CAM blogs

CAM Meets Dr Alex Avery

Alex graduated from Bristol University in 2006 and spent the first 3 years in mixed practice. The next 5 years were spent in companion animal practice in New Zealand, before then spending 2 years practicing in the south of England.

Since returning to NZ, Alex spends his days as a general practitioner and nights working on his website, YouTube channel and podcasts over at

His time in practice has made him passionate about the right for every pet owner to access good quality information about their pet’s health. His website aims to provide this information, help spread the word about evidence-based veterinary medicine and help pet owners and their dogs and cats, live healthier, happier lives no matter where they live and what resources they have available.


Alex Kindly agreed to answer the following questions:

What are your feelings on how we currently manage this common debilitating condition in dogs?

I’ve got mixed feeling about this. To start with, I think that a lot of people are doing an excellent job to educate and inform pet owners about all the different management strategies there are to treat and manage this disease. If a truly multi-modal approach is taken then I believe that we are in an excellent position to be able to make a massive difference in the comfort and quality of life of our arthritic pets.

That said, I believe there is still so much to be done. I believe the pet-owning population as a whole still believes that slowing down and getting stiff is a normal part of aging. If arthritis is not being recognised as a problem then none of the treatment options in the world will make any difference.

I also think that all too often arthritis is not given the priority it should be. It is a condition that needs multiple dedicated consultations to work through with an owner so that the best management strategy can be implemented. This is not something that can be done in the last 2 minutes of a consultation when a pet is being seen for something else. As vets, we could probably do a better job of stressing the importance of dedicated time spent considering arthritis, rather than simply trying to tackle it in that ridiculously short time. Something that inevitably leads to nothing but pain killers being dispensed.

I also find many owners have an irrational fear of pharmaceuticals combined with a significant over-reliance on supplements. While there are plenty of interventions that all add up to improving comfort and mobility, and may well be enough in the early stages of the disease, I strongly believe that pharmaceuticals, and NSAIDs specifically, offer the best chance of comfort in the majority or arthritic individuals at some point in their journey with arthritis (when used responsibly of course).


As a veterinarian, what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?

The first essential step has to be recognising arthritis is present. This sounds super simple but all too often the disease is only recognised late in the day, and even then may still be dismissed as unimportant or an acceptable part of ageing.

If I had to choose one more essential factor to ensure successful management I would say it would be communication, a close and open relationship with your veterinarian. Arthritis is a disease that slowly deteriorates, pain levels fluctuate, and what works for one dog won’t work in every single case.

There needs to be an open line of communication with a pet owner and their vet, as well as any other paraprofessional providing services such as physiotherapy and hydrotherapy.

Communication is also essential to deliver the message that weight loss is vital and that home modification can make a huge difference. These are not effort-free, quick fix interventions, nor are they exciting topics to learn about, but communicating their importance is vital.

It takes time to find out what works best. If communication breaks down because the first or second options don’t have the expected result then we can not hope to manage an arthritic dog as effectively as possible.


How do you see treatment options for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?

The biggest progression I see is the availability of more data and evidence to support (or refute) certain interventions. While some treatment modalities have great evidence to support their use, others have very little data of any kind to either prove they make any difference or to show they have little effect.

More evidence means that firmer recommendations can be made, and also makes it less likely that time and money will be wasted on “treatments” that in reality do very little.

New and more effective, safer drugs and treatments will always be very welcome, and stem cell use and other biological treatments have the potential to revolutionise “gold standard” arthritis management. If though the majority of arthritic pets are not even being recognised as having arthritis, or are stuck on nothing but ineffective supplements, these new treatments will only benefit the tiny minority.


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?

Simple – act early! This disease is incredibly common and there is a pretty good chance that your dog could be affected. Act early to ensure that obesity isn’t a problem, act early to avoid situations and activities that could put your day at higher risk of developing arthritis. Act early when you notice any signs of pain in your dog.

Acting early can make all the difference in whether your dog even develops arthritis or not. And if they do, acting early can help make sure they live the most comfortable, happy life possible.