Testing the Effectiveness of Treatments

 The Challenge

Unex Designs Ltd. specialise in product design, marketing and fulfilment. In the veterinary sector they have worked with veterinary surgeons, nurses and professional pet carers, helping to develop heated pads, protective collars, pet carriers and pet shampoo, amongst other products, with the aim of improving the health of the nation’s pets.

Amongst their range, Unex market the Pet Remedy product which is designed to provide relaxing and calming relief for pet stress. To support their product Unex wanted to conduct a study to test the effectiveness of their Pet Remedy treatment for dogs with behavioural issues and were looking for support in designing the study and analysing the results.

The Approach

Select helped by developing a framework for a new dog trial for Pet Remedy that compared the effectiveness of the treatment vs. placebo, when both were administered in combination with behavioural therapy.

In designing the new study we sought to identify and limit potential sources of bias from the trial results in order to ensure a fair comparison between the treatment groups. The design included randomisation to the treatment groups to help protect against systematic differences at the start of the experiment. Double-blinding was also recommended, with treatment information being withheld from both the dog owners/handlers and trainers/assessors, to help ensure that (even subconsciously) dogs in the different treatment groups were not handled differently, as this might also have a biasing effect on the results.

Sample size calculations were also used to estimate the likely number of dogs required to be able to detect a statistically significant difference between the treatments in improving the dogs’ behaviour. This helped control costs whilst ensuring that the results would be statistically robust.

The study took place at the Animal Behaviour Centre in Manchester over a three month period, with monthly observations recorded reflecting the dogs’ behaviour and excitability levels. Measurements were also taken before the study in order to establish the baseline behaviour and excitement levels of each dog pre-treatment. This allowed us to assess the progress of the dogs compared to how they behaved at the start of the trial.

In the end, the study showed a general improvement in the behaviour of all dogs during the study period, suggesting that the behavioural therapy was an effective treatment in its own right. However, a statistically significant difference was also found between the treatments, showing that dogs on Pet Remedy improved more than those on the placebo.

The Value

This study provides Unex with more evidence that Pet Remedy is an effective means of dealing with dogs with behavioural problems above and beyond the improvement observed with behavioural therapy alone. By adopting a formal statistical framework for the study, we were able to develop an efficient and effective study and produce robust results that gave a clear indication of the added value of using Pet Remedy for dogs with behavioural problems. With the results of this study Unex can continue to market their Pet Remedy product as a product for helping dogs with behavioural problems and their customers can be reassured that the product has been shown to have effective results.