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.
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.
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.