Pets need evidence-based medicine, too

While animal-specific medications, like heart-worm pills, have been tested and proven to be effective and safe for your pets, many of the drugs and supplements we give animals have not. Or, at any rate, they haven't been tested on the species they're being prescribed for, writes Peter Aldhous at Medium.

The justification for a lot puppy pill-popping is extrapolated from human data, which may or may not have any relevance. This applies to both pharmaceuticals and the vitamins and supplements that many see as an alternative solution. It also applies to a surprising amount of veterinary medicine, in general.

Today, most doctors treating human patients accept the principles of evidence-based medicine, where best practice is based on data from multiple scientific studies. But many vets are reluctant to jump on that bandwagon, arguing that there's not enough data on animals to justify this approach. "A lot of vets think that it will undermine client confidence," says Brennen McKenzie, president of the Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine Association and a vet at the Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, California.

Think about what he's saying: Some vets are reluctant to delve into what science has to say, out of fear that they'll have to admit that they don't know for sure how to make our pets well. A comment added to one of McKenzie's blog posts, from a vet who had learned that glucosamine does little for osteoarthritis, underlines the point. "I can tell you it was hard for me to stop selling the stuff," the vet wrote. "I was making money, the clients thought it was working … and I did not want to fess up and tell them they had bought something from me that was a waste of money."

Image: Star, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from aturkus's photostream