Same Snake Oil, Different Day

Knowing that I have an interest in investigating the evidence behind claims for veterinary healthcare products, clients and colleagues sometimes pass along materials concerning veterinary supplements, herbal remedies, and other similar products and ask my opinion. Since there are hundreds, if not thousands of products marketed to pet owners to preserve or restore their pets’ health, I can only look into a few. However, the more of these I investigate, the more clearly I see the patterns of disregard for science and manipulation of the consumer that they have in common.

The latest in this category is a collection of products from a company called The website and pamphlet for this company exhibits nearly all of the warning signs of quackery. The company systematically tries to frighten the consumer by suggesting that pets cannot be healthy without their product and that the food and healthcare they are currently getting is inadequate.

Give Your Pet a Fighting Chance

If you are feeding your pet one of today’s popular processed pet foods, then chances are, your pet’s body is depleted of the primary enzyme precursors nature provides abundantly in all living foods.

The fact that we continue to feed our pets such enzyme-less food over an entire lifetime may contribute to the growing list of animal health problems we witness today including; osteoarthritis, inflammation, joint pain, hip dysplasia, pano, OCD, HOD, shedding, hair loss, dry skin, itchy skin, digestive disorders, gastritis, pet food allergies, epilepsy, fatigue, hot spots, and many other stress related symptoms contributed to by a weakened immune system.

The whole “living enzyme” argument is complete nonsense, and there is no evidence for the suggestion that commercial diets are nutritionally deficient or responsible for this long, redundant list of random symptoms and disorders. Some of these problems may be related to nutrition, but that has nothing to do with the claim made here, which is baseless.

But the pseudoscientific nonsense doesn’t stop there. The web site also blames pet food, vaccines, and medications for a variety of ailments, again without paying any attention to the real, and complicated, risks and benefits of these interventions. Classic quack nonsense like claims about the Pottenger cat “study,” about boosting the immune system, about mysterious “toxins” as a cause of unrelated diseases,  and about Candida yeast infections as a common cause of many health problems are all over the company web site.

So, what are they selling with all this fear? Apparently, miraculous panaceas with uncounted benefits and absolutely no risks! Since they aren’t allowed to claim they can actually prevent or treat any disease without having evidence to support it (though they effectively do, despite the Quack Miranda Warning here and there), they promise to “support”

Healthy Joint function, Healthy Muscle Function, Healthy Skin and Coat, Healthy Nervous System, Healthy Immune System, Healthy Circulatory System, Healthy Endocrine System, Healthy Lymphatic System, Healthy Digestive System, Healthy Urinary Function, Healthy reproductive Function, Healthy respiratory System, Healthy organ Function, General Overall Wellbeing

I like how they throw in “Healthy Organ Function” and “General Overall Wellbeing” just to cover any possible body part they might not have thought of. So if you’re afraid the imaginary causes of illness they mention have caused your pets’ problem, or might cause something bad someday, you can take comfort from knowing they this product can treat or prevent absolutely everything (except when it can’t, in which case it’s because of the food, the water, the medications, or anything else except the lack of benefit of their product). 

What, exactly, are the miracle elixirs offered by

Ox-E drops
This consists of 5% sodium chlorite, a chemical related to bleach. Properly diluted, this chemical is a safe disinfectant, killing infectious organisms through oxidation. With a pH of 13, if not diluted the chemical can cause burns, especially to the eyes and mucous membranes. Accidental overdose can be fatal.

The company advertises this as helping in “the removal of potentially dangerous free radicals and toxins,” and claims that is boosts the immune system, supports digestion, and enhances “performance.”  Impressive claims for a potentially toxic disinfectant that is actually an oxidant rather than an anti-oxidant.

As the accompanying quack Miranda warning attests, and a simple literature search confirms, there is absolutely no evidence for any of these claims. Plenty of testimonials are offered, of course, which is always the evidence of choice for products that are based on pseudoscience and have never been tested in any reliable way.

Antioxidant Treats
The antioxidant hype is a common marketing ploy for supplements because it’s vague, and there is enough suggestive preclinical research to suggest the general idea is plausible. Unfortunately, there are few clinical trials which show significant real benefits from particular anti-oxidants in particular conditions, and the evidence is growing that some such agents, such as Vitamin E, can actually increase the risk of disease.

The specific ingredients include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and a proprietary freeze-dried sprouted soybean meal claimed to contain:

The amount of the vitamins in the supplement are far in excess of what is recommended to prevent deficiency.

Vitamin A- 1000IU (recommended daily dose 50IU/kg, safe upper limit 2,099IU)
Vitamin C- 30mg (recommended daily dose 0, dogs and cats make their own)
Vitamin E- 5IU (recommended daily dose 1mg/kg)

These amounts are probably not high enough to cause harm, but given that most pets are fed diets already supplemented with more than enough of each, the amounts in this product are unnecessary as nutrients. The use of excess amounts of these vitamins as medicines to prevent or treat disease, is not proven, and has often turned out to do more harm than good when tried in humans.

As for the sprouted soybean meal, there is no scientific evidence to suggest health benefits from this either. The company sites a variety of epidemiological studies in humans indicating an association between eating tofu or other soybean food products and lower cholesterol levels, rates of some cancers, and a few other health problems. (They do not, of course, refer to any of the research in humans showing lack of benefit or potential risks from soy supplement products). All of this, unfortunately, is entirely irrelevant to whether or not this particular soy-based product has any benefits for dogs and cats.

The amino acids, vitamins, and minerals listed are all provided in adequate amounts in good quality commercial pet foods. The enzymes are of no benefit, particularly when taken orally since they themselves are destroyed by normal digestion. And none of the phytochemicals have yet been demonstrated to have any health benefits in dogs and cats. So while it is unlikely to be harmful, to is an expensive way to get a few nutrients your pet probably already has enough of and some chemicals that may or may not have any health effects, positive or negative. 

Black Leaf Tincture
This is an herbal product containing black walnut extract, olive leaf extract, and cayenne in 75% alcohol(!). The usual vague and unscientific claims are offered about supporting the immune system, the circulatory system, the digestive system, and so on.

Black Walnut- There is insufficient evidence to support any of the claimed health benefits despite traditional use for a wide range of unrelated problems. There is some concern about possible toxicity, from the walnut itself and from possible fungal contaminates.

Olive Leaf- The evidence in humans suggests some possible beneficial effects on blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but it is weak and not conclusive. There is no eveidence on the possible effects in dogs and cats.

Cayenne- There is a fairly large amount of preclinical research suggesting possible benefits in humans, but little in the way of clinical trial evidence, and nothing in dogs and cats. 

I’ve written extensively about probiotics, and this is an area in which I think some real benefits are possible. Unfortunately, we have yet to develop an adequate understanding of the normal gut ecology to be able to influence it in significant ways, and the evidence for real clinical benefits from specific products varies from weak to non-existent. does nothing to change this. Their product contains a variety of typical probiotic bugs, and there have been no clinical trials to show that the specific combination has any value. The product was tested, however, in a study looking at quality and label accuracy for veterinary probiotics. It was found to contain only 2.7% of the number of bacteria claimed on the label, suggesting even the ingredient claims made for this product may be questionable, much less the claims of health benefits. 

“A Veterinary Study”
The company does claim to have one rather large veterinary clinical study from 1989 showing that dogs with musculoskeletal pain benefit from its sprouted soybean product. The study was never apparently published, and the information provided on the web site does not make it possible to evaluate it extensively. Six unnamed veterinarians apparently diagnosed dogs with “musculoskeletal inflammation” based on their own exams and the opinions of owners. They gave the supplement to 387 dogs, and 340 of them were reported as improved in one of more of these measures: energy, alertness, stamina, appetite, and accelerated healing. Most cases improved within the first week.

This is almost a cartoon caricature of what a scientific study shouldn’t be. No randomization, no placebo control group, no standardized diagnostic evaluation, no objective diagnostic evaluation (all subjective), no clearly defined diagnosis, no blinding, no record of other conditions or treatments used, and no predetermined or even halfway consistent criteria for response. Any high school science class ought to be able to put together a better “study.” If this is the best the company has been able to do in over 20 years, there is absolutely no reason to believe they have any interest in the scientific validity of their marketing claims. 

Bottom Line
These products are being marketed with an impressive number of the myths and warning signs of snake oil and pseudoscience. The theories offered for why these remedies should help your pet range from complete nonsense to vague unproven hypotheses. There is no scientific evidence to indicate any specific benefit from any of these products for any particular condition in dogs and cats. All the testimonials in the world can’t prove any of the company’s claims to be true, nor can they guarantee that the products cannot hurt your pets. Just as there is little evidence regarding the claimed benefits of these products, there is little to demonstrate that they are safe.


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159 Responses to Same Snake Oil, Different Day

  1. skeptvet says:

    I feel like my objections to products like this are pretty clear, but I’ll try to make them clearer:

    1. Without scientific evidience they are safe and effective, we don’t know if they are. That means they might help, they might do nothing, or they might make things worse. If the company were willing to market the product honestly by saying this, I wouldn’t object. People are free to roll the dice if they want to, but they shouldn’t be talked into with misinformation, and telling people that this product is safe and beneficial without doing research to demonstrate this is lying.

    2. No, anecdotes don’t count. This is always the hardest thing for people to accept, but if e trust anecdotal evidence then we have to believe everything anyone says because every idea and every product ever invented can come up with miraculous anecdotes. One of the main reasons we live longer, healthier lives than any time in human history is because we’ve found a method for figuring out what is true that’s a lot more reliable than anecdotes, and that’s science. More info about this here: Why Anecdotes and Testimonials Can’t be Trusted

    3. No, science isn’t perfect. There is much we don’t know, and some of what we think we know later turns out to be wrong. But the standard against which we measure the worth of science here isn’t perfect omniscience, it’s the alternatives. Science, for all its limitations, works a lot better than any other system we’ve tried, including the trial and error approach of anecdote. So saying science might be wrong, while true, has nothing to do with the fact that without scientific evidence we are a lot more likely to be wrong than with it. And since no knowledge is perfect, the fact that even proven treatments don’t work perfectly all the time is not a reason to give up on scientific proof altogether and trust internet testimonials and marketing instead. It just means that life is not perfectly predictable and sometimes things don’t work out the way we expect or would like. Sadly, many people would rather make their decisions based on a comforting false certainty rather than deal with this hard truth.

    4. Money is a real limitation on what people can do, but it doesn’t have anything to do with what is true or hat works. There is scientific evidence NSAIDs are very safe and effective. There is no evidence that Nzymes are safe and effective. If NSAIDs are more expensive, some people may not be able to afford them. That’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t make them any less effective or Nzymes any more effective. And money spent rolling the dice on unproven remedies is a lot more likely to be wasted than money spent on proven science-based treatments when they exist.

    5. I’ve never said people shouldn’t try unproven remedies when nothing else works or is available to them. I’ve only said that we should understand what “unproven” means. It means, again, that they might help, might do nothing, or might make your pet’s life worse. Nobody knows for sue, and whether your pet gets better or worse after trying them doesn’t prove anything either way. My objection is not to people doing desperate things when they have to, only to people being misled into believing that products like this can be trusted when the claims for them are mostly made up out of nothing and backed by little or know reliable evidence.

  2. Ron says:

    “One of the main reasons we live longer, healthier lives than any time in human history ”

    “The idea that our ancestors routinely died young (say, at age 40) has no basis in scientific fact.”

  3. skeptvet says:

    You clearly don’t understand the articles you linked to, since they don’t dispute anything I’ve said. I’ve certainly never claimed people used to drop dead at some arbitrary age.

    What these articles do is simple point out the difference between “life expectancy,” which is a statistical measure of how long an individual is likely to live (from birth or some other starting point) based on the age distribution and mortality rates of the population, and “lifespan,” which means how long individuals of a particular species can live under given conditions. Maximum lifespan has changed little, and there were undoubtedly people all through human history who lived nearly as long as any individual today lives. However, life expectancy has changed dramatically because up until the last couple of centuries, a large proportion of people born died very young and now that isn’t the case.

    My point was that a lot more of us are getting to live a lot closer to our species’ maximum lifespan because we have dramatically reduced childhood and maternal mortality. We take it largely for granted in the developed world that most or all of our children will reach adulthood, and that those of us who do can reasonably expect to live well into our 70s or 80s. This is unprecedented in human history.

    Here are a couple of visual demonstrations of what I mean, since you clearly didn’t investigate the link I provided previously.

    Life expectancy

    Maternal Mortality

    Age Distribution

  4. Ron says:

    “science works better than trial-and-error in figuring out the truth about the world.”

    Science basically is at its core level, trial and error.

    I also have seen you make the statement that humans live longer and are healthier than any point in history. I did some research on that, first of all because it sounded so much like talking points from the medical industrial complex, and second because I was curious. I found some interesting data from Live Science, Ancient origins and a others that I can’t post the link, because your site says it spam. ( That’s a clever way to put a co bash on any debate) but forward on , if what they say is correct your arguments do not hold up under scrutiny.

  5. skeptvet says:

    I’ve already responded to your mistaken use of the Live Science links, and you don’t seem to have understood or acknowledged that response. This is becoming less of a conversation and more a case of you simply making a serious of inaccurate statements and then ignoring the evidence that they don’t hold up.

    No, science is not trial and error, and the fact that you say that indicates how little you understand what science is or how it works. Science is a structured, systematic way of evaluating natural phenomena that includes controls for cognitive bias, confounding factors, and chance. Furthermore, it is a community endeavor, which is a key part of its success. Individuals challenge each others’ claims using the scientific method, which helps minimize the influence of individual bias. Trial and error is simply individuals trying things and observing the outcome without any effort to control for bias and other errors and without any consistent replication or challenge of their observations or conclusions by others. Science and anecdote are vastly different things, and science is far more reliable.

    And the snide implications of censorship are silly and pointless. The spam protection built into the blog software is necessary (since it blocks literally hundreds of spam messages and links every day), and you’ve already posted many comments and several links. Your implication that somehow you are not being allowed to make your case doesn’t hold up any better than your other clams so far have.

  6. Ron says:

    “My point was that a lot more of us are getting to live a lot closer to our species’ maximum lifespan because we have dramatically reduced childhood and maternal mortality”

    Perhaps you could have made that point more clear earlier on , in lieu of just the blanket statement.
    Anyways, Thanks for the clarification.

  7. Ron says:

    “And the snide implications of censorship are silly and pointless. The spam protection built into the blog software is necessary (since it blocks literally hundreds of spam messages and links every day), and you’ve already posted many comments and several links. Your implication that somehow you are not being allowed to make your case doesn’t hold up any better than your other clams so far have.”

    My apologies for that, The post was late in arriving on site, so I mistakenly took it as being blocked, and I had already posted the second before I caught it.
    Not sure how many claims I have made, mainly just trying to debate many of yours and perhaps to pull you out a bit of some of your more dogmatic positions.

  8. Ginger says:

    Nzymes is NOT snake oil at all!! I had two American Bulldogs, one of which got a horrible rash every summer once he was about four years old. We tried everything with the vet and nothing worked. I put them both on Nzymes and he never got the rash again. I lost him in 2013 to an inoperable chest tumor. His brother is still going strong and will be 14 this year. I would HIGHLY recommend Nzymes and I tell everyone about them. It IS a wonderful product. It’s healthy for people too.

  9. Marlo says:

    I appreciate Skeptvet’s call for the marketing integrity of n’zymes. There seems to be a disconnect in this long conversation, where people’s responses are focused on saying “but, it worked for my dog!” when skeptvet really is just trying to be a consumer advocate. If the product works for people, that’s great. But I saw at least one post where a consumer was mis-led by n’zymes’ claims, and that is I think what skeptvet’s trying to prevent. Then again, saying things in a manner that people will listen to is an art.

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