Adjusting to a missing fore limb is more difficult for a dog than dealing with a missing hind limb, for example. Fore limb amputation requires the remaining limbs to undergo careful adaptation to coordinate with each other, a process called "gait compensation." In the case of a hind-limb amputation, the fore limbs continue to act as they normally would in a four-legged dog, so there is little or no compensation strategy.
The difference in compensation strategies may be due to the fact that a dog's fore limbs carry more body weight than the hind limbs.
The research is slated to be presented Thursday at the Society for Experimental Biology's annual meeting in Prague.
The movement of three-legged dogs is being studied to help scientists design robots that can adapt in the event of an "injury."
German researchers used high-tech infrared cameras to record the movements of dogs missing a fore limb or hind limb as they walked and ran on a treadmill. The tests revealed that the dogs used different coping methods, depending on which limb was missing.