The placebo effect is a known factor in human medicine. It occurs when a patient feels that they are benefiting from a fake pill or treatment, often given to patients in double-blind studies when researchers are testing new medications.
Is there a placebo effect for pets? A recent article in The Atlantic addresses this question.
While our pets don’t know what kind of medicine they are getting, we as owners do know. It turns out that placebos can trick owners into thinking that their pets are feeling better.
In one study on a canine epilepsy drug, 79% of owners with dogs on the placebo reported a reduction in seizures.
How does this happen? Veterinary experts report that we have “blind spots” about our pets, and our perceptions of their health don’t always match up with reality. This often happens when pet owners are aware that their pets are being studied and they have an expectation that they will see an improvement.
The placebo effect among pet owners is similar to what’s known as the “caregiver placebo effect.” When a patient—human or animal—can’t speak about how they are feeling, the caregiver must observe and judge the effects of a treatment.
The article points to one canine arthritis drug study where the perceptions of both owners and veterinarians were compared to actual physical exams. It turns out that even the vets were guilty of the caregiver placebo effect.
The danger of the veterinary placebo effect is that our pets may continue to suffer while we think that they are feeling better. Veterinarians note that it’s natural for us to want our pets to feel better, we just have to be aware of our perceptions and expectations.
We are celebrating a milestone, our 2,500th life saved!
Meet Charlie, an adorable 5 year old Terrier mix. Recently, Charlie began to show signs of illness. Her family brought her to the vet where she was diagnosed with pyometra, a life-threatening infection of the uterus in unspayed female dogs.
Charlie needed emergency surgery. Her human parents are a senior couple struggling to make ends meet. Charlie’s mom has needed a wheelchair to get around since an accident, and the family credits Charlie with being a key element of her rehabilitation.
“I honestly credit Charlie with saving my wife’s life. Though she is still wheelchair bound, Charlie helped get her through this tough time. Charlie is always by her side,” reports Charlie’s dad.
Diabetes tends to be more common in cats than dogs. And also in older pets that are overweight.
Managing your pet’s weight is key to preventing diabetes. Studies have shown that high protein-low carb diets are the best approach. Some pets have even been able to go off insulin with a change in diet.
Regular exercise is also key to diabetes prevention…and your pet’s overall good health.
While there is no cure, your pet’s diabetes can be managed and treated with a combination of medication, regular monitoring and veterinary checkups, and of course a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Be sure to talk to your vet if you have questions about diabetes in your dog or cat.
A sobering new video produced by Dr. Carrie Turnbull of the Staunton River Veterinary Clinic in Virginia might come as a surprise to many pet owners.
The suicide rate among veterinarians is significantly higher than the rate for the general population. One study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that female veterinarians are 3.5 times and male veterinarians 2.1 times as likely to die from suicide than the general population.
Dr. Turnbull notes in her video that many veterinarians tend to be high-achiever, type A personality types, and they are strongly affected by the stressors inherent in their jobs, such as unsuccessful treatments and patient deaths.
She also notes that vets can experience financial stress and many carry a significant amount of debt for years after veterinary school.
Do you have friends or family in the veterinary profession? Dr. Turnbull recommends checking in with them to see how they are doing and if they are getting the help and support that they need.
You can watch Dr. Turnbull’s video below and learn more about this issue on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website HERE. There is also a Facebook group called Not One More Vet that provides help for vets in need of support.