Watching our pets suffer in pain is difficult. Chronic pain, either from accidents or from old age, is one of the most common reasons dogs are euthanized, something no pet owner ever wants to face.
But one experimental treatment is now giving new hope and a second chance at life to dogs in pain.
Like most moms, Taryn Sargent loves her boy, Shane.
"We're just a part of each other's world," Sargent said.
A car accident twenty years ago left Sargent with a brain injury and seizures from which she will probably never recover. For the last decade, Shane has been by her side.
Eight years ago, Shane was in a car accident too.
"Instead of taking him for a 10-minute walk to go to the bathroom, he could go for five minutes, and then I'd be carrying him home," Sargent said.
Desperate for help, Sargent found Dr. Rob Landry, who was sick of putting dogs down because of pain.
"They don't complain. They don't necessarily vocalize it," Landry said. "They socially become recluse. They hide. They sleep. They don't get involved."
Landry teamed up with neuroscientist Dr. Linda Watkins, who developed an experimental gene therapy that revs up the production of interleukin 10.
"So, the dog cells become the factories that make the therapeutic. They're releasing this anti-inflammatory cytokine," Watkins said.
It's a one-time injection into the joint.
"After treatment, they get their doghood back. And it is so amazing to see," Watkins said.
Shane was treated two years ago.
"We want them to live their lives, not just exist, and this kid's living his life now like there's no doubt to me," Landry said.
Shane's actions speak louder than his bark.
"He went from being a 12- or 13-year-old dog to being a 2-year-old," Sargent said.
And more good news, Sargent went from having up to 18 seizures a month to fewer than five.
Landry and Watkins are currently recruiting dogs to be part of this promising research. It has not been Food and Drug Administration-approved yet, but every dog has improved so far, and there have been no negative side effects.
It's been so promising that this same therapy is now in clinical trials for chronic pain in humans in Australia and California.
GENE THERAPY FOR CHRONIC PAIN IN DOGS
BACKGROUND: Arthritis is a commonly occurring chronic illness in humans and animals alike. Among all domestic and pet animal species, dogs suffer from arthritis more often because of excessive running or exercise, injury, and/or genetic predisposition. Presently, one in four of 77.2 million pet dogs in the United States are diagnosed with some form of arthritis. In dogs, osteoarthritis is more common than rheumatoid arthritis and pain is the number one observation. Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is a slowly progressive inflammatory disease, which is characterized by degeneration of the cartilage, hypertrophy of bone at the margins, and changes in the synovial membrane, and that eventually results in pain and stiffness of
joints. Along with osteoarthritis, dogs may also suffer from hip dysplasia, a form of osteoarthritis present in the ball and socket joints. Hip dysplasia can be a genetically inherited condition from improperly formed hip joints typically seen in large breed dogs. Dogs that suffer from inherited hip dysplasia show signs within the first year and should be spayed or neutered to avoid passing this genetic tendency to malformation to offspring. (Source: https://www.pagepress.org/journals/index.php/vsd/article/view/5931/6327 and
PAIN TREATMENT IN DOGS: There are many types of drugs used to prevent and lessen pain in animals. A vet will choose the appropriate drugs based on your pet's specific needs. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are drugs that interfere with the body's production of inflammatory molecules that trigger pain and swelling. They must be used with caution because there is the potential for liver, kidney, stomach, and/or intestinal problems. Some NSAIDs prolong blood-clotting time and are used to treat mild to moderate pain and discomfort. Opioids are used for more severe pain. They are used to treat severe surgical pain and may also be used in advanced cases of cancer or to control severe arthritis pain. Cortisone and synthetic cortisone-like drugs such as prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, and dexamethasone are potent anti-inflammatory medications and can have a very profound impact on the animal. They are often used to reduce arthritic, allergic, or dermatologic discomfort. However, they have potential long-term side effects and should be used with caution. (Source: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/pain-management-for-dogs)
NEW RESEARCH TOWARDS PAIN RELIEF: Studying dogs and cats with osteoarthritis can have significant impact on the development of effective pain therapies for humans suffering from the same painful condition, according to a new research from the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. "With the lack of translation of fundamental research findings into new therapies for pain, and the significant personal, economic and social implications of that, we need new ideas," said Duncan Lascelles, CVM professor of small animal surgery and pain management. "The novel approach we have outlined has high potential to benefit human pain research, and at the same time, benefit companion animals". The study notes that naturally occurring canine and feline osteoarthritis is strikingly similar to human osteoarthritis, including its appearance in radiographs and how it leads to impaired mobility and sleep disturbances. The study finds that research centered on companion animals with naturally occurring conditions can help researchers unlock more clues about the neurobiology of pain, "vital information in the translational puzzle," Lascelles writes, and act as more effective bridges to human clinical trials, the first step in creating new breakthroughs in medical treatment. (Source: https://cvm.ncsu.edu/companion-animals-may-hold-the-key-to-human-pain-relief/)