Can dogs walking on a pressure-sensitive mat help veterinarians detect and assess the degree of osteoarthritis in lame dogs? Professor James Miles and his research group at the University of Copenhagen have examined new methods for diagnosing and treating osteoarthritis by analyzing healthy and affected dogs. The Agria SKK research foundation funds this study.
“The Agria Research Foundation has contributed to hundreds of European research projects for over eighty-five years. The foundation focuses on improving the health and welfare of animals. These research projects are international and relevant to pets across the globe, and we are passionate about spreading this information among Irish vets, pet owners, and other pet lovers.” says Bernard O'Sullivan, managing director at Agria Petinsure in Ireland.
Professor James Miles and his research team were exploring new ways to diagnose and treat osteoarthritis reliably and efficiently. They compared patterns in the movement of healthy and affected dogs by letting them walk on a pressure-sensitive mat and by filming the movement of these dogs. The researchers also tested the efficacy of tramadol and gabapentin as supplementary drugs to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory therapy. Lastly, they examined whether five blood sample biomarkers would help differentiate healthy dogs from osteoarthritis patients.
“Among other things, we have used video recordings and a pressure mat that the participating dogs have had to walk on to measure effects during the project,” says James Miles, professor at the University of Copenhagen.
The researchers found that a pressure-sensitive mat was a reliable and relatively quick method for measuring dog gait in healthy and osteoarthritis dogs. However, it was more difficult for the system to distinguish between healthy and sick dogs, especially in cases where dogs were affected in several parts of the body or the case of low-grade lameness. The measurements based on video recordings showed the same results.
Traditional treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs consists of weight management, exercise control, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Other complementary medical treatments are often used in dogs with chronic pain. In the project, osteoarthritis dogs were examined again after four weeks of treatment with gabapentin or tramadol and the usual anti-inflammatory treatment. The arthritic dogs that underwent this treatment showed improved movements and fewer symptoms of lameness.
“None of the drugs in our study seemed to cause liver or kidney problems, but there was a high incidence of other side effects such as nausea, fatigue, and disorientation, similar to those reported in humans,” Miles says.
The group also examined five blood biomarkers to analyze the possibility of early diagnosis of osteoarthritis. Some parameters of the blood suggest that inflammation or turnover of cartilage or bone can serve as objective markers of osteoarthritis. In the long run, a simple blood test can help veterinarians measure improvements or deteriorations of the dog’s health.
In his final report, James Milles states that despite modern tools such as video film and pressure-sensitive mats, getting a reliable diagnosis of mild lameness in dogs with osteoarthritis is still challenging. The search for a useful blood biomarker for early osteoarthritis allows for timely treatment and perhaps slows the progression of the disease.
Twenty 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 veterinarians and pet owners opting for euthanasia to prevent unnecessary suffering of the dog.
As many as 20 percent of all adult dogs suffer from osteoarthritis, but the incidence varies greatly between breeds and the dog's body size. Larger, heavy dogs are affected to a greater extent. Overweight Labradors, for example, have a 50 percent incidence of hip osteoarthritis by age six and a median life expectancy two years shorter than Labradors that are not overweight.
The Agria Research Foundation
The Agria Research Foundation is constantly working on new projects to improve the health of dogs and cats. This year, eleven research projects focusing on the health of pets will be carried out at universities in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland. Half of them have a veterinary focus, while the other half focus on the relationship between animals and humans and animal welfare in general.
John Carter has been a content and ‘ghostwriter' for many popular online publications over the years. John is now our chief editor at NewsGrab.