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CAM Meets Hannah Oliver-Byrne

Hannah Oliver-Byrne ACPAT (A) MSc MCSP

Hannah Oliver-Byrne is a chartered physiotherapist specialising in animals. She graduated from Coventry University in 2009  with a 1st class honours degree in physiotherapy. After two years working with people, she specialised in musculoskeletal conditions and chronic pain. She then completed a Masters degree in veterinary physiotherapy. Hannah currently sits on the committee for the Association of Chartered  Physiotherapists in Animal Therapy (ACPAT), which involves promoting and educating others on physiotherapy for animals. ACPAT works to highlight the importance of using a chartered a chartered physiotherapist to treat your animals.

Hannah is also a clinical educator for students of physiotherapy. She runs a busy physiotherapy clinic, Combined Physio which is based in Warwickshire. Hannah has two canine clinics where she uses hydrotherapy and physiotherapy for pain management and rehabilitation of an extensive range of conditions. Hannah also treats people, cats and horses.


Hannah kindly agreed to answer the following questions.

What are your feelings on how we currently manage this debilitating condition

In my experience, arthritis is currently managed mostly with medication and rest. Some owners struggle to see the signs of their dogs being in pain, especially as some dogs are good at hiding it. Arthritis can be managed in many others ways proven to be more effective, at times, than medication and rest. Many owners would love to know how to read the signs of pain in their dogs better, but there is a lack of information available to educate them.


As a chartered physiotherapist what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?

As a chartered physiotherapist specialising in animals, I have extensive knowledge, evidence and experience in treating arthritis.  There is a lot of high quality evidence, based on humans, on how to manage symptoms of arthritis, but there is currently lack of evidence in dogs. Much of the human evidence can be transferred across to dogs though, due to the same mammalian processes taking place in the body. That is why we can use the same sort of drugs to treat pain and inflammation in dogs as we do in people.  Exercise has proven to be essential in managing canine arthritis, as has weight loss. Getting pain under control  to enable exercise initially is key. This can be provided by drugs, acupuncture, low level laser, massage, heat and many other things. Once the pain is under control, exercise can be increased and the exercise itself helps to moderate pain.


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

I see treatment options increasing for arthritis in dogs over the next ten years, Owners and vets are becoming more aware of the different types of support we can give our arthritic dogs. More joint surgeries are now available for dogs which are young enough and well enough to cope with them. Surgeons are getting more efficient at providing theses procedures. There is interesting evidence coming regarding electro-physical agents such as low level laser therapy in cartilage regeneration and stem cell research for replacing cartilage is developing. With proper rehabilitation these new treatment options should be very successful.

If you has the opportunity to give one tip/piece of advise to an owner of a dog suffering from arthritis what would it be?

Keep them as fit and active as you can, because if they don’t use it they will lose it! Finally, make sure you only use a fully qualified professional to treat your dog.