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Animal Drug Investigation Reveals Pet Medication Often Doesn't Work 279

KentuckyFC writes: "Americans spent an estimated $14.2 billion on veterinary care for their pets in 2013 — and that doesn't even include proprietary health diets and food supplements. Put another way, pet owners pay about $850 annually in veterinary expenses per dog, and about $575 per cat. Factor in the emotional energy we invest in keeping our companion animals healthy, and you'd hope for high confidence in the end results. But when one journalist investigated the science behind the meds being used to treat his aging dog's osteoarthritis, he was in for a nasty surprise. Glucosamine and chondroitin food supplements? Next to useless. Tramadol to kill pain? It's probably just getting dogs high. The one treatment that's been proven to help, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug called carprofen, is often left on the shelf because of fears — likely overblown — that it might damage dogs' kidneys. In part, you can blame this sorry state of affairs on a lack of financial incentives for drug companies to run clinical trials on animals. But often, vets aren't paying attention to the studies that have been done. If we want our dogs and cats to receive the best possible medical care, we need to ask our vets some tougher questions about why they think the drugs will work."
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Animal Drug Investigation Reveals Pet Medication Often Doesn't Work

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  • What else is new? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So? Often the HUMAN drugs don't work either, but we still pay billions out each year for them, and don't get me started on the "homeopathic" and "vitamin" crazes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      What's worse is we push profitable drugs. I put myself on phenotropil (a high dose--people recognize the stimulant effect at 100mg, but reading ADHD research and doing molecular composition and mass analysis I've figured out it should be about 20-25mg twice per day), and that's had miraculous effects on the ADHD--and the dissociation (which I've tended to use as a tool--but holy shit being a part of the real world is overwhelming), and even the sociopathy (emotional centers of my brain are hooking back up

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is a perfect example of knowing enough to be dangerous. You're making all these blanket statements decrying prescribed drugs that are well understood while promoting drugs that are not prescribed based upon some unproven beliefs, and creating and promoting a cocktail of vitamins and supplements that you believe might counteract negative effects of these drugs that no doctor prescribes for what you're doing... Danger, Will Robinson! I sense someone about to fall off the cliff into quack-land!

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
        Yeah suddenly everyone is taking Crestor because Atorvastatin apparently is no longer good enough once the patent expires.
    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:22PM (#46124119) Homepage Journal

      Of course, arguably the homeopathic drugs are just as effective as the prescriptions with less harmful side effects at 1/100th the cost.

      If you're going to buy placebos, buy the cheap ones :-)

      • by arglebargle_xiv ( 2212710 ) on Saturday February 01, 2014 @12:38AM (#46126267)

        Of course, arguably the homeopathic drugs are just as effective as the prescriptions with less harmful side effects at 1/100th the cost.


        Homepathic pet medicine can be extremely dangerous. I gave some to my cat once. Two days later she died of an overdose while drinking from her water bowl.

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:15PM (#46123435)

    I felt like our initial visit was almost like getting cased by a grifter; like they wanted to see how much I was willing to shell out. They started me out with a sample of a deworming med then asked for a stool sample from the pup which of course showed some parasite that had to be treated with another med. So, I've had her 2 weeks and besides vaccinations she's already been exposed to 2 medications. And, each visit has been a setup for another visit in the weeks to come. I just feel like i'm getting sucked into a merry-go-round of perpetual medication and unnecessary care. But, I'm not a professional so I don't have much ability to make judgements.

    A human doesn't need that much attention if he's healthy.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:24PM (#46123525)

      Um what are you talking about? A human absolutely DOES need that same kind of attention if they're healthy. You're talking about the equivalent of a child in the first year of life, not a 20-year-old college kid. Kids go in to see the pediatrician about 4 or 5 times in their first year for routine check-ups, vaccinations, boosters, and more. Then, after that, they pretty much see the doctor for a checkup each year indefinitely. How is that different from what you're seeing with your puppy? You also have to remember, for a dog seeing the vet once a year, that's equivalent to a human going every 4 or 5 years or so based on how rapidly their body ages in relation to a human's lifespan.

      Also, most human children don't come from a puppy mill or spend time eating dirt, plants, and bugs outdoors- if they did they'd also be tested and treated for parasites as necessary.

      If you're feeling like you're being grifted at this point when your vet is just offering you appropriate and practical medical care for your pet, you're setting yourself up to be a difficult, irresponsible pet owner. Please don't go that route and at least, as this poorly though-out original article mentions, at least ASK your vet why you need to do something and how/why it works if you're not sure rather than just assuming you're being scammed and doing a disservice to your pet.

      • by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:28PM (#46123575)

        most human children don't...spend time eating dirt, plants, and bugs outdoors

        I'm not so sure about that one...

      • Kids go in to see the pediatrician about 4 or 5 times in their first year for routine check-ups, vaccinations, boosters, and more.

        The key words you are missing are "if healthy". All of those things you mentioned are absolutely not needed for a kid to live if there's nothing wrong with them. Vaccinations should be done, but many people have been skipping that lately.

    • There's the option to seek another opinion too. If you are unsure consult another vet.
      • I thought about that and I've been looking at other vet recommendations, but if this is just industry practice, how would I know who's good and who's not? I found the vet reviews to be pretty consistent in my area.

    • You could always get a second opinion. Know anyone that could recommend someone they trust? Maybe a farm vet?

    • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:27PM (#46123561) Homepage
      Humans that live like most dogs do in fact need that much attention.

      The typical human living in an area that is poor enough to never use toilet paper has multiple parasites living in it. Often the human gets it by eating whatever food is in front of it.

      Now, some dogs do in fact only eat gourmet meals. But quite a few eat anything they can - including things that used to be in their body but are no longer.

      I am not saying the Vet you saw was not pulling a fast one on you.

      But there is at least a chance he was being a good vet.

    • by FuegoFuerte ( 247200 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:27PM (#46123565)

      The best thing I can suggest is to go to your local farm supply store instead of the vet, for anything but the most serious symptoms. They typically have the medications readily available for a reasonable price, and will often have people knowledgeable enough to point you in the right direction.

      Case in point: My cat had a nasty eye infection, and I decided I didn't want to spend the time, effort or money to pack up the cat and go to the vet. So I went to the local farm supply store and said "hey, my cat has goopy eyes that aren't clearing up, and in fact seem to be getting worse. Do you have anything for that?"

      They sold me a small tube of ophthalmic antibiotic ointment intended for cats/dogs, gave me brief instructions on how much to use and how to apply it without putting the cat's eye out, and about $10 later I was on my way home. It cleared up the cat's eyes in a couple days, and I had plenty left over and have used it on a couple occasions since then. In total, I probably saved at least $500 in vet bills, since I've used it to treat 2 cats on 2-3 occasions each over the past several years.

      The same type of store will often have good wormers, earmite meds, etc., so as long as the animal has classic symptoms that are easily diagnosed (and again, if in doubt just describe the symptoms to someone working at the store), they ought to be able to help you.

      Most of the small animal problems that only a vet can fix, can instead be fixed for about $0.06 at home. Large animals like horses, cows, etc. are different, and may warrant a call to an actual vet. Just about the only thing that's probably worth a visit to a vet for a cat/dog is to have them "fixed" (which really ought to be called "broken" in my opinion - not because it shouldn't be done, simply because it's removing functionality).

      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        That's one of the most informative posts for today. Thank you!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:50PM (#46123827)

        There are a lot of bad products alongside the good ones at the local stores. At many farm supply stores, they have none of the good products. The ratio of good products to bad products is not in your pet's favor if you haven't asked a vet which ones are actually safe. (A phone call to the vet to confirm doesn't cost anything, by the way.) For example, commercial off-the-shelf flea & tick medicines and collars that cause anything from minor skin infection to major problems like necrosis and skin sloughing off under the collar are very commonly sold for a few years and then disappear/get recalled under mysterious circumstances. You're gambling on whether you're going to cause huge damage to your pet if you just do what you feel like doing with medications!! Don't just go there and assume that the stock boy is going to know more than a vet!

      • by lancelet ( 898272 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:46PM (#46124331) Homepage Journal
        So wait, you're advocating going to people with even less knowledge than an average vet?

        The main problem with your suggestion is that, in the early stages of virtually every disease, you and your farm supply store buddies will have no idea whether a condition is serious or not. In fact, in many cases, neither will a vet without the aid of special equipment or serial monitoring. Are your cats "goopy eyes" an infection or a corneal ulcer? Is your supply store dude just gonna whip out his ophthalmoscope and some staining compound to check that for you? What about lumps on your dog? Gonna change its diet, or actually get a biopsy done to check for cancer? How about grass seed injuries? You just gonna whip out a flick knife and cut that bastard out, or do you think your dog might want some pain killers with its skin incision? Etc, etc, etc.

        On another topic, your advice won't work in countries like Australia or the UK, where antibiotics are unavailable without prescription (you know, because of this annoying thing called antibiotic resistance).
    • You think that's bad? Wait a few years until there's some kind of real problem and they come at you with a $3000 proposal for treatment and an application for a consumer credit account. No joke. People get very emotional about their pets. I knew a woman who put her dog through chemotherapy on credit and couldn't pay her rent.

    • by pooh666 ( 624584 )
      Hopefully you don't live an an area where you are short on options, otherwise RUN. We ran into a vet very much like you are talking about. I won't go into the details of the $2000 fart when we though our dog was dying and we took him in OVERNIGHT, they gave her pepcid ac.. Our new vet just told us the dog needed to lose weight, got us on a great food to help do that along with our own being careful to not supplement with treats/dinner scraps, no such issue for years now. What was worse, it is like you sai
    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      If your dog was healthy, it wouldn't need that much attention either. Worms in dogs and cats is a very common thing. If you did what dogs do, you'd have worms too.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      I felt like our initial visit was almost like getting cased by a grifter; like they wanted to see how much I was willing to shell out. They started me out with a sample of a deworming med then asked for a stool sample from the pup which of course showed some parasite that had to be treated with another med. So, I've had her 2 weeks and besides vaccinations she's already been exposed to 2 medications. And, each visit has been a setup for another visit in the weeks to come. I just feel like i'm getting sucked

    • What makes me most angry is the treatment for Giardia. From what I have read, the most effective treatment is Panacur, which is available without prescription.

      Yet, I have experienced vets prescribing something else before the cheap and effective Panacur, because Panacur is not approved for use against Giardia. Panacur is approved for use by dogs, just not for treatment of Giardia.

      Ineffective treament means more diarrhea and more tests ($$$$) -- more discomfort for both dog and owner.

  • Animal Testing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WoodstockJeff ( 568111 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:17PM (#46123459) Homepage

    Why would you want to risk getting attacked by PETA and other animal rights organizations by doing testing on animals? Heck, you can't even shampoo a dog without someone getting upset!

  • Yikes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:20PM (#46123485)

    I'm not sure I spend $850/year on my own medical care.... ....although I'm sure that'll go up as I get older -- before ending abruptly.

    "A woman in England paid over $17,000 for her cat to spend six days in an oxygen tent to cure its paralyzed larynx. The cat showed its gratitude by briefly holding eye contact."

    • You hope it ends abruptly. All too often it's a slow death from cancer or Alzheimer's that bankrupts your family.

      • Re:Yikes. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:31PM (#46123611)

        The adults in my immediate family (parents, siblings) all have medical power of attorney documents and clear instructions to never leave us in a situation where we're left to suffer or "burden" the family. We're all slated for cremation, with the ashes to go to anyone who might want them. None of us have a special desire to be remembered by a pile of cremains.

        There are situations like Alzheimer's which could quite likely suck for everyone, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

        We've dealt with a few cancers now, and we've (as a family) made the decisions to take treatments based on expected quality of life around it.

        Pet related, I've had a few animals put down. Sad, but death is (mostly) a fact of life.

        [With only 100 billion humans ever having lived, 7% of us are still alive today, making "being human" only 93% lethal to date...]

      • by x0ra ( 1249540 )
        I am stupid enough to like dangerous stuff, so if Alzheimer pops off, there is a high probability of chances I will end my own life... abruptly.
    • We had a cat go anemic and the vet said transfusion or the animal would die, we took him home and after 4 days of not eating and 2 of not moving and us force feeding him iron supplement and chicken soup we thought he was done for. I made one last call to the vet cause I knew if the animal didn't eat and drink it would die, the nice assistant I talked to said the cats that won't eat sometimes responded to baby food you know the gerber first stage chick or turkey, so I hit the grocery store on the way home an
    • You joke, but keep in mind that eye contact is a threatening gesture to most animals, cats especially. They show you that they trust you when they blink and look away. "I trust you enough that I feel comfortable not watching you". This is probably the source of the truism that the allergic person gets all of the attention: The cat lover stares and yells, "KITTY" while the allergic person avoids eye contact and is perceived to be the lowest threat.

      You can squeeze your eyes shut a couple of times and watch c

  • Dental health is probably the only real thing you do can stay on top of that really helps.

    Bad teeth == much shorter life

    And humans are no different.

  • by colinnwn ( 677715 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:22PM (#46123505)
    But or dog has had hip trouble for 6 years. The first 5 we did nothing but keep him on glucosamine. The few times we took him off due to laziness or questioning it worked due to the Vet mentioning conflicting research, our dog noticeably declined. And within 2 weeks of him going back on it, he got better.
    • Also, glucosamine tablets seem pretty tasty to the dog, so we use them as once-a-day treats after the morning walk.

    • by LNO ( 180595 )

      I have the same anecdotal experience. We had a toller with hip dysplasia. When his food was supplemented with glucosamine/chondritin/MSM, he was able to walk up and down stairs and jump up on the bed. When we stopped for a period of weeks, he was unable to do that without vocalizing in pain. Restoring the supplements caused the symptoms to go away.

      I recognize that they're clinically unproven - and if we saw no benefit on it we'd go right to Rimadyl as needed. I've tried it for my creaking arthritis and seen

    • There was a very noticeable improvement in my friend's cat's gait when she (the cat) began taking a Cosequin supplement, so unless the placebo effect works for animals there was almost certainly something in the capsule that was beneficial to the cat.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:23PM (#46123511)

    The primary reason why opioids work as painkillers is specifically because they get you high. They dont really kill pain so much as they make you not care that you're in pain. So tramadol getting the dogs high means its working. Except the biggest problem with tramadol is that it works as an SSRI/SNRI first, and then its primary metabolite, O-desmethyl-tramadol, is what works as a pain killer (affecting the kappa and mu receptors). Tramadol is more of an antidepressant than a painkiller, which makes its addiction significantly worse (ask anyone who has withdrawn from antidepressants).

    • Yeah, but that comes with all kinds of shit... morphine is awesome, then you come off morphine and go "oh man this sucks". If I'm already in pain, I think I'll just live with it. Or kill myself. Nobody has ever given me a good story about having had morphine in the hospital. Ditto Xanax... had a coworker who said when he left his Xanax prescription behind it was ... a bad couple weeks.

      The only real reason they give you opiate drugs for pain is because of the whole killing yourself thing. Yeah, pain

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by blindseer ( 891256 )

      Having taken tramadol myself I can say that it is quite effective at relieving pain. It also tends to keep me from sleeping. The withdrawal from it was unpleasant, just taking it once can give dizziness and nausea for hours after it wears off.

      I hate tramadol but it seems some people really like it because of the intense high it can give. After the bad experience with tramadol I was able to convince my physician to give me codeine and hydrocodone (not at the same time) which works much better for me. Bec

    • by mekkab ( 133181 )
      Mod parent up. Sometimes it isn't about "curing" diseases, it's about comforting the patient.
  • by LNO ( 180595 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:31PM (#46123617)

    When I read this, I was surprised that there was no mention of Rimadyl, as that's been the go-to NSAID for our dogs after surgeries. One google later let me know that Rimadyl was, indeed, carprofen, and I read the article again with that in mind.

    Three times does "carprofen" appear in the article:
    "Its examples include one relevant to Kaleb, considering the effectiveness of glucosamine and chrondroitin versus an NSAID called carprofen in treating dogs with osteoarthritis. The bottom line: “Carprofen is superior to glucosamine/chrondroitin supplements in reducing the clinical signs.”"
    "We plan to get some fresh tests to see how stable his kidney function is, and talk to our current vet in San Francisco about whether it’s time to try carprofen. "

    If you're using non-proven supplements to treat your pet's pain instead of veterinary-recommended NSAIDs, then, yeah, perhaps it's time to talk to your current vet about whether it's time to try the painkiller that is clinically superior.

    • This was just after it came out around 1997. My wife and I had gotten a dog from a shelter about two years earlier, who turned out to be likely in retrospect much older than we had thought. Still, she was our "baby", as we did not have any kids then. And she was truly a wonderful dog, gentle as a lamb, but with a fearsome bark, looking a bit like a wolf. She would follow us everywhere and would spend all day laying by my feet as I programmed. She had started limping a bit from arthritis. I gave her baby asp

  • Not a clinical trial or a valid sample size but our elderly cat was making a noise that seemed to indicate she was having some discomfort whenever she jumped down from wherever she'd gotten to. Our vet suggested glucoamine so we gave it a try. Seemed to help. Cat no longer makes what sounds like a pain noise as she does her normal cat things. We've had her on glucosamine for a couple of years now. Ditto for the neighbors and their rottweiller with hip problems. Seemed to help her, too.


  • Thankfully, I am 100% confident that my kitty's thyroid medicine does work; she has hyperthyroidism from a benign tumor on her thyroid. It was VERY obvious that it was having a positive effect when the vet put her on it and I saw her plump up and feel tons better. Vomiting was another symptom... and that ceased. Another symptom was that she was dropping weight, which was scary because she was always hungry despite getting skinnier and skinnier. In fact, once she was on the medicine, she got a bit chubby

  • Belief - "My dog is my best friend. My dog loves me!"

    Reality - "You live alone with your dog. Your dog will be eating your remains 8 hours after you drop dead."
  • by umafuckit ( 2980809 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @06:26PM (#46124159)
    This is a bullshit article. The basis for it is that food supplements didn't (and don't) work but an NSAID would probably have worked. No shit. It's well known that the supplements industry for people is mostly snake oil. Of course it will be more so for pets. There are plenty of references on the net if you search, but in case you're lazy I just found this one []. If a drugs works, there may be side effects (as with the NSAIDs in the TFA). This doesn't mean that "pet medications don't work." It means you need to do your research and not believe the crap it says on the packet. If people stopped buying this shit, the companies would stop selling it.
    • Did you read the article, by chance? It doesn't say that "pet medications don't work." It says that sometimes they don't work because they're prescribed even though they're not supported by evidence.

      You also said that people need to do their research... which is the same conclusion written in the article! Gah.

      The surprising thing is that it is often vets making these poor recommendations. I expect many average folks without veterinary degrees to make these mistakes. Vets should be held to a higher standard.

  • Look my older cat is 8 year old, and I paid 60 euro per year for it. About 36 euro in 3 vets visits 12 euro per visits, the rest was the price for , 2 vaccination, and 1 de-worming. My younger cat is 5 year old same price. Even counting the castration which was maybe 60 euro , how the heck do they cam eto such horrendus price ? I have to count all food, cat toilet stuff and playtoy to come to 700+ euro top.
    • The figures come from a "pet owners survey", run by an association of pet product manufacturers. They aren't actual veterinary industry figures and have nothing to do with professional veterinary bodies.

      For reference, my wife is a vet (in Australia), and her practice charges $45 for a consult. Even including routine meds, a client would probably have to visit her four times per year to reach the "non surgical" amount quoted in that survey, which would be quite rare except perhaps for puppies and geriatr
  • It isn't just about the financial aspect, its also about the cruelty part of experimenting on living creatures that cant say they are suffering.

    At least a human can say something: ' hey, i don't feel right '...

  • Out current vet is great. He makes house calls which is much less stressful for our cats. He doesn't seem to be aggressive about prescribing medication but will often tell us if there is a human OTC equivalent we can use when possible.

    A good friend of ours has a cat that was chewing its fur off and required a cat food that is only available by prescription and she wasn't able to get it where she lived. Our vet recommended something similar and wrote us a prescription so we could get the cat food for our
  • The article seems to be loosely based around a single anecdote? Is there something I missed?
  • by Arkham ( 10779 ) on Friday January 31, 2014 @09:06PM (#46125277)

    My wife is a veterinarian and I cringe when I see stories like this. Some sensationalist with no medical knowledge skims a few studies or reports and makes a sensationalist article that has no basis in science or fact.

    Tramadol is a good drug that helps a lot of animals with chronic pain. Cosequin helped my dog with hip dysplasia to be more comfortable for his last few years. Like many human drugs, efficacy varies by the patient, but the reality is that veterinarians as a whole are great people who truly love animals and would not prescribe things that did not work.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain