Osteoarthritis pain in dogs

Research by Dr Jo Murrell and colleagues has led to greater understanding of the causes of pain in dogs with naturally occurring arthritis.

Background to research

Osteoarthritis is very common in dogs and causes chronic pain leading to reduced mobility, lameness, difficulty sleeping and a reduced quality of life.

It was previously unknown if the biological pathways that cause pain were more active in dogs with arthritis as a result of the condition. Once pain pathways are activated it becomes much more difficult to treat pain, and additional pain killing drugs are required.

Studies performed

Dr Jo Murrell and her team investigated whether pain pathways were more active in dogs with naturally occurring osteoarthritis compared to dogs without the condition. After gaining fully informed owner consent for each dog to participate in the study, they carried out two different tests on each dog.

The first involved anaesthetising the dogs and investigating whether their withdrawal reflex from a mild pain stimulus was exaggerated. The second involved applying warm, cold, pressure and touch stimuli to the limbs of the dogs and assessing their responses.

Research impact

The studies showed that biological pain pathways are more active in dogs with osteoarthritis and helped improve our understanding of the specific pain networks triggered by the condition. This understanding will be pivotal for the development of new treatments to target these networks more effectively.

In future the researchers hope that this will lead to new painkillers to improve treatment of arthritis in dogs.

In future this research could lead to new painkillers to improve treatment of arthritis in dogs.


Electrophysiological Characterisation of Central Sensitisation in Canine Spontaneous Osteoarthritis. Hunt JR, Goff M, Jenkins H, Harris J, Knowles TG, Lascelles BDX, Enomoto M, Mendl M, Whay B, Murrell JC. Pain. 2018 Jul 9. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001336. [Epub ahead of print]

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