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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

An un-commissioned randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study to test the effect of deep sea fish oil as a pain reliever for dogs suffering from canine OA

Anna Hielm-Björkman1*, Johanna Roine12, Kari Elo2, Anu Lappalainen1, Jouni Junnila3 and Outi Laitinen-Vapaavuori1

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, P.O.Box 57, Helsinki, FI-00014, Finland

2 Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry. Department of Animal sciences, University of Helsinki, P.O.Box 28, Helsinki, FI-00014, Finland

3 4Pharma Ltd., Metsänneidonkuja 6, Espoo, FI-02130, Finland

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BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:157  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-157

Published: 6 September 2012

Abstract

Background

An un-commissioned randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled clinical study was planned using a deep sea fish oil product for pets. Seventy-seven client-owned dogs with osteoarthritis were randomly assigned to supplement the food with either the fish oil product or corn (=placebo) oil. Our main outcome variables were force platform variables peak vertical force (PVF) and impulse, the validated Helsinki Chronic Pain Index (HCPI) and the use of rescue NSAIDs. Secondary outcome variables were a locomotion visual analog scale (VAS), a Quality of life VAS, a comparative questionnaire, a veterinary assessment, owners’ final assessment of outcome and guessing the product given.

Results

When comparing the two test groups at the end of the trial (16 weeks) there was no significant difference in any of the main outcome variables but owners of dogs that had taken fish oil were significantly happier with the treatment at the end visit and did significantly better at guessing what group their dogs had been in, compared to the placebo group. When comparing variables within the fish oil group as change from baseline to trial end, there were significant positive changes in PVF, HCPI, NSAID use, Quality of life VAS, as well as in all three scores in the comparative questionnaire (locomotion, every-day situations, and skin & coat). There were similar positive trends in force platform impulse and in the veterinary assessment variables, although they did not reach significance. Within the placebo group there were significant positive changes only in the HCPI and a significant deterioration according to veterinary assessment.

Conclusions

When compared to placebo, there was not a major statistically significant benefit in using deep sea fish oil as a pain reliever in our study population of dogs suffering from osteoarthritis. However, the fish oil treated patients improved significantly in many of the variables, when comparing baseline values to the study-end values within the group, indicating a true but small relief in symptoms. Deep sea fish oil supplementation could be considered a part of the multimodal pain relieving approach currently recommended for dogs suffering from OA, especially for individuals that do not tolerate anti-inflammatory drugs.

Keywords:
Osteoarthritis; Pain; Fish oil; Omega-3; Fatty acid; Canine / Dog; Supplement; Joint; RCT; Double-blind