Osteoarthritis experts from the UK and the US came together at a roundtable event organised by Elanco late last year to discuss how canine osteoarthritis can be better managed, and have urged vets to put the disease higher up their priority list.

John Innes, CVS Referrals Director based at Chester Gates Veterinary Specialists (BVSc PhD CertVR DSAS (orth) FRCVS), said: "The main challenges around managing and treating osteoarthritis for vets is that it is a chronic, insidious problem.

"It’s also often lower down the priority list and owners don’t recognise the signs; they often ascribe it to ageing. Actually, osteoarthritis is such a common problem that it should be way up our priority list because something like 10-15% of adult dogs have OA."

The roundtable discussion also focused on the need for greater understanding of the condition among pet owners.

Duncan Lascelles, Professor of Small Animal Surgery and Pain Management at NC State Veterinary Medicine (BSc, BVSc, PhD, MRCVS, CertVA, DSAS(ST), DECVS, DACVS) said: "The vet profession needs to take a much more active role in the education of owners, and osteoarthritis is a perfect example of this. Many owners consider osteoarthritis to be age related and an inevitable part of the ageing process – unfortunately both of those concepts are erroneous.

"Osteoarthritis can be a young dog disease, it is present in many young dogs because it is caused by developmental diseases, but we only recognise the obvious signs later on when the disability is severe. Also, we should not consider OA-related pain as an inevitable part of the ageing process, it is something that we can prevent by early intervention, early treatment and modification of lifestyle."

Meanwhile, a survey of 236 UK practising vets carried out by Elanco last June, revealed that 76% of veterinary surgeons believe owners fundamentally misunderstand OA and consider it just a symptom of old age, which results in a barrier to effective treatment of the disease.

The survey also found that although the illness is commonplace (49% of veterinary surgeons see OA cases every day), vets are often unable to give their preferred treatment for OA for a range of reasons, from owner misconception of the disease through to perceived side effects and compliance.

The issue of better education of owners was also discussed at the roundtable, in particular the role of CMIs (Clinical Metrology Instruments); owner-facing questionnaires designed to help veterinary surgeons evaluate the extent and seriousness of OA-related pain in dogs. 

Duncan said: "The great thing about CMIs is that they have been constructed using language that owners understand, therefore are an easy way to ask owners the right questions in the way that they will understand.

"CMIs allow us to have what can be very difficult conversations with owners. Difficult because we have to think of all the different ways that osteoarthritis might be affecting pets. Because the CMIs include pre-constructed questions, it means that conversations with owners are much easier and, importantly, they’re consistent. Consistency is key to ensure you’re asking the same set of questions each time, every time, so you can follow the evolution of clinical signs over time and assess the beneficial impact of our therapeutics."

John added: "We often quiz the owner informally in a consultation, but CMIs gives us the tools needed to formalise this questioning of clients and allow us to put that in context of our knowledge of other patients."

Both John and Duncan said the need for more patient analysis highlighted the need for better use of existing tools, such as the LOAD (‘Liverpool Osteoarthritis in Dogs’) questionnaire, a 13-item clinical metrology instrument (CMI) designed to help veterinary surgeons determine the severity of OA in all dogs, monitor disease progression and assess the patient’s response to treatment. 

For more information contact your Elanco representative or call +44 (0)1256 353131. 

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