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 There are many diseases that dogs and humans have in common.

This explains why dogs are used as models for medical research with the goal of gaining deeper insights into several human and canine medical conditions.  

Dogs come particularly handy for such medical research considering that, dogs are physiologically more similar to humans compared to other species such as rats. 

On top of that, dogs and humans share the same environmental living conditions, which can help gain a better understanding of its role in the onset of many medical conditions. 

Why are Dogs Used in Medical Research?

Although dogs may appear quite different than humans, they share several similarities. 

For example, dogs share about the same organs as in humans which perform the same duties in pretty much the same way. 

This means that a great proportion of medicines used in human medicine can be used in veterinary medicine and vice-versa. 

Did you know? Among several similarities between the anatomy of dogs and humans, one specific organ has been noticed to be missing in dogs, can you guess what organ this is?

The missing organ is the appendix, a tube-shaped structure found by the colon in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen. So appendicitis is something dogs will never get.

How Many Diseases Do Dogs and Humans Have in Common?

Dogs have been reported to bear over 450 different types of diseases. 

Out of these 450 diseases, 360 are analogous to human diseases (Patterson, 2000; Parker and Ostrander, 2005; Wayne and Ostrander, 2007).

Dogs and humans share several medical conditions 

Dogs and humans share several medical conditions 

An Alley in Cancer Research

Many types of cancer affect both humans and dogs. Following are some malignancies found in dogs that are also seen in humans:

  • Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the bladder
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma 
  • Leukemia
  • Melanoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Soft tissue sarcomas 
  • Mammary carcinomas
  • Squamous cell carcinomas 

Several of these cancers are seen in particular clusters of dogs, which is suggestive of a hereditary predisposition. 

On top of this, cancer occurs in dogs, at a similar rate as it happens in human cancer, sharing several characteristics with human tumors.

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What Other Medical Conditions Do Dogs and Humans Share?

On top of sharing various forms of cancers, dogs and humans share a vast array of other medical conditions. 

Some examples include diabetes, epilepsy, eye diseases, and autoimmune diseases, along with some rare monogenetic diseases. 

Did you know? The most widespread use of animals used in research takes place in China, followed by Japan and the United States.

In 2019, about 800,000 laboratory animals were used in in the US, out of which 7 percent (56,000) comprised dogs.

What Kind of Dogs are Used in Medical Research?

Beagles have been known for many years for being one of the preferred breeds for medical research. 

This is likely because they are medium-sized, and have a placid temperament. 

However German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, have a history of being used too.

Did you know? Beagles have also been used in experiments on radiation. One beagle, "T0P5", was injected with highly toxic amounts of plutonium in 1952 and sadly died just 24 hours later.

A Welfare Problem

Nowadays, the use of dogs for medical research has declined in respect to the past due to increasing awareness and concern about animal welfare.  

The Humane Society of the U.S. recently filed a lawsuit against Envigo, a company that breeds beagles for medical research. 

The government inspectors discovered shocking violations of the Animal Welfare Act at this facility.

Several states have laws mandating that dogs used for research be released to loving homes when the animal no longer needs to be used for experiments. 

One such law in Michigan, Teddy's Law, requires lab dogs to be adopted after their use, once the research is over.

References:

  • Shearin, A.L.; Ostrander, E.A. Leading the way: Canine models of genomics and disease. Dis. Model Mech. 2010, 3, 27–34  
  • Schulte, E.; Arlt, S.P. What Kinds of Dogs Are Used in Clinical and Experimental Research?. Animals 2022, 12, 1487

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