CAM blogs

CAM Meets Lauren Davis

CAM Meets Lauren DavisLauren kindly agreed to answer the following questions.

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

I think we are always improving. The wealth of knowledge out there is bigger than ever, as is the appetite for more research and understanding. However, OA is still often seen purely as an ‘old dog problem’, receiving a lifetime of pain relief medication, 6 monthly check-ups +/- a blood test, and not much else.

Why is that? In a complex profession with lots to learn I believe that osteoarthritis as a condition often lives in the metaphorical ‘done’ box, and CPD is concentrated on more unusual and perhaps more glamorous conditions. New vets learn from the old hands, and it can be hard to bring in new ideas and ways of working. I speak from experience! In my personal early journey, my lack of continued development regarding osteoarthritis meant I wasn’t aware of the weakness in my treatment plans and management – scary, given the prevalence of cases I saw. Why, I reflect, didn’t I concentrate on being outstanding in the conditions seen most often?

Given my own reflections, I’m especially thrilled to see more owners and vets embracing the wealth of tricks in the toolbox for managing osteoarthritis, and being open to learning more about this multifaceted, common, and highly emotive disease. I also see engagement in the process starting a lot earlier, when we have a much higher chance of slowing the degenerative processes at play, rather than waiting until the joint is highly damaged and past salvage.

Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go to bring everyone on the journey. I believe that the first step is for everyone to see that the arthritis landscape is rapidly changing, and we all need to keep up! By understanding the latest developments, especially where our professional colleagues such as physiotherapists, hydrotherapists and acupuncturists are concerned, we can make sure we are utilising the full network of support available for these pets to get the best outcomes.

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

I think a core part of the process is spending time with our clients to help them understand what they can do at home, and how their pet’s lifestyle impacts the progression and impact of the disease. Speaking with our owners about how they really live with their pets is a hugely important part of the conversation, and small changes at home can add up to a large positive impact on health-related quality of life.

Taking the time to discuss home changes early in the disease progression, around the four pillars of diet, access, exercise and sleep, should be part of any arthritic pet’s management plan.

Importantly, this doesn’t have to be a conversation just with a vet; many of our professional colleagues can lead these discussions. They often spend more time with the client and therefore get more detail about home life, and a better chance of bringing the client on the osteoarthritis journey. This engagement from our animal care professional network with the client needs to feel like we’re all pulling in the same direction; rather than a straight referral from a vet to a nurse clinic, physio, acupuncturist or other, the network of professionals should all be involved in managing the care, taking the lead in turn depending on the needs of the pet.

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

I see the main progression being around diagnosing a higher proportion of cases, earlier diagnosis and earlier intervention. Given the extent of osteoarthritis in our pets, especially in their earlier years, simply getting all these pets an appropriate diagnosis early in the disease progression would be a huge step forward. This would allow us to move to management plans that concentrate on slowing further damage and hypersensitivity development of early arthritic joints, rather than starting with heavily damaged joints and very well-developed pain pathways.

If we can move to earlier diagnosis over the next ten years this may lead to:
Increased use of pain scores to objectively track the disease throughout the pet’s life.
Improved communication between pet care professionals to provide a network of lifetime care to our pets
Earlier changes to lifestyle, such as putting in non-slip flooring, stopping ball launching, weight loss as appropriate, and making sure their bed is appropriately supporting their joints.
A move to being bolder with our treatments earlier on, such as intra-articular options in early stages while we still have a chance of being able to positively impact the cartilage itself, rather than waiting until the cartilage is heavily damaged and trying to use intra-articular preparations as a rescue.

4. If you had the opportunity to give one top tip/piece of advice to an owner of a dog suffering from OA what would it be?

I actually have two! The main top tip I would give any owner is not to underestimate their role in the wellness of their pet. No-one knows your dog as well as you do, and you are their biggest and best advocate. By working with your pets healthcare team, understanding the disease, and really committing to medication schedules, home alterations, weight loss programmes or any other suggested interventions, you will make a massive difference to your dog’s quality of life.

My second is to try and remain objective – use pain scores and regular visits to your pet healthcare team to track your pet’s wellbeing. It is almost impossible to do without using a scoring system as you see your pet every day. That can make changes over time very difficult to spot. If at all possible, get the same person to do the pain score every time, which makes the measurement more reliable. By doing this, you will have a much better understanding of what interventions are working or otherwise for your pet, and quickly catch if your pet’s condition is deteriorating so the treatment plan can be updated.

If you are invested in the process, and really tracking how your dog is doing, you can’t go far wrong.

Lauren Davis.

Lauren qualified as a veterinary surgeon from Liverpool in 2011 and has worked in first-opinion veterinary practice, in industry, and in the human field specialising in pressure care products used within the NHS.

Currently, Lauren is the director and founder of VetRelieve, a company dedicated to creating the best supportive pet beds for older pets.

During her time working in industry, Lauren was the International Technical Adviser for VetPlus, and moved on to take a customer-facing content writing role at Vets4Pets in Swindon. A side step then led to Lauren becoming Commercial Director at a human healthcare firm, specialising in active and static pressure care.

Lauren is dedicated to bringing her knowledge from the frontlines of the NHS into the veterinary world and believes we can do much better for our pets by understanding the importance of sleep surfaces for health.

Alongside the above, Lauren also has two small children and two demanding cats!