The vast majority of our companion dogs and cats are neutered, for a variety of good reasons. As a consequence, the healthcare of breeding animals is not a major part of most small animal practices, and it hasn’t been a subject I have covered often here. However, it should be no surprise to learn that there is an abundance of alternative medicine products and services advertised for assisting in breeding companion animals and treating breeding problems. And for the most part these products have no greater foundation in real scientific evidence than any other CAM interventions.
A good example is the NaturalRearing.com web site. This site manages to hit almost every cliché and bogus claim found in alternative medicine and raise every red flag on the list of warning signs of nonsense:
“Natural” and “holistic” are mere synonyms for “good” and “healthy.”
Vaccines and commercial diets are labeled toxic, while raw diets and herbs are automatically assumed to be safe and healthy.
Scientific medicine treats symptoms with technology, “holistic” medicine treats the vital life force of the patient to achieve true wellness.
Any and all alternative methods are good even when they each claim different and incompatible causes and treatments of disease.
There’s a big conspiracy to brainwash us into mindlessly believing in science while the truly brave, independent thinkers are following these mutually incompatible paths laid out by “ancient” traditions or misunderstood geniuses.
Cures and perfect health are implicitly or explicitly promised.
While science and its accomplishments are persistently derided and dismiss, it is still claimed that science validates the claims made by the alternative medicine community.
The site goes even farther than many others. Chlorination and fluoridation of drinking water are identified as unappreciated health hazards, as are fabric softeners, genetic modification of crops, antibiotics, and pretty much anything that would not have been a common technology or practice 200 years ago.
And what is the evidence for all of these warnings and promises? Well, there isn’t any. Apparently, “those who think for themselves” are expected to swallow all these claims based only on the word of the people making them.
The cast of characters at NaturalRearing.com includes some we’ve seen before and others who haven’t yet appeared here. What they share is a deep ideological commitment to the idea that conventional scientific understandings of health and disease are wrong and that completely incompatible alternative explanations are the real truth. The site is owned by Marina Zacharias, who is apparently a homeopath practicing on humans as well as animals. And there is Dr. Deva Khalsa of magic water fame, among other accomplishments. And Catherine O’Driscoll, an anti-vaccine activist and proponents of raw diets and numerous corporate conspiracy theories about animal care. Also Dr. John Fudens, a “holistic” veterinarian who argues that rabies vaccination is a “Big Scam” and who appears to believe that one of the most important causes of cancer is negative emotions.
Besides carcinogens, stresses from viruses and pollutants, there also exists an insidious degenerative process within the person or animal and the family connected to them. This process starts in the mind and emotions. It is an illness that leaves the individual paralyzed in poor self esteem, powerless to control their lives and destiny and feeling they or the body cannot create anymore.
It could involve suppressed emotions like anger, grief from loss of love or respect, guilt from resentment toward a person close, augmented by a loss in ability to communicate and trust. A big factor is the physical loss of a loved one. This despair is the breeding ground for an unhealthy attitude towards life. In such an environment a cancerous process grows strong.
These individuals are not simply promoting traditional or novel therapies. They are ultimately rejecting the entire scientific understanding of biology and medicine that has so greatly improved our lives and health and seeking it to replace it with an incoherent mish-mash of idiosyncratic and mystical theories. It is important to know this when evaluating their advice, since their arguments can seem quite reasonable and even consistent with science on the surface.
What, specifically, does this site recommend in terms of interventions for breeding? A more accurate question would be what doesn’t the site recommend?! Homeopathy is touted as a preventative or outright cure for many problems, despite being a baseless pseudoscience with no reliable evidence it helps fertility or in any other way facilitates breeding and rearing healthy dogs. Herbs of various kinds, usually in complex proprietary mixtures, are recommended for everything from deworming and fertility enhancement to treating panosteitis and other disorders. Traditional Chinese Medicine remedies and arbitrary individual food ingredients along with lots of extra vitamins are also recommended.
The only theme appears to be that food or homeopathic magic water cure everything and one should never give anything that could be considered a scientifically tested and proven medicine, except of course in a real emergency. If a little of something, like a vitamin, is good then more must be better, despite the growing evidence that this is dangerously untrue. And while the owner of the site sells many of the remedies she recommends, we can rest assured that concerns about financial motives only apply to conventional medical practitioners.
This site engages in one of the most frustrating and disingenuos CAM marketing practices. It dismisses science-based medicine as useful only for emergencies (by which is meant cases where a pet is genuinely sick and the success or failure of treatment is easily determined), and then make all sorts of baseless claims for alternatives in promoting “wellness” or “real health” in animals that either aren’t sick in the first place or have chronic, waxing and waning illnesses where it is impossible to legitimately make a clear, direct connection between interventions and changes in symptoms. It’s a classic case of “heads I win, tails you lose.”
I’m sure Ms. Zacharias breeds many healthy, happy dogs. And while she gives the credit for this to the unproven or outright mystical nonsense she promotes and sells, the reality is that these dogs likely do well despite the remedies she applies to them, and would likely do as well or better with conventional care. But of course that is impossible to prove, so she is free to believe and claim what she likes without having to back it up with any real evidence. But I would not recommend taking breeding advice, or any other healthcare advice, from a site that opposes vaccination, antibiotics, and many other proven beneficial therapies and promotes, homeopathy and other pseudoscientific fantasies.