Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine

Welfare decision making in dogs with osteoarthritis


The aim of this PhD project was to better understand how owners and vets make decisions about dogs with arthritis. We hoped to find out more about the needs of an osteoarthritic dog and how these needs could be assessed and fulfilled both by owners and vets. 

Quality of life is a term often used in small animal practice, but it is poorly defined and hard to assess clinically. The first step of the project was to perform a review of content and quality of the quality of life assessment tools relevant to dogs that had previously been published. We found that many publications did not report the tool that they had used in a way that could be used by others, and that many of the tools were designed only for dogs with one specific disease. Please find here  a publication reporting the results of that review.   


old dog asleep

A second review was then performed to look at all the outcome measures used in publications that included an assessment of dogs with osteoarthritis. This identified that a huge number of different measurements are used to assess osteoarthritic dogs, most of which have undergone no evaluation to determine whether they were valid, or produced replicable results. Please find here a publication reporting those data.  

These reviews were followed by interviews with owners of osteoarthritic dogs of a wide range of breeds and severities in multiple locations in the UK. These interviews aimed to understand how they managed their dogs, what decisions they needed to make, and what they felt the role of the veterinary surgeon was in those decisions. This was followed by focus groups with veterinary surgeons which aimed to understand the basis for the decisions they made about the diagnosis and treatment of osteoarthritic dogs. Those data were thematically analysed to identify important topics. Part of one of those themes, relating to decisions made about non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, has been published and can be found here, with the other themes described in the thesis link below. 

The final piece of work in this PhD was to trial home-based data collection about osteoarthritic dogs using a combination of collar-mounted accelerometers on the dogs to monitor their movement, and a novel diary designed for owners to complete. We determined that it was feasible, and probably useful for the owners, to use a diary to monitor their dogs’ clinical signs. The accelerometers are part of ongoing research into canine gait, and can be found here

The full PhD thesis from this work is available at: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/42077/ 

Contacts: Zoe Belshaw, Rachel Dean  

Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine

School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD

Tel: +44 (0) 115 951 6576
Fax: +44 (0) 115 951 6415
Email: CEVM@nottingham.ac.uk