Companion animal models of neurological disease

J Neurosci Methods. 2020 Feb 1;331:108484. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2019.108484. Epub 2019 Nov 13.


Clinical translation of novel therapeutics that improve the survival and quality of life of patients with neurological disease remains a challenge, with many investigational drug and device candidates failing in advanced stage clinical trials. Naturally occurring inherited and acquired neurological diseases, such as epilepsy, inborn errors of metabolism, brain tumors, spinal cord injury, and stroke occur frequently in companion animals, and many of these share epidemiologic, pathophysiologic and clinical features with their human counterparts. As companion animals have a relatively abbreviated lifespan and genetic background, are immunocompetent, share their environment with human caregivers, and can be clinically managed using techniques and tools similar to those used in humans, they have tremendous potential for increasing the predictive value of preclinical drug and device studies. Here, we review comparative features of spontaneous neurological diseases in companion animals with an emphasis on neuroimaging methods and features, illustrate their historical use in translational studies, and discuss inherent limitations associated with each disease model. Integration of companion animals with naturally occurring disease into preclinical studies can complement and expand the knowledge gained from studies in other animal models, accelerate or improve the manner in which research is translated to the human clinic, and ultimately generate discoveries that will benefit the health of humans and animals.

Keywords: Animal models; Epilepsy; Movement disorders; Neuro-oncology; Neurodegenerative disease; Spinal cord injury; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epilepsy*
  • Humans
  • Pets
  • Quality of Life