“It is strange enough that people can get better when given pills that do not contain any actual medicine. Even more peculiarly, the same may be true of animals”, reported BBC Earth, October 18, 2016.
According to BBC, “some scientists say there is evidence that placebo effects can and do play out in our pets”.
For example, Karen Muñana, a neurologist at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in the US, conducted a clinical epilepsy study with dogs and found placebo responses that we usually expect to see only with human patients. Ellen Kienzle, a veterinary researcher at the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich in Germany found “enormous placebo effects” when investigating feed supplements for horses.
How could it be possible that a pet shows a placebo response?
Here are some ideas that come to mind:
- People and pets just get better over time. This is what usually happens, but it’s not a placebo effect. Good study design controls for what researchers call the Natural History of Disease. While we love the fact that most people and pets usually get better anyways, it does not explain placebo responses.
- It is only in the pet owner’s mind. This might be the case sometimes, especially if we rely only on outcomes reported by the pet owner. Now, this is not something to brush aside lightly. If I am anxious about the health of my pet and giving a placebo pill to my pet reduces my own anxiety while buying my pet time to recover, then that’s helpful to me and my pet. Overmedication is an issue, not just for human patients. Here is a CBS video on how knowingly taking a placebo works.
- The owner’s expectations and confidence are mirrored by the pet. Dogs have been bred over centuries for their emotional intelligence. Dogs can literally read our mind and know how we feel, often even before we become aware of our emotions and attitudes ourselves. If a pet owner is relieved that something is being done about their pet’s health and trusts that a placebo intervention might help, then the pet might acquire the same trust in getting better. Trust is at the core of healing relationships.
A placebo will not help in every situation, and one should not use a placebo when an active treatment is needed. Work with a care provider, no matter if it’s your own health or your pet’s. There are situations though, where one might want to try a placebo before routinely asking for an active-ingredient pill. We cannot give you medical or veterinary advice here, but it is helpful to know that placebo responses are real in humans and in pets. Use that knowledge wisely. Zeebo pills contain only inactive ingredients. Zeebo is available in the USA via our website.