CAM blogs

CAM Meets Sheilah Robertson

Sheilah kindly agreed to answer the following questions.

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

I think the main issue is that we are not seeing all the dogs that we can help. Many owners believe what they are seeing (slowing down, stiffness getting up) is a part of normal aging so do not seek veterinary help. Many dogs do not have annual physical examinations, so they slip through the cracks.
When we do diagnose osteoarthritis, we currently have a lot of tools in our toolbox. NSAIDs can be very effective as can (bedinvetmab) Librela. However, I feel it is clear an integrative approach is needed, and this includes non-pharmacologic therapies. I think many patients are predominantly treated using a pharmacologic approach alone.

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

We see better results when we use a multimodal approach, using a combination of drugs, and combining pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic therapies. Weight optimization is essential. Excess weight exerts additional stress to joints but fat is also a source of pro-inflammatory mediators. Exercise helps with weight management and exercise is enhanced by controlling pain pharmacologically. Exercise also promotes muscle strength and joint health. Specific exercises can be prescribed (caveletti work, balance work etc). Modifying the dog’s environment is often overlooked. If there is slippery flooring in the home, yoga mats and carpet runners can be used to improve grip and make it safer for the dog to navigate the home. Omega-3 supplements for joint health now have some evidence base and should be included in the management plan.

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

I think we will see more screening tools and education for owners so that the disease can be caught earlier and treated before it is in an advanced stage. I anticipate a lot of “APP” based tools and AI tools will be developed.
I think the evidence base for non-pharmacologic treatments and integrative therapy will increase.
There are a lot of potential targets for pharmacologic therapy, and I am sure we will see new targeted therapy drugs down the road.

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?

I want them to know that we can help their dog! Please seek veterinary help. OA is a painful disease and decreases the quality of life and quantity of life (advanced untreated OA is a reason for many euthanasia decisions).

After graduating from the University of Glasgow, Dr Robertson undertook specialized training in anaesthesia and pain management. She is board certified in anaesthesia and in animal welfare by the respective American and European Colleges. She holds a certificate in small animal acupuncture and shelter medicine and is a certified Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Palliative and End-of-Life practitioner. She is the senior medical director of Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice and is a courtesy Professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.