CAM blogs

CAM Meets Gabriel Galea

Gabriel Galea, BSc(Hons) BVSc PhD MRCVS FHEA

Gabriel is an academic vet who spends most of his day working as a scientist in central London. He is a research group leader at University College London, which facilitates his links with inclusion health professionals outside of the veterinary sphere, and an honorary lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College. Gabriel is also a vet with the veterinary charity StreetVet.

Gabriel joined StreetVet soon after its inception in early 2017 and established many of the principles and protocols which as are now the basis for the charity’s code of conduct. As well as providing veterinary care out on the streets by leading a weekly outreach, Gabriel trains new volunteers, regularly visits pet-friendly hostels to support residents and staff, and links StreetVet with various health and housing service providers.

StreetVet has provided an established (and growing) infrastructure to offer street-level care to homeless owners and their pets, as well as the opportunity to learn about homelessness and the challenges faced by its victims.  Being close to the “action” in London and having relatively predictable working hours means Gabriel has been able to commit to regular sessions since May 2017 and as such is now a familiar face to many of our regular visitors.


Gabriel kindly agreed to answer the following questions:

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

When you ask pet owners who are homeless what challenges they face, a common answer is that they cannot move around as easily with their canine family member in tow. That’s especially true if their dog has arthritis. Even in regular practice I often worry that arthritis is thought of as a disease ‘fixed’ with a daily tablet or squirt of white liquid. In reality it is a multifactorial, life-long and life-limiting disease which impacts on both the owner and their pet.


As a veterinary professional what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?

I always talk to owners of dogs who have arthritis about Medication, Modification, Supplementation. Medication is important to reduce inflammation around the joint and provide pain relief. Modification of lifestyle is usually needed, typically a modification of diet to achieve a lean body condition and careful consideration of what exercise should be encouraged to reduce progression, or perhaps adding in an activity like hydrotherapy or massage. Supplementation comes last, and only if owners wish to purchase a high-quality joint supplement which doesn’t cause their dog to gain weight! Obviously, for the more engaged owners, I also encourage them to have a look at the CAM website. This can be difficult for StreetVet clients who rarely have easy access to the internet, but I always take the time to discuss management of their pet’s condition and book follow-up meetings to monitor progress.


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

Many owners will know how difficult it is to live with arthritis because they have it themselves or know someone who does. The management of arthritis pain in people is being researched very intensively and I am hopeful that progress from human research will benefit my patients too. I remember getting very excited by studies which showed that new therapies called nerve growth factor inhibitors were very effective at reducing arthritis pain in people, only to be disappointed to learn they made the disease progress much faster. At the same time, I am optimistic that lessons learned in dogs will also benefit humans. We already have one painkiller medication we can use in dogs which has not yet been tested in humans!


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?

Not everything that works in humans can be directly applied to dogs and the same is true when we think of signs of arthritis pain. I try to point out the subtle signs of pain dogs show us, but which owners are often not aware of. Does their dog keep one leg straighter than the other when sitting? Does it push down on its front legs more when getting up? Is it getting “stubborn” and taking longer to come when called? An owner who learns to recognizse pain earlier can tell me when we need to modify their pet’s medication, modification, (supplementation) regime sooner to maintain their quality of life for as long as possible. I find StreetVet clients are particularly good at this because most spend all day, every day, with their dog and know all the intricacies of their individual personality.