An unnamed pharmaceutical company is running a clinical trial to evaluate a new treatment for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy; in other words, dogs with seizures that have no discernible underlying cause like a tumor. The following information was obtained from the website that is dedicated to obtaining subjects for the clinical trial, so you might need to take it with a grain or two of salt. However, the study is being regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and being performed in conjunction with at least one veterinary school (North Carolina State University), so I’d hope everything is on the up and up.

To qualify, dogs must:

  • Be suspected of having idiopathic epilepsy
  • Be at least four months of age
  • Have not received more than seven days of anti-seizure medication
  • Weigh 3.3 pounds or more
  • Have no previous history of seizure clusters or status epilepticus
  • Not be lactating, pregnant, or suspected to be pregnant

Benefits to dog owners who volunteer their dogs for this trial include the following:

  • Free* diagnostic tests and evaluation: All tests required by the study protocol, such as blood work, are free. (*For patients that qualify for screening.)
  • Free** treatment: Your dog will either be given the test drug or a placebo; however, patients in the study are twice as likely to receive the test drug. (**For patients that qualify for enrollment.)
  • Up to $150 in gift cards: By participating in the study, dog owners may also receive up to $150 in gift cards.

Why should my dog participate in this study?

Clinical trials (for both animals and people) are a key way the medical community learns more about diseases and medical conditions. Trials are generally conducted to determine whether a new treatment is safe and effective. This specific trial for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy is regulated by the U.S. FDA and therefore held to strict standards to ensure that dogs are treated as safely as possible. Each trial site has a veterinarian in charge and each of these doctors follows the exact same procedures in treating the patients in the trial. Once an FDA trial is completed, information from all the sites will be combined and compared, then submitted to the FDA for review.

Participation in a clinical trial can offer your pet some of the most advanced medical care available, while advancing medical knowledge. Today, better treatments for all kinds of conditions are due in large part to the valuable information gained through clinical trial research (treatment studies). The evidence-based medical knowledge gained though trials can help lead to better treatments, increased survival rates, and sometimes even a cure.

The medication given to dogs in the trial may or may not help their seizures. As with all medications, there are risks and benefits—all of which will be discussed with you prior to enrolling your dog.

The website currently lists the following towns as investigator sites but mentions that more may be available in the future:

Berkeley, CA

Rohnert Park, CA

Fort Collins, CO

Lake Worth, FL

Chicago, IL

Overland Park, KA

Scarborough, ME

South Weymouth, MA

Tinton Falls, NJ

Yonkers, NY

Raleigh, NC

Greenville, SC

Farragut, TN

Quakertown, PA

Canine epilepsy can usually be well controlled with currently available medications, so this study may not be the best option for owners in a financial position to obtain optimal treatment for their dogs. But if the cost of care might prevent a dog from receiving treatment, a clinical trial offers a compelling option.

Visit the study’s website and talk to your veterinarian for more information. If you learn anything pertinent, please post it here. Thanks!

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Thinkstock