Pacing gait in dogs, what does it mean?
In general dogs will move by using a walk, trot, gallop or pacing gait.
The walk is a four time gait, with each leg landing before the next foot leaves the ground. The trot is a two time gait, with diagonal pairs of legs landing and pushing off at the same time.
The pace occurs where the legs on one side of the body land and push off at the same time (see right and below). Dogs can pace in walk or trot (a walk type pace or a trot type pace). Some breeds of dog are more likely to pace than others, for instance labradors and retrievers are dogs with a natural pacing gait. Dogs with long legs and short backs, especially crossbreeds, will pace to prevent the back feet from stepping on or interfering with the front feet in trot.
The pace is an efficient gait, many owners may observe their dogs pacing towards the end of a long walk, or if the dog have been particularly energetic whilst playing.
Sometimes, dogs can become sore through the muscles in middle of the back, especially at the thoracic -lumber junction. Pacing stops rotation at this joint and becomes more comfortable for the dog when moving, effectively splinting this area.
As long as there is no problem with arthritis in the spine or problems with the vertebral discs then getting your dogs back treated by a specialist, such as a McTimoney therapist, can help relive this discomfort. After treatment, the dog is less likely to pace (although there may be an adaptation period while the dog realises that trotting no longer causes discomfort) and the dog will appear to have much more energy. Dogs that have been pacing for a while, especially as they have grown and developed may need some treadmill hydrotherapy to help reverse this habit, I have referred many show dogs for this treatment where pacing is unwanted.