Dog as the experimental model: Laboratory uses of dogs in the United States

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Sherry L. Ward
Pamela Osenkowski


Dogs are the experimental model in many types of biomedical research. Each year, hundreds of publications report the use of dogs in invasive biomedical procedures, often without sufficient explanation of the purpose and justification for selecting dog as the experimental model. The European Union requires detailed reporting of animal use that includes research purpose, but animal use reporting in the United States, overseen by the USDA, does not require this information. The ability to replace dogs with alternative models begins by understanding how they are used. Therefore, this study was undertaken to investigate the types of invasive biomedical procedures that dogs are subjected to in US laboratories. Well-defined sets of research publications and grants were accessed to obtain information on the types of biomedical research using dogs. USDA databases provided additional information. An ontology to categorize biomedical research uses of dogs identified the most common as translational studies for cardiovascular, cancer, nervous/mental, and musculoskeletal disorders. Information typically reported for experimental animals was sometimes missing or incomplete in publications, including number, source, and fate of dogs; species justification; and pain management, suggesting that many journals have not adopted the ARRIVE guidelines on animal use reporting. It was not possible to identify the research purpose for all dogs used by US institutions because a) not all dog use is published and b) animal research purpose is not required reporting in the US. These findings should be informative to future initiatives to replace, reduce, and refine the use of dogs in research.

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Ward, S. L. and Osenkowski, P. (2022) “Dog as the experimental model: Laboratory uses of dogs in the United States”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation. doi: 10.14573/altex.2109101.

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