My first contribution to the Swift blog at the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is up today.
Placebo effects, of course, operate for all medical therapies, effective or ineffective, conventional or alternative. But when considering alternative therapies, it is especially important to be aware of such effects because these therapies usually lack convincing scientific evidence that they have benefits beyond that of a placebo. As mentioned, uncommon alternative therapies like acupuncture and homeopathy are no better validated scientifically for pets than for people. Even some of the most commonly used therapies, like glucosamine, which is ubiquitous in the treatment of arthritis in old dogs and cats, often lack any reliable evidence they actually help.
Because the false impression of a benefit from an ineffective therapy can truly harm our animal companions, who cannot speak for themselves or tell us directly when we have failed to relieve their symptoms, it is especially important to insist on reliable, controlled scientific evidence for the safety and efficacy of the therapies we use for our pets.