May
31
2006

Cruciate disease, described as one of the most common cases in veterinary hospitals across the country, was highlighted in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article that focused on the number of cases in the United States and its expense to pet owners. Prevention of the disease was not addressed in the WSJ story on April 11, 2006, but it is the focus of a cranial cruciate disease study underway at the University of Illinois. Results could impact the way that veterinarians handle – and treat – dogs that are predisposed to the disease, said Dominique Griffon, DMV, MS, PhD, DACVS, DECVS, who expects research to be completed in June, and hopes to publish results within six months.

Industry research quotes the financial tally of cruciate disease at $1 billion nationally. That cost coupled with disease frequency piqued Griffon’s interest and led to initiation of her study of Labrador retrievers in June 2005.

The goal is to assess which factors influence the disease so that dogs can be screened and treated with physical therapy and early surgery to flatten the tibia to prevent it, Griffon said. “If we address the underlying problem we can work one step ahead of the cruciate,” she explained.

Client dogs enrolled in the study underwent physical exams, and they had radiographs and computed topography scans of rear limbs to assess skeletal configuration, range of motion, muscle girth of the thigh and tibia, joint effusion and laxity. Some pet owners paid to repair cruciate damage while dogs were under anesthesia, and all dogs received complimentary teeth cleanings.

To date, Griffon has enrolled 30 dogs from two to nine years old that fall into normal (no disease) and abnormal (diseased) categories. She said it was a challenge to find disease-free dogs after the age of eight-years-old, and had to enroll more six year olds to round out the group. She discovered that once dogs reach the age of eight, they are normally out of the risk zone for developing cruciate disease and says she will follow young (normal) dogs enrolled in the study to see which ones develop cruciate disease.

Griffon has employed a combination approach to her research using mathematical models to analyze the balance between different muscle groups and muscle mass, and to gauge how bone shape contributes to the disease. She also consulted human kinematics gait labs for comparisons.

One question Griffon hopes to answer is whether the slope of the tibia is a predisposing factor and, if so, whether flattening the tibia by closing the growth plate would diminish the risk of disease development.

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