dogs have a level surface to work on but must jump far in long jumps (1.5 meters) and high over hurdles (up to 0.65 meters), as do flyball dogs, and A-frames (up to 1.67 meters).3 For agility dogs, the amount of impact (peak vertical force) to the forelimbs is about 45 newtons/kg body weight when landing after a hurdle jump, compared with about 25 newtons/kg sustained while running (1 newton = the force required to accelerate 1 kg of mass 1 m/s2).4 These dogs always land on the same forelimb and then the other, increasing the high impact of one limb consistently in practice and competition, potentially predisposing these dogs to chronic overload injuries of the dominant limb.4
When first beginning training in flyball, dogs will run to the box and hit it directly with their forelimbs, resulting in increased stress to the forelimbs. Once trained, flyball dogs will turn on the box but always in the same direction—either right or left. This means that stress injuries are common to the carpus and tarsus early in the course of a flyball dog's career, and later the injuries are similar to those experienced by greyhounds since they, too, are always racing in one direction in the United States—counterclockwise on an oval track.5 Thus, the veterinarian must assess these athletes for ligament and tendon laxity by using a goniometer to measure joint range of motion. It is also important to assess for long bone pain since stress fractures have been reported in gun dogs and greyhounds.1,6-8
Wendy Baltzer, DVM, PhD, DACVS
Department of Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331
1. Houlton JEF. A survey of gundog lameness and injuries in Great Britain in the shooting seasons 2005/2006 and 2006/2007. Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol 2008;21(3):231-237.
2. Levy M, Hall C, Trentacosta N, et al. A preliminary retrospective survey of injuries occurring in dogs participating in canine agility. Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol 2009;22(4):321-324.
3. United States Dog Agility Association. Official rules and regulations of United States Dog Agility Association, Inc. Richardson, Texas: United States Dog Agility Association, 2004.
4. Pfau T, Garland de Rivaz A, Brighton S, et al. Kinetics of jump landing in agility dogs. Vet J 2011;190(2):278-283.
5. Blythe LL, Gannon JR, Craig AM, et al. Care of the racing and retired greyhound. 1st ed. Abilene, Kan: American Greyhound Council, Inc, 2007.
6. Lipscomb VJ, Lawes TJ, Goodship AE, et al. Asymmetric densitometric and mechanical adaptation of the left fifth metacarpal bone in racing greyhounds. Vet Rec 2001;148(10):308-311.
7. Boudrieau RJ, Dee JF, Dee LG. Central tarsal bone fractures in the racing Greyhound: a review of 114 cases. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1984;184(12):1486-1491.
8. Johnson KA. Accessory carpal bone fractures in the racing greyhound. Classification and pathology. Vet Surg 1987;16(1):60-64.