The medicine you give your pet may be worse than useless

When pets get sick, we're often willing to spend a lot of money to help them get well — we'll pay for expensive tests, medicine, and even surgery if it helps our furry pals play with us again. But one investigator found that there's not much evidence for the effectiveness of commonly-prescribed medications for animals.

Over at Medium, science writer Peter Aldhous describes what he's gone through to help his aging dog Kaleb deal with joint damage and pain in his hips. But the more he researched the drugs his dog was taking, the more suspicious he got.

Writes Aldhous:

There's scant evidence that either the supplements or the painkillers are doing much to ease Kaleb's suffering. There is a treatment that clearly could do some good: a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID. But we'd rejected that after discussion with his vet a year or so ago because of fears—possibly overblown—that it might damage his kidneys.

If you have a pet, this should be a cautionary tale. Americans spent $14.2 billion on veterinary care for their pets in 2013—and that doesn't 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 as I've learned, much of veterinary medicine is based on shaky scientific foundations: The drugs prescribed for your dog or cat may work no better than those we've been giving to Kaleb.

This isn't some scam by the veterinary industry, Aldhous cautions. The problem has more to do with the pharmaceutical industry, and the expense of running clinical trials. Drugs for animals just aren't as lucrative as drugs for people, and so, as Aldhous puts it, the vet's medicine cabinet is a little bare.

Read the rest of Aldhous' article on Medium