Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) – Here you’ll find help for your arthritic dog!
Contribution by Kathryn Cowley
Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) is a veterinary driven initiative, set up by vet Hannah Capon who was becoming overwhelmed with the number of dogs she was having to put to sleep because they had “gone off their legs”. This was often seen by the owners as a sudden incident, when in truth that dog had probably been suffering in silence for a long time prior to that day. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to express their pain in words and will actually rarely vocalise with chronic pain. Chronic pain in dogs can be much harder to recognize than you might think. The signs can be really subtle and are often dismissed as signs of ageing rather than signs of pain. Even when owners have perhaps seen some changes in their dog we too often hear phrases like “just a bit of arthritis” as it is a disease which isn’t always taken seriously, despite its progressive and painful nature.
The aim of CAM, now a team of over 20 volunteers from within the veterinary and animals care community, is to change owner, vet and public perception of arthritis thereby improving and extending the lives of dogs.
Arthritis is a really painful and debilitating condition that is unfortunately, one of the leading causes of early, elective euthanasia of dogs in the UK. As many as 1.2 million dogs in the UK are thought to have arthritis. 80% of dogs over the age of 8 suffer from it but unfortunately only a fraction of these dogs are actually on treatment. We believe this is largely due to people simply not recognizing the many signs of arthritis in their pet. Some of the more obvious signs of pain such as limping are usually recognized and often treated but it is the more subtle signs that can understandably be missed. These signs can include things such as your dog being less enthusiastic for their walk, slowing down or sleeping more. It may be that they take a long time and a lot of effort to stand up or you could see the shape of their body change as the muscles in the affected limbs weaken and waste away. We want to ensure owners know these signs of chronic pain so that treatment can be started early and a better long term outcome realized.
It is also important that owners and vets consider all the available treatment options, including physical therapies, supplements, dietary changes and changes in the home and routine that can make a big difference to arthritis patients. It is easy to think that a bottle of pain killers will be enough to make the condition less painful but arthritis is really a lifestyle disease and so needs a more holistic approach.
Our biggest piece of advice to owners that are concerned about possible arthritis and chronic pain is that they shouldn’t ignore it. As with most illnesses, the best first step is to make an appointment with your vet. They can examine your dog and discuss the options that are available, be these diagnostic tests or treatments.
It is also worth asking them about therapies than can be offered outside of your veterinary practice, for example hydrotherapy, physiotherapy or massage therapy.
There are lots of simple changes that you can make at home that can make a big difference to your dog too- preventing hazards in the house which can worsen signs, altering their exercise regime, making sure their weight is good, offering them a good quality bed… The list goes on. And many of these changes cost very little if nothing to do!
Of course the other great piece of advice is to visit the CAM website, www.caninearthritis.co.uk.
We also have a forum, www.cam-foundation.co.uk where you can discuss your dog with other pet owners, vets, nurses and therapists who are all there to provide help and support at what we know can be a worrying time.