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Scientists Launch New Study Into Canine Arthritis


Veterinary scientists at the University of Liverpool want to recruit 20 Labrador dogs to a new study into osteoarthritis of the elbow.

The study will help vets understand how osteoarthritis progresses in dogs and how treatment may slow the disease down. To take part in the study Labradors must be less than two years old and show early signs of elbow osteoarthritis.

A mobile Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner will make regular visits to the University’s Small Animal Hospital to monitor arthritis in the dogs over a period of six months. This is the first time that the hospital will have on-site access to MRI. The scanner will also be used to examine dogs and cats that have been referred to the hospital for special diagnosis for diseases such as cancer, slipped discs, and brain disorders.

Osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints causing pain, gradual loss of cartilage and lameness. In Labradors the elbow joint is commonly affected and the progress of the disease can be quite rapid, with some Labradors disabled at just six months of age. Current treatments include arthroscopy to relieve pain, but as yet there is no cure for the disease or method to slow its progress.

Veterinary surgeon, Andrew Maclaughlan said: “Until the advent of MRI there was no non-invasive way to evaluate cartilage, so we are fortunate to have this technology available to us at the hospital. The benefit of this simple procedure means that we do not have to put the dog through surgery to look at the joints.

“We will use MRI to look inside the elbow joint of dogs up to two years of age. The procedure will be repeated a number of times over the course of six months to help us build detailed images of how the disease progresses. With the possibility of new treatments to slow down the progression of arthritis, it is important that we develop ways to measure the effect of such drugs and MRI scanning allows us to do this in a safe and detailed manner.”

An MRI scanner is a large cylinder that runs through a magnet. The patient lies inside the cylinder and radio waves are then sent through the body. This affects the body’s atoms,forcing the nuclei into a different position. As they move back into place they send out radio waves of their own. The scanner picks up these signals and a computer turns them into a 2D or 3D image of different tissue types.

The research team is looking for adult Labrador dogs less than two years old that are showing early signs of elbow osteoarthritis. Further details can be obtained from the Small Animal Hospital on 0151 794 4290 or email Andrew Maclaughlan on:

Dog owners wanting their pets to take part in the study should discuss this with their vet first. Vets are welcome to contact the hospital for more information.

Samantha Martin | alfa
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