Detailed guides to painful problems, treatments & more

Pets don’t want snake oil

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Podcast recommendation: listen to veterinarian Dr. Brennen McKenzie interviewed on the Oct 18 episode of The Body of Evidence. It has plenty of relevance to human medicine and some to pain, and Dr. McKenzie of is a super articulate guy.

For instance, the animal-placebo thing: it’s a myth that animals are immune to placebo, which I have been peevishly pointing this out for years. This is a tricky topic and I think he just nailed it. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Not surprising, perhaps, since he’s written an entire book about animal placebo!.

Nothing gets my blood up to a full boil faster than people who project their misguided satisfaction with alternative medicine onto their pets. Dr. McKenzie told a story about a woman who was convinced she was controlling her dog’s pain with homeopathy/acupuncture. She wasn’t. Awful.

Most people who think they have been helped by alt-med have not actually been helped (see The Power of Barking: Correlation, causation, and how we decide what treatments work). This is absolutely standard in the history of quackery: most healing testimonials are bullshit, always have been, and always will be. And so I get upset enough by people who are convinced that they were saved by the psychic healer or the homeopath. When ideological fever and wilful ignorance leads to the delusion that they are relieving a dog or cat’s pain… it’s hard for me to be diplomatic!

A picture of a handsome, serious-looking chocolate lab, with the caption: “Of course I believe in the power of barking. I don’t need a study to tell me that it works. The only reason I am alive today is because of barking. Every day I bark my fool head off at the mailman. Every day he goes away, leaving my family unharmed.

PainSci Member Login » Submit your email to unlock member content. If you can’t remember/access your registration email, please contact me. ~ Paul Ingraham, PainSci Publisher