Pioneering sports medicine, osteoarthritis and pain clinic

Pioneering sports medicine, osteoarthritis and pain clinic

Last updated 16 July 2015

Today’s modern athletes may take things like physical therapy, underwater treadmills and even musculoskeletal ultrasound for granted, but now a new sports rehab clinic will be offering these services to athletes of a four-legged variety.

The RVC is opening the UK’s first specialist clinic for sporting, show and working canines, such as greyhounds, police and competing dogs. The new Sports Medicine, Osteoarthritis and Pain (SMOAP) Clinic will be led by Dr Pilar Lafuente, one of only three American Accredited specialists in Europe in this area of canine veterinary care.  She is a recognised specialist in both small animal surgery and canine sports medicine and rehabilitation. The clinic will be based at the RVC’s Queen Mother Hospital for Animals in Hertfordshire.

The state-of-the-art facility will include musculoskeletal ultrasound, MRI scanning and scintigraphy, as well as objective gait analysis with a pressure mat. And the premier-league-style treatment doesn’t stop there as the rehabilitation clinic also offers an underwater treadmill, swimming pool, electrical stimulation and physical therapies, under the care of full-time veterinary physiotherapist, Emily Cowderoy.

The Clinic also offers a transdisciplinary specialist approach into the treatment of osteoarthritis and chronic pain management for domestic cats and dogs.  Chris Seymour, and his team from the Anaesthesia and Analgesia Service, will provide first hand support for those patients suffering from chronic pain that don´t respond to the most common therapies.

Sporting and working dogs like border collies, hounds, terriers and German shepherds can suffer from chronic and sport specific injuries such as stress fractures, impact injuries and tendon issues that don’t usually affect the more traditional domesticated household pet canine. The new clinic will differ from traditional veterinary practices by offering a holistic approach to this sort of canine sporting injuries. Usually, if a dog was brought to a veterinary clinic with complex set of clinical signs it may have to see several different specialists at different times.

The aim of the RVC’s specialist facilities – like the Sports Medicine, Osteoarthritis and Pain clinic – is to bring a transdisciplinary approach to caring for pets. This means bringing all clinical services together, ensuring the animals get the best holistic and individualised patient care.

The clinic will be supported by RVC staff in Anaesthesia and Analgesia, Orthopaedic, Physiotherapy, Neurology and Neurosurgery, Soft Tissue Surgery, Oncology, Cardiology, Internal Medicine and Diagnostic imaging.

Veterinary physiotherapist, Emily Cowderoy, and orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Pilar Lafuente, doing an orthopaedic examination of a lame Jack Russell

Holger Volk is Clinical Director of the RVC’s small animal referral services and Professor in Veterinary Neurology and Neurosurgery, he said: “Like in human medicine, as doctors specialise they can lose sight of the big picture, only focussing on their own area of expertise. This can lead to patients being passed from specialist to specialist with the root clinical signs never really being discovered. The RVC is therefore leading the way by building transdisciplinary teams working together to achieve the best individualised care for pets and animals.”

Dr Lafuente added: “The injuries and ailments these dogs face are common in sporting and working dogs but regular vets often do not have the specific expertise and equipment to diagnose and treat them.

“For example, agility dogs have a lot of shoulder injuries, tendon and muscle injuries. Greyhounds often suffer from stress fractures and muscle injuries, whilst working dogs, such as police German shepherds, can develop hip and back problems, such as hip dysplasia or lumbosacral disease. That is why this clinic is so important.”