Most proponents of so-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are ordinary, reasonable people, even when promoting beliefs that may be dubious or even thoroughly incredible. However, occasionally I run across one of those individuals with not only a bizarre understanding of health and disease but a bizarre sense of their own relationship with veterinary medicine. Individuals like Dr. Gloria Dodd and Eric Weisman (1,2,3) appear to see themselves as misunderstood geniuses, martyrs whose insights and efforts to improve the world are resented by the less enlightened and attacked by nebulous conspiracies dedicated to preserving their power and income by suppressing simple, cheap cures for disease.
Many of the warning signs of quackery are related to these narcissistic and self-serving narratives (including the Galileo Complex, the David and Goliath Myth, and the Dan Brown Gambit). While an exaggerated sense of self-importance and a persecution complex are not guarantees that the ideas a person is promoting are nonsense, they certainly should raise a red flag and lead one to pay even closer attention to the amount and quality of evidence behind these ideas. All too often, it appears that ego alone is all the evidence these folks need.
That seems to be the case for Dr. Al Plechner. Dr. Plechner is a California veterinarian who appears to have discovered the cause and the cure for most serious medical conditions not already curable by scientific medicine. He calls his one true cause of disease Atypical Cortisol Imbalance (ACIS), though he usually refers to it as Plechner Syndrome.
What’s The Problem?
Dr. Plechner begins his somewhat vague argument by referring to the “Medical Ice Age.”
The MEDICAL ICE AGE relates to the gradual breakdown of ourselves, our animals, and our earth. As this gradual breakdown is occurring, a concentration of predisposing factors of poor health are being created. Not only are we seeing entire families of people developing allergies, auto-immunity, and cancer, but we are also seeing even a faster progression of diseases in our animals due to indiscriminant breeding, and breeding without function. The lack of concern for our earth has further allowed for environmental breakdown, contamination of our soils and waters, and the development of an unstable atmosphere…
With this present day destruction, a potentially dangerous cortisol deficiency is being created in our bodies which allows the immune system not to protect people and animals, but instead allows the loss of recognition of the body’s own tissue by these cells, resulting in allergies, auto-immunity, and cancer. This is called, PLECHNER’S SYNDROME. The identification and control of this syndrome may slow down the MEDICAL ICE AGE which threatens our existence.
He goes on to describe ACIS or “Plechner’s Syndrome” and how he believes it is related to disease:
ATYPICAL CORTISOL IMBALANCE SYNDROME (ACIS) (PLECHNER’S SYNDROME) DESCRIBES A DEFICIENCY IN THE PRODUCTION OF CORTISOL FROM THE MIDDLE LAYER ADRENAL CORTEX AND ITS INABILITY TO PROVIDE ACTIVE (WORKING) CORTISOL WHICH IS THE UNDERLYING CAUSE OFATYPICAL CORTISOL IMBALANCE SYNDROME (ACIS) (PLECHNER’S SYNDROME) AND THE MEDICAL ICE AGE. This shortage of active (working) cortisol leads to a domino effect through the deregulation of thyroid hormones leading to the production of excess ESTROGEN and the deregulation of the immune system and all of the diseases and maladies this resulting faulty immune system creates.
…The fact that these hormones (ALDOSTERONE and ADRENAL ESTROGEN) are present relates to whether the CORTISOL and THYROID HORMONES are working, and not the ESTROGEN and ALDOSTERONE, otherwise the electrolytes and the antibodies would not be working. The comparative levels refer to the CORTISOL and IMMUNOGLUBULINS and this is why it is so important to do comparative levels, including those secretions which are regulated by active (working) hormone.
This supposed endocrine disorder is identified as the underlying cause for many seemingly unrelated diseases, including:
Food Allergies: “You must realize that food sensitivities may only occur secondarily to Plechner’s Syndrome, which is a hormonal antibody defect. If this syndrome is damaged and uncontrolled, eventually the patient will develop food sensitivities to all food.”
Skin Allergies and Infections: “Most dog skin problems seem to come from a hormone antibody imbalance referred to as Plechner’s Syndrome.”
Vomiting in Cats: Of course, food allergies can cause vomiting, and this has already been attributed to Plechner Syndrome. But apart from this problem, “The 2nd most common reason why cats vomit is due to a hormonal antibody imbalance.”
Cancer: “What then is the cause of this uncontrolled tissue growth called cancer? It occurs because of a endocrine-immune imbalance that leads to a deregulated immune system. This endocrine-immune imbalance begins with a defective or deficient cortisol which is produced in the middle layer adrenal cortex.”
Feline Viral Leukemia: “…feline-leukemia victims usually suffer from a hormone imbalance. In treating more than 2,000 cases, Plechner has discovered that with an individualized hormone-replacement plan, dietary changes and regulation, the virus can be controlled, if detected early enough. There are cases in which leukemia-positive cats have become negative after several weeks of treatment, although veterinary textbooks say this is impossible.”
Other Retroviral Infections: “The cats and humans that suffer from these viruses [retroviruses], like HIV, FIV, FIP and FELV, all have a hormonal-antibody deficiency caused by the Plechner Syndrome.”
Bladder Infections: “Chronic bladder infections in cats are caused by a hormonal antibody imbalance which as yet has not been realized.”
Dental Disease: “The plaque, on the actual tooth may not be causing a problem unless the plaque is great enough to cause the gum associated with that tooth, to cause a gingival recession leading, to an exposed tooth root problem, causing the problem, but rather a hormonal antibody imbalance that is leading to a deficiency of the protective antibody for the gums?”
Inflammatory Bowel Disease: “The cause of the IgA imbalance, IBD and other associated diseases, come from a middle layer imbalance in natural cortisol, produced by the middle layer, adrenal cortex.”
High Cholesterol: “I have found in people and animals, that when there is a cortisone imbalance, the pituitary stimulation causes an increase of total estrogen in male and female patients from the inner layer of the adrenal cortex. This in turn binds the use of thyroid hormone, and reduces the metabolism of the liver where cholesterol utilization and breakdown occurs. Automatically you can see why cholesterol levels may remain high, even after you have done everything that had been recommended.”
Epilepsy: “However, my research studies have allowed me to discover a syndrome involving elevated adrenal estrogen, causing an inflammation of all the endothelial cells that line the arteries of the body. When this elevated level of adrenal estrogen, including ovarian estrogen, causes inflammation of the cerebral arteries, a migraine headache or epileptic seizure can occur…In animals that have had their ovaries removed and in males with no ovaries, this same elevated adrenal estrogen can occur, causing the majority of epileptic seizures in animals and other catastrophic diseases.”
Cherry Eye: “What is cherry eye? This is a condition seen in dogs that relates to the tissue near the inner area of the eye. At the inner portion of the white of the eye, is a membrane that is a remnant of amphibians. In amphibians, this is a membrane that covers the actual eye, and allows the amphibians to see under water. In dogs, there is only a small remnant. But in this remnant, there is a small lymph node, often referred to as the Hardarian gland. When Plechner’s Syndrome is present, it creates an antibody deficiency. When this occurs this small gland increases in size to make up for the antibody imbalance and can reach a size when it can actually abrade the cornea and definitely needs to be removed. At this time, you should insist that your healthcare specialist, remove the other lymph node even if it not enlarged. It will enlarge later and have to be removed, unless you correct Plechner’s Syndrome.”
Plechner Syndrome is also credited with a causal role in female infertility and poor breeding performance, Sudden Acquire Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS), “Rage Syndrome,” and infestations with fleas and ear mites.
And how is this syndrome detected when it can cause so many seemingly unrelated disorders? Why a simple blood test, of course. It has to be sent to the one lab he trusts, one which will measure the particular kinds of hormone levels he believes are important (which most labs don’t measure since most endocrinologists don’t agree with his assessment), but otherwise it is easy to identify this one underlying cause of many, if not all, diseases.
While Dr. Plechner identifies his eponymous syndrome as the root of most disease, he only speculates about what causes the syndrome itself: “It may be caused by genetics, exposure to toxins, stress, aging, lack of sleep, or in combinations thereof.”
And he does identify a few other causes of ill health, though most he mentions do ultimately cause disease by generating Plechner Syndrome. He feels there are “toxins” in the environment and in pet foods, though he only identifies a few specific substances (plastics, parabens, fluoride, and of course genetically modified food crops). He also considers inbreeding to be one possible cause of Plechner Syndrome, and he has a lot of concerns about radiation. And he recommends dosing the amount of vaccine given by size, in a purely subjective way despite the complete irrationality of this approach, presumably because “too much” vaccine would be harmful.
What’s The Solution?
What does Dr. Plechner recommend as treatment for Plechner Syndrome? The mainstay of his treatment is a lifelong supplementation of cortisol and thyroid hormone for any species, both as a treatment and a preventative measure. He may use the laboratory tests he recommends to guide the specific dosing he uses, but it seems clear that he isn’t really diagnosing Plechner Syndrome since he already knows it is always present; “Every patient I have been involved with, whether dogs, cats, horses or people, all have an identifiable, hormonal antibody imbalance.”
He also recommends calcium Montmorillonite clay as a panacea for numerous conditions, including: kidney disease, nutritional disorders, “detoxification” and chelation of supposed toxins, osteoporosis, urinary tract infections, radiation poisoning, skin disease, burns and wounds, gastrointestinal upset, and more.
And finally, he tosses in a hodgepodge of other alternative therapies, including homeopathy, another “magic water” called Kangen Water, and digestive enzymes.
So Why Isn’t Everybody On Board?
The first question one should always ask about any hypothesis or new approach to health and diseases is “What’s the evidence for this?” Here’s what Dr. Plechner says:
1. I have created a successful treatment program that has helped approximately 150,000 dogs, cats, horses and people. These were patients, not only at my hospital, but in healthcare facilities throughout the world.
2. My clinical studies also show that there are high levels of total estrogen in all female dogs that are diagnosed with cancer… although these dogs no longer have their ovaries.
3. Every cancer patient I have ever been involved with, whether it be animal or human, has an elevated level of total estrogen that is not indicated with standard estrogen testing.
4. Through my clinical studies over the past 50 years, I have been able to identify a genetic and acquired endocrine immune imbalance, which can be easily corrected so that the retrovirus will not end the life of a patient.
5. With my clinical studies I have found that 80 % of the causal control will not need antiepileptic drugs to control their seizures however 20 % even on hormone regulation of the seizures may need to stay on antiepileptic drugs.
Wow, these are pretty impressive research results! Let me just have a look at the published reports so I can get all the details….
Hmm, I’m not finding any published research studies. I wonder why that is….
As a clinician, my patients are my primary concern. For that reason I have not conducted controlled studies where one group of patients receives treatment and another group, for comparison, receives a placebo. I cannot in good conscience deny treatment to suffering animals who I know will benefit from that treatment.
Please realize that my clinical studies have not been accepted by my peers.
Oh, there aren’t any controlled studies, published or unpublished. By “clinical studies” he means “in my personal experience.” The theoretical foundation of Plechner’s Syndrome and the evaluation of clinical efficacy of its treatment is empirical. In other words, he made it all up!
An examination of the articles and information on Dr. Plechner’s web site reveals that he invented the entire theory and decided he was right based entirely on clinical experience and anecdotes. He has neither the inclination nor the training to conduct controlled scientific research, so his claims are purely faith based. He quotes numbers and percentages, but there is no evidence that these are based on anything more than his own imagination.
It is often pointed out, quite rightly, that science doesn’t know everything, and our understanding of phenomena as complex as living organisms is likely to always be incomplete. However, the incompleteness of knowledge is not the same thing as total ignorance, nor does it mean that absolutely anything can be true. We don’t entirely understand how gravity works at the subatomic level, but that doesn’t mean we can simply imagine ourselves into a real ability to fly if we leap off a tall building.
Endocrinology, the study of glands and hormones, is an enormous field with huge amounts of highly detailed knowledge based on centuries of scientific study. While we don’t know everything, Dr. Plechner’s theory is fundamentally inconsistent with what we do know and so is highly unlikely to be true. Perhaps through pure imagination, study, and uncontrolled personal experience, one man has discovered a fundamental principle of endocrinology that will overturn decades, even centuries of established science. Or, perhaps he is mistaken. Which seems the more likely?
Beyond the fundamental implausibility of his theory and the complete absence of any pre-clinical or clinical trial research to support it, Dr. Plechner’s claims raise many of the red flags of quackery.
- The Galileo Complex: As already pointed out, his characterization of himself as a misunderstood visionary ahead of his time qualifies as a manifestation of the Galileo Complex.
- The David and Goliath Myth, and the Dan Brown Gambit: Dr. Plechner appears to believe that the medical profession is deliberately resisting his ideas out of selfish and venal motives:
How would you feel if you found out that they’ve discovered a cure for cancer but they’re not going to let anyone know about it? I’m sure you’re all responding to this question by attacking it. “Why would they do that?” “That makes no sense!” “What about the money they could make?”
I could answer all of your objections by stating a single fact. The profits that a cancer cure would accrue wouldn’t even come close to the profits made by all of the cancer treatment drugs and the associated services involved in treating cancer. Sad to say, the treatment of cancer has proven itself to be, a tremendously successful revenue builder. Why wouldn’t you keep a possible cure under wraps?
But of course, this is purely a hypothetical question. We couldn’t possibly believe that our medical institutions could be callously driven by the pursuit of profit. Why, they’re as ethical as our great financial institutions are and look at how successful they’ve been.
The frightening fact is that a cancer cure could prove to be financially disastrous to the pharmaceutical and all of the other dependent medical industries.
The One True Cause of Disease: He believes his insight explains many apparently unrelated conditions with a single, simple answer that all other doctors and scientists have somehow overlooked.
Remember, many healthcare professionals will treat the EFFECTS of the illness or disease, but not the ROOT CAUSE cause of it.
It is no longer enough to say that my Veterinarian or Health Care Professional did the best that they could. There is another way. You as a pet owner or as a patient need to DECIDE FOR YOURSELF if you or your pet want to be just another statistic.
PLECHNER’S SYNDROME ADDRESSES AND TREATS THE ROOT CAUSES OF CATASTROPHIC ILLNESSES AND NOT JUST THE MEDICAL EFFECTS. It has the potential to help millions of animal or human patients to realize their dreams of better health and greater longevity.
Other Red Flags from Dr. Walt’s List:
Is the product or practice promoted as a “Major Breakthrough,” “Revolutionary,” “Magic,” or “Miraculous”?
Is only anecdotal or testimonial evidence used to support claims of effectiveness?
Is the treatment said to be effective for a wide variety of unrelated physiological problems?
Is the product a quick and easy fix for a complicated and frustrating condition?
Is the treatment said to be effective for a wide variety of unrelated physiological problems?
Is the product a quick and easy fix for a complicated and frustrating condition?
Who Is This Guy?
While I don’t believe personal details about someone are key to evaluating the legitimacy of their scientific claims, they can be informative, particularly after the claims have clearly failed the tests of plausibility and scientific evidence and contain so many red flags of nonsense. Dr. Plechner provides a brief biography on his web site. In it, he discusses a number of dramatic experiences with the medical profession which might be expected to generate some suspicion of mainstream medicine:
1. One afternoon, when I was just seven years old, I was playing in the alley behind our house when a car came speeding up the alley and then ran over my four-year-old sister. The next door neighbors were both physicians and were home at the time. They rushed out and wrapped up my little sister in a blanket and headed straight to the nearest hospital. The interns and residents at the hospital were in a meeting at the time and were, “too busy” to attend to her massive head trauma. By the time we reached the next hospital, she had died .What a sad example for a seven-year-old child to suddenly realize that taking the, “Hippocratic Oath” must mean that you are a, HIPPOCRITE. Can you imagine what must have gone through my child’s mind seeing a hospital who did not care if a little girl died or not?
2. One afternoon, when I was eleven-years-old, my Dad had gone to the hospital for an injection of a bronchiole dialator for his asthma called, “Aminophyline”. He suffered from a horrible allergic reaction and died within a few minutes.
3. After five years of hard work I then applied to medical school. I had hoped that just maybe I could help stop those unnecessary tragedies that befell my Dad and little sister.
At the end of my first year in medical school, I developed a horrible upset gut. The Dean of Men attributed my problem to, “freshman nerves”. After losing forty pounds, and a lot of my hair, and after being given two weeks of Paragoric, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “self, you are going to die”. I went to see the Dean of Men the next morning, and I was so dehydrated that I spoke with a, “clicking sound”. He said to me that I could go into Public Health because it would be much less stressful…I looked like I had just come from a Concentration Camp.
I went to see my physician who with serum titers and my clinical symptoms diagnosed me with typhoid fever. My physician was livid that this, “Third World” disease could have been missed in a “high powered medical school”?
He also describes how he came to “discover” Plechner’s Syndrome. His mother was treated surgically for breast cancer, including removal of her adrenal glands and ovaries. She was on steroid replacement therapy, and Dr. Plechner’s independent reading convinced him she needed thyroid hormone supplementation. He convinced her doctor to provide this and took her subsequent good health as proof of his theories.
Is It Safe?
Since there is no research data whatsoever concerning the diagnosis and treatment of Plechner’s Syndrome, it is impossible to directly evaluate the risks of this approach. However, the glucocorticoids and thyroid hormone supplements Dr. Plechner recommend have well-recognized and potential serious side effects. While he claims that such side-effects will not occur at the doses and with the particular combinations of drugs he recommends, it must be remembered that the physiological arguments for why this is are not consistent with what the rest of the scientific community believes is the way the endocrine system works, and there is no controlled scientific evidence to show the disease he is treating even exists or that the treatment is safe or effective.
Using real drugs to treat a quite likely imaginary disorder is not a sensible way to care for our pets and our patients. While these drugs often make pets look or feel better in the short term, regardless of whether the imagined “imbalance” exists, this comes at the price of both risk from the drugs themselves and the risk of ignoring, masking, or simply overlooking other real, and possibly treatable, disorders.
Plechner’s Syndrome is an implausible hypothesis that conflicts with well-established scientific understanding of endocrinology. There is absolutely no supporting scientific data showing this theoretical disorder exists or that the proposed treatment is effective. Dr. Plechner is content with anecdotes, testimonials, and his own belief as sufficient evidence for his claims and has no intention of testing them through controlled scientific investigation. Most veterinary scientists, who generally prefer research data to storytelling, do not accept his claims.
Dr. Plechner, of course, feels this is due mostly to the veterinary profession’s fear that if his miracle cure is real it will lead to fewer sick patients and less income for veterinarians. This ridiculous and offensive suggestion is just one of many warning signs that he is promoting nonsense.
Dr. Plechner undoubtedly believes, genuinely and fervently, that he has “discovered” an important cause of disease that the rest of the scientific and medical professions have overlooked or suppressed, and he has convinced some clients and even other veterinarians of his claim. However, in the absence of any legitimate or compelling scientific evidence, despite apparently miraculous results, his treatment has not been accepted by the rest of the veterinary profession.
Just as there is no scientific evidence that Plechner’s Syndrome exists or that the proposed treatment for it works, there is no evidence to allow us to judge the safety of the approach. Using real drugs to treat a quite likely imaginary disorder is not a sensible way to care for our pets and our patients.
Interesting. That’s at least the 5th time you’ve mentioned “consensus” or “majority of” as a basis for determining whether a treatment is correct or not. “Consensus” is the most important factor when applying the scientific method. Oh wait…
Clearly, evidence is the most important factor in determining truth in science. Consensus is a measure of the extent to which scientific experts in a field agree on the strength and meaning of the evidence. It certainly can be wrong, but it is less likely to be wrong than the opinions of a single clinician with a theory that violates consensus AND has no evidence to support it. The limitations of scientific consensus as a measure of what is fact do not imply that individuals making stuff up, as Dr. Plechner does, is somehow more reliable.
Can you provide what the “actual” risks are? Im new to this information and do not have a frame of reference for why I should not try Dr. Plectners supplements on my dog. You appear to have very strong belief and I want to ensure his recommendations are safe before using on my dog. Thank you in advance. There is absolutely no sarcasim im my request! I truly would like to know the risks.
Hi doses of steroids can have devastating side effects. I have heard reports from other vets of cases seen by Dr. Plechner who developed life-threatening complications, including GI ulcers, liver problems, and skin problems. Shortly before Dr. Plechner retired, a veterinary medical board complaint was filed by a person whose cat developed skin fragility syndrome, an established side effects of high doses of steroids. While the cat was being handled, a large portion of its skin tore and came off, and the animal had to go through multiple surgeries and months of painful recovery. The VMB never evaluated the complaint since Dr. Plechner retired and then passed away, but the owner’s story was heartbreaking. The bottom line is that Dr Plechner used powerful drugs inappropriately according to an implausible theory he never showed was true. Anecdotes simply can’t tell us when treatments work or don’t work, and he never published any actual research. However, there is no doubt that some patients suffered from this irrational approach.
No one questions that high doses of steroids can have devastating effects, but from what I gather Dr. Plechner was recommending low physiologic doses. There is no guarantee that pet owners will follow prescription or even OTC drugs correctly so placing blame on the vet could be unwarranted.
Also, using the broad term “steroids” is misleading in that they all do not behave the same. Synthetic steroids are much more potent than those produced by the adrenal gland and have a much longer half-life making them much more dangerous, yet they are commonly used in both vet and human medicine.
As another point of reference, you might take a look at “Safe Uses Of Cortisol, 3rd Edition” by William McK. Jefferies, M.D., F.A.C.P.
BTW, I appreciate skepticism. It’s a necessary aspect of science. And evidence certainly adds confidence in treatments. It also provides the basis for standards of care, though not in all cases, e.g., off-label uses of drugs. However, a treatment lacking evidence doesn’t make it dangerous or make it pseudo-science or make its practitioner a quack. Research takes funding and funding organizations are not free of bias so that which is not funded is not always without merit and that which is funded isn’t always of merit.
The doses Dr. Plechner routinely recommended were above physiologic replacement doses, and there is no indication that they are necessary or appropriate as he is using them. What is more, there are plenty of anecdotes of animals harmed by his treatment, including a Veterinary Medical Board complaint that was being investigated when he retired. The bottom line is that his theories are absolutely pseudoscientific and inconsistent with established knowledge in physiology, and there is no evidence that his practices are safe or useful. It is unethical to recommend inappropriate use of potentially dangerous medicines with nothing but your personal intuition and gut feeling as evidence, which is what he was doing. Steroids can certainly be used in a way that benefits outweigh risks, but that is not the case in this protocol.
Rather than just repeating your claims without evidence, why don’t you cite physiologic doses for cortisol (with references to the literature) for dogs and cats and the doses that Dr. Plechner’s protocol used? What indication would convince you that replacement doses were necessary? Lab tests? Show me the initial research and trials that showed that thyroid replacement was necessary and effective?
There may be just as many anecdotes that his treatment helped patients. Those that were not, regardless of the reason, probably made their feelings heard louder than those that were. There is no gov’t agency to submit complements. How many dogs are harmed by the misuse of Metacam? Should an owner file a complaint against the vet with their state vet board because they didn’t administer the proper dose or because they were also giving an herbal NSAID?
If hormone replacement is pseudo-scientific, then you’d better stop treating hypothyroid dogs and humans. Cite the claimed inconsistencies with accepted knowledge in physiology to back up your statements if you want to be taken seriously. There’s no solid evidence, as you would like to see, to warrant the use of drugs in an off-label manner, yet it’s routinely done.
It’s clear that Dr. Plechner wasn’t acting on personal intuition and gut feeling. but a study of existing medical literature of the time, logical reasoning and clinical observation. I agree that it would have been better had a university vet hospital taken up this line of study. But, since there’s no potential financial reward in devising treatments using naturally occurring compounds that can’t be patented, no university or pharmaceutical company will fund it. Rather than accept the status quo of his day, it seems that Dr. Plechner took the risks to discover a treatment that might help his patients.
On a side note, attacking someone’s personality in an attempt to bolster your argument says much more about you than them. If you take issue with something or someone, simply do the work and provide the detailed evidence to back up your argument.
The burden of proof for proving a claim rests on the one making it. Dr. Plechner made claims that were not consistent with established understandings of physiology, and he never published any convincing rationale or controlled research evidence that his theories were true and everyone else was mistaken. He also never published any evidence that his treatments were safe and effective. If you wish to carry on advocating for or defending his claims, then it is up to you to provide the evidence.
Likewise, it is not my responsibility to recapitulate basic physiology and pharmacology here. Physiologic, anti-inflammatory, and immunosuppressive dose ranges for glucocorticoids are well-established, and you can easily find them in any reference text. The protocol Dr. Plechner recommended includes diagnostic testing and disease classifications which are not accepted as legitimate by mainstream scientific medicine and treatments which are potentially dangerous and not proven effective. If you disagree with this conclusion, you are free to present research evidence to contradict it. If your only evidence is that you think he was right, there are anecdotes to support his claims, and you don’t think anyone else has bothered to study the idea because they can’t make a buck off of it (despite the fact that he certainly did), then you aren’t providing any evidence worth taking seriously.
I’m not attacking anyone’s personality, but I am criticizing Dr. Plechner for selling an unproven and biologically implausible therapy which can hurt patients.
I’m not advocating for him and I have no idea or particularly care if he was right… I’m advocating against lazy criticism. If your goal is to protect people from ineffective and/or dangerous treatments, then explain the details. Why should anyone believe your opposing arguments when you don’t provide any evidence?
As you said, “The burden of proof for proving a claim rests on the one making it.” You’ve made claims against Dr. Plechner’s treatment and provided no proof.
Obviously, there’s no reason to continue this back-and-forth, it’s your web site and you can do as you please. I stumbled upon your post and was hoping I’d read something useful. I’ve asked for details, you’ve refused.
I am a veterinary ophthalmologist with 30 years of experience. I have been watching blogs, you tube videos and Dr. Pletcher for years. I also have studied the veterinary literature about this disease for years. At the same time, I have very rarely helped or recovered vision in a SARDS patient. This seems criminal to me. One thing that resonates is that, for year, no one other than Dr. Pletcher was able to recover vision in his patients until Sinisa Grozdanic moved the field forward by working on the theory that this disease is immune mediated. Neither were popular with their theories but both pushed on. As visual acuity in dogs is hard to quantitate ( electroretinography is not a measure of vision in low vision dogs) and existing testing ( anti-retinal antibodies) were not supportive of immune mediated disease, skepticism was ( and is) a prevalent feeling from our college. Two peer reviewed articles published in 2018 and one genomic study at UC Davis support this is an immune mediated process. I and another ophthalmologist in the Bay area have developed strategies to treat these dogs diagnosed early in the course of the disease and low and behold we have visual patients. We both recently presented our journeys at Northern California Veterinary Medical Society. We don’t have all the answers but am tired of waiting for academics to solve these problems. They have not in 30 years. Dr. Petcher admitted latter in life that he was likely immunosuppressing these patients and I believe this to be true. Also there is a huge body on literature about environmental toxins in humans, specifically endocrine disruptors. This has barely been touched in our field and others are paying attention to this. Veterinary medicine is in the dark ages and veterinary literature is incomplete and often does allow us to treat patients. Ingenuity is often laced with irresponsibility. That means mistakes are made in our inherent desire to treat patients. I would give this guy a break for trying.
As you know, there is no evidence validating Dr. Plechner’s approach. Even if SARDS is immune-mediated and immunosuppression is a viable therapy, his practices are not rational, are based on entirely different theoretical principles, and are extreme, having injured many patients. You can browse the discussion boards at VIN and find plenty of specialists who have treated his patients for hyperadronocorticism, skin fragility syndrome, diabetes, and other serious adverse effects from extreme doses of glucocorticoids. And let’s not forget, he recommended his methods for many, many other diseases and blamed many of them of conventional medical treatments, EMF, and all manner of other nonsense. I won’t “give him a break” for inventing an implausible theory and selling a dangerous therapy for decades without making any effort to validate his ideas or test his theory or practices scientifically. A broken clock is right twice a day, and it is not inconceivable he may have accidentally stumbled across a treatment that could, if properly understood and applied, help some patients. But that has yet to be proven to be the case, and it is very likely his sloppy methods have harmed as many or more patients than they have helped, if they have helped any. It may be frustrating waiting for science to figure out the real cause and effective therapy for diseases, but it is far safer than following the guidance of such haphazard, lone wolves making stuff up as they go along, which historically has been a dismal failure as an approach to medicine.
I had a puppy who contracted Parvo. Sidney was dying. We took him to Dr. Plechner who said he would save Sid, but wouldn’t write any of the treatment down. We didnt care..and 10 days later we brought Sidney home who lived to be 14 years old. I recommended Dr Plechner to my friend who had a dog with terrible allergies and itching. She had taken her pup to 6 vets who were unable to help her dog. She was ready to put her dog down. I told her to take her pup to Dr Plechner who treated her dog 100% ..to no more allergies. I just spoke to another friend tonight who went to Dr Plechner on my recommendation for her dog’s allergies. Now her dog is perfect and has a beautiful coat. I am surely missing Dr Plechner. Always took my calls, answered my emails and was there for ALL animals walking this earth.
I’m glad your pup did well, but unfortunately that doesn’t say anything about whether Dr. Plechner’s ideas are true. Neither does the fact that he was nice to you. Plenty of nice people have been wrong about many things in medicine over the centuries, and anecdotes have failed to show us the truth for thousands of years. We rely on science instead, and live longer and healthier lives as a result, because it works better.
Why Anecdotes Can’t Be Trusted
Where’s the proof? Because you said so, that makes anything true?
Sorry, but it doesn’t.
I would never trust a vet who “doesn’t write any of the treatment down” – that’s just blatantly poor record keeping, and if you have no idea what treatment he used for your dog, that should really worry you, and your friends.
I just came across this blog and learned that Dr. Plechner passed. I worked for him (and the other practice owners) at the California Animal Hospital in the 70s as a pre-vet. I stayed in touch with Al on occasion after graduating from veterinary school. Admittedly, some of his immune mediated theories were “out there.” But the general practice side of his activities which I witnessed provided excellent medical and surgical care for household pets and wildlife. He was an early pioneer in hypoallergenic diets and did do some clinical feeding trials with a dog food manufacturer. And to top that off, he was a real character. RIP Al.
That’s one of the saddest things about pseudoscience–some of the brightest, most well-intentioned people get caught in a rabbit hole of belief they can’t get out of and end up doing real harm. I’m sure he was a good person, but I’ve talked with people who’s pets were seriously injured by his practices, and the public needs to know about things like this that can harm their pets. Unfortunately, some people are still promoting and using Dr. Plechner’s methods, so it’s not really an option to hold back on criticizing them even though he is gone. People are complicated, and despite my disagreements with his methods, I’m glad you have comforting memories of him.
Hi Ann, I came across your post and I’m looking for some guidance on how to treat my little Chihuahua who was diagnosed with SARDS and had a rapid progression to not feeling well and being himself. I thought the weight gain was from over feeding or his stealing others food. I’ve seen no change in his weight despite specialty food being provided. His vision just went practically overnight but we now see that the cumulative changes have everything to do with this. Since a few years have passed since you posted, are there any developing treatments nowadays? I’d like to find a way to help my little baby have a better quality of life. TIA for any info you can provide.
Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for SARDS. That is immensely frustrating, and it is part of the reason why quack approaches like Dr. Plechner’s are sometimes popular, but the painful reality is that choosing something dangerous and not proven to work isn’t likely to help our canine friends even when we are desperate and hove no scientifically validated options.
The issue of weight and of your pup not feeling well generally is unlikely to be related to SARDS,so if he has actually been diagnosed with that condition by a veterinary ophthalmologist, then I would talk with your regular vet about what else may be going on.
I’m reading these remarks years later as I search desperately for anything to help my dog with SARDS. It isn’t about the vision loss; it’s about the myriad of symptoms that have come with it… excessive thirst and hunger, confusion, restlessness (especially at night), diarrhea, etc. Our dog went from being quite healthy to being completely blind with all of these supposedly unrelated issue in 2 weeks. TWO WEEKS. We treat one symptom and create another. I understand the need for research and peer review (I have a MS in Biology and a PharmD) and I certainly understand long-term side effects of medications, but my dog is 12 years old. “Long-term” is relative, particularly when considering quality of life. I want her to enjoy the time she has left. Can anyone help with that? Because I don’t see that anyone in the article or the comments even acknowledging it.
The problem is that we don’t have a clear understanding of the causes of SARDS, and there are several different presentations. Some dogs have no systemic signs, others have some combination of the kinds of symptoms you describe, so the term may actually encompass several different syndromes we haven’t yet been able to distinguish.
Because of this, we haven’t been able to demonstrate any treatment is consistently effective. There are always case reports of dogs improving on one treatment or another, but there are no reliable research studies showing anything is reliably effective. This makes any treatment essentially a “roll of the dice,” as likely to make things worse rather than better.
Dr. Plechner, for example, used high-dose steroids under the unproven assumption that SARDS is an autoimmune disease. The side effects of this treatment are not just long-term. In fact, excessive thirst and hunger and behavioral changes such as you describe are typically seen with this treatment, so it is very likely steroids would exacerbate these symptoms rather than help.
Of course we all want these dogs to enjoy the best quality of life possible. If I or anyone else had a reliable way to achieve that, we would certainly recommend it. But since we don’t, you are in the painful position of having to decide whether to take a risk on things for which we only have anecdotal evidence. This is sometimes a reasonable choice, but anyone who claims, as Plechner did, that they have a proven treatment with benefits greater than the risks is lying, so whatever you try, you have to go in with your eyes open and knowing that things could get better, get worse, or not change at all. I’m sorry that you and your dog are going through this, but I think you can only make such difficult and unfair choices when you have all the facts, unwelcome as they may be.
“He has neither the inclination nor the training to conduct controlled scientific research.”
Then why don’t you do the %#$%^ research.
Because when someone makes a wild and dramatic medical claim, it’s their job to prove it, not the responsibility of the rest of the world to do the work for them. If they aren’t willing to do the work, there is no reason anyone should take their claim seriously.