Dycus is director and chief of orthopedic surgery at the Nexus Veterinary Bone & Joint Center in Baltimore, Maryland; medical director of Nexus Veterinary Specialists in Baltimore; and co-founder and director of the Veterinary Sports Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute, an online subscription resource for animal health professionals. An accomplished speaker, he has spoken to veterinary audiences across the country and around the world.
On Saturday, Dycus presented Fetch’s audience with a presentation peppered with personal anecdotes and visuals that alternately educated and provided humor to illustrate the points, often eliciting laughs. At the heart of the session was a discussion of osteoarthritis as a major problem in veterinary medicine and which has an overall negative impact on patients with the disease.
“There is a whole host of pathophysiological mechanisms that play a role and ultimately lead to joint rupture and ultimate failure,” Dycus said. “It’s a very vicious cycle.
According to Dycus, osteoarthritis often results in decreased activity and food intake and can lead to euthanasia for dogs that do not respond to treatment. In turn, inactivity leads to weight gain, stiff joints, worsening cartilage damage, long-standing pain, and loss of range of motion. Inactivity can also interfere with the human-animal bond.
“It can stunt very quickly. It’s the snowball effect, ”he said.
Range of motion is essential and maintaining it is essential, Dycus said, because it is directly related to the function of an animal’s limbs. Often, he said, animal health care providers use osteoarthritis management to treat a case of joint failure. However, he implored the public to take a closer look at joint problems in their early stages – and in young dogs – with the goal of extending range of motion.
“Why do we wait until we are behind the ‘eight ball’ to try to start covering the field,” he asked rhetorically. “What if we could change things, change the thought process a little bit?” “
This paradigm shift, he said, takes a reactive approach and makes it more proactive.
Dycus recommended a screening tool, the OA Checklist, from Zoetis, designed to assess the condition of a dog’s joints. It focuses on whether a dog limps after exercise, is late for walks, is slow to stand, has difficulty jumping, has difficulty climbing stairs, or seems stiff.
Another recommended resource, Dycus said, is the Canine OsteoArthritis Staging Tool (COAST). This tool supports the proactive approach and assists in the diagnosis and monitoring of osteoarthritis based on stage. Some advantages of COAST are regular assessment of preclinical dogs and those affected by osteoarthritis, facilitating early detection of changes, allowing rapid intervention; a better understanding of the impact of osteoarthritis on the dog, a consistent approach to assessment, and allows for a multidisciplinary care team and better communication.
COAST also provides a grading system that can help guide diagnosis and treatment. “We can follow up over time to see how these animals are doing,” Dycus said. “Above all, why is love this form, is it for the preclinical?” [support]. “
Dycus ended the opening keynote by showing “In Silence,” a short video produced by Canine Arthritis Management in the UK that demonstrates the challenge of diagnosing a patient who cannot speak or indicate what is affecting them. The video struck a chord, and the audience took away a powerful message.