We all know about clinical trials in people. Faced with a complicated health issue or desperate for a new type of therapy, some of us will enroll in an experimental study at a hospital or university. It turns out that dogs and cats have their own clinical trials. For the past decade, veterinarians and scientists have conducted hundreds of studies on pets in order to develop new therapies, not just for people, but for dogs and cats themselves.
In my latest story for Science, I explore the growing field of pet clinical trials. Dogs and cats live in the same world we do–and they get many of the same diseases–so they may be a better model than lab rodents for developing new blockbuster drugs for society. But there are also challenges in working with pets, and some question whether such trials will ever really benefit human health. At the very least though, they’re likely to help an important member of our families: our companion animals.