Date Published: 4 June 2013

Canine arthritis - treatment helped by new force platforms (pressure-sensitive walkways) to help vets assess limb function

canine arthritis

Canine arthritis (arthritis in dogs) mainly affects older dogs and can be a cause of great concern to owners. Unlike many other canine diseases, which can be monitored by blood tests, there has been no standard veterinary test to determine how uncomfortable a dog affected by canine arthritis is when walking, or how good their quality of life is as arthritis progresses.

Veterinary scientists at Liverpool University (Merseyside, England) have recently developed a new tool to support veterinary surgeons ('vets') in treatment programmes for osteoarthritis in dogs.

Veterinary scientists at Liverpool University can measure ground reaction forces, such as peak vertical force, using force platforms or pressure-sensitive walkways, as a reliable way of measuring limb function. Liverpool University's School of Veterinary Sciences has a dedicated gait analysis suite that is used daily. It includes a highly sensitive force platform, high speed 3D motion capture, and slow-motion video. However, at the moment this type of equipment is only available at very few research centres in the UK.

Dr Ben Walton, from Liverpool University's School of Veterinary Science, said:

" In first opinion and referral practices canine mobility is assessed in a subjective fashion, either by a vet or owner. Assessment can differ between vets, and if more than one limb is affected it becomes even more difficult."
" Pain and mobility associated with this condition depends on recent activity levels, medication and even weather conditions, which mean that a dog can have good and bad periods and any physical assessment will only provide a snapshot of the disease."

He continued:

" The most reliable data on this disease is often gathered from informally asking owners for their observations of their pet's behaviour. The difficulty until now has been knowing how to reliably record this valuable information so that it can recalled the next time the patient visits."

Scientists based at Liverpool have devised a new tool, in questionnaire form, that attaches score rates to quantify the level of disease against key questions posed to the dog's owner. The information is recorded digitally so that it can be referred to throughout a patient's treatment programme. Owners are asked to grade their dog's activity and exercise levels, stiffness and lameness, and any changes that occur in different weather conditions.

Dr Walton added:

" Pain is a subjective experience, so it is not unreasonable to measure it on a subjective scale. Owners are the best judge of their pet's behaviour and how they might be feeling."
" This record of behaviour history, together with clinical assessment, could provide a more detailed understanding of how the disease is progressing, and importantly how healthy and comfortable the dog is."

Ref. to Paper
Myles Benjamin Walton, Emily Cowderoy, Duncan Lascelles, John F. Innes mail, Evaluation of Construct and Criterion Validity for the 'Liverpool Osteoarthritis in Dogs' (LOAD) Clinical Metrology Instrument and Comparison to Two Other Instruments, FLOS ONE, 2013. For further details see

Main source: Liverpool University -

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