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NuVet: Pet Supplement Snake Oil

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I’m a dog person. I always wanted a dog as a child, and while my extended family all had dogs, we never had one in our home. I finally got my wish just over a decade ago. My wife and I were referred to a breeder with an excellent reputation for raising healthy, family-friendly Labrador Retrievers. Within moments of meeting a tiny black lab, we immediately put a deposit down. When we took Casey home a few months later she was healthy – a ball of kinetic energy. The breeder offered us a health guarantee – free of hip and elbow dysplasia, supported by certifications from the dog’s parents and grandparents. The breeder recommended we use a specific brand of food (which we ignored), and other than vaccinating her and promising not to breed her, there were few conditions for the guarantee. We were excited “parents” and that first year was a lot of fun.

At about 12 months of age, Casey started limping. At first we thought it was a temporary consequence of boisterous play. It was initially subtle, but then became very obvious – she started walking differently, and it didn’t go away. The x-rays confirmed what we feared: elbow dysplasia. Our breeder was deeply apologetic – consistent with the guarantee, she offered to replace our dog. Giving up our pet was out of the question, so we started looking at treatment options. The veterinarian offered surgery, but even he wasn’t enthusiastic, citing the very real likelihood it would do nothing. Knowing the toxicity of anti-inflammatory drugs, I wasn’t optimistic that would be tolerable for the long run. Instead we went the supplement route.

Around 2002 or so, there seemed to be guarded optimism about the potential of glucosamine and chondroitin to help with joint pain. We obtained a pharmaceutical (human) supply and started giving it three times daily. The limping seemed to improve. At best, it definitely didn’t worsen. Casey was still stiff after exercise, and the limp never went away. But she was happy and we were relieved. We gave glucosamine and chondroitin consistently for at least five years. Her health was fine until she started putting on weight – almost 20 pounds over one year – which is a lot for a 60lb dog. The pain increased, and limping was much more noticeable. The veterinarian suggested we test her thyroid. Sure enough, she was hypothyroid. After several months of levothyroxine and a switch to a calorie-reduce diet, her weight dropped, her limp improved, and life went on. It was about this time I started wondering about the effectiveness of the glucosamine and chondroitin. The evidence in human trials was increasingly conclusive that the supplements were ineffective. Was it doing anything at all for Casey? Had I fooled myself? After reading a very critical article (it may have been this one) I finally decided on a stopping trial: I’d look for signs of pain or worsening mobility, and I’d restart the supplement if I spotted it.

You can probably guess what happened: After I discontinued the supplement, there was no objective difference in her mobility. I’d fooled myself for almost five years, and while the supplement probably didn’t cause any harm, I had wasted hundreds of dollars. Unless I’d read the evidence and conducted my own trial, I’d probably still be an advocate today, influenced only by my own pet and my anecdotal evidence.

If human supplements are the “Wild West” of regulation, pet supplements seem to be an order of magnitude worse. Not only are there effectively no limits on claims, there’s even less evidence to evaluate. Breeders may lack science literacy, and even veterinarians seem to have varying commitments to science-based medicine. The entire system (at least from a consumer perspective) seems to place the anecdote as the most credible source of information that exists. Never mind the evidence, just read the testimonials. Credible sources of information like SkeptVet seem to be the exception, rather than the rule.

A fellow dog owner and skeptic recently asked me about a supplement called NuVet that his breeder had insisted he purchase with his dog. Like my breeder, his dog came with a “health guarantee” – but this one came with a condition: His “health guarantee” would be void unless he purchased NuVet for several years. To prove he purchased it, he had to phone in his order (it’s not sold in stores) and quote a specific breeder number. He was told this process was necessary “to confirm it is being purchased.” Smelling a kickback scheme, I did some digging.

What is NuVet?

Nuvet Plus Canine (there’s also a feline version) is a vitamin supplement labelled as containing specific amounts of vitamins A, C, E, the minerals potassium, zinc, calcium, selenium, and phosphorus. It also contains an unlabelled amount of the following: blue-green algae, brewer’s yeast, cat’s claw, evening primrose oil, shark cartilage, oyster shell, alpha amylase, beta carotene, pine bark, papain, L-methionine, alfalfa, chicken liver, vitamin B1 (thiamin), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin K, manganese, magnesium, iron, copper, amino acids (tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, cystine, phenylalanine, tyrosine, valine, arginine, histidine, alanine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine).

There’s also a NuJoint Plus supplement that contains glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) and vitamin C.

What is the rationale for the ingredients in NuVet?

According to the manufacturer, NuVet Labs:

NuVet Labs® has spent over 8 years to create a product designed to attack the causes of disease instead of just covering up the symptoms. To do this we put together a team of top scientific, medical and pet industry professionals that shared our desire to find real solutions to an ever growing pet health dilemma.

There’s no information provided on how the ingredients were selected. The dose is the same for dogs 6lbs to 99 lbs: 1 wafer per day.

What claims are made about NuVet?

The statements made on the NuVet website are typical of human dietary supplements, with vague promises and scientifically meaningless marketing statements like:

  • “ground-breaking formulas”
  • “designed to fight illnesses at their root source”
  • “strengthen immune systems”
  • “focuses on the root cause of illness and disease while simultaneously boosting your pet’s immune system and overall health”
  • “a precise formula of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, herbs and antioxidants that performs synergistically”
  • “compounded to maintain their integrity and bio-digestibility for complete cellular infusion”
  • “these crucial elements can help your pet overcome illnesses, allergies and diseases”
  • “there are more free radicals actively destroying the cell membrane than our body can defend against” …”there is a boosting of the immune system and a decrease in the ravages of free radicals”
  • “Formulas that contain high quality minerals, a full range of amino acids, proteins and antioxidants – help to detoxify the blood stream.”

The manufacturer claims that NuVet can benefit the following: allergies, cataracts, colitis, diabetes, fleas, hot spots, infections, itching and scratching, kidney [sic], mange, seizures, tear stains, tumors.

What is the evidence supporting the claims made about NuVet?

There is no published information made available or cited on the manufacturer’s website to demonstrate that NuVet has ever been subjected to any rigorous or controlled clinical studies. While the manufacturer refers to “over 8 years to create a product designed to attack the causes of disease”, none of that research is cited or appears to have been published. The CEO notes:

An independent laboratory tested several dogs and cats, varying in age, size, and health conditions, under the direct supervision of a team of veterinarians. The results were better than we ever could have hoped for and now we are proud to be able to produce a nutritional pet supplement that is second to none.

At best this product appears to have been given to a small number of animals. No information is provided to describe how the product was tested, or how it was found to be effective against the long list of “ailments” for which it is claimed to be effective. There is no safety data provided.

Examining the list of ingredients directly, I could located no published evidence to demonstrate that any of the ingredients, when administered as supplement to pets, as a supplement to nutritionally appropriate pet food (e.g., meets Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) requirements) can meaningfully address any of the “ailments” cited by the manufacturer. The amounts of most of the ingredients are not stated, and given the dosage form (a wafer) it’s unlikely to contain enough per dose to be meaningful. From a biochemical perspective, there is no reason to expect any of the ingredients will offer any benefit to pets that eat a regular diet. And as has been now definitively established, glucosamine and chondroitin appear to be clinically useless supplements – for pets and humans.

Is there any evidence dogs need NuVet, or any supplements?

No. NuVet is an example of the “one true cause” disease claim – in this case, NuVet seems to believe that the “one true cause” of disease is a lack of dietary antioxidants. Yet there’s no evidence to demonstrate that the numerous “ailments” mentioned are caused by a lack of dietary antioxidants, or can be treated with antioxidant supplements. The arguments made by the manufacturer are simplistic to the point of absurdity – there is no obvious understanding of pet physiology or biochemistry. I have seen more sophisticated science at public school science fairs. Based on what’s know about animal medicine it is absurd to think a vitamin supplement will prevent conditions like kidney disease, cancer, or epilepsy. Importantly, as I have noted in humans – antioxidant supplements may actually do more harm than good. Consequently, before we give any supplement, we should be fairly certain it will do more good than harm. With NuVet, the evidence of benefit hasn’t been demonstrated with good scientific studies.

But what about the hundreds of testimonials?

I fooled myself giving my dog glucosamine and chondroitin. When we give a medication or supplement, we want to see a benefit – and often we do. It could be our own perception fooling us, or it could be the normal waxing and waning of the underlying condition, where the condition improves on its own, yet we attribute it to the supplement. It doesn’t mean the improvement is real, or that it’s due to a supplement. It’s easy to find hundreds of claims of effectiveness for NuVet online. Objective, conclusive evidence is completely absent. Testimonials are a poor form of evidence, and don’t provide any assurance that NuVet does anything meaningful.

What about the health guarantee?

There appears to be a close financial relationship between breeders and NuVet labs, with so many breeders using the same terminology and making the same purchase demands. It is even embedded into the ownership contracts you can find online:

The buyer agrees said puppy will receive Nu Vet Plus tablets for a period of AT LEAST (1) one year from date of this contract and a boosted immunity builder to whatever his environment might be during his critical growth stages. Nu Vet Plus tablets supplements are required as to ensure that said puppy will have optimum protection part of your pet’s health guarantee. SEE ATTACHED ADDENDUM. Once you, the buyer, see the beneficial effects and wonderful results from this mineral supplement, we hope that you will continue the program for the rest of your dog’s life to ensure he/she has a long, happy one. ALL of the breeding dogs at SOUTHERN CHARM MINI AUSSIES are taking Nu Vet Plus tablets as a part of the health guarantee we give you that we take the best possible care of the dogs we choose to reproduce.

Some breeders require NuVet to be purchased for a year, and others expect you to give NuVet for much longer – sometimes for life. And perhaps not surprisingly, those breeders are all using very similar wording when making claims about the product. It’s not surprising that breeders link the supplement to a “health guarantee”: it gives breeders an additional reason to refuse to stand behind the quality of their breeding. Moreover, I suspect that very few owners want to return their pets, meaning the kickbacks (that are widely assumed to be going to the breeder) give the breeder a steady, reliable secondary source of income.

Is NuVet a scam?

One of the signs a supplement might be a scam is the manufacturer has a web page entitled “NuVet is Not a Scam“. The other sign your supplement might be a scam is a link to a web page entitled Testimonials yet no similar page labelled Evidence.

It’s important to note that breeders that insist on the use of NuVet supplements are doing so in the absence of any credible or persuasive evidence. They are simply parroting the claims of NuVet Labs, and perhaps incorporating their own observations and personal experience. There is no published evidence that shows NuVet supplements are superior to other vitamin supplements. All that exists are anecdotes. Facts and objective evidence are lacking.

Conclusion

NuVet is a heavily marketed pet supplement that contains a mix of vitamins, minerals and other ingredients without any coherent scientific justification. The manufacturer appears to believe that NuVet treats a universal underlying cause of disease – a lack of dietary antioxidants. This is a claim that is not supported by credible evidence. A large number of animal breeders appear to derive a secondary income by requiring the purchase of NuVet supplements as a condition of animal sale. Despite the claims made by both manufacturers and breeders, there is no convincing or persuasive scientific evidence to suggest NuVet supplements offer any benefits to dogs whatsoever. This is supplement snake oil, and potential pet owners may want to think carefully about the credibility of any breeder who insists on NuVet purchases as a condition of pet sale.

Posted in: Science and Medicine

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68 thoughts on “NuVet: Pet Supplement Snake Oil

  1. goodnightirene says:

    This makes me glad that I adopted a rescue dog. I was only asked to provide a safe and loving home.

    I’m also glad I was sufficiently “evolved” to avoid ever messing around with glucosamnie for myself or a pet, nor would I ever deal with a breeder who insisted on the purchase of anything my vet would not confirm. I vet my vets as thoroughly as my docs these days as well.

    Sorry you (and Casey) went through all this, and thanks for coming clean about the process–it may strike a chord for some fence-sitters.

    (This post was inordinately hindered by a host of typos–I thought we had an editor? We really only need a proofreader I think).

    1. Jessika says:

      This is what I was just thinking… And people get dogs from breeders still? In 2014? Disgusting.

      1. simba says:

        There will always be some need for breeders, especially for people who need working dogs (which can also be pets).

      2. Greg says:

        “And people get dogs from breeders still?”

        Well they don’t grow on trees, so where are people supposed to get them? Especially if you’re looking for a particular breed or cross-breed?

        1. Angora Rabbit says:

          There are plenty of breed-rescue groups around North America who focus on the needs and rescue of specific dog breeds. There are similar organizations for fancy cat breeds, as well as other species such as house rabbits, iguanas, etc. An internet search will locate the ones nearest you.

          Visit petfinder.com, type in your zip code, and literally hundreds of animals needing forever homes will appear. These days there’s little reason to purchase from a breeder.

          1. goodnightirene says:

            Thanks Rabbit, I got my doxie from a breed rescue, only be accident though. She just popped up on a random search. The rescue in question gets pure bred dogs from the local pound, which frees up space for mixed breeds.

          2. Greg says:

            Even with rescue animals, a breeder was involved at some point. Our first and third dogs are rescues – say what you will but getting a dog as a pup is preferrable as pups will bond with you. Like our first dog, our third dog, Brodie, is indifferent to us. Whereas, Lara, who we got as a pup, follows us everywhere and always wants to be with us, comes immediately when called – the difference between Lara and the other two is night and day. So while I agree, there are plenty of good animals that need homes, I also understand why some people prefer to go to a breeder. As for breeders – like every other big decision, people need to do their homework and not just about the breeder but the breed too – many people get particular breeds without knowing what they’ve gotten themselves into, which is why there are so many rescues out there.

            1. simba says:

              I’ve had dogs I got as pups who were indifferent to me. I had a dog who turned up as a nervous adult who decided I was The Person and thought being allowed to sit with his people was the most important thing in the world. It can go both ways

            2. WScott says:

              “Even with rescue animals, a breeder was involved at some point.”
              Um, actually no, breeders are not the only place puppies are born. But more to the point, there are wonderful dogs being euthanized right now as I type this because they can’t find a home. So why pay *extra* to go to a breeder?

              “say what you will but getting a dog as a pup is preferrable as pups will bond with you.”
              Firstly: you can get puppies at shelters/rescues too.
              Secondly: Nonsense. Our oldest dog was adopted as a puppy and was always very independent to the point of standoffish. Our youngest dog was adopted as an adult, and is bonded to the point of being clingy. Dogs have different personalities just like, so don’t read too much into your sample size.

              1. Windriven says:

                Broad brush statements such as: “say what you will but getting a dog as a pup is preferrable (sic) as pups will bond with you.” never fail to amuse me. Dogs have different dispositions. There may be general traits among breeds, but even those traits aren’t iron clad.

                I have a female English-style Yellow Lab with a very typical Lab disposition: everybody’s her best friend and the prospect of meeting someone new is almost more than she can bear. A Lab that we walk with some mornings is, to be charitable, aloof.

                My daughter rescued a mixed breed from a reservation in BC. The dog came with a shopping list of bad habits, several of which my daughter saw little need to correct. When she and her husband went off to Australia for a bit, the dog was left with me. It took us perhaps 3 days to reach an understanding, the dog and I. But I returned a dog that was obedient, walked without tugging the lead, could be confidently walked off-lead in appropriate settings, not destructive, and very happy. Sometimes rescues take a little more work but I have never encountered a dog (though I’m sure they exist) that couldn’t be calm, happy, obedient, and reasonably non-aggressive.

              2. Greg says:

                Yes my sample size is too small ;<) to make such generalizations and my personal bias precluded my objectivity. Anyhow as Birdy wrote, there are good breeders and bad ones, so let's not lump them all together. And as Windriven has pointed out, rescues often come with behavioural problems – our first would attack without warning, which ultimately led to his demise. Our current rescue – a mini-schnauzer/wire-haired terrier mix – is aggressive towards people in our home when they move around – much as we try to curtail this behaviour, it so far has been proven impossible to deter him. Otherwise he is a pretty good dog – we had to rescue him from the rescue – a backyard operation (Don's Dogs) where this guy and his wife looked after up to 40 dogs. Brodee was found at 2 months abandoned in the woods and spent 5 months at the rescue – in a crate up to 20 hours per day and often with another dog.

            3. GCG says:

              Nothing worse than people who try to shame you for getting a dog from a reputable breeder. I’ve had rescue dogs and dogs from reputable breeders and each dog I’ve had I’ve gotten from different places for different reasons…. and frankly, it’s none of anyone else’s GD business where I choose to get my dog. As far as I’m concerned, those finger wagging busy bodies can go pound sand and mind their own business!

              I replied to you because I admire your willingness to stand up to these self appointed know-it-alls who sit in judgement of others they know nothing about ;)

      3. Birdy says:

        Responsible breeders are not the problem. A responsible breeder breeds healthy dogs out of love for the breed and takes back any dog they bred instead of allowing the animal to be abandoned. They vet (ha) families and refuse to let unprepared people purchase a puppy from them.

        The problem is backyard breeders and mills. Responsible breeders who treat their dogs well and breed carefully don’t deserve scorn because other people are cruel and irresponsible.

        Doing one’s research and approaching a good breeder to purchase a pup from a planned litter is really the only other responsible way to get a pet besides rescuing, IMO.

        1. Windriven says:

          Absolutely. The contract with the breeder that I bought my Lab from includes a repurchase clause. I don’t have the contract where I’m physically located at the moment but my recollection is that I am prohibited from abandoning the animal and in extremis am required to return the animal to the breeder.

          Sadly, dysplasia keeps popping up even in litters from very responsible breeders. And as I understand it (and I am not at all an expert in this area) diet and exercise during puppyhood can have an influence on the likelihood of developing CHD (I’m less sure about elbow dysplasia).

  2. Jeff says:

    Given the condition of Scott’s dog, would undenatured type II collagen be worth a try?

    1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20020968#

    2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21623931

    1. Dave Knudsen DVM says:

      No. Oral protein supplements, of any kind, are very efficiently digested into short polypeptides and amino acids by the stomach and intestine. Dogs are carnivores, and are highly evolved to digest collagen of any type, “un-denatured” (aka raw) or not. If you’re hoping to supplement protein, even prime rib is cheaper.

      Also, say you avoid the GI tract altogether and inject the “nutrient” into the joint, intramuscular sites, etc. Again, no effect, unless you do it enough times to elicit an “antigen-antibody” immune complex response, and end up with an immune-mediated arthritis or kidney failure.

      1. Jeff says:

        I’m certainly no expert on this subject. My understanding is that UC-II works through oral tolerance. Presenting certain immune cells in the gut with repeated oral doses of UC-II results in a reduced autoimmune response.

        http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2013/oct2013_Novel-Mechanism-Protects-Against-Arthritis_01.htm?

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          That would only work for cases of arthritis due to autoimmunity. It also would not repair existing damage (i.e. you couldn’t take a limping dog and get it to walk normally because its cartilage regrew). And you’d only require tiny amounts delivered in relatively widely-spaced doses, not a honking big jar of the stuff given daily.

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Very, very small number of subjects in a relatively large number of groups renders the studies hideously underpowered. Arthritis is labile, one dog getting dramatically better (i.e. having their symptoms shift from a valley to a peak) would skew the results (or one dog in the placebo group going from a high to a low). The intervention just doesn’t really make sense to me – collagen is protein, protein is digested (particularly by dogs, who are obligate carnivores) to individual amino acids. Arthritis due to collagen breakdown due to lack of substrates would respond to any increase in protein and would not require collagen-specifically, the building blocks are generic amino acids. One doesn’t drink blood if one is anemic for instance, and eating someone’s brain won’t make you smarter. Or for a building metaphor, one doens’t move a brick wall wholesale, one takes it apart and moves it brick by brick. It’s also a considerable overlap of authors, basically looking like it’s the same study group following the same idea for 5 years – no independent replication.

      it depends on your definition of “worth a try”. If you’ve got lots of money and don’t mind it being possibly wasted, then sure I guess. The risk is minimal but the benefits are extremely questionable.

      1. Jeff says:

        It’s worth noting that type II collagen has been used in larger human trials for both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis:

        1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19951408

        2. http://www.medsci.org/v06p0312.htm

        1. Pharmacist-in-Exile says:

          Both studies only show significant results in subjective measures. With regards to objective signs of inflammation such as ESR and CRP only the methotrexate treated group showed improvement for the RA-study.

        2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          There’s something like a hundred types of arthritis, so saying anything is good for “arthritis” is enough to make me use this emoticon

          O_o

  3. Nigel says:

    The Wild, Wild West of pet supplements, a murky world indeed.

    1. AntipodeanChic says:

      The world of Pet Supplements (not to mention the sometimes seemingly endless attendant Woo) is a very murky place indeed.

      The story Scott related about his own dog reminds me of an argument I got into with a friend a few years ago. My friend’s dog had dysplasia and ever-worsening arthritis & the vet consulted apparently first suggested the canine equivalent of, say, Celecoxib. My friend was obviously shocked at the price (also the dog was old and his renal function hadn’t been tested). At this point, the vet said “You could always try a Chondritin & Glucosamine supplement I [conveniently] stock here. Quite a few of my clients think that it has worked miracles on their pets!” or words to that effect. Now, the supplement can’t have been that much cheaper than the NSAIDs, because my friend started shopping around on the internet & elsewhere for better deals – meanwhile, the poor animal’s condition was obviously deteriorating.

      It just happened that at the time I was suffering from reactive arthritis caused by a post-surgical infection & had learnt first-hand how ineffective such supplements (even assuming they contain what the label claims) were* in comparison to NSAID treatment for osteoarthritis – at least in humans! I tried to gently put it to my friend that the dog certainly seemed to be getting worse, there was little evidence that the supplements were doing anything & would it not be better to give the poor thing some pain relief rather than shovel expensive placebos down his throat?

      Despite my friend being a generally very sensible person who is actually an RN, I guess she’d invested so much, both literally & psychologically, that “backing down” became near to impossible. Sadly, she had to have her dog put down soon after.

      I frequently hear of Woo merchants making inroads into what was once the province of “straight” vet practice: my Mother owns a few horses and some of the equestrian types she knows spend a LOT of money on things such as Acupuncture & variants of “Magical Touch” (ahem) Reiki, to name but two. I kid you not.

      It makes my blood boil, as the owners of animals with health problems can have all of the goodwill in the world – but that doesn’t mean that real conditions and pain are ever going to be addressed using such nonsense. Obviously, it is one thing for a human being to choose modalities such as Acupuncture to “treat” a serious ailment but animals don’t exactly have any recourse.

      *I had tried Glucosamine & Chondritin at the behest of a supposedly evidence-based Doctor. I was always fairly skeptical, but sick of being accused of being “close-minded”…

      1. simba says:

        Chiropractic for horses is a big thing too- some people will tell you you’re a bad horse owner if your animal’s not getting regularly ‘adjusted’.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Acupuncture for horses is also hilaribad. There’s apparently an acupuncture point for the gall bladder, an organ that doesn’t exist in horses.

          1. goodnightirene says:

            O_o

          2. goodnightirene says:

            I hope all who read this blog will visit SkepVet. He’s a gifted writer and must be an awesome vet. I visit there regularly and am never disappointed, but there are few regular commenters and I’d love to see more of the animal lovers here share their sentiments over there.

            SkepVet has a lot to say about SCAM in general and is worth a look even if you have no pets.

            1. Thor says:

              Thanks for the recommendation. Just spent some time on his site.
              Felt right at home. What solid footing he displays. And yes, very good writing.

            2. Roadstergal says:

              Thanks for the rec – it looks like a great resource. I’m especially going to be interested to read through the posts on nutrition and oral hygiene, two topics I really could stand to be better-informed about for the good of our girls.

              To pile on to topic of the OP, pet stores locally are full of supplements and homeopathic ‘treatments,’ and it drives me just nuts. My husband gets sick of me ranting about it when we’re there. Fortunately, our vet is lovely and not at all woo-y (and in the Bay Area, I appreciate that’s probably rare).

  4. Kiiri says:

    Well I have a problem with most breeders who make their living off of breeding and selling dogs. If you peel back the layers, they charge entirely too much money for a pure bred dog (or one of the popular cross breeds (labradoodle comes to mind)), they usually own a lot of dogs, most times confined in small spaces, breed as often as possible, and offer limited vet care to their own dogs. Every breeder I have known has withheld care from saveable puppies (or kittens) because it is too ‘expensive’ to save one when the cost of sale won’t cover the vet bill. Plus these people are out to make a profit. Adopt a shelter pet they need a home too. I am not surprised this is happening, many breeders require involved ‘contracts’ on sale of a dog plus these health ‘guarantees’ are pretty useless as if the dog develops an issue you have to be pretty heartless to want a replacement pet.

  5. MTDoc says:

    Dogs are my favorite people. There has been a dog in my family all of my 79 years. Over the last 60 years, most have been golden retrievers, not necessarily pure bred. This breed is subject to hip dysplasia and one of my favorites did have this problem. But he bore it with dignity and I did not feel his level of suffering outweighed his joy of life. That is an example to me now that I face the same problems.

    Now to topic. My vet and I have discussed quackery in both our fields of medicine. Specifically how ridiculous acupuncture is for animals, though I can’t completely rule out a placebo effect in an animal that will do anything to please his “master”. He cited some study (I have no idea where), that measured foot pressure on an affected limb before and after treatment with a positive conclusion. I’m sure that study would not stand up to the quality reviews I read here.

    I will check out Skept Vet ; thanks for the link.

  6. n brownlee says:

    We always had Shelties- still a favorite breed for me. Like so many other shepherd and hunting breeds, they’re also subject to hip dysplasia.

    My all time favorite Sheltie, Barbra (she looked like Streisand), developed symptoms as she aged, but it never seemed to affect her enjoyment of life. At least I never thought of it as doing so- possibly because I have the same condition, more or less. I’m strung together like an elasticated marionette and can dislocate most joints at will. Barbra and I limped through many long walks together.

  7. DavidCT says:

    It would be of interest to see what the breeder’s contracts with NuVet. It smells of multilevel marketing.

    1. KayMarie says:

      So far I can’t find anything where the breeder needs to bring in other breeders to get the residual income.

      Seems they are just one level and I found a few reports of NuVet contacting various breeders directly. So far haven’t been able to find out what the kick-back amount is, but seems like it is enough that there aren’t a lot of disgruntled breeders, yet. Usually with MLM’s you quickly accumulate a bunch of the disgruntled who got in too late and are too far down-line to break even.

  8. Anna M. says:

    As our sweet Golden Retriever, Rocky (RIP 2000-14), aged and developed arthritis in his hind legs as well as cataracts, deafness, colitis, and frequent skin problems, it would have been rather easy to be swayed by various woo pushers – vets, friends & acquaintances. Especially since some would look at you all aghast that you wouldn’t also use the magic pill or “treatment” that they swore by. As if we were uncaring monsters or something.

    We tried the glucosamine/chondroitin for a while despite my skepticism – my husband insisted we give it a go. What worked was accepting that he was just getting old and that we needed to make various lifestyle adjustments to make it easier for him. We bought a telescopic ramp so he could get in and out of the car easier as he loved going everywhere with us. We went on shorter, more frequent and slower walks. We went to the beach more often as swimming was easier on his joints and he loved it. We physically helped him up from sitting and lying positions. We worked hard at keeping the weight down despite the beseeching look in his eyes whenever he joined me in the kitchen as I prepared meals. And he got NSAIDs.

    Despite the extra effort for us over the last few years, we don’t regret it and we know we did right by him. Had it not been for blogs like these, I might be sitting here feeling guilty that we wasted time and effort on useless “cures” that caused him to suffer more than he needed to. Thanks SBM!

    I’d better end off here as I’m tearing up already. Said goodbye to the old fella 6 months ago but it’s still rough.

    1. MTDoc says:

      The only down side of dogs is saying goodbye. My present golden is 12plus and really showing her age. She is now deaf, which did make the 4th of July easier this year. Your story reminded me of a lady my wife met on our honeymoon 34 years ago. She had two goldens, one who was riding in a childs wagon. Seems the dog was 16 years old and could no longer walk. But he was alert and obviously enjoying the ride. When the lady threw a stick into the lake for the younger dog to fetch, he automatically tried to compete inspite of his limitations. The point is the spirit was there, and there was still a positive attitude toward life. Yes, an old dog is a lot of care and there are things we can’t do because she doesn’t travel well anymore. But no amount of inconvenience can cancel the love and joy she has given us, and I can only hope to be treated as well in the years to come.

      You will never regret the care you show to a fellow creature, human or canine. Six months or six years, the tears will still come occasionally, and now I too must sign off, as the screen is getting blurry.

      1. Windriven says:

        My last Lab lived to be 16. When I finally had no choice but to put her down it damn near killed me. But I stayed with her and stroked her while John injected the drugs and she shuddered and stopped breathing. When I moved to the PNW I dug up some of the dirt where I’d buried her ashes and reburied it under a willow in my backyard.

        Took me 6 years before I could bring myself to get another dog.

        1. MTDoc says:

          How I related to that.. I still can see my “Homer” in his last moments. I have seen perhaps several hundred humans breath their last. And then I would go and deliver a baby, and think this is the master plan for our species. How different I view things now than when I was a young man. When “Molly” goes (assuming she doesn’t outlive me) I doubt we will have another dog, yet we always have in due time.

          My last two dog’s ashes are buried in my yard with a marble marker. All that will be for not when my wife and I are not able to live here, but that is the way it is. As for my legacy I have always subscribed to the philosophy that “every body dies, it’s what you do while you are alive that counts”.

          An aside: I priced aged Macallen scotch and found out why I gave up scotch for gin years ago. At my age I might still consider it if I could still tell the difference.

    2. Missmolly says:

      Right with you guys. Had to say goodbye to our gorgeous 14yo (rescue) Lab Pan last Christmas – had been palliating her dreadful arthritis for a year or so, but when she couldn’t actually get up at all any more we realised it was time. Our beloved vet came out to us, and gave her the shot while Steve and I held her, fed her treats and sobbed. We all believe Pan’s only regret was that she couldn’t eat ALL of the liver treats before the end!
      I have a patient whose Aussie cattle dog lived to 26 (albeit being pushed about in a pram for the last year or so!), so that’s what we’re hoping to beat with our little deaf red heeler Kapi. What an enormous amount of joy and unconditional love these furbabies give us. I can see Pan completely clearly in my mind’s eye right now, daft grin and all! Wag, wag, wag…

  9. simba says:

    I would reckon a lot of this is twofold- stop the buyers blaming the breeder for any defective pups, and stop the breeder having to face it if he or she is breeding dogs in ill health.

    “Well of COURSE your flatcoated retriever got cancer aged three and died, you gave it vaccines and didn’t feed it enough antioxidants!”

    “It’s terrible how few people take proper care of their dogs these days. All of the King Charles puppies I’ve sold have developed mitral valve disease. People are so careless. “

  10. Skepticus says:

    Is there any way to analyze the ingredients in NuVet? I’m curious.

    1. Thor says:

      All the ingredients are listed, as they would be on any multi-vitamin/mineral formulation for humans. We know a lot about what vitamins and minerals do biochemically. As with humans, dogs should get their nutrients from food. There is no evidence, either for humans or for dogs, that taking them in supplement form has any benefit, other than for deficiency conditions. On the contrary, they indeed may not be harmless.

      Looks like they’ve snuck in (integrated) some nostrums like blue-green algae,
      shark cartilage and cat’s claw. WTF? As if. Per SCAM.

      1. Thor says:

        not per SCAM, pet SCAM.

  11. Chris Hickie says:

    We have three pound rescue dogs–all wonderful animals. One of them has just had bad luck. 2 years ago she was bit by a rattlesnake and needed some Crofab (rattlesnake antivenom) to recover. That is where you are glad there is good data to back that up (both from human and animal research). She recovered fine. However 3 weeks ago after being boarded for a week (she is up to date on her vaccines) she contracted kennel cough (usually canine bordatella), which can still happen as no vaccine is perfect (on the other hand my other two dogs who also boarded with her did not contract kennel cough and they are also current on vaccines, so to me the vaccine worked. But this poor dog may still cough to the point of vomiting for another few weeks. I think my vet is mostly science-based, but this article will make me think more critically when going to the vet.

    1. MTDoc says:

      Sorry one of your dogs got ill in the kennel; you do under stand the risk and accept it. That is one reason I hesitate to put my aged dog in a very good local kennel. They do there best, and when my dogs were younger, they did very well there,

      Also kudo’s for owning rescue dogs. I didn’t want to sound like a snob for my love of golden retrievers. We tried to foster a rescue dog once and she got into a fight with my dog (who might have been a bit jealous) and somehow I got bitten in the process. The next day she escaped through a hole in my fenced yard and made here way across a major river and back to the town where the animal shelter was 20 miles away! And medicare doesn’t pay for a tetnus shot. Go figure.

  12. Henry says:

    Fucking snake oil merchants.

  13. Markus M. says:

    One of the signs a supplement might be a scam is the manufacturer has a web page entitled “NuVet is Not a Scam“.

    That’s just too good to be true…

    1. simba says:

      Whenever I google something like that and get three pages back of “This is not a scam/MLM scheme/quackery!” written by delighted people who were so glad they bought in, who were initially skeptical… I avoid it like the plague. You just know that means there’s frantic marketing work going on by someone who knows their product is utter crap.

      What happens when they start getting sophisticated marketers in? The blog posts change to half of the above and the other half “Well the evidence is in the preliminary stages. There are some good anectdotal reports. But the safety is well-established and it can’t do you harm so why not? It worked for me!”

  14. Excellent job dismantling NuVet. Can you please take a look at New Earth Dynamics and their Restore snake oil? I understand they just signed a distribution contract with Whole Foods. http://www.newearthdynamics.com/products/restore. The video should give you enough to blog about….I wrote about it on my blog but your readership has a much broader reach. Thanks!

    Bob
    http://www.chambless.org

  15. Earthman says:

    How much do these things cost, and do you know that kickbacks are being made. If so how much?

    1. KayMarie says:

      90 wafers is something like $55. Other sell to the public directly antioxidant vitamins seem to be more like $25 for 120 range of price, just for a comparison that they don’t all cost that much.

      I have yet to hear of a business model where the distributors get zero money at all for selling the product. You have to compensate your sales force for their work.

      So far I haven’t found open and honest communication online about what the $/unit sold using your personal distributor number which must be given to your customers and which they must have to purchase the item. But it isn’t all that typical, and I’m not willing to try to become a distributor just to find out.

      Either it is new enough or paying the sales force well enough that there isn’t a group of disgruntled people gathered in an obvious place online spilling the beans.

    2. KayMarie says:

      Oh lost my train of thought for a moment….Isn’t all that typical that sales force commissions/kickbacks/compensations are clearly marked. About the only time I know the % the person facilitating the sale gets is in real estate transactions. No idea what the take was for the guy that sold me a car or the lady at the department store got as most of them get some commission as well.

  16. Nicole says:

    Thank you for a fascinating article. It’s not just animal doctors, by the way. My husband’s GP started pushing supplements on him (over a decade into the relationship!) and it got so bad he found a new GP.

    I also want to praise Skeptvet’s site, especially the posts on pet nutrition. We adopted a dog- my first in over 20 years- last October and, completely overwhelmed with the number of food choices that have emerged since the 1980s, I got suckered into purchasing grain-free, high protein, $80 a bag, blah blah, and the result was a dog that pooped pudding six times a day and had gas to kill you. Thankfully my vet pointed us towards blander food for our pooch and Skeptvet’s site was very persuasive that commercial dog food is not the poison some marketers try to convince you it is. The dog is now thriving on plain old, mass produced Beneful and cleaning up after her on walks is much easier!

  17. DrD says:

    I can recommend animal chiropractors. They are actually at least as smart as the human chiropractors though their hooves/claws can sometimes leave unsightly bruises.

  18. Rayemond says:

    I did the same thing with glucosamine, but my dog was getting injections of it from the vet. One injection a week for 4 weeks and he would show massive improving, then after 6 months to a year he would get really stiff again and I’d take him for another course of injections, and by the 4th one he’d be back to normal again. I was certain that they were doing him a world of good. Then I read the latest studies on glucosamine, and decided to skip his injections. Sure enough, his arthritis symptoms continued to come and go just as they had before! Looks like I (and my vet) were fooled by regression to the mean.

    There are many other products for pets that are very expensive but have a lack of good double blind trials… Dog appeasing pheremone (in the forms of collar, spray and plugin), Zyprexa and others. The causes of and prevention of bloat, cruciate ligament disease etc (and which cruciate ligament surgery is the best?). The feeding of raw meat and bones is all the rage at the moment, although I can’t find any evidence that it’s any healthier than kibble or a balanced home-cooked diet – yet it’s promoted as a panacea on many websites. The pseudoscience of “pack theory” is still widely thought of as the best way to train dogs (be the ‘alpha’ or your dog will try to take over!), ignoring the vast amounts of research into how animals learn, or how wolf packs or feral dogs actually behave. How many times I have been told “you mustn’t let your dog on the sofa or they will think they are dominant”, and it’s just a ridiculous old wives tale.

    1. simba says:

      I heard of one that a dog who’s allowed to eat raw meat will be dangerous if he ever actually bites anyone, because he will taste blood.

      There’s a lot of anti-vaccine stuff going around in the dog world as well. http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/why-i-dont-vaccinate-my-dogs-at-all/

      That and stuff about how corn, wheat etc will ‘kill your dog’ or are at best, undigestible and your dog will starve to death.

      Not to mention the ‘rattlesnake vaccine’. http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.ie/2010/06/snake-oil-or-snake-vaccine.html

      1. KayMarie says:

        And why do they think these diseases are now rare? Funny how you don’t see a disease very often after we start vaccinating critters against it.

        Hoping none of these folks live in an area like mine where seems every year there is more and more rabies in the wild unvaccinated critter population. I’ve read some about rabies, sounds like a most horrific way to die and I don’t care who you are, you don’t deserve that.

        1. simba says:

          Distemper and parvo are also exceptionally nasty ways to die.

          But yeah, ‘holistic’ vets are a big thing apparently. I can understand the arguments for using titers or not vaccinating every year, but a lot of it seems like the ‘too much too soon’ ‘green our vaccines’ movement, just a cover for an underlying emotion of ‘augh scary shots’.

          1. KayMarie says:

            Add in a dose of conspiracy thought patterns and all science is evil, all man-made is evil and it doesn’t take much.

            And sure kennel cough is usually not all that fatal, but working in a kennel I’d put it more like whooping cough than “just a widdle cold”. The kennel I worked at in high school used to take some pretty extreme measures to try to get it back out of the kennel when it got in. The disinfectant that killed parvo (I haz the oldz, this was before the vaccine) would kill it, too, so we could do something about it, but the amount of disinfecting we had to do went way up every time a dog came in with it. We had a lot of customers come back to us because it was the first time their dog came back from the kennel without needing a vet visit for kennel cough.

            1. simba says:

              Amber ‘flea and tick necklaces’ too (hat tip to BC Boards for that one)

              If the resin didn’t keep the ticks away in the first place, why would it keep the ticks away now it’s fossilized?

              1. KayMarie says:

                *googles*

                How does the amber exist for millions of years, but wears out in less than 12 months if you put it on a dog?

                And oh if any metal clasp touches your dog then you completely destroyed the effect. So only dogs trained to heel can ever be walked? Sounds like an easy out when it doesn’t work.

  19. Leif says:

    When we bought our puppy, the sales contract stated:
    ‘NUVet PLUS tablets: This is a mandatory wafer that you will need to keep you puppy on.
    As I have explained to you the importance of everything that is in this wafer.’ [sic]
    After reading about NUVet, we called them and canceled our order.
    Our breeder knew about the cancellation within 48 hours, so NuVet must have called her.

    On Scam.com ‘Happy Tales’ states:
    ‘Yes, I have heard of [NuVet] and I promote their products.
    The order code is for identifying the referrer and we do get commissions.’
    Happy Tales then goes on to state: ‘This is not an MLM marketing scam.’

    Happy Tales is right. It’s not multi-level marketing–
    it’s a good, old fashioned kickback scheme.
    NuVet is written into the contract
    and the ‘referrer’ (ie. the breeder) receives a commission without the purchaser’s knowledge.
    A quick Google search indicates
    that NuVet clauses appear in puppy contracts with alarming frequency.
    It turns up so often that it practically has to be part of NuVet’s marketing plan.

    NuVet Labs is operating unethically and possibly illegally.
    If NuVet really offers the benefits they promise, why they can’t they sell it honestly?

    1. simba says:

      How did the breeder react?

  20. Thanks for the great article. It is not just the breeders and vets hawking it either. Our groomer just recommended it for our dog, who does have some allergies, and gave me a business card with an order code on it. She gets a commission when the code is used.

  21. enkidu says:

    My vet keeps suggesting supplements for my 10 year old tripod dog, as she is missing a back leg and I am starting to notice she’s not hopping up on the sofa as elegantly as she used to. Having already been down the road with a former dog, I just tell the vet that I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work (white lie but better than arguing).

    It’s not just my vet though, but other people I know with older dogs are being told the same thing at their vets. It’s very frustrating.

    As for rescue vs breeders, once I looked through petfinder.com, I never considered a breeder again. Right now I have a pack of four motley rescue dogs (aged 3-11) that mean the world to me. Ironically, one that we rescued as a 2 yr old adult is the most attached to me, she follows me everywhere, and is definitely “my” dog!

    1. Windriven says:

      I refuse to see one vet at the practice where I take my Lab. The dog has regular ear problems when I let her swim in the Lewis River. I use an antifungal and it clears right up.

      This moron vet prescribed some screamingly expensive dog food (that the practice sells, of course) as the sure cure preventative. I asked her for citations from the medical literature supporting her treatment recommendation. (chirp, chirp) That terminated our relationship.

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