Professor Daniel S. Mills BVSc PhD CBiol FSB FHEA CCAB Dip
Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine
European & RCVS Recognised Specialist in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine
Professor Daniel Mills is programme leader for the MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour, Behaviour Clinic Director and head of research strategy in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln.
Daniel is a RCVS, European and ASAB recognised specialist in clinical animal behaviour. He had been developing and exploring new interventions for behaviour problems, such as: The use of semiochemicals to control the emotional reaction of animals (pheromonatherapy) The use of mirrors to control stereotypic weaving in horses. Daniel also has a strong research interest in the comparative psychology underpinning these conditions and other behaviours. He is particularly interested in what makes an individual different and how this arises from their interaction with the environment.
Daniel kindly agreed to answer the following questions:
- What are your feelings on how we currently manage this common debilitating condition in dogs?
Things are certainly improving with regards to managing it once it has been diagnosed, but I think we still have a massive problem with recognising its influence and diagnosing it. Management is challenging and we need to remain scientific in our approach, but this does not mean that we simply reject anything that does not have good enough evidence in support of it. We should prioritise the best evidenced treatments where they are appropriate and then look at the science both in theory and practice behind those with poorer evidence but possibly indicated where we have no good evidence of effective treatments. To me this is still a scientific evidence based approach.
- As a behavioural specialist and veterinarian how do you feel chronic pain affects a dog’s behaviour?
Absolutely we recently published an free open access paper on the relation between pain and noise fears in dogs, you can access it here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2018.00017/full. We have previously published on the association with aggression (a link to the abstract is here: https://doi.org/10.1136/vr.102823 ) in both pieces of work, by far the majority of cases of pain involved musculoskeletal issues. We have also been surprised in the rise in cases referred to our the behaviour clinic (https://www.lincoln.ac.uk/home/lifesciences/behaviourclinic/) which feature chronic pain – currently over 60% of cases. We are not sure if this is due to a real rise, whether we are getting better at diagnosing the problem, or people are referring us the cases that aren’t responding to conventional behaviour therapy (because they have an undiagnosed pain problem) but it is something we are trying to look into. Sadly there are still some vets who seem not to accept the association and are unwilling to even undertake trial analgesia.
- How do you see treatment options for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?
Difficult to say. I think there may be increased use of high tech solutions such as stem cell therapy, but we should not neglect the basics, and improve recognition of how this affects behaviour (clinical signs are behaviour and vets need to recognise this, before they say they know nothing about the subject!). A couple of my former colleagues wrote a lovely little book – No walks No worries, (https://www.amazon.co.uk/walks-worries-Maintaining-wellbeing-restricted/dp/1845846052) and I think this should be available from every vet practice, as too often I hear stories of people whose dogs have been operated on and then told to restrict exercise for their dog, without checking that their dog can cope with this. The client then feels guilty, when in fact I think it is the vet who should accept some of the blame, for not doing a proper pre-surgery check for the procedure he is about to undertake to ensure its success.
- If you could have the opportunity to give one tip/ piece of advice to an owner with a dog suffering from arthritis and chronic pain what would it be?
Focus on quality of life more than quantity of life and put in measures that help your pet’s suffering, even if there are risks of side effects, as dogs live in the here and now.
- Any others comments you would like to make?
Keep up the good work!
Professor Daniel S. Mills
Rm 1W11 Joseph Banks Laboratories
School of Life Sciences
University of Lincoln. Lincoln, Lincs LN6 7DL
tel: +44 (0)1522 835356