If you have a pet, you know how expensive it can be to take care of them, especially when it comes to veterinary care.
Recently, I found out about a unique way to help cover veterinary costs for my own sick dog, and help improve veterinary care for other dogs.
The average American spends $611 per year on vet care for a normal, healthy pet. As our furry friends age, they sometimes develop chronic health conditions like arthritis, kidney and liver disease.
These conditions can require medication for the remainder of the pet’s life, and that comes with an even heftier price tag. In fact, vet costs shoot up to $935 per year once pets are diagnosed with a chronic health condition.
Obviously, there’s an enormous economic incentive for pet pharmaceutical companies to develop new and better drugs to help pets. This is where companies need your help, and they’ll pay handsomely for it.
Enter my dog — Juno.
She’s only five years old, but she has a chronic health condition. It’s not at all debilitating or very serious, but she’ll be on medication for the rest of her life.
Recently, I got a call from her vet saying there’s a new medication to treat her condition, and the drug company is recruiting volunteers for a new clinical study.
One of the vet techs at my clinic was helping to coordinate the study, and made it very clear that her first priority is to Juno. She said the clinic only participates in studies that will have a definite benefit to the animals.
She went over the study process and all the risks and benefits of the clinical trial with me, which I carefully considered.
The biggest factor I had to consider was whether or not it’d help Juno.
The new medication has the exact same side effects as the ones she’s currently taking, and it’s expected to be more effective in the long run. In this case, it was a no-brainer.
Plus, the drug company would cover all the study’s costs for vet care and medications ($75 for the medication she’s currently on). By the end, they’d also tack on a $400 credit for future veterinary expenses, which I could also use for our two cats, as well.
How Clinical Trials Work
Pharmaceutical companies and researchers work with local vet clinics and hospitals all over the country to test new medications.
At each location, one or several people are designated as study coordinators, who enroll pets and work with pet owners to ensure the study goes smoothly. These are the people who will help you.
Usually, your pet needs a health exam before being enrolled in a clinical trial. Once deemed fit for the study, the coordinator will go over the requirements and answer your questions.
Once everything is clear, they’ll give you the medication for your pet — or administer the treatment.
They usually require a few other things, as well. You’ll usually need to bring your pet back a few times (or many) for follow-up checkups. You might also need to fill out daily health logs and forms to take note of abnormalities, when the medication was given, how it was given, etc…
At the end of the study, your pet’s given another exam to make sure they’re still OK, and you’re done.
You’re usually left with some kind of compensation for your time, and the knowledge that you and your pet helped bring new medications to the market to help animals everywhere.
Are Clinical Trials Right for Your Pet?
If your pet has a medical condition that needs to be managed, it’s well worth your time to see if there are any studies in the pipeline that could help them.
These studies often are the best place to find the newest, cutting-edge drugs and treatments to help your pet. They could even save your pet’s life — especially from serious diseases like cancer.
Before you sign your pet (or yourself) up for any trial under the sun, you’ll need to consider whether or not it’s worth it. Ask about side effects, requirements, compensation and ultimately if the trial will really help your pet.
Where to Find Clinical Trials for Pets
Ask your vet if they participate in any trials that might be relevant for your pet. If they don’t, ask them if they know any other local vet clinics administering any trials. Veterinary teaching hospitals at universities are also great places to find trials.
Many websites can help you find clinical trials for yourself, but generally isn’t the case for pets.
The Veterinary Cancer Society is one exception. It operates an online database of all veterinary cancer trials currently looking for volunteers.
Your Turn: Do you have a pet with a health condition that requires medication? Have you participated in any clinical trials that might help your pet, and others?
Lindsay VanSomeren lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, and has a household of semi-geriatric animals who help keep her young.