Pets deserve Evidence-based Medicine Too!

Here’s a recent interview I did for NPR on the SkeptVet Blog and the need for skeptical, evidence-based medicine for our animal companions.

Why does the world need skeptical veterinarians?

Pet owners need to know the pros and cons of health care options for their pets to make good decisions. “Skeptic” doesn’t mean someone who automatically rejects new or unfamiliar ideas. It’s someone who refrains from judging a claim until they have examined the evidence dispassionately — someone who gives preference to scientific evidence over personal experience, anecdote, tradition or history.

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16 Responses to Pets deserve Evidence-based Medicine Too!

  1. Great intervue. I beat you to it on the recent Lees et al. review of homeopath vs. clinical pharmacology –

  2. v.t. says:

    Great article, skeptvet, I just wish NPR could do a bit more than a condensed version!

  3. skeptvet says:

    Nice post on those articles! I won’t make a competition out of it, since we need every voice we can get to warn of the evidence and ethical considerations against using homeopathy in animals.

  4. skeptvet says:

    Yes, this was a distillation of a VERY long conversation, and as always word limits are the enemy of complexity and nuance. Still, I thought the author did a nice job with the avalanche of stuff I threw at her! 🙂

  5. Adam Hafdahl says:

    I just found your blog through the NPR interview and have been impressed while perusing it. Thanks for the enormous amount of time, effort, etc. you’ve devoted to this fantastic resource. As a pet owner (2 cats) with longtime professional expertise in research synthesis — mainly meta-analysis — and personal interest in scientific skepticism, I’m heartened to see this sort of critical thinking emphasized for the well-being of creatures who depend heavily on their vets and owners to make responsible healthcare choices.

    Are there ways supporters can contribute financially to your work here?

  6. skeptvet says:

    Thanks, I appreciate the encouragement. I don’t have much need for financial support, though if you could get the MacArthur people on board, I wouldn’t mind! ;-).

  7. Cindy W says:

    I came to your blog after a friend posted your interview. I have now book marked your blog! Keep advocating for science based medicine – my dogs thank you for it.!

  8. Pamela Mueller PhD DVM says:

    Dear Skeptvet
    I too was happy to stumble on your blog via the NPR article , while browsing “News” on my phone. Having spent 13 years in scientific research before becoming a vet, I was originally shocked by the idea that medicine was NOT entirely evidence based. I just assumed it would be. But after ten years in practice I am getting worn down by the lack of rigorous data
    And scientific information, pressure of colleagues, pressure of pet owners to practice unproven methods left and right. It is great to have your reasoned voice out there. I hope more pet owners will come across your blog.

  9. skeptvet says:

    Thanks, glad you found the blog!

  10. skeptvet says:

    Thanks, I hope you find the blog useful!

  11. R. Sibb says:

    Since I found this blog a while ago I’ve been a fan. The main problem I have is that a lot of veterinarians will advertise “acupuncture”, “traditional Chinese medicine” or “holistic” (which generally has acquired a different meaning than just “considering all aspects”). It seems to be not easy to actually find a veterinarian who tells you that they are doing science based medicine. It leaves me as a pet owner to try to check up on the vet (refused to buy glucosamin supplements from 3 different vets so far) and trying to figure out what aspects of their medical practice I can trust and which I can’t. I tend to come here to check.

  12. v.t. says:

    R. Sibb,

    I believe that a larger number of vet clinics are advertising the “woo” services for a few reasons:

    1. Only one or two associate vets have taken woo courses, and the practice owner allows these methods of “therapy” to satisfy client demand (as well as the associate’s ego). Because if a vet can’t be pressured to placate an owner who insists on woo, the client will take their business down the street to the woo vet who is all too happy to comply.

    2. Additional revenue.

    3. The unfortunate 100% holistic clinic who practices very little evidence-based-medicine, and they will surely advertise to the hilt in their ads, clinic websites, facebook pages and other social media (you will be able to spot them – they may denounce conventional medicine, are anti-vaccine, promote naturopathy, homeopathy and supplements (only bought through them), and promote a number of pseudoscience “therapies”)

    I’m hoping most clinics employ EBM vets, and that the woo “options” are just that, options, for reasons #1 and #2 above. If I had any advice for you, I would simply say engage in direct conversation with your vet regarding any treatment for your pets, and exercise your right to *decline* any woo services offered that you are uncomfortable with (such as homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal therapy, vitamin/supplement therapy*, energy medicine, laser therapy*, TCM, kinesiology, reiki, etc). An EBM vet wouldn’t offer you these anyway, so there’s your clue.

    *vitamins and supplements are usually only necessary in acute or chronic illness, depending on deficiencies, etc.

    *laser therapy may have some useful purpose in promoting faster healing/recovery (i.e., from surgical incisions), depending on the need, but if it’s offered as a “standard” or “elective” item on your estimate for a surgical procedure, ask for an explanation for necessity. Otherwise, when used as a standard/elective procedure, it’s usually described to you as rather a “comfort measure” for your pet (this is my observation).

    Again, don’t be afraid to engage in conversation with your vet, and don’t be afraid to ask questions of him/her!

  13. R. Sibb says:

    v.t. thanks a lot for your recommendation, but in order to decline or question “woo” I have to know or at least suspect that it is “woo”. Questioning everything is just not practical.

    Therefore I am very thankful for websites like this one where I feel data is presented in a reasonable summary of for and against without having to read through all the literature myself. Thanks also for your list of “woo”, that is helpful.

    I still feel that paying a vet should go towards the vet making reasonable decisions for me and I shouldn’t have to question their expertise. But I guess that was always the case and not only with vets, what changed is my awareness of the problem. I guess nobody is perfect.

  14. v.t. says:

    R. Sibb,

    For what it’s worth, a couple starting points:

    1. Of course, skeptvet’s blog (plus the graphic links on the sidebar).

    2. (various articles on pseudoscience – skeptvet also occasionally writes for them there – also check their Links section where other authors have blogs/websites listed)

    3. RationalWiki

    Main Page:

    Alternative Medicine, page 1:

    Alternative Medicine, page 2:

    Granted, there are few blogs such as skeptvet’s devoted to veterinary-specific pseudoscience, but there are some great vet authors out there – sometimes all it takes is following blog links, using simple search terms in search engines such as “veterinary pseudoscience, veterinary so-called complementary and alternative medicine (SCAM)”, etc. I think reading skeptvet’s blog in itself is a great lesson in critical thinking, which is the ultimate in weeding out the hype from the evidence.

    Actually, “questioning everything” has much to do with critical thinking and skepticism toward outrageous health claims/products/services.

  15. Alison says:

    Stumbled upon this as a (human) medical doctor who has just been berated by a prominent raw feeding promoter. I actually feed my dog half raw as for him it provides a good balance of maintaining good skin and bowel function (raw alone made him constipated). I don’t feel strongly for or against raw feeding, but as a doctor I have of course sought out evidence to help guide my feeding decisions. But when I dared to ask Dr Conor Brady for guidance to find resources showing the evidence for his strong claims of the benefits of raw feeding he was unable to do so (not even the one trial that he references on his own page) he became nasty and rude and effectively told me he is correct because he is an academic. (But any good scientist knows that “expert opinion” is the least credible form of “evidence”). Happy to share the email exchange if it interests you!

    As a doctor one of my pet peeves is public claims of opinions as fact when there is actually zero good quality evidence to support the point.

    We need more vets like you fighting for veterinary medicine to be based on the same requirement for evidence that human medicine is.

  16. skeptvet says:

    Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad the site was helpful!

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