Dogs are used in biomedical research as they have certain similarities with humans which are not present in other animals.

Read more below about this, plus find out about recent studies using dogs in the final section of this page.

Uses of dogs in animal research
  •  Carnivores (which include dogs and cats) represent 0.25% of the total number of animals used in 2011 in the EU, while mice (60.9%) and rats (13.9%) are by far the most commonly used species (1).


  • For a new drug to reach clinical trials in humans, the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) usually require toxicity tests in both a rodent and a non-rodent mammal. The rodent will often be a rat; the other mammal will usually be a dog.

  • Dogs are used because they are physiologically similar to humans.

  • Dogs can be used to determine the ‘maximum tolerated dose’, which helps to determine dose selection for human trials.

  • Dogs are especially suitable for cardiovascular studies due to the resemblance in heart connectivity and size to the human heart.

  • Experiments on dogs led to the discovery of insulin to treat diabetic patients, the development of blood transfusion procedures and the creation of the electrical defibrillator to restore normal heart rhythm (2).

Breeding dogs for scientific purposes
  • Dogs for research are purpose-bred and come from licensed breeding establishments as required in the European Directive that protects animals used for scientific purposes (3).

  • At the breeding establishment, dogs are housed in small groups and have enough space for regular exercise.

  • Breeding establishments are legally bound by the same guidelines as research centres and scientist, as laid out in European Directive 2010/63 (3) which seeks to ensure high animal welfare standards while encouraging the development of non-animal alternatives.


  1. Seventh Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the Statistics on the number of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes in the member states of the European Union COM (2013) 859/final. (Accessed 15th July 2015).


  3. Directive 2010/63/EU

  4. Russell WMS, Burch RL (1959). The principles of humane experimental technique. London: Methuen. pp 238.

Dogs and
animal research

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