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New research for dogs with osteoarthritis

Can dogs walking on a pressure-sensitive mat help veterinarians more easily detect and assess the degree of osteoarthritis in lame dogs? A research group at the University of Copenhagen has investigated new methods for diagnosing and treating osteoarthritis by comparing healthy and affected dogs.
New research for dogs with osteoarthritis

Professor James Miles and his research team wanted to try new ways to more easily diagnose and treat osteoarthritis in a reliable way. They compared the movement patterns of healthy and affected dogs by having the dogs walk on a pressure-sensitive mat and filming the dogs' movements. The researchers also tested the effect of the medications tramadol and gabapentin as a supplement to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory treatment. Finally, they investigated whether five biomarkers from a blood sample could sort healthy dogs from osteoarthritis patients.

The researchers found that a pressure-sensitive mat was a reliable and relatively quick method of measuring the dog's gait in both healthy and arthritic dogs. However, it was more difficult for the system to distinguish between healthy and sick dogs. This was especially true if the dog was affected in several body parts, as well as in the case of low-grade lameness. The measurements based on video recordings showed the same results.

Treatment of osteoarthritis

Traditional treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs consists of weight control, exercise control and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Complementary medical treatments are often used in dogs with chronic pain. In the project, arthritic dogs were also examined again after four weeks of treatment with gabapentin or tramadol, in addition to the usual anti-inflammatory treatment. Now the arthritic dogs showed improved movements and less lameness.

"None of the drugs appeared to cause liver or kidney problems in our study, but there was a high incidence of other side effects such as nausea, fatigue and disorientation, similar to those reported in humans," says James Miles.

Previous diagnosis of osteoarthritis in dogs

The group also examined five blood biomarkers to investigate the possibility of early diagnosis of osteoarthritis. Certain parameters in the blood suggest that inflammation or turnover of cartilage or bone can act as objective markers for osteoarthritis. In the long run, a simple blood test can help vets measure improvement or deterioration.

In conclusion, James Milles writes in his final report that it is still a challenge to get a reliable diagnosis of mild lameness in arthritic dogs, despite modern tools such as video film and the pressure-sensitive mat. The search for a useful blood biomarker for early osteoarthritis to enable rapid treatment and perhaps slow the progression of the disease continues.

20 percent of dogs suffer from osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is an incurable disease that impairs the quality of life. In the worst case, it can lead to animal owners and veterinarians considering euthanasia to prevent unnecessary suffering in the dog.

A full 20 percent of all adult dogs suffer from osteoarthritis, but the incidence varies widely between different breeds and body sizes. Larger, heavier dogs are affected to a greater extent. Obese Labradors, for example, have a 50 percent incidence of hip osteoarthritis at the age of six and a median lifespan that is two years shorter compared to Labradors that maintain their weight. The study is financed by the Agria SKK research fund.

Read the full report here

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