Getting to know…

Hannah Capon MA Vet MB MRCVS, Founder of Canine Arthritis Management (CAM)

Hannah has been a qualified first opinion small animal vet for 15 years. She is the founder of CAM, which started off as a small one-on-one vet with owner external service in 2013. She had noted that there was a disproportion of dogs being euthanased for poorly managed arthritis and felt that this chronic disease needed to be managed differently.

Here Companion Life finds out more about CAM and the work they do.

How did Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) initially get started?

Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) is a veterinary driven initiative, set up by vet Hannah Capon who was becoming overwhelmed with the number of dogs she was having to put to sleep having “gone of their legs”. This was often seen by the owners as a sudden incident, when in truth the dog had probably been suffering in silence for a long time prior to that day. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to express their pain in words. We want to challenge that “just getting old” or “slowing down” should not be too readily accepted in our four footed companions. Here at CAM we think that by changing owner, vet and public perception of arthritis, we can improve and extend the lives of dogs.

How important is the work that you do at CAM?

Arthritis is a really painful and debilitating condition that is unfortunately hugely underdiagnosed so our work to raise awareness is really important. We want to make sure owners know that their dog isn’t “just getting old” or “slowing down” but may actually be in considerable pain. Unfortunately, arthritis is one of the leading causes of early, elective euthanasia of dogs in the UK and its heart breaking for not only the owners, but the veterinary team who care for the patient to deal with these cases. We want to ensure owners know the signs of chronic pain, know all the available treatment options, know how to monitor their dog and ultimately give dog owners as much quality time with their pet as possible.

How common is arthritis in dogs?

As many as 1.2 million dogs in the UK are thought to have arthritis. 80% of dogs over the age of 8 suffer from it but unfortunately only a fraction of these dogs are actually on treatment.

Why do you think pet owners miss the signs of arthritis?

Chronic pain can be much harder to recognise than you might think. The signs can be really subtle and are often dismissed as signs of ageing rather than signs of pain. Even when owners have perhaps seen some changes in their dog we too often hear phrases like “just a bit of arthritis” as it is a disease which isn’t always taken seriously, despite its progressive and painful nature. I feel that in some cases, it can be that the owners are in denial. As arthritis is a disease usually associated with age it can be hard to face up to the fact your pet is getting older and that their needs may change. It reminds people that their pet isn’t going to live forever. To me, the important thing is to focus on making the time they do have as enjoyable and comfortable as we can.

What advice would you offer to owners who think their dog may be suffering from conditions, such as arthritis?

Don’t ignore it! If you are worried your pet may have any illness the best first step is to make an appointment with your vet. They can examine your dog and discuss the options that are available, be these diagnostic tests or treatments. It is also worth asking them about therapies that can be offered outside of your veterinary practice, for example hydrotherapy, physiotherapy or massage therapy. There are lots of simple changes that you can make at home that can make a big difference to your dog too: preventing hazards in the house which can worsen signs, altering their exercise regime, making sure their weight is good, offering them a good quality bed… The list goes on. And many of these changes cost very little if nothing to do! Of course the other great piece of advice is to visit the CAM website, www.caninearthritis.co.uk. We also have a forum, www.cam-foundation.co.uk where you can discuss your dog with other pet owners, vets, nurses and therapists who are all there to provide help and support at what we know can be a worrying time.

If someone wanted to help or contribute to CAM, how could they do this?

There are a few ways you can help out. The simplest is to simply mention us and our work to your friends, people you meet at the vets or on dog walks and let them know about how common arthritis is and how they may be able to help their dog. If you have a success story of your own people are often more than happy to hear about it. As mentioned above, it is simply lack of awareness of the condition, which is the biggest factor preventing dogs from getting the treatment they need. We have a page on www.gofundme.com which will allows for financial contributions and as the team all work voluntarily, these are always greatly appreciated to allow us to continue doing our work and expand our product range. We are a constantly expanding team who work voluntarily. If you feel you have any skills that may be of use to us and would be happy to volunteer a number of hours each week then please email daisy@caninearthritis.co.uk.