Scientists identify key risk factor for canine arthritis: Method may eventually give humans similar warning

PHILADELPHIA Drawing upon an international database of some 16,000 dogs, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have pinpointed whats believed to be the first solid predictor, in any species, of future arthritis. The scientists have found that laxity in the hip joint several millimeters worth of excessive play between the ball of the femur and the hips socket correlates strongly with the advent of hip arthritis later in a dogs life.

"The relationship between hip laxity and arthritis in dogs is akin to the relationship between high cholesterol and heart disease in humans," said lead author Gail K. Smith, professor of orthopedic surgery and chair of the Philadelphia Department of Clinical Studies at Penns School of Veterinary Medicine. "Hip laxity is no guarantee of arthritis later in life, but it is a very solid risk factor."

The finding, reported in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, could lead to new ways of averting or minimizing the occurrence of canine arthritis, which afflicts an estimated 70 to 80 percent of dogs in certain breeds. Since a canine generation is just 30 to 36 months, Smith said selective breeding to avoid high-laxity individuals could slash the incidence of canine arthritis within 10 years.

Smith, who began collecting data on arthritis in dogs in 1983, says the physiological similarities between dogs and humans make it very likely that joint laxity could similarly signal the likelihood of arthritis in people, whose laxity could be remedied in humans with medications. There is currently no such risk factor used to predict the onset of arthritis among humans.

In dogs, several larger breeds are most prone to arthritis: golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, Newfoundlands and St. Bernards. Conversely, certain breeds that have long been bred for speed or athletic prowess, such as performance borzois and racing greyhounds, almost never dev

Contact: Steve Bradt
University of Pennsylvania

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