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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

News & Views January 2018 Issue

What’s Good for the Dog Is Good for the Person — and Vice Versa

Making new inroads in comparative and translational medicine.

Veterinarian Stephanie McGrath

Veterinarian Stephanie McGrath, a researcher at Colorado State University, is conducting a study to see if dogs with osteoarthritis, like her pal Jack, can experience a reduction in pain with a substance in marijuana called cannabidiol (not the ingredient that causes a “high”).


You’ve no doubt heard of the Ice Bucket Challenge, in which people throw a bucket of ice and cold water over their heads (or have it thrown over them) to increase donations for research into a cure for Lou Gherig’s disease, scientifically referred to as ALS. But did you know that when you make a contribution to ALS research, you’re helping dogs with that paralyzing disease, too? That’s right. Dogs as well as people lose mobility because of a degradation of certain tissue in their spinal cords, eventually succumbing to the illness. And scientific investigators who are looking for effective treatments are in effect helping both species. Their findings across the animal kingdom (including us) are called comparative medicine, and they facilitate the advancement of translational medicine — the quicker translation of basic science knowledge into clinical applications that can help living beings across the world of animals.

In the case of Lou Gherig’s disease, scientists for people and scientists for dogs are actively, deliberately collaborating to find treatments that will keep members of both species from becoming paralyzed should the disease strike. The cross-species research is not just a coincidence. Investigators at Tufts have been testing a therapy in afflicted dogs that was developed by a University of Massachusetts researcher who approached them about trying something he developed as a potential solution for afflicted people. The therapy is meant to interfere with a faulty gene that allows ALS to wreak its havoc on the body. You can read about it in the box on page 6.

This issue of Your Dog also has an article about research into using medical marijuana to curtail seizures in dogs with epilepsy. Veterinary researchers believe there may be something there because there’s already a hypothesis in place for how marijuana, or cannabis, might inhibit seizure activity in people. Anecdotally, the evidence has been strong enough that researchers have developed a strain of cannabis called Charlotte’s Web, which the mother of a little girl named Charlotte Figi says has taken her daughter from 300 seizures a week to zero. Even more important, the drug has shown positive results in a rigorously controlled study.

Again, what’s good for the person may very well be good for the pup, and vice versa. One investigator is betting some of her lab’s resources on medical marijuana for epileptic dogs — and also on whether medical marijuana might help relieve pain and disability in dogs with osteoarthritis. Read about her work on page 8. n

Happy tails to you,

Lawrence Lindner

Executive Editor

Comments (1)

I am truly grateful that the benefits of marijuana, both CBD and THC are being studied. I believe there are many benefits but worry that the "old" folks in Congress won't remove it from the Schedule 1 drug list. My rescue, who was never socialized, gets CBD treats before any trip to the vet. It has a very effective calming affect. And my COPD is helped by the CBD as well. Hoping for successful research on this natural remedy!

Posted by: Narrowdog | January 4, 2018 2:43 PM    Report this comment

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