CAM blogs

CAM Meets Robyn Lowe

CAM Meets Robyn LoweRobyn kindly agreed to answer the following questions…

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

Osteoarthritis is a chronic (long term), progressive and degenerative disease. We have so many tools available to manage osteoarthritis. Each case should be managed individually, as each pet presents itself in a unique way – and overall, with so many tools in our box to manage OA I feel that we can manage it exceptionally well.

However, there are some common downfalls I find restrict our ability to manage OA. Firstly, the diagnosis of OA often comes late in the disease process. Although pain is perceived by the animal on an individual basis, animals are incredible at compensating for pain – by shifting their weight to other limbs, changing their posture and/or gait and other coping mechanisms. So, I think that early recognition is hard, but can be crucial to early treatment and the implementation of protective measures to help reduce deterioration.

Secondly, I think there can be communication issues and expectation issues with the disease. OA is a lifelong disease; you cannot cure it. So, it is important that your veterinary team manage your understanding and expectations of the disease. This is a common downfall I see which I think can reduce how effectively we are managing the condition. Because owners mostly bring their pets in at an acute phase of the disease, when the animal is clinically obviously in pain – limping, refusing to walk etc. So, we usually treat this with a pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs course and aim to reassess their response – after two or so weeks our dogs appear better, their pain levels are improved (in our eyes), they are hobbling a little, perhaps just a little stiff but the obvious signs of pain have reduced …. so, as an owner you stop the pain relief course and carry on thinking that’s the end of this issue; it’s not. The OA has not gone away, and the pain and discomfort is likely still there to some degree. Typically, dogs with OA need regular and lifelong treatment to help manage pain. But through lack of understanding of the condition owners may not understand this – this is why communication and education on the disease is imperative.

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

There are so many things that I feel are essential, but I will try to be succinct. Firstly, I think that a veterinary team that utilises all the team for the management, follow-ups, education and client support of OA is essential. I think good trust and rapport with the client is essential. I think weight management of overweight pets in our population is essential. I think early education on OA and the subtle clinical signs are essential. I think education on evidence-based medicine is essential. I think teaching owners to be able to be critical and more objective when assessing online information on OA management is essential. I think a holistic, multimodal approach is essential. I think regular re assessments with the vet team are essential to pick up on changes, trends and deterioration in clinical condition. And I think that tailored and individual treatment plans are essential to keep up with the ups and downs of OA.

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

I think that over the next 10 years we will continue to build on the incredible surgical and medical advancements we have already seen in the last few years, new surgical techniques, incredible new medications that we can add to our inventory of options, new physiotherapy techniques, new pain-relieving therapies. Already in the last few years we have seen more targeted pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs, we have seen monoclonal antibody therapy being introduced, we have new studies, research ongoing to help us understand how new techniques and drugs can help us manage the condition more optimally. In the next 10 years I think these new advancements are going to bring much hope to those owners whose animals are experiencing debilitating chronic pain.

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 decisions as part of a team – with you being a key member and your veterinary team being the other. There is so much misinformation and conflicting advice on OA and it can be hard when we are so emotionally involved in a pet to be objective. Work with your veterinary team, have trust in them and work together to create the best outcome.


Robyn Lowe FdSc, Dip AVN (Small Animal), Dip HE CVN is a small animal Registered Advanced Veterinary Nurse (RVN) who regularly writes articles for academic journals and publications for animal owners.

Robyn has a passion for evidence-based medicine, has volunteered for Canine Arthritis Management to write owner literature, is Director of Veterinary Voices UK, runs the Veterinary Voices Public Page, and campaigns on mental health and animal welfare issues. To this end she also sits on the Board of Trustees of Vetlife, the first RVN to do so in the charity’s history.