CAM blogs

CAM Meets Louise Northway

Louise Northway  CertVNECC NCert(Anaesth) RVN

Louise qualified in 2009. Since then she has worked in various first opinion practices and a referral hospital in the UK. In practice her main interests are anaesthesia, analgesia and emergency & critical care nursing. Since qualifying Louise has completed two further certificates – the VetsNow nurses certificate in emergency & critical care nursing (VNCertECC) in 2015 and the ESVPS nurses certificate in anaesthesia (NCertAnaesth) in 2017.

Louise is currently clinical nurse lead at her practice and is responsible for reviewing clinical standards, implementing quality improvement practices and training the team in her areas of interest. Alongside working full time in practice Louise is a British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) council  member and a part of the VN Futures Career progression working group & RCVS Practice standards scheme group.

Louise has a social media blog ‘Lou The Vet Nurse’ with over 13,500 followers.


Louise kindly agreed to answer the following questions:

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

Osteoarthritis effects a large group of dogs visiting my practice. In the area we are based we have a lot of pet owners with Labradors, Pointers and other large breeds to it’s unsurprising that we see so many patients with this condition. I feel the condition is far better managed with the current types of analgesics and complimentary therapies available than what we had in the past. It makes me feel super happy when owners report that ‘since they started their treatment, they’ve got their bounce back’…. Or start doing behaviours they had stopped (like chasing their ball or getting onto the sofa for a cuddle!)

However, I do believe there is still a lot of work to be done around owner education and breaking the stigma that ‘a lame dog’ is ‘just old’ and this is acceptable and can be ignored.


As a Registered Veterinary Nurse what do you feel is essential for managing canine arthritis effectively?

I think for RVNs education of the client is where we can really make a difference. Spending the time with owners talking about ‘what pain might look like’ in their dog. Talking through the different ways the environment can be adapted at home to help their dogs mobilise easier.

In practice managing patients day-to-day we can also make a big difference. Quite often when we are positioning patients under anaesthesia we forget that they may be pulled into uncomfortable positions. I am a big advocate of ensuring the hind limbs of geriatric dogs are well padded and not allowed to ‘frog leg’ fully when positioned on their back as this can put huge strain on their pelvis and stifles and dogs can wake up barely able to walk. This is one area I think can often be overlooked. Consider the geriatric pyometra bitch!

In the kennel environment ensuring patients have orthopaedic mattresses can also really help. They are relatively inexpensive, and I believe they make a big difference. Clinical flooring can also be slippery. If you do have patients that are particularly weak and wobbly using a sling or body harness to help them mobilise can really help.


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

I would hope that drug therapy continues to progress. In addition, I hope awareness of the condition & how to recognise pain in their dogs is understood more broadly amongst pet owners. Resources and websites such as CAM will definitely help with this. I would also like to think that more owners will be keen to try hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and massage to help improve the condition and muscle strength of their dogs to support their skeleton & joints.


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?

Make an appointment to see your vet as a priority. Your veterinary surgeon can really help to make your dog more comfortable. Although some drugs can have adverse effects of your dog’s liver and kidneys my view is that it is more important for them to have a shorter, comfier life than a long uncomfortable one. We have so many different types of analgesia available now and your vet will be able to tailor the treatment for your dog as an individual taking into consideration any other concurrent conditions they may have. WE CAN HELP.


FB: @louthevetnurse