Thanks to dedicated pet parents who share the stories I post and the wonders of Social Media, the Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog blog and our Facebook page have grown substantially since the beginning of the year. Because of this, I’m not sure if everyone has gotten the chance to read the core stories we posted early on to make life better for paralyzed pets.
One of the most important stories we’ve run is about the Clinical Trial for Paralyzed Dogs at Iowa State University. The study is essential to getting our paraplegic fur kids up and walking again and it may prove to be the breakthrough needed for people with paralysis as well. The study is still going on and researchers are still welcoming new dogs into the program.
If you have a paraplegic dog please take a minute to educate yourself about the Clinical Trial for Paralyzed Dogs. Since running the original story, at least three dogs whose parents read Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog have been accepted into the program.
Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog was introduced to the Iowa State University study by a reader whose son became paralyzed after an accident. I am grateful to her for alerting me and I sincerely hope this amazing study will be beneficial to both humans and canines.
Dogs we know in the study
Greta underwent surgery to repair two ruptured discs and trauma to her spinal cord. Although she participated in six months of rehabilitation therapy she never regained feeling in her rear legs. Little Megan became a paraplegic after she slipped on ice in February 2015.
Both dogs were subjects in the Clinical Trial for Paralyzed Dogs and over the course of a year their pet parents traveled with them from their hometowns to Iowa State University every few months to take part in the study. The Clinical Trial for Paralyzed Dogs is trying to determine if a medication called Chondroitinase will help paraplegic dogs walk again.
Dr. Nick Jeffery and Dr. Hilary Hu head the promising study. They share on their Facebook page that spinal cord injuries are one of the most common neurological conditions in veterinary medicine and one of the most devastating for owners and their pets. It’s their goal to put an end to this tragedy.
When a spinal cord injury happens it disconnects the brain from properly communicating with other parts of the body, like the legs, bladder and bowels. Dogs with these injuries are left paralyzed and incontinent.
Even when a dog’s spine is fixed with surgery or heals on its own the disconnection in communication can remain because scar tissue forms in the part of the spine that was injured. Chondroitinase appears to dissolve some of that scar tissue. The theory is that it will reduce the scar tissue enough to allow the nerve fibers to “grow and reconnect to restore communication.”
The clinical trial works like this:
- Dogs are examined by university veterinarians to see if they are good candidates for the program. If accepted owners promise to bring their dogs to Iowa State University three times during the year for a period of one week at each visit.
- To be eligible dogs must have a severe injury to the middle of their spine that occurred at least six weeks prior. They cannot weigh more than 45 lbs. and they must be unable to walk without help. Participants cannot have any other medical condition. Dogs must be able to undergo anesthesia.
- Chondroitinase is injected into the spinal cord of 50 percent of the dogs enrolled in the study.
- 100 percent of the dogs receive extensive physical therapy during the one week period when they return for follow-up exams. One of the major theories behind the study is that Chondroitinase has a synergistic effect with physical therapy.
- Dogs receive follow-up exams after one month, three months and six months of entering the program.
- Dogs must be able to stay at the Iowa State University facility for one week for each follow up exam.
- At the time of the first exam special X-rays are administered under anesthesia. At that time 50 percent of the dogs receive the Chondroitinase injection.
- Owners find out if their dog has received the injection at the six month exam. If they are part of the 50 percent that did not receive the injection, the dog gets the medication before leaving the program.
- In between exams owners and their dogs are sent home with instructions about how to best work with their dog to encourage mobility and toileting. There are also rehab exercises that are done at home.
The stakes are high for this clinical trial which is sponsored by the International Spinal Research Trust (ISRT), a nonprofit organization searching for new treatments for humans with spinal cord injuries. If the clinical trial proves beneficial for dogs, the next trial will extend to people.
Keep up with the Clinical Trial for Paralyzed Dogs on their Facebook page.
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