A new study published in the journal Anesthesiology by University of Pennsylvania veterinarians Dorothy Cimino Brown and Kimberly Agnello shows that an injection of the neurotoxin substance-p saporin (SAP) helps relieve pain in dogs with bone cancer — and may lead the way in human treatment, too.
“Dogs are part of the family and we do everything we can to relieve them of pain and discomfort when they are sick,” said Brown in an article in Science Daily. “In addition to sharing emotional attachments with our dogs, humans share many of the same ailments our pets suffer when fighting cancer. By studying the positive pain relief this treatment afforded dogs, we are hopeful it may also be effective for humans.”
About the study:
Dogs in one group received standard pain-relieving medications while dogs in the other group each received a single injection of SAP into the fluid around their spinal cords. The owners were ‘blinded’ and did not know which group their pet belonged too, as all the dogs stayed the night in the hospital and had the fur around their necks clipped, as though they received a spinal delivery of the neurotoxin.
To evaluate the pain-relieving effectiveness of these interventions, the researchers asked owners to complete questionnaires about their pets’ comfort level. Dogs also wore monitors to track their level of activity, and were in some cases videotaped. In addition, owners brought their dogs back to the vet two weeks after the procedure (or pseudo-procedure) and then once a month for rest of their pets’ lives.
The ultimate measure of the treatment’s effectiveness, however, was when the owner asked to be ‘unblinded,’ and learn whether or not they had received SAP or only traditional pain relieving drugs. For those owners whose pets had not previously gotten the SAP injection, they were offered the treatment at that point.
‘Basically we just kept following these dogs until the owners said, ‘My dog’s comfort level is not what it was before,’ Brown said.
Because of the similarities between bone cancer in dogs and the disease in humans, these findings suggest that a similar approach could provide effective pain relief in human bone cancer patients, Brown said.
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