Translation of therapeutic interventions for spinal cord injury (SCI) from laboratory to clinic has been historically challenging, highlighting the need for robust models of injury that more closely mirror the human condition. The high prevalence of acute, naturally occurring SCI in pet dogs provides a unique opportunity to evaluate expeditiously promising interventions in a population of animals that receive diagnoses and treatment clinically in a manner similar to persons with SCI, while adhering to National Institutes of Health guidelines for scientific rigor and transparent reporting. In addition, pet dogs with chronic paralysis are often maintained long-term by their owners, offering a similarly unique population for study of chronic SCI. Despite this, only a small number of studies have used the clinical dog model of SCI. The Canine Spinal Cord Injury Consortium (CANSORT-SCI) was recently established by a group of veterinarians and basic science researchers to promote the value of the canine clinical model of SCI. The CANSORT-SCI group held an inaugural meeting November 20 and 21, 2015 to evaluate opportunities and challenges to the use of pet dogs in SCI research. Key challenges identified included lack of familiarity with the model among nonveterinary scientists and questions about how and where in the translational process the canine clinical model would be most valuable. In light of these, we review the natural history, outcome, and available assessment tools associated with canine clinical SCI with emphasis on their relevance to human SCI and the translational process.
Keywords: animal model; clinical trial; dog; spinal cord injury.