Dogs in Research
It is hard to believe that dogs, one of the most popular companion animals in the country, are treated like research tools in laboratories, but that is the unfortunate truth. Although the number of dogs used in research has declined by two thirds since 1973 when statistics were first kept, USDA reports show that tens of thousands of dogs are still used in research protocols, many in painful experiments. A reported 64,930 dogs were used in research protocols in the U.S.in 2010.
Scientists cite that about 85% of genes in dogs have a human equivalent, and they use ‘lab dogs’ as models in many lines of biomedical research. Our knowledge of personalized medicine makes us appreciate that very subtle genetic differences between humans are enough to account for important differences between individuals. The large genetic difference between dogs and humans makes it difficult to extrapolate data from them to humans. Despite this fact, dogs are used to study the cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine, gastrointestinal, reproductive, nervous, urinary and skeletal systems; in transplantation experiments; in immunology, genetics, orthopedics and veterinary medicine experiments; in research on cancer, aging, allergies, diabetes, pharmaceutical toxicity testing, behavior and more. Some reports indicate that dogs have a drug metabolism profile more similar to humans than mice and rats, making them a target for such studies, although there are known differences between human and canine drug metabolism.
Some breeds of dogs can be ordered to specification from laboratory supply houses and specialty breeders who advertise their “products” to researchers in laboratory supply catalogs and online websites. But in some states, researchers can purchase dogs and other animals from shelters in a practice referred to as pound seizure. These animals are either strays, lost or abandoned companion animals who were not adopted. One can only imagine the fear and stress a dog that once belonged to a loving family would experience if confined to a laboratory cage and subjected to painful procedures.