Clinical Trials in Veterinary Medicine

April 12, 2021

Clinical Trials in Veterinary Medicine

A veterinary clinical trial is a type of research study involving animals that is designed to gain a better understanding of a novel therapeutic option for pets. If designed well, a successful clinical trial may address concerns about preventing, diagnosing, or treating diseases. Examples of therapeutics that undergo clinical trials include drugs, medical devices, and vaccines. In the same way that research is performed in every aspect of human medicine to better understand diseases and potential treatments, research—including clinical trials—plays a crucial role in veterinary medical advancements. 


Veterinary clinical trials provide vital safety and efficacy information about potential drugs and therapies before they are approved for pet use. Without clinical trials, we would not have the myriad of safe, successful treatment options for pet diseases that are available today. For instance, many dogs with osteoarthritis are living with less pain and inflammation, thanks to several canine-specific arthritis medications. Successful clinical trials have also allowed for numerous cancer treatments in cats, dogs, and other small mammals. Given the quality of life that clinical trials provide for our pets, quantifying their importance is almost impossible. 


Each veterinary clinical trial must successfully complete a series of phases before the proposed therapy is approved for clinical use. This rigorous process involves five phases, in addition to any necessary research with cell cultures and/or laboratory animals before treatments are tested on pets. 

  • Phase 0 — This phase involves a small number of pet participants and may be combined with Phase 1 or 2 to confirm the targeted therapy. Phase 0 is typically the shortest phase of a clinical trial. 
  • Phase 1 — This phase uses approximately 6 to 12 pet subjects who are diagnosed with the disease that the therapeutic targets. Researchers use the proposed treatment in this group to determine safety and potential doses. 
  • Phase 2 — In this phase, a larger group of affected pets—usually 20 to 40—receive a particular dose of the therapeutic while researchers further assess safety and efficacy.
  • Phase 3 — The goal of this phase is to compare the new treatment to existing therapies for the particular disease. For instance, if the clinical trial is assessing a new cancer medication, researchers will compare the safety and efficacy of the novel drug with known cancer therapies, noting any differences. 
  • Phase 4 — A therapeutic that reaches this stage may have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the studied animal. This phase further compares existing therapies with novel therapy.  


Many veterinary clinical trials are conducted at large veterinary hospitals, including colleges of veterinary medicine and specialty hospitals, such as CASE. We are proud to participate in a number of clinical trials to help advance veterinary medicine for our patients. Many important treatments have been made available to pets due to recent clinical trials, and we will continue to partner with veterinary pharmaceutical companies, and other industry partners, to help bring the most cutting-edge medicine to our patients. 

dog next to medicine


Enrolling your pet in a clinical trial demonstrates your commitment to the advancement of care for people and animals, and also is a wonderful opportunity to expose your pet to a potentially beneficial treatment before becoming widely available. Trials often offer financial incentives to lessen the burden of care. However, participation in a clinical trial often involves frequent appointments, detailed note-taking, and potential side effects to your pet, so do not make the decision lightly. If your pet is a good clinical trial candidate, your supervising veterinarian should review these details with you prior to enrollment. 

If your pet suffers from a chronic disease or requires surgery or other therapies to address an illness, they may be eligible for certain ongoing clinical trials. If you are interested in this possibility, contact your primary veterinarian or CASE for more information on trials in our area.