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Polyethylene Glycol for Dogs

By Barbara Forney, VMD

Last reviewed: 7/13/2022

Commonly prescribed for: Spinal-cord injury (SCI), Traumatic Brain Injury

Species: Dogs

Therapeutic Class: Hydrophilic Polymer

Basic Information

Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is a hydrophilic polymer that has been used in experimental studies as a reparative agent to treat SCI and, more recently, traumatic brain injury in laboratory animals. It soon may be used in human clinical trials. At this time, the majority of the research on the use of PEG in animals has been conducted at the Center for Paralysis Research at Purdue University. Additional Information: A Preliminary Study of Intravenous Surfactants in Paraplegic Dogs: Polymer Therapy in Canine Clinical SCI. Journal of Neurotrauma Volume 21, Number 12, 2004.(1) PEG is a water-soluble polymer that has been shown to repair or seal the cellular plasma membrane of damaged axons. PEG also enters injured cells and protects mitochondrial function and reduces the release of cytochrome-c, a cellular-death factor. The repair of nerve membranes by polymeric sealing can lead to rapid and dramatic improvement in function. PEG preferentially targets injured tissue within the central nervous system. It has been studied using direct application to the site of trauma, intravenous therapy, and intraperitoneal and subcutaneous administration. In experimental studies, systemically administered fluorescein labeled PEG marked the site of the damaged spinal cord, as well as local direct application. Much of the experimental work that is now being conducted uses subcutaneous PEG.


There was one clinical trial in 2004 using intravenous PEG to treat dogs with severe naturally occurring SCI due to acute explosive disc-herniation. This study was conducted in collaboration between Veterinary Clinical Sciences Department at Purdue University and the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. The results of this pilot study were very positive. The dogs in the study experienced marked neurological improvement, with no unacceptable clinical complications or deaths1.

Polyethylene Glycol 30% Side Effects

PEG is an experimental drug and there is little research or information on side effects. Side effects described in uninjured control animals (rats and dogs) include lethargy and mild agitation.


PEG is an experimental drug and the most recent information should be sought before any clinical use is attempted.

There appears to be a difference in the window of opportunity for treatment using PEG to treat SCI as opposed to traumatic brain injury (TBI). Treatment with PEG for SCI can be useful for as long as 72 hours post-injury. The window of opportunity for effective treatment of TBI appears to be within two to four hours post-injury.

When PEG is applied focally to the injured tissue, there appears to be minimal toxicity if applied for less than five minutes or in a pulsatile fashion for up to 25 minutes.

Drug Interactions

No drug interactions have been discussed in the experimental literature. This drug is not in widespread clinical use.


No information was available from the experimental literature regarding overdose.

(1) Laverty, P.H. et al., Journal of Neurotrauma Dec. 1, 2004, 21(12):1767-1777
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