Study Looks at Herbal Supplement’s Effectiveness at Reducing Pain in Dogs

Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital is looking for dogs with pain and arthritis to participate in a study. The study looks at whether or not an herbal supplement can relieve pain.

The study seeks to address growing questions about the effectiveness of herbal supplements in veterinary medicine. While the use of herbal supplements is growing in popularity as a treatment for pets, almost no research exists into the benefits and potential dangers of providing those products to pets.

The study was initiated in the fall of 2008, and slots for participation are still open. To qualify, dogs need to be relatively healthy and must not already be receiving prescription medications for pain. Their lameness must be due to arthritis in one or more limbs and not a result of nerve damage, cancer or other causes.   

Dogs will undergo an initial exam for lameness and pain to obtain baseline data about their use of limbs and overall health. Participants who qualify for the study will then return to the teaching hospital weekly for a five-week period and will receive either a placebo or an herbal supplement. In the ensuing weeks, dogs in the study will be assessed weekly and undergo tests throughout the study to measure any improvement in pain or lameness.

Perks to participate include a free pain evaluation and urine and blood screen panel test.

"Many herbal manufacturers claim that their product can reduce pain without side effects. But there is little research backing those claims, particularly when the supplements are given to dogs," 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. "At the same time, people have concerns about the long-term side effects of traditional anti-inflammatory drugs such as gastric ulcers, bleeding, abdominal pain, and kidney or liver damage, so they would be excited to have an effective alternative to medication for their arthritic dogs."

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.

Robinson is director of the university’s Center for Comparative and Integrative Pain Medicine. People who believe their dog may be eligible to participate in the study are encouraged to contact Robinson at (970) 297-4202 or More information, including a trial summary, is available at