The Problem of Negative and Inaccurate Advertising of Alternative Veterinary Medicine

Advertising is a form of communication intended to influence the behavior of potential consumers with regard to specific products or services. As such, it is inherently competitive to some degree, attempting to encourage consumers to choose the advertiser’s product over those offered by competitors. However, widely accepted ethical principles, and often specific laws, require that advertising be fundamentally truthful, within fairly elastic bounds. And there is no inherent need for advertising, though it is competitive, to be negative. It is possible to promote one’s own services without claiming that one’s competitors are incompetent, dangerous, dishonest, or guilty of some other malfeasance against the customer.

We all know that in reality, advertising often falls short of the ideal of factually accurate and civil content. While many practitioners of complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM) advertise in a way that is at least civil, if not in my opinion factually accurate, I also frequently find examples of advertising for alternative veterinary products and services that are not only inaccurate but also blatantly hostile towards conventional, scientific medicine.

This makes sense in that “alternative” medicine, by definition, must consist of therapies intended to replace conventional medicine, and such therapies would have no value if conventional medicine were accepted as generally safe and effective. “Integrative” and “complementary” interventions are, at least theoretically, not incompatible with conventional medicine, so they could more easily be advertised on their own claimed merits, without the need to claim that scientific medicine is unsafe and ineffective. But even when labeled with these less confrontational buzzwords, such interventions are often promoted on the basis of at least implying, of not claiming outright, that scientific medicine is harmful and not very effective.

Despite disagreements over the theories and scientific evidence associated with alternative veterinary medicine, it seems to me that there might be some common ground possible between skeptics, such as myself, and more reasonable advocates of CAVM to agree that advertising by veterinarians which is egregiously hostile or which depends on painting one’s colleagues as incompetent, venal, or otherwise not genuinely interested in the well-being of their patients is inappropriate. Despite the fact that this blog consists primarily of critiques of therapies I believe make claims not supported by reasonable evidence, I make great efforts to repeatedly affirm that most practitioners of these therapies have honest intentions and are truly seeking the best for their patients and client. I am seldom accorded the same courtesy by my own detractors.

I have previously discussed examples of what I believe to be inaccurate and inappropriate advertising by alternative veterinary practitioners (such as Andrew Jones, Gloria Dodd, and Erik Weisman, all of whom have face legal or regulatory board action for their actions). And to be fair, I have also criticized advertising of conventional interventions that are advertised in inappropriate ways, such as Medivet’s stem cell therapy.

Recently, I came across a couple of web sites which exemplify the worst sort of advertising rhetoric and techniques found in CAVM promotion. If the more reasonable proponents of alternative methods wish to be treated respectfully they might consider challenging such practices among their own colleagues.

Dr. Jenifer Preston of HolisticVetExpert.com provides several examples of negative and inaccurate advertising. The claims and comments made on this veterinarian’s web represent the use of exaggerated and unsupported allegations, and lack of regard for fact, that characterizes the more extreme CAVM propaganda.

Dr. Preston, for example, claims to have an herbal remedy that prevents and cures heartworm disease and other parasitic infestations. Such a claim, if not supported by FDA licensure, is illegal according to the terms of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), which forbids prevention and treatment claims and allows only vague “structure and function” claims.

These claims are also dangerous in that they can mislead consumers into failing to properly protect their animals from this deadly disease or to treat them appropriately when they become infected. And because there is no scientific support for these claims, they are sold through disparaging and misleading criticism of truly effective heartworm preventative and treatment agents and the implication that veterinarians sell these “poisonous chemicals” knowing they are dangerous out of simple greed.

Heartworm preventatives are a huge income to both veterinary clinics and the big pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the drugs…There are other alternatives to these poisonous chemicals

Our parasite formula has been used for several years now to treat heart flukes successfully….In my holistic practice, I find flukes and a host of other rarely diagnosed parasites through radionic testing.

We are now using our HVE Parasite Formula to treat all stages of heartworms. As with heart flukes, we have found that a slow killing of these heart parasites is much safer to the patient than the immediate kill-off with drugs such as Melarsomine (Immiticide). We are recommending a therapy (by weight) of daily treatment for seven days for a total of three rounds with two- four day breaks in between. In other words, treat the heartworm-positive dog once daily for seven days; stop for four days; repeat for seven days; stop for four days and repeat daily for a third round of seven days. In severe cases, we may have to go another round or two of therapy.

So far, we have NO side effects in these positive cases–all dogs are doing very well. I also believe that HVE Parasite Formula can be used to prevent heartworm infections.”

This is the most beautiful natural wormer we have found. It is a liquid herbal wormer that we have found to be effective against:

Intestinal Flukes
Liver Flukes
Lung Flukes
Heart Flukes
Intestinal Flukes
Blood Flukes
Cryptostrongyloides (roundworms in the lungs)
Sparganosis (migrating tapeworm larvae)
Pin Worms
Threadworms
Hook Worms
Whip Worms
Roundworms (in any organ including the brain)

Dr. Preston tests for these in her practice, and this is the number one wormer she uses.

There is no evidence to suggest that the undisclosed ingredients in this product, or any herbal product, is a safe and effective preventative or therapeutic agent for heartworm disease, and even many proponents of herbal and holistic therapies acknowledge that conventional medications are the safest and most effective agents for this purpose. What is more, though there are well-known risks to conventional prevention and treatments, these pale in comparison to the tens of thousands of dogs who have been spared illness and death by these products.

Regardless of what I am sure is Dr. Preston’s genuine, though deluded, belief in the statements she makes here, there is no justification for regulatory agencies, or responsible proponents of alternative veterinary medicine, to allow these kinds of claims to go unchallenged.

The rest of the site contains many other cases of misleading and unsupported claims about the dangers of conventional medicine and the superiority of her approach. Dr. Preston’s bio contains a fairly typical conversion story indicating that she began practicing as a conventional veterinarian and then became convinced that she was doing far more harm than good, which led to a conversion to alternative methods. The narrative contains the usual unsupported claims that vaccines and medicines are terrible toxins responsible for most of the diseases science hasn’t yet found a clear cause of or cure for, laments about the unpleasant fact that not all illness can be prevented of cured, and claims that alternative medicine is obviously safer and better but that it is suppressed by greedy corporations and the blindness of  unenlightened mainstream veterinarians.

Dr. Preston practiced allopathic medicine for twenty five years before realizing that the vaccinations and drugs she dispensed daily were causing more problems than they ever solved and often to a more severe degree. So the leading income-producer in her practice–vaccines–was obviously creating havoc in most of her patients. The drugs prescribed every day were literally destroying healthy organs and shortening lives.

Ten years ago, Dr. Preston turned to holistic veterinary medicine–it seemed to be the only answer to the overwhelming set of diseases that were not responding to conventional therapy. For decades, allopathic medicine has been revered and taught in every veterinary college in this country without exploring alternatives! One only needs to realize that many of the biggest subsidizers of veterinary schools across America and Europe are Big Pharma. Who donates new, expensive equipment? Who provides large scholarships? Who provides most of the grants to research veterinarians? Major pharmaceutical companies. She realized that their goal was not to improve the lives of millions of companion animals but to line their own pockets.

She is confident that HolisticVetExpert supplements will tackle diseases that have up to now baffled you and your pet, such as:

-cancer
-mild to severe arthritis and degenerative joint diseases
-joint injuries
-hypo- or hyper- thyroidism.
-cushings disease
-liver and kidney disease
-cystitis-acute or chronic
-urinary incontinence
-constipation
-asthma
-allergies
-obvious or unobvious underlying parasitic diseases
-chronic infections in any system or organ
-vaccinosis–diseases caused by vaccines themselves

As is common in the advertising of “holistic” medicine, the emphasis in this site is on sweeping statements about the dangers of conventional care  and sweeping claims about the superiority of alternative care, all presented with no supporting evidence beyond opinion and anecdotes. The ignorance of conventional veterinarians is portrayed as a positive danger to their patients.

Allopathic veterinarians are trained to relieve symptoms with little or no emphasis placed on the consequence(s) of the treatments selected…

Over the years, drugs and vaccines have made our pets, our beloved companions, seriously sicker and have shortened their natural life span. Why do we so often see premature aging? How do we STOP this trend? Treat holistically! Naturopathic veterinarians have found that these alternative products are accepted so much easier by the animal’s body and therapy is so much quicker and more complete!

By using natural, holistic supplements, we all enjoy a better quality of life, because we ourselves are not exposed to the toxins that go onto or into our pets’ systems!

Here’s another example.

Epilepsy in dogs and cats can develop at any age. Allopathic veterinarians do not give you any real reason that this develops in your beloved dog or cat.

What the vets don’t realize is that they themselves have very likely created this syndrome with vaccines. Yearly administration of multi-valent vaccines assault the animal’s immune system over and over. More and more animals are developing ‘auto-immune’ diseases and the allopathic community has no idea why.

The culprit for seizures – except for the cases of malignancies of the brain or chemical poisonings-is often distemper and/ or rabies vaccines.

One other common contributor to seizures is the use of topical flea products-any brand-they are all nasty.

Another case of dodgy advertising that caught my attention recently, though I have discussed the individual’s advocacy of alternative veterinary nutrition before,  is the site of Dr. Tom Lonsdale, who promotes his book, products, and overall agenda with inflammatory statements like these:

Why there is an alliance between junk pet food makers (‘barfers’ included), many veterinarians and fake animal welfare groups designed to keep pet owners confused and in the dark?

See how incompetence and maladministration characterise the veterinary endeavour.

 The situation is grim and starts with the veterinary profession’s inattention to detail. Whilst it is obvious to most folks…that junk foods are bad for health the veterinary profession appears to have been too busy to notice. Once pointed out, the fact that an artificial diet fed monotonously either directly or indirectly poisons animals, the profession should have risen up and acted. Instead the professional ethic ruled that a mass cover up should apply. With the cover up safely in place profits were to be made. Increasingly elaborate ploys are now used in persuading the populace to a. keep more animals and b. feed them high priced artificial concoctions.

It is my belief that the profession’s political mismanagement and acquiescence is matched by a naive scientific methodology… Our way out of the mire is via a holistic assessment…. Since the holistic approach is not usually taught or practised, here are a few tips which may be of help. Firstly, make sure to have fun. There are no columns of meaningless figures in this approach nor disembodied dry facts.

We have standardised error such that incompetence has become the standard.

Such negative advertising may not be the rule for alternative veterinary practitioners, but it is by no means rare. There is a natural tendency for proponents of alternative methods to promote them in terms of the inadequacies or dangers of conventional medicine. Insofar as they present reasonable evidence to support their criticisms, this is fair play. However, at a minimum, there should be some attempt to offer such evidence, and efforts to claim superiority by insinuating greed, ignorance, or stupidity on the part of the majority of veterinarians practicing conventional should be eschewed.

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7 Responses to The Problem of Negative and Inaccurate Advertising of Alternative Veterinary Medicine

  1. v.t. says:

    I believe any vet who promotes and gives nosodes in lieu of effective vaccines should lose their license, permanently. And yet, the foray of other altmed nonsense – there’s so much it just boggles the mind how incompetent these vets truly are – isn’t incompetence a major factor in license confiscation?

    How would/does the veterinary community tackle this, actually? If incompetence is in question, why do these vets still retain their licenses?

    Thanks, skeptvet, for exposing these vets and their quack agendas. However, here is where we differ considerably. For as long as they continue to be deluded, I believe that they are not, as you believe, truly genuine in seeking medical answers and only resort to the bottom line ($). Example, nearly all of the online sites promoting quackery are also selling the same for profit, or are affiliates of same.

  2. skeptvet says:

    It is true there is a commercial element to most of the information about alternative veterinary medicine available to pet owners. That is one of the major reasons I started this blog, since I believe pet owners deserve to be able to find and consider multiple points of view and sources of information, and not only commercial sources. That said, when my critics suggest that my point of view is simply a cover for economic self-interest, I resent this implication and know it to be untrue. So I try to give the benefit of the doubt to others as well and presume that their motivations are honorable even when their ideas are absurd. I may sometimes be wrong, but it seems there is a better chance for honest, substantive debate if we generally try to focus on argument and evidence more than on presumed motives.

  3. v.t. says:

    But, as far as I know, you’re not pushing or peddling bogus products on your website. Neither are you pushing ineffective and useless holistic remedies.

    I’m finding it difficult to believe that alt vets such as Jenifer Preston could engage in rational discussion, and I think it’s pretty clear she can’t produce evidence for her claims, which seems to be the common theme of alt vets.

    You know, when requested, vets can and do provide drug information inserts with medications, and the client can further investigate the medication with the manufacturer if necessary. There is no resource, nor recourse with natural, holistic, homeopathic, etc. Maybe that should be a requirement.

  4. art malernee dvm says:

    How would/does the veterinary community tackle this>>>>>>

    Texas attorney general just approved damages for more than the value of the pet. It is being appealed.

    Art Malernee dvm

  5. Louise K. Carson says:

    Years ago, I had a vet out on a farm call to take care of several issues with two horses. Teeth cleaning went well. Other issues were discussed, then it was time for vaccines. My Arab mare Suzie hadn’t had shots for years, probably since she was first at my place about 8 years previously. She does not leave the farm.
    It was the usual many vaccines in one. She had a terrible reaction with a swelling on her leg and side. Expensive tests could not tell what caused it and it was very slow to subside. I thought I might lose her. The farm call cost a lot of money — I don’t have a trailer — and the tests to determine what had caused the negative reaction revealed nothing and cost even more. Nothing, absolutely nothing else, in her life had changed.
    Call it anecdotal evidence if you will but I would never subject her , or myself, to those shots again.

    As the vets said, there is no proof that is was the vaccines but what do you need? Another set of shots to kill her? She might be especially sensitive, the vaccines may have been “off” in some way. Whatever it was, I wouldn’t do it again.

    The entire discussion of holistic and the usual vet science is very sensitive and I have beliefs on both sides of this fence. It’s not always an “either/or” decision. Sometimes we can pick out of each practice that which serves our animals’ best needs.

  6. skeptvet says:

    The problem is that when you pick based on anecdotes like this, you are likely to pick wrongly. Sure, the vaccines may have been responsible. Or they may not. And maybe they aren’t necessary, in which case not giving them is fine. Or maybe they are, in which case the patient may get sick from a preventable disease. We could go on with such speculation indefinitely and never find any reliable basis on which to make healthcare decisions. That ailed for thousands of years before we developed the scientific method, which in a couple of centuries has doubled our lifespan and eliminated entire diseases we suffered from for those thousands of years. I’m not saying we ignore our experiences, only that we have to understand they aren’t really very reliable, and picking an choosing between untested alternative therapies and science based on anecdotes and gut feelings is like deciding to place a bet in a casino on the basis of a “gut feeling” even when the odds are clearly stacked against you.

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