Dr. Andrew Jones: Selling “Secrets” and Lies finally has a price

I once referred briefly to Dr. Andrew Jones in a previous post as an example of one of the warning signs of quackery, the claim of secret knowledge that mainstream science and medicine doesn’t want you to have. Of course, his marketing activities include lots of other characteristic features of alternative medicine propaganda, including unfounded accusations about the harm done by conventional medicine and unproven or outright false claims about the safety and efficacy of alternative methods. In many ways, he is a fine example of many warning signs of quackery.

It turns out, the veterinary medical licensing authorities in Canada, where Dr. Jones lives, have more backbone than most of those in the U.S., and for years they have been warning Dr. Jones that unfairly denigrating his colleagues and making false claims is unprofessional and incompatible with the standards licensed veterinarians are expected to uphold. He repeatedly claimed he would abide by the marketing and advertising guidelines all other veterinarians are subject to in his jurisdiction, and repeated broke those commitments. Finally, the British Columbia Veterinary Medical Association (BCVMA)  imposed significant fines, and Dr. Jones has chosen to give up his license so he can market his veterinary self-help products without interference.

His supporters, of course, are trying to paint him as a victim, but the evidence is clear that he is yet another alternative guru with a messiah complex making money not only off peddling ineffective or unproven remedies but discouraging pet owners from seeking real medical care for their pets.

The details of the proceedings against Dr. Jones are included in the BCVMA reports available here:

BCVMA Investigating Committee Report

College of Veterinarians Council Final Decision

(note-these links are no longer working. For now, the ruling can be found here)

In 2003, 2004, and 2005, Dr. Jones was asked to stop using advertising language for his practice and products that implied he provided better care or was less concerned about money than other veterinarians. He advertised his own services as “affordable” and “superior” compared to other vets and said things like:

“You will find us honest, convenient, affordable, and above all caring”

“We use only the best materials and labs”

Some of this language was relatively innocuous, and his supporters have made a point of this to suggest that there is no real issue but competition and professional jealousy here. However, it should be obvious why advertising oneself as better than ones colleagues, especially with no evidence but that of one’s own ego to support such a claim, is both offensive and unprofessional. In any case, the only sanction imposed on Dr. Jones was to stop using such language, which he repeatedly agreed in writing to do. As we shall see, he not only broke these promises but engaged in far more egregiously inappropriate behavior.

Dr. Jones went on to form “Dr. Jones Inner Circle Forum,” a web-based service which charged pet owners a subscription fee to receive his “secret” knowledge and wisdom that he repeatedly claimed would make most visits to the veterinarian unnecessary. On this forum, he repeatedly accused conventional veterinarians of naked greed and a lack of interest in the well-being of their patients:

1) P.P.S My goal is to give you the most up to date, unbiased dog and cat health information to allow YOU to keep your pet in top health. I want you to be an empowered pet owner, and You will be one as part of my exclusive Dr. Andrew Jones’ Inner Circle. [I can’t help notice that hucksters and quacks have a great fondness for CAPITAL LETERS. I wonder why that is…]

2) At the end of the day it boils down to money. If the public are not lining vets pockets with unnecessary visits, purchasing processed foods from which vets also take a percentage, that’s quite a reduction in income.

3) I am “positive” that many ‘conventional” veterinarians think that Veterinary Secrets Revealed is a bunch of “hocus pocus” and should be shut down.

What does this mean?

It means that other veterinarians are upset about my website, ebook, and Complete Home Study Course.

After all, I’m showing people how to treat their own pets and save money on Vet bills [at least some of the money they save, of course, will go to Dr. Jones]

4) You should check out my Complete Home Study Multimedia Course. I guarantee that you will treat your pet’s illness and ailments confidently, competently and for less than it would cost if you relied exclusively on professional Veterinary services.

5) This issue: The 6th Secret – The 6th key to extending your pet’s life is knowing when to AVOID you Veterinarian.

In his posts on the Inner Circle forum, Dr. Jones repeatedly claimed alternative or “holistic” methods were safer and more effective than scientific medicine and that the only reason that conventional veterinarians object to them is that the “Secret Society of Veterinarians” was afraid they would lose money if people learned how to keep their pets healthy without professional medical care. When challenged for proof of his claims, Dr. Jones resorted to the time-worn and thoroughly meaningless arguments of longevity, popularity, and personal experience or anecdote:

‘There is no proof…’

But how do you think that most animals in the world are treated? It’s with natural medicine…

Most people in India or China can’t afford to even see a vet or buy medication.

They use herbs, acupressure, massage, supplements, homeopathic treatments.

The animals get better, because the treatments work.

I have seen thousands of pets recover with home remedies.

That is proof.

As if we are seriously expected to believe that the cats and dogs in the third world who do not have access to real veterinary care are healthier than the pets in the developed world. Just like the people who are too poor to have access to science-based medicine are healthier than those of us in the developed world, despite the minor problems of high infant mortality, low life-expectancy, and rampant infectious and parasitic diseases most of us have never seen, I suppose? Arrant nonsense.

The list of absurd, untrue, and unprofessional accusations and claims, all made in an effort to sell books, videos, and subscriptions to the “secrets” of his “Inner Circle,” is extensive. Here are just a few examples:

1) I firmly believe in holistic medicine for pets.

We are killing them with the most of the terrible dog foods on the market along with pesticides contained in flea and tick medications and also medicines the vets want you to purchase. [a letter supposedly from a reader that Dr. Jones reprinted  because it reflected his views]

2) “…you should be leery of any LARGE pet food manufacturer- they re[sic] in the business to profit first”

3) HERBAL THERAPY. A number of herbs are used in diabetes. These include Gymnema, Bitter Melon, Fenugreek, and Ginseng. These herbs can be found in specific diabetic herbal combinations. Ginseng is the most effective of these herbs. It has been shown to lower blood sugar in people, and is believed to do the same in animals. The dose is 30 mg per lb of body weight twice daily of the dried herb, or 1 drop per pound of body weight twice daily of the tincture.[implying people can treat their pet’s diabetes alone, with unproven herbal remedies, is especially egregious because it will undoubtedly lead to suffering and death for animals with this serious disease who are not properly treated]

4) Pay Close Attention – today, I’m going to show you why conventional veterinary medicine is harming your pet and step-by-step what you must do to prevent it.

“Regular” veterinary care has lost it’s [sic] effectiveness over the years, and in some cases is causing illness in our pets.

5) The entire Pet Health Industry has a vested interest in discrediting alternative medicines which can safely, naturally and effectively allow pet owners to care for thei pets at home. [a nice example of the conspiracy-theory aspect of quackery]

6) Most veterinarians just choose to ignore the research because either they still feel the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks, or that they don’t want to lose income from giving booster shots to all those animals each year.

Apart from such false and unproven accusations and claims, Dr. Jones engaged in inappropriate hucksterism, offering “money-back guarantees” and “cures” when such claims can never be anything but lies in medicine.

Despite all of this, the licensing board did not intend to drive Dr. Jones out of practice. He was fined substantially, both for the numerous violations of ethics laws and, even more importantly, for acknowledging in writing that he understood and intended to abide by them and then reneging on these promises in order to continue to profit from unethical and deceitful advertising. However, when he offered to give up his license, the board specifically indicated it did not consider this an appropriate or necessary punishment for the violations. Dr. Jones decision to give up his license is entirely his own.

Unfortunately, it is likely he will continue to profit from spreading lies and misinformation about the veterinary profession, and from offering dangerous advice and unproven or false treatments. He will have to walk a fine line since without a license he cannot legally practice veterinary medicine, but of course the benefits of a free society are great enough that he must be allowed to spout his nonsense as long as he does not cross the line into liable, slander, or the practice of medicine. Sadly, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ends up in the U.S. where regulatory authorities have proven far less willing to challenge such snake oil salesman taking advantage of pet owners and profiting from fear and ignorance.

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161 Responses to Dr. Andrew Jones: Selling “Secrets” and Lies finally has a price

  1. v.t. says:

    You researched? Please cite credible research that states those methods are effective against fleas.

    Coconut oil. Bogus. In humans and pets. Latest fad. Soon to fade out just like the majority of human fads that people like to apply to their pets for no reason other than to boast dubious claims.

    Banana peels. What? In their beds? Gross! I’d love to see a RCT and peer review on evidence suggesting this is even the least bit appropriate.

  2. Brigitte Smith says:

    The problem with this critique is that there is not a single pet owner experience. Dr. Jones’s diet change and supplement is working so far for my cat’s recently diagnosed diabetes, although I am using a supplement by another vendor. Either way his recommendations are working. ‘This research, that research’ is no substitute for personal experience. As far as pharmaceuticals are concerned I don’t understand the controversy. You can read about adverse effects and lawsuits about drugs that have damaged humans and were produced with that knowledge by companies who omitted that info from their disclosures. Why would it be different for animals? We should use the same caution with conventional meds for animals. For anyone who reads this vet’s opinion, I recommend that you base your use of Dr. Jones’s methods and recommendations on your experience with using them on your pet, rather than critiques. You know your pet. You will know when something is working and when something is not working.

  3. skeptvet says:

    I understand why you feel this way, but unfortunately you are absolutely wrong about the reliability of personal experience. We see what we want and expect to see all the time, and personal experience has supported every ineffective and dangerous treatment ever tried. The reason we live longer and healthier lives now that any human beings in history is that our species learned to mistrust how things appear and to test them with science. Here are a collection of articles (and a touch of humor) with much more detail about why anecdotes simply don’t work:

    Why Anecdotes Can’t Be Trusted

  4. Brigitte Smith says:

    I appreciate your comment but how can you know that I am absolutely wrong about personal experience if you cannot relate to it? Furthermore, what experience do you have with alternative medicine? In any case, science can be no substitute for personal experience.

    I have a neighbor whose 7 year old has terrible IBS. Doctors have prescribed all kinds of drugs, including steroids. It made things worse, the kid was beside himself. They stopped the meds. They’re now trying holistic remedies and he’s doing significantly better than he was on the meds and better than he was when he wasn’t on anything at all. That doesn’t mean that everyone with IBS will have the same success as my neighbor’s child with alternative remedies but they discovered their success from personal experience. Sometimes traditional medicine does not work. I will not say ‘sometimes science does not work’ because alternative medicine is science as well. Trial and error is not exclusive to those in lab coats with degrees. You know how your pet responds to remedies, you know yourself, just as my neighbors know their kid, that part is not rocket science.

  5. skeptvet says:

    If you look at the articles I linked to, you will see some of the reasons why i can be so sure that scientific research is more reliable than personal trial and error. For one thing, there is nothing ever tried, from ritual sacrifice to bloodletting to astrology to magic that people haven’t believed worked based on their own observations. If we have to trust in anecdotes, then we have to believe every story, and that means that everything must work and we might as well give up trying to separate effective and ineffective treatments.

    Usually, when people say we should trust personal experience, they really mean we should trust their experiences or others they believe. If someone has seen aliens abduct them with their own eyes or killed a chicken in a voodoo ritual and seen someone’s cancer go away, your logic means you have to take their experiences just as seriously as your own or your neighbors.
    That path is the one we followed for thousands of years, and in that time half our children died before adulthood and we could rarely expect to live past our 40s. Believing we can see for ourselves and don’t need science to tell us what works is a dangerous and outdated idea.

  6. Brigitte Smith says:

    And if we were speaking ritual sacrifice, blood letting, astrology or voodoo, you may have a point but we’re not. Blood letting was actually used in scientific discourses back in the day.
    If a doctor prescribes me various medicines to help move my bowels but I find they don’t work as well as prune juice, personal experience obviously outweighs science in that situation. By virtue of the fact that scientific discourses are managed by humankind illustrates that it will not always be right. Humans in science make errors and poor judgments no less than humans relying in personal experience. It will not always be reliable. Personal experience may not always be reliable either but one’s instinct about one’s self is a better option be it with traditional medicine or alternative medicine. Traditional medicine told me that the best way to deal with my menstrual pain and anemia was to take Midol, prescribed narcotics, and iron. I know my body and I knew what was happening every month was not normal. I switched doctors and told that doctor “something is wrong, it is not in my head and it is not a normal female process, please provide me with imaging to confirm.” She did. I was right, I had uterine fibroids but even then the recommendation was to take iron, narcotics, the scientific solution was to manage it and follow-up with imaging in 12 months. I swiftly found a surgeon who actually heard me when I said, I do not want to treat my symptoms I want to resolve the problem that is causing them. I had surgery to remove the fibroids and my life was functional again. It was my personal experience that lead me to the scientific remedy of surgery, not science. Science is as flawed as the people behind it. Science once deemed women who engage in disobedience to men as having a psychiatric disorder. Science can be just as foolhardy as personal judgment. It cuts both was but either way the path you take based personal experience and judgment may be the better one.

  7. art malernee dvm says:

    Science can be just as foolhardy as personal judgment>>> I googled that statement and the first hit was a religious book selling for 35 dollars attacking science.

  8. skeptvet says:

    Science is absolutely flawed and imperfect because, as you say, it is just a process enacted by human beings. But the whole point of the process is that it helps to compensate for the specific limitations of our observations and memory and judgment. To say that it is no better than personal experience is to entirely miss the point and ignore the quite clear history of the last 300 years. The point of bringing up bloodletting, voodoo, astrology, and so on is that the folks who believe in those things, based on their personal experience, are no dumber and no smarter than you or I. We have no basis for claiming our personal observations are any more likely to be true than theirs. So without science to check us, we either believe everything anyone claims to have seen for themselves or we arbitrarily choose to believe some anecdotal evidence (usually our own or that which agrees with our experiences) and disbelieve the rest. This is just choosing what to believe, and it doesn’t work very well.

  9. Brigitte Smith says:

    Again voodoo, astrology is not even remotely comparable. Bloodletting was part of scientific discourse back in the day so I am not sure why you even included that. And yes we do have much more basis to claim that our personal observations about ourselves and those patients to whom we are closer than say, a doctor or a scientist. I’m speaking about tangible feelings of one’s self, not of the zodiac, or voodoo. I’m speaking of my friend’s daughter who took her newborn to 4 different emergency rooms saying their was something wrong with her son’s head and being repeatedly told by doctors based on science, that her son’s head shape was normal for a newborn and it would change with time. By the third ER they were accusing her Munchausen by Proxy. The fourth ER doc was equal in his dismissal of her feelings about the issue but at least he offered to order imaging of her son’s head to “Put her mind at ease.” The boy had a bleed in his brain. There was no voodoo, no astrology, there was just experience already being a mother of 2 and gut maternal instinct that told her something was wrong with his head and that the shape of his head was not right.

    When I worked in admissions at a university, the Public Health department brought up a recommendation to admit an applicant into their Masters Public Health program, that initially perplexed me. The applicant was a Buddhist monk, no formal training, no GPA, only education was within his faith but he had been living in various African countries, in particular villages, helping the the sick amongst other duties. As I read his statement of intention and his remarkable background, I realized if an epidemic needed to be tracked and researched in these particular places, I’d go to this monk before I went to the CDC. All this monk wanted was a framework to apply his knowledge. I passed his application onto the Dean and yes, he was admitted. There was no voodoo, or astrology or even Buddhism. It was this monk’s personal experience, not science that made him so knowledgeable about the health issues and challenges of these villages and it will be science to help him better apply it.

    Not everyone will be correct in their experience. Steve Jobs insisted on alternative medicine to treat his pancreatic cancer. It obviously did not work and cost him crucial time needed for traditional treatment but there was no guarantee that would work either. There will always be exceptions on both sides of this argument but for me I have had too many experiences of the ones that were not exceptions so I will always use my personal experience as the foundation of any treatment I consider.

  10. Katherine says:

    What frustrates me is wondering why I take my dog to the vet for an annual wellness visit – and am bombarded with materials on signing up for regular monthly chemicals or drugs in a healthy dog – and can even receive a bonus for signing up (more free drugs) and a bonus for referring more customers. Why is “Zoetis Petcare Rewards” even a part of my vet’s practice?

    I love science. I think that science can and does save lives. I like business and innovation. I think our world benefits from entrepeneurs and businesses that offer employment and necessary goods and services. HOWEVER – I question why the Big Business of Animal Pharmaceuticals (of any namebrand) is DRIVING the medical model of veterinary schools and practices.

    So far the comments above are battling in the wrong arena. We are asking the wrong questions! Who is ordering the studies that “we” rely upon? Who is conducting meta- studies that examine the bigger relationships of what is found or omitted? Are there ANY peer reviewed journals that encourage thinking about thinking and asking good questions about traditional practices vs. alternative ones? Sometimes the vaccine is the lifesaver and sometimes the killer: who (beyond Dr. Internet and well meaning but sometimes hysterical advocates armed only with personal anecdotes) is evaluating the impact of increased vaccination, automatic vaccination, vs. thoughtful vaccination (ie. the practice of whether to vaccinating against lyme in areas not plagued by lyme), and even the controversy of non-vaccination?

    At what point does the number of personal anecdotes become relevant?

    Who is looking for the root cause underlying the increase of disease in our pets? Diabetes, asthma, cancer, skin conditions depression, arthritis… more. Prescribing pills to mitigate may mask a symptom, be good business for vets and companies, and calm the concern of pet owners conditioned by tv ads to seek a “magic pill.” It seems to me (a frustrated pet own and human being with the same questions for traditional medical model for humans) that these meds do not resolve the common thread that seems to be Inflammation at various point of the body.

    Instead of increasing sunshine, fresh air, interaction and work and play, healthy fats, and an organic natural prey whole-foods type of eating – traditional vets recommend a pill, a shot, and a prescription wheat/corn/soy kibble found in the special bag on their shelves.

    The only other alternative for pet owners is to look to “alternative holistic practitioners” who can be well meaning and wise, or questionable quack-ish folks pushing their own lines of supplements and foods and specialty marketed items. The choice should not be painted as science vs. quackery. There is a better way.

    Pediatricians once automatically prescribed a large antibiotic for each case of an ear infection. Cleared the ear, killed good bugs in the gut and helped create potential superbug situations. New protocols call for “watch and see”. That most ear inffections clear within a few days and have no side effects. Less meds, healthier bodies. Save antibiotic use as “big guns” for more critical infections. In this manner, questioning and revising a standard protocol has improved health for babies and children.

    Is it too much to ask for Vet schools, Vet associations, Vet practices, and individual Vets themselves – to critically reflect upon their professions and missions?

    Like the TPR report and middleman staffing joke inquiry in the old movie “Office Space” – what exactly is it that you DO do? Are you a savvy prescriber of meds and an automatic issuer of shots? Is your main job to encourage health or to mitigate disease? Do you consider each dog or cat or breed and genetics or state of living before you prescribe or act? Do you read through the history of practices past and the effect on pet health (positive or negative)? Do you play devil’s advocate when meeting with your local drug reps who routinely visit (or whom you meet at the Huge, Disney-esque trade shows) and question the benefits and ask for evidence of the trials and numbers before adding to your practice? Do you subscribe to a journal that asks good questions and invites your professional participation – or is your office filled with magazines that are supplied by the major pharmaceutical or dog feed companies?

    I am not sure why I feel like a freak in having these questions or expectations. A dog’s life is simple. Trusting in the professionals who offer to shepherd our pets’ health should be a simple matter, too.

    If veterinary medicine were driven purely by science, experience, wisdom, collaboration, communication – this debate would be moot. But the businesses who most profit from pet illness and disease and consumer purchasing – seem to be driving the health industry: from schools to financing to scientific studies to advertising to practices.

    I charge the DVM’s and PhD’s and all practitioners to consider these questions and open some good conversations at work, online, among themselves and their families.

  11. skeptvet says:

    There are some good points and many, many false assumptions and myths in your comment. Certainly, bias associated with funding is a serious issue, and contrary to what you seem to think, it is one that is recognized and discussed frequently in veterinary medicine. How studies are funded, conducted, reported, and critically analyzed incorporates this potential source of bias at every level. While the result is undoubtedly imperfect, and more work needs to be done, the evidence generated is still enormously better and more reliable than any number of anecdotes or personal experiences, each one of which has no control for bias at all.

    The concern about the influence of industry on veterinary education and practice is valid. However, the notion that veterinary medicine is “DRIVEN” by industry is nonsense. The rhetorical questions you ask and the language you use are completely dominated by an ideological bias against science and science-based medicine and infused with the mythology of anti-science ideology. The nonsense about “chemicals” (everything is a chemical, and the evidence is overwhelming that flea and tick preventatives reduce suffering and disease with generally very little risk), the implication that the risks and benefits of vaccines are somehow equivalent (“sometimes the vaccine is the lifesaver sometimes the killer”) when there is no reasonable question that vaccines have far more benefit than risk and that most of the risks people worry about are not real, the tired old slander that money drives practice when veterinarians get paid far less than nearly any other healing profession that puts even close to as much time and money and effort into their education and practice, the complete nonsense about diets and dietary ingredients you repeat, and so many other examples show that you are in the grip of a truly anti-science point of view, whether you think so or not.

    I challenge you and all the alternative medicine advocates to ask yourselves equally hard questions. How is it that you seem to know important truths about health and disease that are simple and obvious but that the vast majority of people in science and medicine don’t accept? Are you really that much smarter, more of a critical thinker, less subject to outside influence than everyone else? Or are you simply picking and choosing the facts to suit what you believe and explaining away disagreement in others as merely bias or ignorance? Why is it that we live longer and healthier lives than any time in history if past generations had all the sunshine, fresh air, and unprocessed food they could ask for? Why is it that vaccines and pharmaceuticals and the mainstream understanding of health and disease have wiped out diseases, dramatically reduced infant and maternal mortality, and doubled our average life expectancy if they are so dangerous, mistaken, and driven by greed and a desire to perpetuate illness? Why, if alternative medicine offers such miraculous treatments so much better than conventional medicine is it so seldom able to prove this scientifically? Why are you worried about the conventional food and medicine industry but not bothered by the fact that alternative medicine practitioners make money from their treatments and books and products, that billions of dollars are made every year selling herbs and supplements, and treatments never proven to be safe or effective? Why does the supposed bias and greed on one group bother you and you are blind to the bias and greed of other groups?

    It seems to me you are pretty confident you have everything figured out, yet you aren’t interested in taking a hard look at your own assumptions or biases or those behind the alternative medicine narrative.

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