The influence of age on patellar reflex response in the dog.
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The patellar tendon reflex is a clinical parameter commonly used to assess neurological status. Factors such as quadriceps muscle fiber composition, femur length, and patient age have been reported to influence total and fractionated reflex times in human beings. The purpose of this blinded, cross-sectional study was to examine the effect of age on the patellar reflex in the dog. Eighty-six dogs without evidence of neurological impairment or orthopedic disease of the stifle (eg, patellar luxation or cranial cruciate ligament rupture) were assigned to 1 of 2 groups on the basis of age: group 1, <10 years old (n = 72); or group 2, > or =10 years old (n = 14). Patellar reflexes were elicited in both pelvic limbs by a reflex hammer while the dog was in lateral recumbency. The reflex was scored as present or absent by a blinded individual. Two dogs in group I had reflexes absent in both limbs, 3 dogs in group 2 had reflexes absent in both limbs, and 1 dog in group 2 lacked a response in 1 limb. The proportion of dogs with absent patellar reflexes in group 2 (4 of 14, 95% CI, 8-58%) was significantly higher than the proportion of dogs with absent patellar reflexes in group 1 (2 of 72, 95% CI, 0-10%) (P < .006). Furthermore, dogs lacking at least 1 patellar reflex were older than those having both reflexes present (P = .04). Weight was not related to the presence of both reflexes (P = .49). These findings suggest that neurologically normal dogs may have an age-dependent decline in patellar reflex magnitude or a prolongation of total reflex time (TRT).