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Kennel Club funds biomechanics research at Surrey

A collaboration between the University of Surrey and the Kennel Club aims to investigate how German Shepherds stand and move, potentially revealing information that could benefit all dogs.

Academics in Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Centre for Biomedical Engineering have been awarded a two-year grant from The Kennel Club Charitable Trust to assess the relationship between the conformation and gait of German Shepherd dogs and their health and welfare.

Within the German Shepherd breed there are different conformations – sometimes colloquially known as ‘English’ or ‘Germanic’ types – which may show different gait characteristics and this could be linked to musculoskeletal health or welfare concerns. Understanding this correlation, if it exists, could provide the evidence needed to shape breeding strategies, helping to improve the health not only of German Shepherds, but also of other dog breeds.

Dr Constanza Gomez Alvarez, Head of the University's Veterinary Biomechanics Laboratory and Lecturer in Human Movement Science Dr Aliah Shaheen will lead the research, which is being conducted in the University’s new Animal Biomechanics Laboratory. Newly appointed Research Fellow Dr Alexander Humphries and Reader in Veterinary Neurology Dr Clare Rusbridge are also part of the team.

Drawing on Surrey’s expertise in both human and animal gait, the researchers will use a special motion capture system that incorporates the latest infrared cameras to capture and analyse 3D movement of the dogs. They will also investigate the animals’ gait using a 3 metre, high-resolution foot pressure analysis mat. In combination, these advanced systems will give a full picture of how animals move and stand, providing quantitative measures of their biomechanics.

“We expect to be able to identify if there is a relationship between different conformations within this one breed and motion patterns and limbs loadings, and at the end of the study we will investigate whether there is any correlation between these parameters and health issues,” said Dr Gomez Alvarez. “If so, this could lead to additional research investigating whether there is any welfare implication or concern.”

Dr Shaheen commented, “This work is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Engineering and Veterinary Biomechanics groups. Together, we hope to address issues affecting human and animal musculoskeletal health.”

 

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