"We don't talk about curing them, we just talk about increasing their longevity while maintaining a good quality of life," Brown said.
The most aggressive treatment for this type of cancer involves amputating the affected leg and administering chemotherapy. But surgery and regular visits to the veterinarian's office for chemotherapy is a large financial, logistical, and emotional commitment for a pet owner. For some, it's too much, and they favor a different approach.
"There are a lot of owners who will say, 'I know my dog is terminal so I'm just going to try to keep him as comfortable as I can for as long as I can,'" Brown noted.
It is from this group of owners that Brown and Agnello drew their 70 research subjects, who were divided evenly into two groups. 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 jus
|Contact: Katherine Unger Baillie|
University of Pennsylvania