This study used client-owned dogs to evaluate the effects of a weight reduction program combined with basic or more complex physical therapy on overweight dogs with osteoarthritis. Subjects had a body condition score of 4 or 5 based on a 5-point scale. Owners were instructed to feed 60% of a calculated maintenance energy requirement based on a body weight that was 15% less than that recorded at the dog's first evaluation. All dogs were fed the same commercial reduced-calorie food. Owners were asked to provide a routine of massage, passive range-of-motion exercises, and leash walking of their dogs. One group of dogs had a more intensive physical therapy program, including receiving transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatments. Both groups had significant weight loss, but the group that received the TENS treatments lost more weight. Both groups also had improved mobility and symmetry indices of ground force reactions, but the group with the more intensive physical therapy program had the best outcome. Study supported by P&G Pet Care

COMMENTARY:Although most clinicians are intuitively aware that weight loss in overweight or obese animals with osteoarthritis is of clinical benefit, before this article was published only one report in the veterinary literature demonstrated that association. These authors included two levels of exercise regimens to the weight loss programs, showing added benefit of both weight loss and exercise for dogs with chronic osteoarthritis. The study provides further evidence that interventions at home or in a rehabilitation program can have positive benefits for animals with this chronic and debilitating disease. It is possible that the increased owner involvement contributed to the success in both groups.

Effects of caloric restriction and a moderate or intense physiotherapy program for treatment of lameness in overweight dogs with osteoarthritis. Mlacnik E, Bockstahler BA, Müller M, et al. JAVMA229:1756-1760, 2006.