A recent study (October 2013) by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has found a promising new painkiller called substance-p saporin, or SAP. It is a neurotoxin that works by selectively destroying pain-sensing nerves.
In the study, 70 dogs with bone cancer participated. In each case, the family had chosen not to pursue amputation and chemotherapy, but instead were taking a hospice approach, looking to ensure their dogs had a high quality of life for their remaining time. Half of the dogs received standard painkillers and half received SAP. Owners were not told which painkiller had been given to their dog, but were asked to record their dog’s pain levels and activity. If the owner felt that the painkiller was no longer effective, they were then told which painkiller their dog had received and were offered SAP.
The two UPenn veterinarians who ran the study, Dorothy Cimino Brown and Kimberly Agnello, found that SAP was significantly more effective at pain reduction than the standard painkillers. In fact, within the first six weeks of the study period, three-quarters of the families whose dogs were given standard painkillers asked to be “unblinded” compared to only one quarter of the families whose dogs were given SAP.
This research is not only important for dogs, but for humans as well. Eventually, SAP may be used for us, too.