Vet Hannah Capon with Holly the dog on the Big Walk in 2017
Vet Hannah Capon with Holly the dog on the Big Walk in 2017

Join the online Big Walk and raise awareness of canine arthritis

Did you know, millions of UK dog owners face the heartbreak of saying goodbye to beloved pets years earlier than necessary due to canine arthritis?

A lack of awareness means many of us fail to spot and act on the early signs of this ‘silent killer’ disease. So now, award-winning vet Hannah Capon is leading a campaign to change that. The campaign aims to help us spot the tell-tale signs and learn how to manage the condition in our dogs. Improving and prolonging our pooches’ lives. Which has got to be a good thing, right?

Canine arthritis and spotting the signs

Left untreated, canine arthritis can result in unnecessary suffering and premature euthanasia, as dogs lose their quality of life. As someone who suffers from human arthritis (and knows how flipping painful and limiting it can be), I think it’s a condition we dog owners should definitely be aware of.

Capon believes around 35% of the estimated 12 million pet dogs in the UK are suffering from arthritis. And 80% of dogs over the age of eight.

“It really is the silent killer,” said Capon. “It’s a leading cause of dog euthanasia; a cruel fate especially because the dog may have been showing signs of problems for a long time and owners just haven’t noticed or been aware that they are witnessing changes in their dog that are related to pain.

“If it’s caught early, many of the effective management strategies are free, or at least more affordable than the costs associated with complex drug regimes and other means to control pain and maintain mobility. The lives of beloved family animals can be improved and prolonged by simple effective management of the disease with little cost, with a few simple adaptations to lifestyle, diet, and owner attitude.”

The Big Walk 2021

This is where the Big Walk 2021 comes in. Capon believes that a few simple steps could add years to our dogs’ lives. So, through the organisation she’s founded, she’s inviting dog owners to join this online event. The event hopes to spread awareness and raise funds for her organisation, Canine Arthritis Management (CAM).

It starts on 1st September and continues throughout the month. To sign-up costs from £10 for the Garden Wanderer package, to £70 for the Forest Adventurer package. All funds raised will help develop a new CAM website that provides more advice, support and guidance to owners of arthritic dogs.

So, what do you get in return? There will be a 30-day series of emails, taking people on an imaginary journey through a fictional land. On this journey everything is looked at from the perspective of an arthritic dog. And included in the email will be soundbites from experts and a chance to win prizes, as well as a daily activity. Plus, there’s a members-only Facebook group for people to interact together. You can share their adventures and connect with experts.

You’ll also get CAM classroom education, essential tips, advice from experts, product reviews and discount coupons.

The first Big Walk was held in 2017, when Hannah and her collie Holly, aged 15, trekked 100 miles along the South Downs Way in Sussex. Holly, who had severe arthritis, travelled part of the way in a specially adapted cart when she was too tired to walk. Sadly, Holly passed away in December 2019, but Hannah’s new collie Luna, is helping to continue her legacy.

However, if you’re simply after a bit of information and advice at the moment it’s no problem. You can find lots of free help on the CAM website.

Tips for dog owners

If you’re wondering who Hannah Capon is, she’s been a vet for 19 years and is currently based in Essex. Capon recently won the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Impact Award, the Ceva Vet of the Year award and Vet Personality of the Year. She’s devoted her career to helping people understand about canine arthritis. This is why she runs CAM as an online education and support service. It’s for both dog owners and the professionals who work with our furry friends.

And she’s happy to share her knowledge. Her top tip for spotting signs of canine arthritis early, is to look out for any changes in your dog. This includes behaviour, posture, capability and gait. They could be signs of pain and potential arthritis. The classic signs of arthritis such as difficulty rising, slowing down and being unable to jump up, come at a later stage.

Her top five tips for dog owners are:

  • Don’t be scared of an early diagnosis. It’ll give you more to work with and you’re likely to get better results.
  • Build a rapport with your vet as they’re the only people legally allowed to diagnose and prescribe. Try to build a good working relationship. . . and use the skills of the vet nurse.
  • Don’t be scared of medications. They are commonly safe and effective.
  • Consider lifestyle changes and home modifications as they are good foundational interventions.
  • Ensure your dog is their ideal weight – look for a body condition score of 4-4.5/9 (your vet will help with this). Fat is not your friend!

More dog advice

Hopefully, you’ve found this post useful. If so, head on over to our advice page for more useful blog posts for dog owners. We’re adding to it all the time. It’s full of things we’ve learnt as dog owners and stuff we think will be helpful to share.