Obesity has been reported as the most common form of nutritional disorder in dogs, with an estimated prevalence of 28%.1–3 The negative impact of obesity on health is well documented. In addition to an association with various medical disorders such as compromised immune function,4,a abnormal glucose tolerance,5,6 acute pancreatitis,7 greater risk for anesthetic and surgical complications,8 heat and exercise intolerance, and cardiovascular disease,2,9 obesity in dogs is thought to be a risk factor for the development and progression of osteoarthritis.10 In humans, a correlation between osteoarthritis and obesity has already been detected11,12; however, the exact role in dogs has not been fully investigated. The theory pertaining to the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis is that excessive body weight causes additional mechanical stress on joints, thus promoting their degeneration.13 Treatment of obesity is based on a restriction of caloric intake. Restricting calories to 60% of the calculated maintenance energy requirements for a dog's target body weight has been recommended.8,14-17 Restriction of caloric intake and maintenance of lean body condition can not only increase median life span but can also prevent the manifestation of chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis.13,18 In overweight dogs, osteoarthritic changes appear earlier in life and are more severe, compared with their restricted-fed siblings.
Clinical signs associated with osteoarthritis include signs of pain and discomfort, muscle atrophy, decreased ROM, and restricted ability to perform.19,20 In humans, a combination of weight loss programs and physical therapy modalities has been found to reduce the severity of symptoms and reliance on medication to control pain and discomfort.21,22 In dogs, weight reduction alone has been found to positively influence clinical signs of osteoarthritis. Overweight dogs with osteoarthritis of the hip joints had significant improvements in the severity of hind limb lameness after a loss of at least 11% of body weight.23 Weight loss, physical modalities, and exercise programs can lead to increased muscle strength and endurance, increased joint ROM, decreased signs of pain and muscle spasm, and improved function as well as quality of movement.20
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can support mobility in humans and dogs with mild osteoarthritis.24,b The purpose of the study reported here was to evaluate the effects of a combined program consisting of caloric reduction and physical therapy for the treatment of lameness in overweight dogs with osteoarthritis. Two groups of dogs, one receiving a treatment program consisting of weight loss and homebased physical therapy and the other treated additionally with intensive physical therapy including TENS, were compared. Clinical examination and kinetic gait analysis were performed to evaluate the impact on health and mobility.
Range of motion
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
Body condition score
Ground reaction forces PFz Peak vertical force
Metabolizable energy requirement
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Johnston KD, Levine D, Price MN, et al. The effects of TENS on osteoarthritic pain in the stifle of dogs (abstr), in Proceedings. 2nd Int Symp Rehabil Phys Ther Vet Med 2002;199.
Type 9011 A, Kistler Instruments AG, Ostfildern, Germany.
University of Sports Science, Cologne, Germany.
SIMI Motion, version 6.5, SIMI Reality Motion Systems, Unterschleissheim, Germany.
Eukanuba Veterinary Diets Restricted-Calorie/Canine Dry Formula, P&G Pet Care, Dayton, Ohio.
PT 2000, S+B med VET GmbH, Babenhausen, Germany.
SPSS, version 184.108.40.206, SPSS Inc, Chicago, Ill.
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Lievense AM, Bierma-Zeinstra SMA, Verhagen AP, et al. Influence of obesity on the development of osteoarthritis of the hip: a systematic review. Rheumatology 2002;41:1155–1162.
Kealy RD, Lawler DF, Ballam JM, et al. Five-year longitudinal study on limited food consumption and development of osteoarthritis in coxofemoral joints of dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1997;210:222–225.
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