Alt meds for pets? Really?

The Washington Post has had two articles this week on "alternative" treatments, both of them very poorly researched, both written by reporters who just couldn't gush enough over the possibilities for cures promised by promoters of treatments such as Reiki, homeopathy, acupuncture, and Chinese herbs. It's too painful for me to repeat the claims of the first article - which was little more than marketing hype, focusing on a physician who was offering these treatments to her human patients - so I'll just mention today's article, which is titled "Going Beyond the Usual Rx for Rover: Alternative Treatments Gaining Acceptance."

According to the article, veterinarians who believe (despite the complete lack of evidence) "that such alternative therapies as acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help animals struggling with arthritis and allergies are finding growing acceptance from some peers and an eager reception from pet owners." The article quotes several veterinarians (is it really accurate to call them vets? I wonder) in northern Virginia who now specialize in acupuncture and homeopathy for pets.

The evidence for these therapies, when they've been studied properly, is that they offer no benefit other than the placebo effect. For treatment of pain, patients who think they're getting almost any treatment (including acupuncture) tend to report that they are feeling somewhat less pain - even if the treatment is a "sham" treatment such as a sugar pill or sham acupuncture. That's fine for people, but what about pets? You can't explain to Fido why the good doctor is sticking needles into him. Ouch!

These treatments aren't cheap - "alt vets" charge about $100 for an acupuncture session, according to the article. One doctor in Bethesda, Maryland offers ozone therapy to treat cancer and kidney failure. I wonder what that costs? Do these vets know that the American Cancer Foundation strongly advises cancer patients against ozone therapy (yes, it is heavily marketed for people too), noting that "there is no evidence that ozone is effective for the treatment of cancer"?

From the Post article, it's pretty clear that the placebo effect is once again operating, but it's affecting the pet owners, not the pets. Several owners are quoted saying how they saw their pets improve after homeopathy or acupuncture. One dog owner brings her border collie in for an "acupuncture tuneup" (no, I'm not making this up! if only I were so clever) every three months. The owner, who obviously believes this works, reports that "after a session here, she [the collie] runs like a puppy." I would too, after escaping those sharp needles for another three-month reprieve!

1 comment:

  1. Alternative Medicine for pets? Gosh, we need to tax people more in this country! Yes, people will see and observe what they want to believe. This is also true of parents subjecting their children to quack therapies. The parents will see improvements in their children after subjecting them to quack remedies (autism for example).


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