Posture & Gait
Posture The clinician should evaluate posture when the pet is standing and walking. The patient should be assessed for a head tilt (e.g., vestibular disease); a head or body turn (e.g., rostral brainstem or cerebral disease); neck position (e.g., lowered with cervical spinal cord or diffuse neuromuscular disease); hock angle (e.g., plantigrade with peripheral neuropathies); evidence of trembling (e.g., neuromuscular disease) and tail position (e.g., flaccid with lumbosacral disease). The clinician also should recognize breed-specific alterations in posture such as sunken tarsi in German Shepherd Dogs.
Severe intracranial lesions may lead to two separate opisthotonic postures: decerebrate or decerebellate rigidity. Decerebrate rigidity is characterized by opisthotonus with rigid extension of the neck and all four limbs, and is typically associated with midbrain or rostral cerebellar lesions. Decerebellate rigidity results from severe cerebellar lesions and is characterized by opisthotonus with extensor rigidity of the limbs, but with the hips flexed.
Pleurothotonus refers to the deviation of the head and neck to one side and may be present with mid to rostral brainstem or cerebral lesions.
Gait Strength and coordination are the key gait components to be evaluated. Gait should be assessed in an area where the pet may move with or without a leash (if possible), and always on a non-slippery surface. Pattern recognition of gait abnormalities is a key component of the neuroanatomic diagnosis.