Screening for the early detection of osteoarthritis

Screening for osteoarthritis should start in all dogs over five years of age, and routinely in high-risk breeds.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most commonly diagnosed joint disease in both human and veterinary medicine. It affects 20% of dogs older than one year and a stunning 80% of dogs over eight.1 Certain breeds are predisposed to OA, with males having higher incidence than females, especially when neutered.2,3 Examples of higher risk breeds include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Doberman Pinschers, Mastiffs, St. Bernards, Huskies and Newfoundlands. Many dogs succumb to the crippling effects of OA with most not being diagnosed until it reaches an advanced stage and clinical signs are obvious.4 While NSAIDS remains the mainstay therapy, other modalities such as mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy or plasma rich growth factors (PRGF) are gaining acceptance when NSAIDS fail to provide the relief needed. Regardless, like many diseases, when OA is caught early, more can be done to slow its progression.

While the pathophysiology of OA is very complex, aging and inflammation play an important role. As disease progresses, synovitis occurs, allowing HA to leak into the peripheral bloodstream. In the early to advanced stages of OA, serum concentration of HA (sHA) increases as the chondrocytes continue to replace the HA leaking into the bloodstream.1,5 An increasing concentration of sHA correlates with disease severity.6 In patients with late stage OA, there is a decline in sHA as the chondrocytes have diminished capacity to produce HA; however, with successful treatment using MSC or PRGF, increased concentrations of sHA occur as chondrocytes are reactivated.7 This allows the use of HA for the early detection of OA, and the monitoring of therapeutic intervention.

Screening for OA should start in all dogs over five years of age, and routinely in high risk breeds. The half-life of sHA within blood is less than five minutes, as it is rapidly cleared by the liver. While it is common practice to provide HA as a supplement, manufacturers modify it to delay clearance for 24 hours, to prevent its rapid destruction. To avoid the detection of supplemental HA when testing, stop providing the supplements 48 hours prior to testing. Serum HA testing is currently available through VDI Laboratory, LLC.

1Anderson KL, O’Neill DG, Brodbelt DC, et al. “Prevalence, duration and risk factors for appendicular osteoarthritis in a UK dog population under primary veterinary care”. Sci Rep. 2018.

2Hart BL, Hart LA, Thigpen AP, Willits NH. “Long-term health effects of neutering dogs: comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers”. PLoS One. 2014.

3Hays L, Zhang Z, Mateescu RG, Lust G, Burton-Wurster NI, Todhunter RJ. “Quantitative genetics of secondary hip joint osteoarthritis in a Labrador Retriever-Greyhound pedigree”. Am J Vet Res. 2007.

4Pettitt RA, German AJ. “Investigation and management of canine osteoarthritis”. In Practice. 2015

5Thonar EJ, Masuda K, Lenz ME, Hauselmann HJ, Kuettner KE, Manicourt DH. “Serum markers of systemic disease processes in osteoarthritis”. J Rheumatol Suppl. 1995.

6Sasaki E, Tsuda E, Yamamoto Y, et al. “Serum hyaluronic acid concentration predicts the progression of joint space narrowing in normal knees and established knee osteoarthritis — a five-year prospective cohort study”. Arthritis Res Ther. 2015.

7Vilar JM, Rubio M, Spinella G, et al. “Serum Collagen Type II Cleavage Epitope and Serum Hyaluronic Acid as Biomarkers for Treatment Monitoring of Dogs with Hip Osteoarthritis”. PLoS One. 2016.


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