by Debra Sellon

By Debra Sellon

Photos by Lesley Mattuchio

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 toward 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 has designed a survey asking questions about whether or not dogs return to their previous level of performance in agility competition after specific types of toe injuries or surgeries. All agility dogs are eligible, regardless of whether the toe injury occurred during agility training/competing or whether the dog returned to the sport after recovery. All types of toe problems (injury, disease, tumor, etc.) are included in this study.

Additional details regarding the research are available at

The survey can be accessed here: The online questionnaire takes approximately 3-5 minutes to complete for dogs who were not treated with a toe amputation, and 10-15 minutes to complete for dogs who had one or more toes amputated.