Pet Owners Beware: Why Owners Should ask Veterinarians about the Evidence behind their Treatments
I was recently interviewed for an article on the nature of evidence in veterinary medicine, and why pet owners should be concerned about the evidence their veterinarian uses to support his or her recommendations. If clients demand the therapies given to their pets be based on good science, veterinarians will make this happen. If pet owners simply accept personal experience of anecdote as the reason for using a particular treatment, they won’t be providing their animal companions with the best possible care.
So ask your vet why they think the drugs your animal is being given will work. We’re going to have to confront our own psychological biases, here: research shows that people prefer confident advice, sometimes even when we know those giving it have been wrong before. And good answers to these questions will inevitably be hedged with caveats about the small number of studies that have been done, and their limitations. If all you get from your vet is a bland assurance that they’ve been doing this for years, and see great results, get them to talk you through the scientific evidence. If they can’t do so, that should be a warning sign: It might be time to look for another vet.
Our companion animals do great things for us, improving not just our psychological well-being but also our physical health through knock-on effects like reduced blood pressure. The least we can do in return is to challenge vets to base their decisions on the best available science.