Utility and Repeatability of Quantitative Outcome Measures to Assess Recovery after Canine Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study is to adapt several tests of sensory and motor function commonly used in rodent SCI models for dogs and to assess the utility and reliability of these tests in measuring recovery from SCI in dogs


There is a high incidence of SCI in the general canine population, leading to a recent surge of clinical trials evaluating treatments to improve outcome. However, many clinical trials have difficulty identifying treatment effects because of a lack of sensitive and quantifiable measures to document sensory and motor recovery in dogs with SCI. There is a critical need for the development of sensitive and reliable outcome measures to assess recovery in dogs with SCI. Without reliable outcome measures, small-scale clinical trials are unlikely to identify modest but important treatment affects that would lead to larger-scale trials to benefit dogs with SCI.

We expect our results to provide multiple valuable outcome measures by which to document sensory and motor improvement in dogs with SCI. Based on preliminary data, we expect sensory testing to delineate insensate zones from normal thresholds, Catwalk data will show increasing dyscoordination with increasing SCI severity, and BBB scores will correlate with locomotor scores from a previously validated scale. This study may provide rapid clinical benefit to dogs with SCI by allowing veterinary researchers to “speak the same language” as bench-top researchers and federal agencies regarding treatment effects in therapeutic trials, opening the door to federal funding to study canine SCI by validating outcome measures necessary to draft competitive research proposals.

Inclusion criteria

To qualify for enrollment in this study, dogs must:

  • Have a diagnosis or presumed diagnosis of intervertebral disc herniation.
  • OR be neurologically and orthopedically normal (control group)
  • < 15 kg and of chondrodystrophic breeds

Study Design

Normal Dogs

  • Patients will be screened for eligibility, if enrolled, dogs will be asked to perform the following list of tests during each testing session with a 1 hour resting period between testing.  Normal dogs will undergo each behavioral test three times, on three separate occasions, at least 24 hours apart.
    • Behavioral Assements: Gait scoring, cat walk assessment,  Electronic von Frey anesthesiometery

Affected Dogs

  • Patients will be screened for eligibility, affected dogs with acute SCI and T3-L3 myelopathy secondary to IVDE are eligible. Dogs will receive a gait score prior to enrollment in the study.  Dogs will undergo medical or surgical management of their IVDE at the discretion of their primary clinician, and may be enrolled in the study regardless of manner of treatment. It is, however, anticipated that most dogs will undergo surgical decompression via hemilaminectomy for treatment of their IVDE.
    • Behavioral Assements: gait scoring, cat walk assessment,  Electronic von Frey anesthesiometery
    • Recheck physical and neurologic exam
  • If enrolled, dogs will be asked to perform the following list of tests at 3 time points: 3, 10 and 30 days post injury.


Client Compensation

The sponsor will cover study associated costs for screening and recheck visits plus a $200 credit at the end of the study

Contact Information

Please contact the Clinical Trials Office at the Veterinary Medical Center for more information about this study.