Chondroitinase Clinical Trial for dogs with severe spinal cord injury

“Chondroitinase improves the outcome after spinal cord injuries in lab animals; therefore it could also benefit dogs and people suffering from the same conditions.”

The purpose of our clinical trial is to help these severely affected dogs by testing if a new treatment, called chondroitinase, may improve the outcome after spinal cord injury in dogs.

“Spinal cord injuries can lead to serious consequences including the impairment of movement, sensation and urination; this is because spinal cord tissue does not regenerate effectively”

Why Chondroitinase?

During the past decade, numerous experiments in laboratory rodents have shown the benefits of injecting chondroitinase into regions of damaged spinal cord. The drug works by dissolving away some of the scarring tissue that forms after spinal cord injury, allowing new nerve fibers to grow across the damaged region and restore communication. Successful intervention using chondroitinase in laboratory animals has been especially notable when it has been combined with physical therapy.

During our trial, we will inject chondroitinase into the spinal cord and then perform various tests over the following 6 months to assess changes in gait and control of the bladder. The results will then be compared with those from dogs that have not had the condroitinase injection, so that we can determine if the treatment is effective. Fortunately, there have been no reports of damaging effects of this treatment; and the safety trial that we previously conducted here in dogs with spinal cord injury also suggested this treatment is very safe.

What happens during the trial?

Dogs that are entered into the trial will have some ‘baseline’ assessments made of their limb coordination and bladder control. They will then be randomized to receive either the test therapy (chondroitinase) followed by physical therapy, or to receive physical therapy alone. This means that each dog in the trial will have a 50% chance of getting the test medication at the start of the trial—but ALL dogs will receive free physical therapy as part of the trial.

Dogs in both groups will be anesthetized and have special x-rays taken to check the site of the injury; dogs in the treatment group will have the injection during this period of anesthesia. Dogs will then be invited to stay at our hospital facility for one week so that they can receive physical therapy to encourage their ability to walk. They will then go home with instructions about how best to encourage their mobility and toilet training.

All dogs will return to our hospital at 1 month, 3 months and 6 months after the initial visit for repeat clinical assessment and a free week-long course of physical therapy. For owners that are able to return more frequently, we will offer weeklong physical therapy sessions once each month for six months.

At the end of the trial period we will let you know what group your dog was in and offer the option of chondroitinase injection to those who didn’t receive it previously.

Our sponsor

This trial is being sponsored by the International Spinal Research Trust (IRST), a charity that searches for treatments for humans that have suffered spinal cord injury. This study is of interest to the ISRT because if dogs were shown to benefit from this treatment then it would provide strong evidence that it would be a good idea to test in human patients. Human trials are very costly and spinal cord injury is much more common in dogs than in people, meaning that it is sensible for us to test this intervention in dogs first. It also means that, if the treatment is successful, dog patients will be the first to benefit from this new approach to spinal cord injury!

For more information

Dr. Nick Jeffery | 515-294-4900
Dr. Hilary Hu | 515–460–2937


Iowa State University Veterinary Medical Center |


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