Archive for the ‘Arthritis in Dogs and Cats’ Category

If Your Dog Has Degenerative Myelopathy, Read This Before Trying Sanus-Biotex

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

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.

Now this:

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. 

And this:

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.

(More Than) Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Canine Hip Dysplasia

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

For a comprehensive (and perhaps exhaustive) look at canine hip dysplasia, don’t miss this article from Clinician’s Brief.  It’s written for veterinarians but there’s a lot of great information in there for those of us on the other end of the leash!

The Most Common Reasons Dogs Get Rehab Therapy at Scout’s House

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Our post on how to keep your dog out of rehab sparked a conversation here at Scout’s House about some of the most common conditions we see.  We were sure we knew what we saw the most, but after running a few statistical reports, even we were surprised at the results.

Number One complaint?  Osteoarthritis–by a landslide.  Not surprising when you think about it–most animals coming in for physical rehab therapy are bound to have arthritis, along with other ailments, but we thought we saw more dogs with neurological issues.  We were wrong.

We were wrong, too, about the second most common complaint: knee problems related to the cranial cruciate ligament, or CCL.  Many of the dogs we’ve seen were recovering from one of the various surgeries used to fix a CCL rupture–TPLO, TTA, tightrope, or extracapsular–although a handful were hoping to avoid surgery with conservative management.  Of course, some of them had had surgery years before and were having problems with that knee (or stifle) now.  Can you say arthritis?

And while we would have guessed stifle problems were the third most common complaint amongst our patients, disk issues win there.  Intervertebral disk disease, disk ruptures, laminectomy surgeries–we see them all.

Wrapping up our Top 6: unidentified “rear limb weakness,” hip dysplasia, and degenerative myelopathy.

Coming up next:  Some of the unbelievable predicaments our patients have gotten into–and ended up in rehab because of!

Science Confirms: Fat Dogs with Arthritis Feel Better When They Lose Weight and Exercise A Lot

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

I’m always amazed by the scientific rigor that goes into clinical studies, but sometimes the results just confirm what seems like plain old common sense.

In this study, researchers found that overweight dogs with osteoarthritis who went on a diet and received intensive physical therapy lost more weight and moved better after 30 days than did dogs who just went on a diet or who dieted and received moderate physical therapy.  If your dog has arthritis and you’re wondering whether rehab therapy can help, read on:

Feline Arthritis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Cats are stoic creatures, which means they’re often very good at hiding pain.  But as this article points out, the things our cats do that we think are just normal signs of aging–becoming less active, finding new sleeping spots that don’t require jumping up, even pooping alongside, and not in, the litter box–may be signs of arthritis instead.  Although this was written for veterinarians, it’s a good overview of feline arthritis, including symptoms, how it’s diagnosed, and what treatment options are available.  From Veterinary Focus, courtesy of IVIS:

For more information about Scout’s House, go to

How Veterinarians Choose the Right Joint Supplement for Your Pet

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Ever wonder how your veterinarian decides which joint supplement to recommend for your pet’s arthritis?  Here’s an excellent article from Clinician’s Brief that helps veterinarians choose the right neutraceutical for a pet’s joint health.  (Don’t be put off by the medical-speak; there are some really interesting facts in here.)

Rush to Stem Cells Carries Some Risk

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

There’s a thought-provoking article in this month’s Veterinary Practice News by Dr. Narda Robinson that raises some good questions about the safety of stem cell therapy, which is being used more frequently in veterinary medicine to address a number of health issues, including arthritis and spinal cord damage.
If you’re considering stem cell therapy for your dog or cat, you might want to take a look:

Rush to Stem Cells Carries Some Risk.

Also, be sure to read this post from the International Society for Stem Cell Research.  Although meant for human patients, it’s applicable to animal patients, too:

Dangers of Using Metacam (meloxicam) in Cats

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

If your cat is using Metacam (meloxicam) for arthritis or other issues, please read this:

Extra-Label Use of Meloxicam | Clinician’s Brief.

Treating Arthritis With Integrative Medicine

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

From the September issue of Veterinary Practice News, an overview of options for treating arthritis in dogs and cats using integrative medicine.  It’s written for veterinarians so might be a bit dry in parts.
One interesting note, the author warns that fish oil can prolong clotting time in pets–good to keep in mind if your dog or cat gets fish oil supplements and is due for surgery.

Treating Arthritis With Integrative Medicine.

Fish Oil and Your Pet: How Useful? How Safe?

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

by Lisa Stahr

I was so excited by the paper in the March issue of  JAVMA (the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for dogs with osteoarthritis.  How wonderful that something as simple as omega-3 fatty acids can help pets with arthritis move better and live with less pain.
But then I saw the article in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 22nd (“Wading into fish oil supplement safety“) that said that ten popular fish oil supplements taken by people were found to contain PCBs (which can cause cancer and reproductive problems in humans), even though the manufacturers didn’t list PCBs in their products as mandated by California’s Proposition 65 disclosure rules.  Tested by the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation of Eureka, all ten fish oil supplements showed levels of PCBs and three of those ten exceeded California’s standard for “no significant risk” from carcinogens.
Not great news, but I don’t take fish oil supplements—however, my dog does.  On the advice of our veterinary oncologist, I’ve been giving Rerun omega-3 fatty acid capsules everyday for the last two years because omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help fend off Rerun’s particular form of cancer: T-cell lymphoma.  And that’s why the article alarmed me, because it made me realize that if the supplements tested—supplements that are over-the-counter fish oil products made for humanscontain PCBs, what do you suppose is in the fish oil supplements made for pets?  There’s  no regulation regarding the purity of pet supplements, which means we really don’t know what’s in the stuff we’re giving our dogs and cats, do we?
Now I’m freaked.
So I called the manufacturer of Omega-3 Pet, which are the fish oil supplements we sell at Scout’s House.  Our pet nutritionist at Scout’s House, Sandy Gregory, insisted that we buy these supplements from Nordic Naturals because Sandy had faith in the purity of their pet products.
And, it turns out, for good reason.
Bonnie Johnson of Nordic Naturals explained that third-party tests show that their Omega-3 Pet soft gel capsules have no detectable levels at one part per trillion of Non-Ortho and Mono-Ortho PCBs.  And, she added, the Pet capsules use the same oil as is used in the Omega-3 product for humans, so its held to the same standards.  Although this doesn’t guarantee that there are no PCBs in my dog’s omega-3 supplements, it does tell me that the numbers are very low.
And thanks to Bonnie, I understand a little more why that’s true.  Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet oil is derived from anchovies and sardines, which are smaller fish, and that’s important because PCB concentrations in fish depend, in part, on what kind of fish is used to make the oil (older, bigger fish build up more PCBs in their fatty tissues than smaller fish), as well as on where the fish live.  Nordic Naturals, I was glad to hear, harvests anchovies and sardines from the Norwegian Sea and the Southern Pacific Ocean, which are some of the world’s healthiest waters.
I can’t completely protect my dog from cancer, I know that.  She got T-cell lymphoma despite all my best efforts.  But I can maintain a healthy skepticism about the supplements I give her.  And so can you about the supplements you give your pet.  Don’t just assume a pet product is good for your dog or cat just because it says so–or worse, because your friend says so.  Read the labels, call the company for more information, and—above all—ask your veterinarian.  Until there are regulations regarding the food, treats, and supplements we give our pets, it’s up to you to determine the purity of what goes in your pet’s mouth.