Using Pressure Pads to Evaluate Lameness in Dogs: My Observations

While on our travels, we were able to continue Cookie's physical therapy at a local clinic. I was very happy about that because we ended up being gone for a month which would otherwise mean Cookie missing out on therapy for all that time.

As part of their services, the clinic offers stance analysis using pressure pads.

I wrote about this earlier as a great tool to evaluate how much pressure is a dog putting on each of the limbs, helping to pinpoint lameness and favoring which could otherwise be invisible to plain observation. The one cited in that article is a much fancier and more complex piece of equipment, though.

This is the one the clinic has. Image PetSafe

It's a high-tech evaluation.

I was quite excited about what we're going to learn from that. Force plates, dog gait analysis mats and pressure pads are a few products out there available for this purpose.

As great as it sounds on paper, seeing it in action didn't look all that pretty.

Initially, the pad was against the wall in such a way that Cookie had to walk on it, than turn around and stand on it facing away from the wall with each leg precisely in the right section of the pad.

She got on there and turned around but couldn't possibly understand where exactly each foot should land and why. The end result of that was that the tech was manually moving her legs in attempt to place them in the correct positions on the mat. Cookie allowed her legs being moved around but was pretty confused by all that not knowing which leg to stand on. The positions she ended up at looked nothing like a normal, or even abnormal dog stance.

Think playing Twister.

I then suggested turning the pad around so Cookie could walk on it normally, rather than having to turn around. This worked better but she still didn't understand that she has to get and stop right in the center. So yet again, her legs ended up being moved up to the right places with her stance ending up looking everything but natural.

How much reliable information can one gain from that?

I honestly don't know. We did this several times and the machine then averages the values. That probably helps getting some more comprehensible information. But still ...

Both evaluations showed what were expected, more pressure being put on the front than the back end and more pressure being put on the right than on the left side. However, from what I saw, Cookie always ended up walking onto the right-hand-side sections and it was the left legs than were being moved into position.

While the results seemed to confirm what was suspected, were they really?

Or was it just a function of the part of the mat Cookie was consistently ending up on?

Perhaps a bit of both.

I actually think that having the dog walk onto it from one end to the other, rather than having to turn around was the right idea. But getting them dead center is still a challenge.

I wonder if creating some kind of a "walk through" which would keep the dog in the center would help improve accuracy.

Similarly to what one does what teaching a dog backing up in a straight line.

It would need to be light and adjustable depending on the size of the dog and it would have to not interfere with the pad itself. Perhaps something such as the cavaletti cones except the poles would need to be longer. Or just something a self-standing pole on each end with some fabric or light construction fencing between.

Having seen how contorted Cookie always ended up makes me wonder how reliable the data we gained really are.

Having said that, the vet was very happy with the way Cookie looked overall.

She was so impressed with how Cookie's legs were working that she's looking into platelet rich plasma therapy. While I'm seeing some issues with Cookie's gait under certain circumstance, she walks and trots very well using both hind legs equally. Possibly, according to the vet as well as Cookie's physical therapist the degree of favoring the hind left leg during certain movement might have to do more with Cookie not really trusting the leg rather than the leg not functioning properly. I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile we'll continue working at it as see where it takes us.

Do you have any experience with such stance analysis done for your dog? How did it work for you?

Related articles:

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Figuring out What Might Be Going on with Cookie's Legs: The Process 
Figuring out What Might Be Going on with Cookie's Legs: The Diagnosis 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury Treatment: Trazodone  
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury Treatment: Other Medications 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury Treatment: Laser, Hydrotherapy and Chiropractic 
Cookie's Recovery from Iliopsoas Injury: ToeGrips 
It Never Rains ... Cookie's New Injury 
Mixed Emotions: When What You Should Do Might Not Be What You Should Do for Your Dog 
Cookie's New Injury Update 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury: The Symptoms 
Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury: Battling the Zoomies 
Cookie's Muscle Injuries: What Else Is Going On?
Theory and Actual Decisions for an Actual Dog Aren't the Same Thing: Cookie's Knee Injury
Does Your Vet Listen to You? Cookie's Post-Sedation Complications
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Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Treatment for Cookie's Bad Knee(s)
Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) for Cookie's Bad Cruciate Update 
Injury or Surgery Recovery: Mishaps versus Setbacks 
See Something, Do Something: Cookie's Lumpectomy 
Cookie's Lumpectomy Update

Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!

What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from yo


  1. I've never heard of it, and it's never been suggested to me. Of course with Sampson, we do know which legs he is favoring.

    1. It's not necessarily to find out which is the bad leg but more to monitor improvement, treatment response etc.

      The type referenced in the article linked from here is better and more reliable. This one I'm not sure about at all, having seen it in action.


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