Painkillers can help dogs with osteoarthritis run as fast as healthy dogs, a study of their movements has shown.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies used global positioning system (GPS) collars to track healthy dogs and dogs with arthritis while they were on walks. 

Data collected from the collars could differentiate between different activities, such as on-lead walking, off-lead activity and play.

Collars monitored every movement when outside and can give vets vital information about their physical performance, including how quick canines speed up or slow down and how far the animals travel during outdoor activities. Findings revealed dogs with osteoarthritis could run as fast as healthy dogs, but their acceleration and deceleration was significantly affected by their condition.

When the animals were treated with an anti-inflammatory painkiller, their performance was restored to a level comparable with healthy dogs for most of the measures taken.

The study also showed on average healthy dogs ran faster and accelerated and decelerated harder when they were encouraged through play than they did when left to their own devices off the lead. This shows the intervention of owners during exercise can directly affect dogs’ performance.

Findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE and was funded by the PetPlan Charitable Trust.

Lead researcher of the project Dylan Clements said: “GPS collars have given us an insight into the levels of physical performance dogs exhibit during their normal daily activities, and show us how much we can alter a dog’s performance by keeping them on or off a lead, or playing with them.

“We found they were a sensitive way for us to measure how well dogs recover from a disease that affects activity, such as osteoarthritis. We hope to be able to use the collars to understand more about how activity might contribute or help prevent diseases in the future.”

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