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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 7 July 2019  

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Dr. Jim Humphries

  Beware of pseudoscience trends
  By Dr. Jim Humphries
  Veterinarian

   This is about false or “sort of” science. We are seeing such a surge of this in veterinary medicine that it has many alarmed. It is often dressed up as legitimate in marketing, packaging and even by veterinarians who have left the real world of science and now practice holistic or homeopathic techniques. 
   
   Don’t get me wrong, I believe that a “holistic” approach to care is a good thing, but I suspect my definition of holistic is different from those who travel far beyond what science and traditional (proven) medicine would allow.
   
   I’ve seen far too many pets with raging fevers or out-of-control cancers presented for care or even euthanasia that have been on some sort of Chinese herb or human remedy that has little if any proven medicinal effect. This is especially sad as these pet owners believe they are giving their beloved pets a “cure” because it was prescribed by a veterinarian, or they read a convincing article on the internet and are certain it will cure their pet.
   
   Where did they jump off the proven, traditional, scientific, evidence-based track? And why? It is true that some animals and human patients for that matter have a disease or cancer that traditional medicine won’t cure. But why would you trust some ground up weed made in China to save the life of your incredible pet buddy? I surely would not. I want to see studies, data, results, etc., and then I’ll do what the experts say because they are the ones with the decades of education and experience (wisdom) to direct life-saving care for my sweet dog.
   
   Let’s look at some trends in this pseudoscience movement and reasons to avoid them.
   
   Herbal medicine/homeopathy
   Herbal pet medicine whose sellers make specific and unsubstantiated claims about their “medicine” are all over the internet, and have found their way inside veterinary clinics, some even here in our community. Here is a perfect example. Blood Sugar Gold, a tincture of roots, bark and dandelions can be shipped to your door for just $40 a bottle. These roots and bark are supposed to stabilize blood sugar levels in dogs. No proof; no science; just clever marketing. They claim to have sold $40 million worth already. That kind of money makes almost anyone look the other way in terms of scientific proof. It also allows them to skip medical school to head off to find more dandelions. 
   
   To dodge FDA regulations, most of these marketers will use the word “support” followed by what bodily function they are trying to fix. They have all learned that “support” is such a meaningless word that the people who are trying to keep you safe can’t regulate its use.
   
   I could sell a bottle of distilled water with a little bacon flavoring and say it “supports” your pets’ ability to fight cancer; that it is all natural, etc., — and it would be perfectly legal. It is a loophole the FDA can’t plug, so please watch out for this trick.
   
   Avoiding vaccines because of pet autism
   If avoiding children’s vaccinations because of some vague connection to autism wasn’t enough of a problem in human medicine, there is now a growing movement to avoid vaccines in pets because they purportedly cause autism. Yes, autism in your dog.
   Never mind that we can’t diagnose such a disease based on dog or cat behavior or even in laboratory mice studies. But to say you should stop vaccinating for deadly things like parvovirus and rabies because of some obscure link is just irresponsible and dangerous.
   
   There is a movement in the UK where over a quarter of pets are not vaccinated. This is a public health issue for humans. Core vaccines for dogs and cats prevent the transmission of serious illnesses to humans. This little trend has already found its way to New York and San Francisco.
   
   Amber beads
   This comes from amber teething necklaces for babies. Made from Baltic amber beads, their makers claim that a baby’s body heat releases tiny amounts of an analgesic substance that acts to ease teething pain. Tests prove they don’t work, but you still see babies chewing away on these things.
   
   Of course, these marketers next head to the pet industry. “You can prevent ticks and fleas from attacking your pet without resorting to toxic chemicals,” claims Amber Crown, which also sells the amber teething necklaces for babies. “Natural unpolished amber generates slight static charge that prevents insects from clinging onto your pet’s fur.” I’d like to see this proven in the Deep South or Florida. It is stunning the claims you can make yet have no proof to back them up; and the American public will gobble it up.
   
   For this small list of faux-science and beliefs, there is no robust and consistent body of positive research evidence to prove effectiveness of any of these things. I hate to see someone spend their last dime on foolishness, instead of real medicine that is known to work.
   
   I recommend checking out the blog at Skeptvet.com/blog, and also sciencebasedmedicine.org.

   Dr. Jim Humphries is a veterinarian in Colorado Springs and also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He provides hospice and end-of-life care for pets. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes. www.HomeWithDignity.com
  
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