(From Clinical Forum, Companion Animal Practice, March, 1987)
Question: I would like to share a pleasant and amazing story with you, in the hope you will repeat it to other dog lovers who read your magazine. When my 100 lb. 10-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer started having difficulty getting in and out of the car and up and down in a prone position because of his arthritis, I took him to the vet who told me there wasn't much he could do except give him strong pain-killers, and that would be bad for his health at his age. The vet told me to just keep him warm, walk him regularly, and generally make him comfortable.
Then a friend told me of a dietary supplement she has been giving to her 13-year-old dog that is good for pain relief. So I purchased the DLPA (DL-Phenylalanine), a nutrient, at the health food store and started giving my dog half a capsule (750 mg) with his dinner each evening.
The change in my dog in one week was nothing short of miraculous. He bounded around frisky and pert as a puppy. Jumping in the front seat of the car and over into the back seat of the car with the enthusiasm and strength of a young dog. Plus, his mental attitude changed and now he is happy, playful and raring to go on his daily walks.
His appetite has increased, and he is enjoying a new relish in eating his food. All my friends are so impressed by my dog's improvement, that they are giving DLPA to their older, arthritic dogs.
I was wondering why so few veterinarians recommended this food supplement, or have even heard of DLPA for pain and depression in dogs when it can be purchased so inexpensively in any health food store? No one seems to know much about treating animals with DLPA. Do you know of any research being done on DLPA's effects on domestic animals? I would appreciate knowing more about any research being done, or if there are any side effects? Or, if you or any one have explored the possibilities of helping animals in pain by using this nutrient, DLPA?
M. Dana - Costa Mesa, California
Response: DLPA has come into quite a great deal of interest in the human field, primarily, in the last few years. In 1978, Dr. Seymour Ehrenpreis of the Departments of Pharmacology and Anesthesiology at the University of Chicago Medical School published the results of a clinical study of D-Phenylalanine (DPA) in the treatment of various kinds of chronic pain. This study led to the publication of further studies along the same line. Since then the product has been used in the DL- form of phenylalanine, as it has a much greater nutritional value to the body. The product is, of course, non-toxic (except for phenylketonurics) because it is one of the essential amino acids. It has been particularly effective in the treatment of the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, which is the problem presented by the dog in the letter.
Both d- and DL-phenylalanine work by intensifying and prolonging the body's natural painkilling response. Studies have shown that the D- form inhibits several enzymes which are responsible for the destruction of endorphins, the body's endogenously produced pain killing hormones. Therefore, the pain relief triggered by the body as a natural reaction to injury, disease, etc., is dramatically intensified and prolonged.
Interestingly enough, though chronic pain is very effectively blocked, there is not a blockage of short term, acute pain, so that the body's natural defense mechanisms are not damaged.
Suggested dose in humans in 750 milligrams three times a day, given 15 to 30 minutes before each meal. It is normally considered that a response will be seen within on to two weeks. Because in the body the D- form is slowly changed to the L- form, the product can often be given for only one week out of the month to provide adequate pain control. However, since this may be a little more difficult to delineate in a dog we normally recommend continuous supplementation.
Summing it up, therefore, it becomes a very interesting product. It is non-addictive, non-toxic, has no adverse side effects, the effects frequently become stronger over time, has an anti-depressant action and can be combined with any other existing therapy.
Carvel G. Tiekert, D.V.M.
(Ed. Note: This information was given to my by Dr. Stockner's office as a possible therapy for Teddy. I have been giving it for about 30 days and although there is a lessening of the limp, it is not the miraculous recovery indicated by the Shorthair owner. However, Teddy's condition may not be susceptible to this form of therapy. It could be worth a try in other cases.)