CAM blogs

CAM Meets Sean McCormack

Sean McCormack BSc (Hons), MVB, MRCVS

Sean qualified as a vet in 2010 from University College Dublin after studying an undergraduate Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science at the University of Essex. He started his career working in a small animal, exotics and zoo practice in Kent, before working in private practice in London. Sean is a guest lecturer for the Webinar Vet and regularly lectures on exotics and nutrition topics.  In 2016  he left clinical practice to work for the pet food company,, where he is now Head Vet and Manager, Veterinary Affairs.


Sean kindly agreed to answer the following questions

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

I’m really excited about the advancements we’re making in veterinary medicine and associated therapies when it comes to managing arthritis but do think there’s a mismatch between professional/academic knowledge and public perception. Just like another major pet health issue, obesity, I think we need to be doing more to support and educate pet owners on the very real problem of what can be an invisible condition to many.

Lots of pet owners, through no fault of their own, don’t realise that what they put down to ‘just old age’ can actually be pain and discomfort, and that despite appearances their pet can be suffering with a reduced quality of life. For me, getting across that a pet’s quality of life is just as important if not more important than quantity or longevity.

We as animal health professionals are trained to recognise the language of pain and clinical signs of disease in our patients. Our clients don’t have that privilege or experience, so I think it’s critical not to blame them, judge too harshly or get frustrated when we’re trying to educate. Certainly, we all have frustrating cases, and even cases which challenge our ethics or morals in how an animal is being treated or when its medical needs are not being met.

But I think we need to focus our energies on where we can have most impact and that’s giving well meaning pet owners useful, non-judgmental support and education on how best they can manage arthritis and help their animal live not only longer but happier lives.


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

Collaboration, multimodal therapy and a holistic approach. ‘Holistic’ is a word that gets annoyingly thrown around and misused quite a lot to mean naturopathic, natural, even homeopathic, but in its true sense a holistic approach means treating the whole animal, its environment, diet, lifestyle and influencing their caregiver using all the means available. From the very start of the pet owner’s journey, teaching a new puppy owner the importance of weight management in puppy hood for example. Setting expectations with surgical orthopaedic cases that osteoarthritis is an inevitability if there has been joint involvement, so owners are prepared in advance and know what to watch for. Intervening with appropriate management techniques at the right times, starting with nutraceuticals and diet, right through to analgesia, anti-inflammatories, physical therapies, acupuncture, stem cell advancements and so on. Using all the tools available to us.

Throwing Metacam at the problem and refilling that prescription for a year before seeing an old pet for recheck is not really giving the best to our patients or their owners. Open dialogue, discussing all options, showing we care and support and are there to assist. What works for one client may make another client uncomfortable. Taking each arthritic patient and their owner on a case by case basis and working out the holistic approach that will get the best results takes time. But I do believe it’s not having that time to spend bringing owners over to our point of view that is the root cause of our frustrations much of the time.  Care of elderly patients needs strong collaboration between the vet and pet owner, as well as other therapists and caregivers.

We all want the same outcome, the improved welfare of the patient.


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

I think we’re making massive strides forward in terms of more selective, targeted pharmaceuticals and their safety profiles. That’s always a positive; better, safer drugs. Pet owners (or parents!) are afraid of side effects that might limit their animal’s lifespan or make them unwell. It’s a daunting prospect to start your pet on a medication you think they’ll never come off, that possibly signifies ‘the end of the road’ and may cause organ damage or gastrointestinal upset for example. If we can limit side effects that’s one barrier to pain-free, happier older pets lifted.

New therapies like stem cell treatment, platelet rich plasma and other autologous treatments look promising. Physiotherapy and hydrotherapy in my opinion are massively underrated and undervalued. Veterinary referrals and public awareness of these therapies as adjuncts to medical treatment, or as pre-emptive and therapeutic options prior to medical treatment are growing and that can only be a good thing.

Again, collaboration and recognition that a holistic approach is needed is so important and I see that becoming more and more the norm which makes me hopeful for the future. I think what you guys at CAM are doing is fantastic in encouraging learning and dialogue amongst all stakeholders when it comes to managing arthritic pets.


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?

It’s not the beginning of the end! Your dog can live many more happy, active and wonderful years with the right management, so don’t be afraid to go and speak with your vet, vet nurses, other owners, animal physiotherapists about all the options that will help make the next few years the golden ones!