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Media coverage of animal experimentation on dogs

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In the past few days, the media have given prominence to the testing of dental implants on dogs by the University of Gothenburg. We understand that this arouses emotions. These animal experiments are carried out only where no current alternatives exist. The knowledge provided by the research can help people to chew and speak.

Today, periodontal disease is a major health problem. Missing teeth may make it difficult to eat and talk. Dental implantation is a well-established method for replacing teeth. But some 15 percent of implant recipients have been shown to suffer from the implants harboring bacteria that cause inflammation in surrounding tissues. One resulting problem is that, if this happens, implants may be lost and be difficult to replace.

The use of dogs in the testing of dental implants is due to their jaw physiognomy, which enables real implants to be used and operations conducted in the same way as on humans. Dogs’ saliva and mouth bacteria also resemble people’s. The research underway on dogs at the University of Gothenburg is about how to improve this treatment, and is exploring how the surfaces and shapes of implants should be designed to reduce inflammation risk.

Taking animal care very seriously

Our staff spends much time with the dogs, and occupies them with agility training and other activities. The dogs are kept in groups, rather than alone. They have regular breaks and are outdoors every day. They sleep on raised platforms. A veterinarian and animal keeper constantly monitor the dogs, and any illness or injury is taken with the utmost seriousness and treated. We also do everything to prevent pain. For example, after surgery that may cause pain, we administer painkillers to the dogs.

We have received many inquiries from private individuals wishing to take care of the dogs when the experiments are concluded. Unfortunately, this is not possible. The dogs are put down so that their tissue and blood can undergo further analyses that provide important information. For example, we must examine the tissue to assess how the implant has healed in place and how it is affecting surrounding tissues. Unfortunately, these investigations cannot be carried out on living animals. The animals are euthanized in such a way that they do not suffer; they are put to sleep and do not wake up again.

Animal experiments are avoided as far as possible , and there are several drivers of the quest for other options. But sometimes the risks of testing directly on people are considered too high. Animal experiments are still used, for example, in research on interaction among various organs of a living body, and how they affect one another in healthy and pathological states. Experiments of this kind on humans are prohibited under both Swedish and international law.

Research with no animal experimentation not yet possible

There is a view that animal testing is no longer needed at all. Unfortunately, this is not true. Animal experimentation may, after approval by an animal ethics committee, be used where no alternatives currently exist. However, it is important to know that as far as possible, animal tests are not used. But since living creatures are complex, it is not possible at present to phase out these experiments entirely. Animal experiments are used, for example, to develop new drugs and new treatment methods or increase our basic knowledge, which may in turn lead to new drugs and treatment methods later on.

Active efforts are being made in Sweden to refine the experimentation so that the animals are less affected; to reduce the number of animals used; and to replace animal testing with other methods. The “3R” (Refine, Reduce, Replace) principle is a cornerstone for all animal experiments in Sweden.

Although medical research devoid of animal experimentation is still some way off in the future, it is important to remember that most medical research at the University of Gothenburg is already being conducted in test tubes or by means of cell culture techniques.

All animal experiments approved by ethical committee

Animal experimentation is a strictly regulated activity, subject to Swedish and EU legislation on animal protection. To carry out animal experiments in Sweden, a scientist must first apply for a permit from a special ethical committee that reviews animal experimentation, which investigates the ethics of the proposed experiments. The chair and vice-chair of such a committee are lawyers. Of the 12 other members, half are researchers, animal-testing technicians or personnel in charge of experimental animals. The other half are laymen, some of whom are from animal welfare organizations.

The University of Gothenburg is open to discussion on these and other issues. On the other hand, we do not tolerate threats. All threats are reported to the police.