Orthopaedic hind limb disease in Maine Coon cats not caused (or exacerbated?) by size or gait

We know that the Maine Coon (MC) suffers from a high incidence of orthopaedic diseases of the hind limb (hip dysplasia, patellar luxation). Thirty-seven percent of MCs suffer from feline hip dysplasia (FHD). The question posed by a group of scientists was whether this had something to do with the size of the breed and/or their gait (the way they walked). MCs have a longer stride length and paw contact area than standard domestic cats. Plus they are nearly always heavier.

Heavy-set MC
Heavy-set MC. Photo in public domain.

They compared ground reaction force measurements in a population of domestic shorthair and Maine Coon cats. All the MCs evaluated were not lame. They evaluated parameters such as peak vertical force (PFz), vertical impulse (IFz), time to PFz (TPFz), step length (SL), paw contact area (PCA), stance phase duration (SPD) and symmetry index (SI) for the fore- and hind limbs. Complicated and precise stuff.

Although the vertical force and vertical impulse were higher in MCs than for domestic cats this was normal for a cat of this size.

The concluded that "genetic or other causes may be involved in orthopaedic hind limb pathogenesis [the manner of development of a disease] seen in MC cats more often than in other breeds". In other words, I take that to mean that these diseases are caused exclusively by inherited genetics.

Note: I think it is general accepted that the cause of these orthopaedic diseases in MCs is an inherited genetic mutation which is passed down in breeding lines. I think the study referred to has value nonetheless as it is logical to query whether the known large size of MCs has an impact on these well-known orthopedic diseases.

The scientists and their study: Comparison of ground reaction force measurements in a population of Domestic Shorthair and Maine Coon cats. Eva Schnabl-Feichter, Alexander Tichy, Michaela Gumpenberger, Barbara Bockstahler.


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