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Should I prescribe antibiotics? Which non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug is more effective? There are many claims when it comes to what is best for the health of our animal patients. As veterinary professionals, we have a duty of care for the animals we see. How can we determine which claims are trustworthy, and how can we be confident that we are choosing the best treatment options?

In this context, a claim is a statement that a particular treatment will have a certain effect on an animal. A treatment is anything you might do for an animal’s health, whether that be prescribing a therapeutic, using a particular surgical approach or advising a specific course of action. Many treatment claims are made in the veterinary world about what is “best” for our patients, however, it is important to know which claims to trust. To do this, we must look at what supports a claim – its basis. For example, a personal experience is not a good basis for trusting a claim.

This is because we have nothing to compare the claim to if that person would have done something different, therefore, the claim lacks evidence

Three groups of guides

It is important to consider a treatment claim with caution. If a claim is unbalanced, i.e. does not argue both the harms and benefits of a treatment method, then it may be unreliable.

Assumption and trust-based claims should also be avoided as they are often biased and misleading (pink cards). For example, phrases such as “recommended by experts” and “as advertised” can be used to sway a practice or a veterinary professional to purchase a product. 
We must always ask for evidence when comparing treatment claims (yellow cards). Have the studies testing these claims been supported through robust research methods and have the results been described transparently? 
Making our decisions based on context is vital when considering treatment options (blue cards). In the real world, there are many factors that will influence a decision. It is important to prioritise the key problems and consider if the benefits of treating the problems outweigh the risks. 

Using the guides

These cards can be used to guide your decision-making about whether claims made by individuals, groups, companies or organisations are trustworthy. This includes assessing claims in reports, media stories or other outputs. For each concept we have provided links to examples and some additional learning resources.