That Woo Woo That Your Vet Do

11 Aug
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by Benjamen Johnson

I love my veterinarian’s office. All of the staff — the vets, the technicians, and the clerks — are always friendly. They know my dog Greta by name, not to mention that our vet saved my dog’s life. But, I had one uncomfortable encounter with our vet about a controversial supplement. Ever since I’ve been uneasy that he’ll try to push it on my dog when we visit.

Buying a dog is an expensive proposition. Not only do you pay for the animal upfront, but you need to pay for veterinary services, food, treats, toys, medicines, and the damage they cause as puppies. Expenses may vary depending on your pet, but my 10 year old German Shepard has cost me $11690.85 to date. A good chunk of that has gone to the vet, so it’s important that you find one you can trust. I’m not sure what it costs to raise a normal dog, but my girl was an accident prone puppy, endures seasonal allergies, almost died from ITP[1], has an under performing thyroid, and finally now suffers arthritis.

When my vet and I discussed ways to alleviate her pain and stiffness, the first thing he recommended was a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement called Dasuquin®[2]. I pressed him for further information because I was already aware that recent studies have shown that glucosamine and chondroitin are all but useless in humans[3] and the few studies in animals don’t show efficacy[4]. When I told him this, he tried to assure me that this product had been shown improve cartilage growth in the lab when tested in vitro (in a test tube). He tried to convince me that the problem with most glucosamine and chondroitin supplements is that they don’t have enough of the active ingredients in the right form whereas Dasuquin® does.

What he does to show his customers that the product works is to give the dog cortisone to ease its pain so that the owner can see how much it can improve. Then they start the dog on a $30 a month regimen of Dasuquin®. He said that most of the dogs respond to the supplement after a few months as well as they did to the cortisone. To most people that might be convincing, but with the measure of success being his and the owner’s subjective observations, it’s just as easy to say that since they were spending the money and committing to the treatment, they needed to see improvement to justify their investment.

This particular vet isn’t intentionally trying to mislead us, he genuinely wants to make life better for my dog. I just think he’s been taken in by the hype and placebo response. We’re all guilty of it. We take a few ibuprofen when we have a headache and assume it was the medicine that made our headache go away, rather than the headache going away on it’s own. I would have hoped that somebody trained in the field would know better.

We still continue to take Greta to him, and when the time comes to get a new dog, we’ll take it to him too. What I’ve lost is the ability to trust everything he tells me when we visit  —  just one more burden of being a skeptic I guess.

Note: An excellent site on veterinary medicine is the SkepVet Blog.

Sigh, why do I have to put up with SCAMs?

References and Footnotes:

  1. Canine Immune Mediated Thrombocytopenia (ITP). Seattle Veteranry Specialists Website. Retrieved Aug. 11th, 2011 from http://www.svsvet.com/resources_article.php?articleid=76
  2. I have a personal policy not to link to CAM and other woo woo, I feel that by including links in a reputable website just betters their search ratings.
  3. Hall, Harriet. July 27th, 2010. Glucosamine: The Unsinkable Rubber Duck. Science Based Medicine. Retreived Aug 11, 2011 from http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/glucosamine-the-unsinkable-rubber-duck/
  4. skeptvet. Mar 9th, 2011. Is Recommending Glucosamine for Arthritis Evidence-Based Medicine, or Wishful Thinking? The SkepVet Blog. Retrieved Aug 11th, 2011 from http://skeptvet.com/Blog/2011/03/is-recommending-glucosamine-for-arthritis-evidence-based-medicine-or-wishful-thinking/
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One Response to “That Woo Woo That Your Vet Do”

  1. Stephanie Brown / CogSciLibrarian August 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

    It’s no fun when you can’t completely trust your vet. Thanks for the link to SkepVet – I’m adding it to my quiver of good vet sites. Another one I like is VeterinaryPartner.com, which has been recommended by 2 of our cats’ vets. Here’s the entry on glucosamine and chondroitin supplements — http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=542. I used your query as a test of the site – while they provide information on it, and suggest it could be useful, they don’t technically endorse it. I’ve found them to be helpful on all the feline ailments we’ve all suffered thru the years.

    Sorry about Greta’s arthritis.

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