Return to Athletic Performance after Digit Amputation in Agility Dogs

If your dog suffers an orthopedic injury, you are often asked to make a decision regarding which of a variety of treatment or rehabilitation options you would like to pursue.  What you may not know, is that veterinarians have very little information other than their own personal experience to help them predict performance outcomes after specific injuries or surgeries in canine athletes.  In contrast, in the world of athletic horses, there is a great deal of scientific evidence to guide those types of decisions.  For most common equine injuries, there is ample evidence, for example, to determine the probability of return to athletic function after specific surgical procedures.  A team of researchers from across the United States is taking the first steps towards development of this type of evidence to guide decision-making related to injuries in canine athletes.

This type of research for performance dogs is especially difficult because there are almost no veterinary researchers who have easy access to sufficient numbers of affected dogs to collect the necessary data.  The research requires data from a relatively large numbers of dogs with the same or very similar problems to reach a scientifically valid conclusion.  In order to answer the important questions related to injury and canine athletic performance, the agility community must step forward and offer their help to these researchers.

The research team, led by Dr. Debra Sellon at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, includes Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Michelle Powers at Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital, and Ms. Katherine Martucci, a first year veterinary student at Washington State University.

To begin their efforts, this team is asking questions about whether or not dogs return to their previous level of performance in agility competition after specific types of injuries or surgeries.  The first project investigates return to performance after injuries or diseases that require amputation of the toe or part of the toe.  The plan is to identify 50 affected dogs, collect information from owners via web-based survey tools and/or structured phone interviews, and review information from the medical records of affected dogs.  The American Kennel Club and the United States Dog Agility Association have agreed to assist this research by helping to recruit participants and providing access to performance records of these dogs. The identities of all human and canine participants will remain confidential in all publications and presentations related to this project unless express written permission is provided by the owner.

Details regarding the research and the criteria for enrollment in the project are available at  Please visit the web site and complete the web form if you think your dog might qualify.  The form only indicates your interest, it does not obligate you to continue with the project.  If you have specific questions that you would like to ask prior to completing the interest form at the web site, you may contact the researchers via email at .

Dear veterinary colleagues,

We are investigating the effects of digit amputation on performance in agility dogs. It is difficult to recruit sufficient numbers of qualifying cases in a traditional retrospective format that reviews case records from a single or a small number of veterinary practices.  We are attempting, therefore, to recruit cases directly from owners and veterinarians using social media and electronic communication as our primary recruitment tools.  We are writing to request your help in identifying cases for this project.

We are conducting a retrospective study evaluating the performance of competition agility dogs before and after digit amputation.  To qualify for inclusion, dogs should be between 2 and 8 years of age and competing in the Excellent/Masters level of American Kennel Club (AKC) agility or the equivalent Championship Masters level within the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) prior to the injury or disease necessitating digit amputation.  Depending on case numbers, we may also include agility dogs that primarily compete in other venues such as the Agility Association of Canada (AAC).  The amputation should have occurred between 2010 and 2014.  The dog’s injury or disease need not be directly related to agility training or competition.  It is not a requirement that the dog returned to competition after the amputation procedure.

We will use a combination of web-based survey and structured telephone interviews to collect information from owners.  Owners will provide consent for us to review relevant medical records from the veterinarian who performed the digit amputation.  Additional information is available through our study web site at .  If you have questions, you can contact us via email at .

Clients may inquire about the eligibility of their dog for this study by submitting an on-line form that is accessed through the web site referenced above.  Please encourage owners to consider submitting a form even if their dog does not exactly meet all the inclusion criteria outlined above.

We believe this research is very important and we need your help to succeed.  Thank you!

Debra Sellon
Michelle Powers
Denis Marcellin-Little
Katherine Martucci

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About northeastseminars

Owner/CEO of Northeast Seminars. We specialize in continuing education and certification in the physical therapy, sports med, and canine rehabilitation fields.
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