by Lisa Stahr, Founder, Scout’s House
Today is July 12, 2012 and as of this moment, there is no cure for degenerative myelopathy in dogs.
So if you’ve seen the ad by Sanus-Biotex promising to improve the health of a dog with degenerative myelopathy (DM), please read on before you buy. These people have absolutely no scruples. They’re preying on dog owners who are looking for something, anything to help their dogs, which is despicable.
First, my credentials: I started a physical rehabilitation therapy center for animals in California, a place where the staff works daily with dogs with DM. For years, I’ve followed the progress of the research being done by real scientists, like Dr. Joan Coates from the University of Missouri, who are trying to find a cure for DM. I’ve interviewed Dr. Coates on Scout’s House’s radio show, Special Pets, Special Needs, and have continued to talk with her privately. And I’m a member of the DM Dogs discussion forum on Yahoo Groups, which is comprised of very knowledgeable people who have dogs with the disease. As a matter of fact, that’s how I first heard about the Sanus-Biotex hoax. People in the group were wondering if the product worked.
Well, it doesn’t.
And I’m infuriated by the lies and misdirection and misinformation presented on their website. As a former copywriter, I understand what they were doing with the copy they wrote—it was created very deliberately—but if you know anything about DM, you understand this “supplement” couldn’t possibly help.
For instance, on their website they wrote:
100% Guaranteed to subside hind-quarter inflammation which occurs all to often leading to the extreme “flare-ups” associated with Degenerative Myelopathy.
What “flare-ups”? At Scout’s House, we’ve treated hundreds of dogs with DM and have never seen an inflammatory “flare up” in one. And that’s because DM isn’t an inflammatory disease. Dogs with DM may have muscle soreness and even some inflammation in the front end because they’re off-weighting (throwing their weight to the front) to compensate for rear legs that don’t work, but inflammation isn’t a DM symptom.
What they’re doing in their copy is purposely mis-associating DM with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a connection researchers once hypothesized but that was proven wrong several years ago with research from Dr. Joan Coates et al. DM is similar to ALS in humans, not MS. So those “flare ups” they’re talking about—yes, MS sufferers do have flare ups that can have an inflammatory basis, but dogs with DM do not.
And as you read the copy, you’ll notice they’re also attributing arthritis symptoms to DM. Hey, it’s very common for older dogs—which most DM dogs are—to have concurrent arthritis. But they’re not talking specifically about arthritis here, they’re saying there is inflammation associated with DM and that’s just plain incorrect.
They also say:
Helps revitalize and nourish the muscles throughout your dogs body while improving blood flow from the hind-legs to the heart.
Blood flow isn’t the problem with DM, DM is a neurological degeneration. And muscle atrophy is the result of the neurological degeneration, NOT impeded blood flow.
Sanus-Biotex helps restore degenerated joints and connective tissue preventing muscle atrophy typically caused by degenerative myelopathy.
Joints and connective tissue don’t degenerate with DM, nerves do.
So what they’re doing here is purposely confusing symptoms from diseases once thought to be connected with DM (eg, MS) and that can appear concurrently with DM (eg, arthritis) to make you think those are actual DM symptoms, but they are not. As a result, they’re trying to sell you a product for one disease by purposely confusing its symptoms with those of other diseases.
Here’s another piece:
Sanus-Biotex, replaces a number of potentially harmful and much less effective treatments including steroids.
Steroids are extremely good at controlling the extreme inflammation associated with degenerative myelopathy.
What veterinarian gives steroids for DM?! This is NOT an inflammatory disease, that’s been proven. This is a neurodegenerative disease. Veterinarians understand that steroids don’t help DM. Steroids can help other conditions that a dog with DM may also suffer from, such as arthritis, but they aren’t going to slow or stop or reverse the course of degenerative myelopathy.
Then they say this:
As soon as you suppress the symptoms and inflammation associated with degenerative myelopathy many of the tell-tailed traits of the disease will go away! The flare-ups become less frequent, inflammation subsides, loss of balance, the irritation…It all goes away!
Again, I repeat: there is no inflammation with DM. There are no “flare-ups.” There is no irritation (maybe the only “good” thing about DM is that it isn’t painful—in fact, once they reach a certain stage, dogs don’t feel any pain at all. A blessing in some ways.) Promising that “it all goes away” is just pure charlatanry.
As for this:
Has ZERO adverse side effects…The Highly Potent Formula found in every bottle consists of the “Very Highest Grade Ingredients” you can buy! (and are not available retail)
First of all, REALLY??? “ZERO adverse side effects”? And which study are they quoting that proved that? Always look for evidence-based solutions.
Also, “Very Highest Grade Ingredients” means what exactly? They allude to “herbs and vitamins” but WHAT herbs and vitamins? The truth is, by hiding behind their “proprietary blend” claim, they’re able to avoid revealing what’s in their product–which means YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S IN THIS STUFF. And as much as I love my dogs and as eager as I would be to reverse the damage done by DM if my dog had it, I would never give my dog a product that doesn’t disclose its ingredients. I don’t believe in experimenting on my animals, no matter how dire their health condition.
So here’s another thing, I used to be a copywriter so I understand what this website copy is doing and why it’s doing it. This pitch was very cleverly crafted; please allow me to show you a couple of the tricks they used.
This section was written to play on the hopes and dreams that everyone with a DM dog has of seeing their beloved pets “whole” again:
Imagine what a wonderful turn of events this could be for you and your dog. Picture yourself strolling around the neighborhood or park again with your dog. Ask yourself how many times have you wished you could experience the sheer joy of seeing your best friend chase a ball, stick, or Frisbee again? Now, I’m not going to make you any promises here, but what I can tell you is…There is a very good chance that your dog will be able to do all of this once again!
And this is an old “black hat” direct mail trick: make an offer that promises success in the short-term but always add a long-term caveat. The idea is to get people to purchase the product and to keep them purchasing the product over and over again with the hope that it’ll work. It’s a way to create a consistent revenue stream out of each buyer.
Visible progress in as little as 14 days…*Please note, (60+) day programs are always recommended for long term success.
It’s no surprise they brag that:
over 80% of our monthly orders continue to come from existing customers
Of course they do! They’re making you think that repeat orders indicate a successful product, but repeat orders probably just indicate that people are adhering to their “60+ day” program recommendation.
I could go on, pointing out how they get your attention, make the connection with you, and then hook you to buy. This copy was clearly written by a professional. And I could point out several other ways that they’re trying to manipulate you into buying. But read it over again with a critical eye: they’ve used misinformation, suggesting issues related to MS and arthritis, and confused and associated that misinformation with the effects of DM. They’ve used old copywriting direct mail tricks to get you to buy—and keep buying—their product. They’ve used every trick in the book to hook you and make sure you stay hooked for as long as possible.
Maybe this product helps the arthritis that some elderly DM dogs have and people are confusing the temporary improvement in the arthritis symptoms with the DM symptoms, but THIS PRODUCT DOES NOT HELP DEGENERATIVE MYELOPATHY. And as I mentioned earlier, if you don’t know what’s in something, it’s unwise to “just try it.”
Like you, I wish there was a magic pill that would cure DM, just as I wish there was a magic pill that would cure cancer. I have a dog with T-cell lymphoma and I would give anything to cure her of that. But we have to be rational about the things we’re willing to try in the effort to save our pets—not only for our pets’ health and well-being, but also as a defense against unscrupulous marketers who willingly take advantage of our sadness and hope.