Researching Mechanisms of Chronic Pain in Dogs

Author: Sharon M. Albright, DVM, CCRT

No one wants their dog to suffer chronic pain. Not only does it diminish quality of life, but pain is a medical problem that can, and should, be treated. Chronic pain in dogs can result from osteoarthritis, cancer, neurologic disease, and more. Common signs include decreased activity, difficulty going up or down stairs, decreased appetite, and excessive grooming or licking one particular area of the body. Current treatment options for canine pain include medications, acupuncture, laser therapy, and rehabilitation therapy.

To explore new treatment options for chronic pain in dogs, AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) funded investigators are examining the molecular mechanisms of pain, searching for biochemical processes or molecules that we can target with new medications to stop pain. With funding from CHF grant 01985: Defining Novel Drug Targets to Treat Chronic and Neuropathic Pain in the Dog, investigators in Australia focused on one specific family of molecules known as purine receptors. In humans and rodents, these receptors are involved in moving calcium in and out of white blood cells (macrophages specifically) to signal or promote pain and inflammation. Through genetic study and measuring calcium movement, they demonstrated the presence of two types of functioning purine receptors in a culture of canine macrophages. Results recently published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences1 mean that scientists can now use these cells to further study the mechanisms of pain in dogs and test potential new drugs for treatment of canine pain.

CHF and its donors know that no dog deserves to suffer pain. Along with studying many other canine diseases, they invest in the study of pain itself to improve the health and well-being of dogs. In addition to the research described here, CHF-funded investigators are exploring breed differences in the perception of pain (CHF grant 02797: Do Dog Breeds Differ in Pain Sensitivity?) and the use of nerve blocks to prevent and treat pain during abdominal surgery (CHF grant 02593-A: Evaluation of the Transversus Abdominis Plane Block to Control Pain Associated with Abdominal Surgery in Dogs). These important studies will provide new and better options for the treatment of canine pain. Learn more about this important work at

1. Sophocleous, R. A., Miles, N. A., Ooi, L., & Sluyter, R. (2020). P2Y2 and P2X4 Receptors Mediate Ca2+ Mobilization in DH82 Canine Macrophage Cells. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(22), 8572.

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