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Overcoming the placebo effect when investigating pain relief in cats

M. E. Gruen, E. Griffith, A. Thomson, W. Simpson, B. D. X. Lascelles

IN trials of treatments for cats, owners are often asked to report whether the treatment has affected the cat's behaviour or physical condition. Owner-based assessment tools include the feline musculoskeletal pain index and the client-specific outcome measures assessment. Previous studies have indicated that placebo effects may occur when such tools are used to assess degenerative joint disease (DJD)-associated pain in cats, with owners of cats in the placebo group likely to report that the clinical signs have diminished. This study aimed to test a novel trial design that incorporates a ‘washout period’ and assess whether it could overcome the placebo affect seen in a group of cats with DJD-associated pain by their owners.

Sixty-six ‘indoor only’ cats with DJD that had been presented to primary care veterinarians at practices in the USA were included in the study. On the first day of the trial, all owners completed several subjective evaluations relating to their cats’ condition. For the first two weeks after enrolment, all cats received a volume-matched placebo in order to acclimatise them to the daily medication …

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