Robyn J Lowe FdSc RVN
Robyn is a Registered Veterinary Nurse who qualified with a degree from Myerscough School of Veterinary Nursing in 2016. She started her RCVS Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing in 2018. Robyn has worked on a volunteer basis with animals since she was four and her passion for the profession has only grown since then. Robyn spent many years at the Horse and Pony Protection Association (HAPPA) and later at a local rescue and rehabilitation yard. It was whilst working here that Robyn met a veterinary surgeon who inspired her to go into the profession. Since graduation she has developed particular interests in the areas of wound management, wildlife and rabbit medicine and clinical care. Robyn also traveled to Thailand to volunteer her knowledge and skills working with elephants, horses, goats, pigs, water buffalo, cats and dogs.
Osteoarthritis (OA) management has also been an area of particular interest for Robyn. She believes there is so much that can be done for patients and that as a society clients are normalising arthritis, calling it ‘old age’ or ‘slowing down’.
‘There is so much scope as a Registered Veterinary Nurse to be able to support the client, help educate, and spend more time holistically assessing a patient and client in order to provide optimal care for the arthritic patient.’
Robyn kindly agreed to answer the following questions:
- What are your feelings on how we currently manage this common debilitating condition in dogs?
Canine arthritis management has come a long way in recent years. Some owners are becoming more invested in their pets health and are happy to ensure, environmental changes and home adaptations are in place, that medications are used and seek support from their veterinary team, that they are keen to try additional therapies such as laser therapy, acupuncture and hydrotherapy, massage and neutraceuticles etc.
And I do feel that in the most part, many veterinary staff members are becoming more aware to the needs and support that can be given to a client and patient with osteoarthritis.
In some ways however I feel that some staff members could do with furthering their knowledge on the subject by realising that managing osteoarthritis is not just about dispensing pain medication and sending them on their way (Although medications are certainly a massive portion of the care). The management is a multi-factorial issue that requires the veterinary team to look more holistically at a patient in order to provide the best care for the patient.
This is where the keen and knowledgeable Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) can step in, if an arthritis diagnosis is made then the patient can be referred to a geriatric/arthritis/obesity clinic where the RVN can spend more time explaining the condition, factors that will cause exacerbation of the condition, LOAD scoring and giving ideas that can be implemented to improve quality of life for the patient. This of course requires dedication from the owner and veterinary team.
Furthermore I feel that the link between arthritis and the obesity crisis in pets is possibly being underplayed. Is it because it leads to an awkward conversation between the staff and the owner? And once the topic has been broached, what percentage of owners really see the detrimental impact of their actions, or as I have heard many times before, that the owner doesn’t feel there is anything wrong with their pet… And I still feel in many ways, owners misunderstand the signs and therefore dismiss the diagnosis.
We should not be normalising arthritis nor should we be normalising obesity.
- As a veterinary nurse what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?Firstly, owner compliance and acceptance of the condition. After that it’s down to the veterinary team to help support, guide and educate in order to obtain optimal management. This will include regular checks, medications that are used as intended, exercise changes, home adaptations, dietary changes and use of additional therapies. This will ultimately be down to owner compliance; however this is more likely to happen if the veterinary team have spent the time to explain why these changes are so necessary.
- How do you see treatment options for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?I feel there is much scope for research in the area. And even in recent years treatment options have come on massively including medications available, nutraceuticals, additional therapies, surgeries available etc… Hopefully over the next 10 years we will see a huge number of new ideas and research in the veterinary industry, giving us more options to help and support our client and most importantly, improve the quality of life for our patients.
- If you could have the opportunity to give one tip/ piece of advice to an owner with a dog suffering from arthritis what would it be?
… One tip is simply not enough! My tip would be to come for a veterinary consultation, get the condition diagnosed and start appropriate medication. Then get referred over to a knowledgeable RVN, who will give you MANY tips on how to manage the condition. And we will always be there to support you!