More than half of dogs older than 7 years have arthritis and University of Pennsylvania researchers found up to 80 percent of certain breeds are afflicted with the painful disease. A Murray State University student is testing new treats that aim to actually heal arthritic dogs, not just treat the pain.
Brooke Broderick is dressed in scrubs armed with tools ranging from needles and a thermometer to running shoes as dogs file in and out of a classroom at Murray State University’s A. Carman Pavilion Animal Health Facility. Broderick welcomes each arthritic dog for her study by name.
Some of the study’s ten dogs seem happy to see her with wagging tails and curious snouts, while others exude anxiety, visibly shaking.
Ed Comfort and his wife Jeannie brought their 42 pound Saipanese Boonie. The black and tan dog looks like a skinnier, short haired German Shepherd and is named Fishdog. He shakes nervously as he waits for his turn.
With his ball cap and white mustache, Comfort sits as Broderick takes Fishdog’s blood sample, measures his temperature, checks his flexibility and weighs him. The 14-year-old dog Comfort brought back from his days as a dive shop owner in Saipan didn’t let out a single yelp when Broderick gently pulled on his arthritic legs.
Comfort says the most problematic areas for Fishdog are his legs and hips.
“When you get up in our age brackets and then suddenly you realize that the dog is in your age bracket and you know you hurt,” Comfort says.
Broderick says Murray State has done several trials for arthritic dog treatments before. But she says her study is for a line of treats that aim to do more than just relieve the dogs’ pain from arthritis.
“This one is a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement, and so instead of relieving the pain it’s trying to build the natural lubricants and everything they already have in their bodies,” Broderick says.
All the dogs in Broderick’s study weigh between 30 and 50 pounds. She tests them weekly for five weeks and charts their improvement. During the trial the pet owners feed their dogs one treat a day. Broderick is looking to see if the treat adversely affects any of the dogs’ major organs or blood before it goes on the market.
“We’re basically just looking at the tolerance of the treats,” she says. “You know, if they start out at the beginning and they have no health problems whatsoever and it happens to cause some sort of health problems. Then that’s something we’re looking at just so that the FDA knows when they’re looking at this medicine that it’s tolerable for all dogs.”
Most of the dog owners say they have seen at least minor improvements in their pets’ energy levels since they started the trial.
Laura Jeziorski brings in her 13-year-old Labrador mix named April. Jeziorski says April just started showing signs of arthritis this year. Before then, she says she would go on a two mile walk every day. Now, Jeziorski and April take much shorter walks.
“We stop and take a lot of breaks. I talk to the neighbors,” she says.
But after just three weeks of frozen treats Jeziorski says her dog is more playful.
“We also have a beagle that’s about five years old,” she says. “ She was chasing him around the yard the other day. She hasn’t done in a long time.”
Jeziorski says she has tried other arthritis treatments, and they didn’t work. Even though April prefers the treats wrapped in lunch meat, Jeziorski says she is warming up to them.
Only a few dogs have to be tricked to take the arthritis treatment though. An Australian shepherd from Carbondale, Illinois, named Gandalf couldn’t focus on anything but the brown, frozen square when Broderick pulled the box out for his owner. But at the end of his visit after running down the hallway to be weighed, Gandalf got what he wanted.
After the dogs leave, Broderick and her partner put the blood samples into a spinning machine that separates the liquid and solid portions of the animals’ blood. Broderick says the liquid portion is then sent to Murray State’s Breathitt Veterinary Center in Hopkinsville for testing to check for any abnormalities.
“It’ll be a clear yellow unless there’s something wrong,” Broderick says. “ Sometimes they can have lipemia, which is cloudiness and is like fat in the blood.”
At the end of the five-week trial, Broderick will take all the information about the ten dogs’ health and improvement and condense it into a thesis that Breathitt will send to the treat manufacturer, which can aid in the FDA approval process.