Professor John Innes, from the University's Department of Veterinary Clinical Science, has been working with colleagues at the University of Cardiff to create the specialist diet that can alleviate the discomfort caused by the condition, as well as potentially slow down the long-term development of OA in dogs.
OA mainly affects larger breeds of dog, such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds and if left untreated, the debilitating condition can cause severe pain and lameness. Dog owners are sometimes unable to detect signs of OA in their animals, but it is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs, affecting one in five over the age of one.
Signs of OA in dogs include limping, stiffness, decreased activity level, reluctance to play, difficulty rising as well as behavioural changes such as aggression or withdrawal.
Professor Innes and his team have collaborated with specialist pet diet manufacturer, Hills Pet Nutrition, to create a prescription diet containing high levels of the omega-3 fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The researchers showed that EPA can reduce damage to the tissue that lines the joint surface (cartilage) by decreasing the activity of enzymes in arthritis. Clinical trials of the new diet were conducted using dogs with OA, which resulted in reduced lameness in participants.
Professor Innes said: "The diet has proven benefits in relieving the suffering of dogs with OA. Our research has shown how a component of this diet, EPA, can slow down progression of the disease by reducing the production and activity of one of the main enzymes (aggrecanase) involved in breaking down cartilage that lines the joint surface but is eroded away in arthritis."