Veterinary Medicine May Help Dogs and Seniors Similarly

Julia Little  |  December 5, 2012

Dogs have been proven to help seniors in a number of ways, from providing comfort and stress relief, to offering physical assistance. Now, canines are helping older adults in another inadvertent way. Researchers who have been working to improve post-surgery pain treatments and osteoarthritis therapies for dogs say their work may have applications in senior health, too.

Dogs and humans experience certain diseases in similar ways, so the studies done on these treatments might be transferrable from veterinary to human medicine, according to researcher James Roush, Professor of Clinical Sciences at Kansas State University. Roush is working on how the use of hot and cold packs and new forms of narcotics may help to lessen pain after surgery and improve care for small animals, dogs in particular. Primarily he works with the patients at the university's College of Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Health Center.

Roush is looking at the temperatures and tissue depths that would improve hot and cold packing techniques, and tracking lameness and osteoarthritis in dogs with mats that measure the pressure in their step. He says this study may improve the treatments for osteoarthritis.

"We can measure their recovery and a variety of other aspects: how they respond to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, how they respond to narcotics or how they respond to a surgical procedure that is designed to take that pressure off the joint," he said.

Roush's research may be quite beneficial for seniors, considering osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder, affecting almost everyone by the time they are 70, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The Arthritis Foundation estimates 27 million Americans are living with osteoarthritis, which is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. 

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