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Older Dogs Suffering Obesity And Pain Epidemic

Older, Larger Dogs Suffering Obesity And Pain Epidemic

Tens of thousands of New Zealand’s pet dogs are suffering crippling and painful side effects from a “modern lifestyle” which sees them eat too much and exercise too little.

Papakura veterinarian Nick Twyford says anti-inflammatory drugs are now among the top three, by dollar value, among drugs prescribed at his Franklin Veterinary Services clinic.

Age, breed size, obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise are combining to inflict arthritis, pain and lameness on huge numbers of dogs, sometimes aggravated by particular breeds’ tendencies to suffer joint problems.

From this week, the country’s veterinarians can now add a new drug specifically developed to overcome canine pain, to the treatment regime recommended for the estimated 125,000 of the nation’s 600,000 dogs suffering from arthritis.

Fifty five per cent of the arthritic dogs are estimated to be going untreated, mainly because owners are not skilled at picking up symptoms.

Hundreds of New Zealand’s vets have enrolled to attend special seminars, being held in seven centres between July 27 and August 1, to learn about the new dog-pain treatment drug PREVICOX™, developed by the animal health company Merial Limited.

The dog obesity and arthritis problem is global, as more people in developed countries buy pets.

In the United States 65 million dogs are living in 62% of the nation’s homes, up from 58% in 1988. New businesses are mushrooming as a result of new trends to pamper pets. New trades include pre-prepared gourmet meals, designer dog furniture, with dog toys earning US$20.3 billion in a US$31 billion a year pet industries market.

Dr Twyford, whose Franklin Veterinary Services clinic deals mainly with household pets, says most owners here haven’t yet followed the US trend.

However, the trend to obesity and other poor lifestyle issues are evident.

“Just like humans, when treating the over weight arthritic dog population we look at a number of issues.

“They include examining diet, and activities. Putting someone to bed with arthritis may make the pain worse,” he says. “So we look for appropriate activity, like regular gentle exercise.

“We look at where the dog sleeps at night. If they’re on a damp concrete floor, it’s going to be harder to get going in the morning than if the dog’s in a hammock with warm, soft bedding. We may also look at using joint formulas to avoid further degradation of the joints, and consider using anti-inflammatory drugs.”

Twyford says the new specially-developed canine pain drug PREVICOX “certainly works”, judged by an experience trial involving 10 of his “senior patients”, dogs aged between six and 15 years, conducted last December.

“One of the really good things about PREVICOX is that we now have something designed principally as an animal drug.”

Among the patients of four other veterinarians involved in the December experience trial, are cases of aged arthritic animals “leaping around like two year-olds” after a fortnight’s treatment.

PREVICOX specifically inhibits COX-2 prostagladins, which induce pain and swelling, but does not inhibit COX-1, which is important for organs to function normally – specially the gut and kidneys.

Napier veterinarian Michael Lintott, 10 of whose older dog patients also tried PREVICOX, says one owner reported, “you’ve turned my 12 year-old dog into a two year old”.

Because some ageing dogs also have renal and liver failure, PREVICOX is now going to “stand out” as the drug of choice because it affects kidney function less, he says.

“I suppose if we all live long enough – as humans or dogs - we develop osteoarthritis. This new treatment is going to lead to improvements in canine health.”


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