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New medication to treat osteoarthritis pain in dogs

Global animal health company Zoetis South Africa has launched a new medication for the alleviation of pain associated with osteoarthritis (OA) in dogs, which is set to significantly improve their lives and those of their pet owners.

Discovering that your dog has OA can be heart-wrenching and even daunting. As many pet owners have discovered, OA is a steadily debilitating disease that affects a significant portion of our canine companions.

According to studies in the United States, approximately 40% of dogs there exhibit signs of OA, which means two out of five dogs suffer from this progressive condition that can inflict considerable pain. Often misunderstood, misdiagnosed or disregarded as a sign of ageing, OA isn’t limited to elderly dogs – and can even effect dogs as young as 12 months old.

“Zoetis has a long history of investing in treatment options for pain management, and we believe having this new product available in the veterinarian’s toolbox will revolutionise the management of this important disease,” says Dr Tarryn Dent, business unit lead: Companion Animals at Zoetis.

“The prevalence of OA and the low percentage of dogs that are actively being treated results in many dogs suffering in pain as a result of this disease, and this impacts their lives and the lives of their owners. It’s been an important focus for us because we recognise there is an unmet need and how many lives – both canine and human – can be improved with the right management of canine OA.”

Alongside continuous research and development into innovative ways to treat OA, Zoetis works closely with veterinarians to educate pet owners and create awareness around how to identify if their canine companions could be suffering from OA.

Identifying and addressing osteoarthritis

Animals react in different ways to OA, but signs that your canine companion could have underlying pain can include difficulty navigating stairs, a reluctance to jump, limping after exercise, and a noticeable decrease in overall enthusiasm.

The implications of untreated OA go beyond physical discomfort for pets. A dog’s emotional and psychological well-being can be profoundly impacted by the chronic pain associated with this condition. Dogs in pain may become withdrawn and unable to play as they used to. This can impact an entire household.

“Despite the widespread prevalence of OA in dogs, our international research suggests that only about 33% of pets suffering from the disease are actively receiving treatment,” says Dent. “There are probably many underlying reasons for this: from pet owners not realising what their dogs may have, to knowing there is a problem but being unsure of the solution, to finding daily medication regimes daunting and difficult to maintain. In extreme cases where pets are in a lot of pain, families will even choose to euthanise to relieve a beloved animal’s pain.”

Living pain-free, active lifestyles

The light at the end of the tunnel is that there have been medical breakthroughs that alleviate pain associated with canine OA with a single injection once a month. The newly available, once-monthly injectable is a monoclonal antibody with a unique mode of action and functions like naturally occurring antibodies with minimal involvement of liver or kidneys and minimal glycaemic impact. It works differently from previously available daily medicines because it specifically targets nerve growth factor, a key player in osteoarthritis pain, effectively alleviating canine osteoarthritis pain for one month.

“We strongly advise dog owners to speak to their veterinarians if they notice any changes in their pet’s behaviour, mood or movements,” says Dent. “It’s not only elderly dogs who suffer from OA – and for the young and old, diagnosis is key to effective pain management. It’s also a degenerative disease, so regular check-ups are a good idea.

“If your dog does get diagnosed with OA, your veterinarian will put together a management plan for your pet, and pain management will form part of the management plan.

“There is now a novel option available only requiring a monthly injection to alleviate the pain your dog is experiencing and contributing to these pets living long, happy and, above all, active lives. It’s a landmark milestone for companion animal health in South Africa.”

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