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Understanding the Placebo Effect and What it Teaches Us About Healing

Many skeptics question whether or not a pet improves as a result of the placebo effect when treated with a complementary therapy. Of course, this question should also be asked about conventional therapies as well.

There are actually 2 placebo effects that may occur when a pet is treated with any type of therapy. The first one is the well-known "placebo effect" so commonly discussed when treating people. In this effect, if a doctor prescribes a medication for someone with a sore shoulder and tells his patient that he will improve in 48 hours, and then the patient improves, was it from the treatment or the power of suggestion?

Because our minds can often convince us that we feel better, and can in fact help the body heal, it's good to know if the response to therapy is from the therapy or the mind healing the body. Of course, there is no way for a pet to tell itself to feel better. If I give a pet a medication to make it stop itching, there is no way for me to tell the pet to stop itching. Either the treatment works or it doesn't. This well-known placebo effect, which commonly occurs in people, cannot occur in pets.

Having said this, people who respond to the power of suggestion (placebo effect) simply prove that the body can heal itself without harmful medications. Holistic medical doctors can use the body's healing ability to assist in wellness without resorting to powerful and expensive medications, and this is a great thing!

The second type of placebo effect occurs in any person or pet. Simply put, some patients will improve no matter what treatment is chosen unless their condition is severe. Therefore, whenever possible, a placebo controlled trial is helpful when testing a new therapy to compare how many patients get better with the therapy and how many would have improved on their own anyway. This allows doctors to determine if the therapy really worked or if the patient would have improved without therapy. Once again the fact that healing can occur without the use of potent chemicals simply reveals how we can use this innate healing ability to help our patients!

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