An innovative clinical study at Colorado State University will help veterinarians determine whether or not an herbal supplement can relieve pain experienced by dogs with arthritis. Although the herbal field is gaining much popularity among pet owners, almost no research exists into the benefits and potential dangers of providing these products to pets.
The study is open to 36 dogs who qualify on a scale of lameness and pain that could be measurably reduced. Dogs enrolled in the study will be seen at the university’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital over a five-week period and will receive either an herbal supplement or a placebo to test the supplement’s effectiveness in helping manage pain. The study also will investigate complications associated with herbal supplements.
"Dogs in pain often receive anti-inflammatory medication as a treatment," said Dr. Narda Robinson, a veterinarian and expert in complementary care and treatment in the Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "There are concerns about the long-term side effects of these drugs such as gastric ulcers, bleeding, abdominal pain, and kidney or liver damage. Although many herbal manufacturers make claims that their product addresses pain without negative side effects, research supporting these claims – especially regarding how that research pertains to pets – is sparse."
While research does show that some herbal supplements may be beneficial to humans for a variety of ailments, the field of herbal supplements is not often the topic of veterinary research. Veterinarians are often concerned when pet owners administer herbs because animals and humans may metabolize the supplements differently, and substances that don’t appear to have adverse affects for humans can be harmful or even fatal to animals.
In order to study consistent results, only dogs with confirmed osteoarthritis in one or more joints will qualify. Dogs will undergo an initial exam for lameness and pain and to obtain baseline data about their use of limbs and overall health. Dogs in the study will be assessed weekly and undergo tests throughout the study to measure any improvement in pain or lameness.
The herbal mixture being tested has been studied in humans and horses. Results show that pain has been reduced without known significant side effects.
Robinson is director of the university’s Center for Comparative and Integrative Pain Medicine. Pet owners interested in participating in the study are encouraged to contact Robinson at (970) 297-4202 or Narda.Robinson@colostate.edu. More information, including a trial summary, is available at http://csuvets.colostate.edu/pain/research.htm.