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Internet-based survey of the nature and perceived causes of injury to dogs participating in agility training and competition events

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  • 1 Biophysics Interdepartmental Group, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 2 Institute for Work and Health, 481 University Ave, Toronto, ON M5G 2E9, Canada.
  • | 3 Biophysics Interdepartmental Group, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 4 School of Kinesiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 5B9, Canada.
  • | 5 Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, College of Biological Sciences, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 6 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 7 Department of Clinical Studies, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

Abstract

Objective—To characterize injuries (on the basis of type and severity of injury and affected region of the body) among dogs participating in agility training and competition events and examine associations between injury characteristics and perceived causes of injury.

Design—Internet-based, retrospective, cross-sectional survey.

Animals—3,801 privately owned dogs participating in agility training or trials.

Procedures—A retrospective electronic survey was developed to investigate demographic factors for dogs and handlers, frequency of participation in agility training and competition, and perceived causes and characteristics of injuries acquired by dogs during agility-related activities. Respondents were handlers recruited through member lists of large canine agility associations in Canada and the United Kingdom and through promotion on an agility blog site. Associations between cause and anatomic site or type of injury and between injury severity (mild vs severe) and setting (competition vs practice) were investigated.

Results—Surveys were received from 1,669 handlers of 3,801 agility dogs internationally. Handler-reported data indicated 1,209 of 3,801 (32%) dogs had ≥ 1 injury; of 1,523 analyzed injuries, the shoulder (349 injuries), back (282), and neck (189) regions and phalanges (202) were predominantly affected. Soft tissue injuries (eg, strain [muscle or tendon injury; 807], sprain [ligament injury; 312], and contusion [200]) were common. Injuries were most commonly incurred during interactions with bar jumps, A-frames, and dog walk obstacles (260, 235, and 177 of 1,602 injuries, respectively). Anatomic site and type of injury were significantly associated with perceived cause of injury.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—These findings provided a basis for further experimental studies to identify specific mechanisms of various types of injury in dogs that participate in agility activities.

Abstract

Objective—To characterize injuries (on the basis of type and severity of injury and affected region of the body) among dogs participating in agility training and competition events and examine associations between injury characteristics and perceived causes of injury.

Design—Internet-based, retrospective, cross-sectional survey.

Animals—3,801 privately owned dogs participating in agility training or trials.

Procedures—A retrospective electronic survey was developed to investigate demographic factors for dogs and handlers, frequency of participation in agility training and competition, and perceived causes and characteristics of injuries acquired by dogs during agility-related activities. Respondents were handlers recruited through member lists of large canine agility associations in Canada and the United Kingdom and through promotion on an agility blog site. Associations between cause and anatomic site or type of injury and between injury severity (mild vs severe) and setting (competition vs practice) were investigated.

Results—Surveys were received from 1,669 handlers of 3,801 agility dogs internationally. Handler-reported data indicated 1,209 of 3,801 (32%) dogs had ≥ 1 injury; of 1,523 analyzed injuries, the shoulder (349 injuries), back (282), and neck (189) regions and phalanges (202) were predominantly affected. Soft tissue injuries (eg, strain [muscle or tendon injury; 807], sprain [ligament injury; 312], and contusion [200]) were common. Injuries were most commonly incurred during interactions with bar jumps, A-frames, and dog walk obstacles (260, 235, and 177 of 1,602 injuries, respectively). Anatomic site and type of injury were significantly associated with perceived cause of injury.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—These findings provided a basis for further experimental studies to identify specific mechanisms of various types of injury in dogs that participate in agility activities.

Contributor Notes

This manuscript represents a portion of a dissertation submitted by Ms. Cullen to the University of Guelph Biophysics Interdepartmental Group as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Supported by the Ontario Veterinary College Pet Trust Fund. Ms. Cullen was also supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Graduate Scholarship.

None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to disclose regarding this manuscript.

The authors thank Susan Garrett for helping to disseminate the electronic survey to participants, Dr. Sheilah Hogg-Johnson for statistical guidance and survey development, Dr. Jason Coe for survey development, and Jarrod Shugg for data entry.

Address correspondence to Ms. Cullen (kcullen@iwh.on.ca).