Do You Need to Enroll Your Dog in a Clinical Trial for the Treatment of Cancer?

What's Wrong With Late Vaccination for Dogs? What Should I Note?

Researchers can use clinical trials to gather the information they need for developing drugs, treatments, and procedures that are beneficial to our companion animals. The participants can receive cutting-edge medical care for little to no cost while also contributing to research that benefits other animals. These veterinary studies tend to be non-invasive and the animals that are enrolled in them have already been diagnosed with the condition being researched.

What is a clinical test, and what risks and drawbacks are there? Learn more about veterinary trials and how they can benefit your pet.

What Are Clinical Trials?

According to Dr. Felix Duerr, an assistant professor of Orthopedics and Small Animal Sports Medicine/Rehabilitation at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins. We want to know if the treatment we are using is safe and effective.

Most of the animals that are used in clinical trials belong to clients, and they already carry the disease under study. For some clinical trials it is necessary to have healthy animals to compare with animals that are suffering from a specific disease. Eleanor Hawkins is a professor of internal medicine at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Raleigh.

Clinical Trials cover a wide range of disciplines in veterinary medicine, including cardiology and dermatology. In one of Dr. Duerr’s studies, he aims to find out whether injecting stem cell into dogs suffering from osteoarthritis will be more effective than using hyaluronic acids. The study is designed to determine whether pet parents should spend 10 times more on stem cells than an over-the-counter product, hyaluronic acids.

To ensure that the research is unbiased, blinded and randomized studies are conducted by researchers. Clinical trials can have a comparison group (control) that receives a placebo. “The investigator usually is blinded, or unaware of the animal receiving the experimental treatment versus the one that is being treated with a placebo,” explains Dr. Hawkins.

What are the benefits of enrolling your pet in a clinical trial?

Clinical trials allow animals to access promising treatments that are not available to the general public, at a low cost or for free.

For example, the drug or surgery method might not be readily available or cost-prohibitive outside the trial. As part of some clinical studies, additional diagnostic tests may be offered free of charge. This is according to Dr. Hawkins who has a board certification in internal medicine.

The health of millions of animals can be improved by clinical trials. Pet parents are so motivated to contribute that they register their pets. As a healthy pet, you will benefit mainly from the advancement of medical knowledge. Some clients want to contribute to medical advancements in general while others wish to learn more about diseases or problems that are specific to their breed. “In some trials, animals that are healthy may receive benefits like diagnostic screening at no cost,” says Dr. Hawkins.

What are the drawbacks to clinical trials?

According to Dr. Hawkins, in exchange for receiving cutting-edge treatments, at minimal or no cost to the pet parent, they are required to commit to a certain amount of time. “Often but not always there will be a requirement for the client to come back to the clinic on a specific schedule or to fill out questionnaires regarding their pet during the course of the study. For a study’s results to be meaningful, it is important to follow a schedule. Dr. Duerr, for instance, has a stem cell study that spans an entire year, and includes nine to twelve visits, and three procedures that require sedation.

There are risks associated with any procedure in veterinary medicine, according to Dr. Hawkins. These safety concerns depend on each study. Concerns can include negative effects of a drug, or failure to achieve a positive effect from the drug, or delaying conventional treatments or interventions.

According to Dr. Duerr, problems are rare but there is still a risk. The study found that “you have to sedate the animals to do joint injections safely, and there is always a small risk when you sedate any animal.” There is always a small risk that a complication could occur, like a joint infection, when we insert a needle in the joint.

Hawkins says that there are ways to reduce the risks. The first thing is that, in most cases, the principal investigator of a clinical study conducted in a teaching hospital for veterinarians is a vet who is deeply concerned about his patients. Every clinical trial is subject to a rigorous independent review by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. This committee is made up of faculty members, professionals who are not professors, and representatives from the community.”

To avoid miscommunication, experts recommend that you carefully read through the consent form. Every study that involves client-owned pets will have an approved informed consent form by the IACUC. “It is important that any pet owner who enters their animal into a clinical study reads the consent form very carefully”, says Dr. Hawkins.

Can clinical trials be stressful for pets?

There are many misconceptions regarding clinical trials, according to Dr. Duerr. The team in Dr. Duerr’s study uses sensors to measure the pressure that dogs apply on their legs and paws. He says that a dog with left-sided arthritis would place less weight on the affected leg. This would lead to less pressure. We show how excited the dogs are about being involved. When we determine how much pressure the dogs are putting on their feet, they receive treats.

According to Dr. Hawkins, the suitability of a trial for an animal is determined by its requirements and his personality as well as health. It is also true for older dogs.

It may be appropriate to enroll an older dog in a study testing drugs to treat arthritis or diets to enhance cognitive functions. “The decision to enroll your dog in a clinical study should be taken the same as any other decision you make for him, taking into consideration things like benefits, costs, inconvenience, lifestyle and family,” says Dr. Hawkins.

The animals that Dr. Duerr accepts for his trials should be able to get along with strangers. Dogs that aren’t happy with other people should not be enrolled.

The Process

Online surveys are usually the first step in a clinical trial. We ask questions such as Has your dog ever been diagnosed with arthritic? Do you have any health concerns? “And What medications is he taking?” asks Dr. Duerr. The team narrows down the candidates by reviewing the completed forms.

In order to determine whether or not the dogs are affected by arthritis, and check for any other issues with their health, the chosen ones in the stem-cell study undergo a thorough exam. This includes a blood test and radiographs. The pet parents of dogs that pass the preliminary stage are invited to participate in the stem cell study. They will be given information about the program, as well as a consent document to sign.

After the agreement is made, the team of Dr. Duerr begins collecting data about the dogs. The study involves measuring how much pressure the dogs put on their feet and talking to owners about what their dog does every day and their functional limitations.

They administer the treatment within a period of four weeks. For this study, we administer two joint injections in a 2-week period. Then, we determine how well the dog does.

The development of new drugs and treatments for veterinary medicine and research is vital. They can help improve the quality of life of animals. It is up to you whether or not to enroll your dog. This decision depends both on the temperament of your pet and your comfort level. According to Dr. Duerr, as a pet owner, it is important that you weigh both the positives and negatives. What are the possible side effects and benefits?