When Homeopathy Becomes Truly Dangerous

I have often written about homeopathy, not because it is a particularly popular or important therapy (only about 3.5% of Americans, for example, report having tried it) but because it is one of the clearest and most egregious examples of pseudoscience. The case against homeopathy is very strong, and it is clearly theoretically implausible and clinically proven to be nothing more than a placebo.

Proponents of homeopathy try to claim it is scientifically reasonable and even “evidence-based,” but the evidence they present is consistently deeply flawed and unconvincing. What is more, individuals and groups advocating for homeopathy often deny that they reject or discourage the practice of science-based medicine even while clearly doing just that. The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH) has gone so far as to hire a public relations consultant to facilitate misleading the public into thinking homeopathy is a safe and effective therapy and that veterinary homeopaths do not discourage the use of necessary and effective scientific medical therapies.

However, if one keeps an eye on their marketing efforts, it is easy to find clear examples of accepted members of this group engaging in practices that seem difficult to view as anything other than malpractice or fraud (though I suppose the latter requires an awareness of misleading clients, and unfortunately I do not doubt the individuals involved believe the nonsense they are selling).

A recent post on the Holistic Care for Animals Facebook page (which is described as “the Facebook presence of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.”) directed readers to a page promoting “Emergency Vet Alternatives.” This page, part of a site run by homeopathic veterinarian Will Falconer, provides some of the most egregiously dangerous advice for pet owners I have come across. Dr. Falconer promotes his “homeopathic emergency kit,” which he suggests can substitute for a visit to an emergency veterinary clinic even in the case of serious I injury and illness.

I wanted a way for you to be able to have this safety net at home and avoid the E.R. like my many patients have successfully done with my help over the years.

But I can’t be everywhere and serve thousands of clients. It’s just not practical. Even the broader category of holistic vets are not yet in every town and city.

Here’s what I’ve decided to do to “clone” myself, and give you holistic medical options when your animal is in a pinch and you need emergency help right away.

I’m building a custom homeopathic emergency kit, with remedies that will get your animal well in the common emergencies you are likely to confront. Things like:

  • parvo
  • vomiting after eating spoiled food
  • bee stings and worse, the allergic reactions to them that can shut off airways
  • burns
  • injuries: car accidents, tails in a car door, sprains, etc.
  • bite wounds, cuts, gunshot wounds
  • bloat
  • pain from overexertion
  • splinters, fox tails, thorns
  • abscesses
  • shock

This custom kit will include remedies in various potencies, or strengths, that you won’t find without buying multiple kits elsewhere. I’ve individually chosen potencies that match the seriousness of the various emergencies you may find your animal in.

That’s right! Dr. Falconer is suggesting homeopathic remedies can “get your animal well” and possibly “avoid the E.R.” even if your pet has parvovirus, bloat, or shock or if they have been bitten by another animal, hit by a car, or shot! These are serious, often life-threatening emergencies for which there is absolutely no evidence that homeopathy has any value at all. Even with the best treatment, these emergencies can be fatal, and to suggest these things should be treated at home by an owner, with homeopathy or any other remedy, is completely irresponsible.

Dr. Falconer does promise this kit will come with some support.

To go with this excellent emergency kit, and help you use the remedies properly, a practical ebook (now at the publisher) explaining how to choose the best remedy for your animal’s emergency, how to dose, and an introduction to this amazing art and science that I practice daily, called homeopathy.

A webinar series that will visually and audibly help you learn each remedy, so you’ve got them already in mind ahead of time, and can choose the proper remedy quickly in a time of need.

Unfortunately, advice about how to use a placebo therapy to treat life-threatening medical problems, even if provided by a (*sigh*) licensed veterinarian, is not in any way safe or appropriate. Yet Dr. Falconer goes on to suggest, yet again, that his ebook and homeopathic emergency kit can substitute for real, in-person veterinary care.

Imagine: your dog or cat or horse finds herself suddenly in a crisis, and you can treat that crisis on the spot, with powerful medicine that’s got a long history of curing people and animals quickly and effectively.

In most cases, you’ll likely be able to avoid a trip to the emergency vet, and all the stress and side effects and expense that goes with that. In the worst case scenario, you’ll give a remedy on the way, and help the healing process get a great start before you arrive. You might even arrive at the E.R. and be told you can head home, everything’s well, thanks to your efforts on the spot.

This is one of those situations where all the good intentions and honest belief in his own advice cannot excuse recommendations which endanger the lives of pets. The idea of homeopathy as a primary treatment for authentic emergencies is so laughable it has been the subject of televised parody. And even the ridiculously lax and irrational laws that govern homeopathy in the U.S. specifically prohibit claims that homeopathic remedies can be used to treat “diseases that require diagnosis and treatment by a physician.” The FDA has recently warned manufacturers of over-the-counter homeopathic remedies intended for unsupervised use at home that they cannot claim these remedies are appropriate for treatment of serious illness or injury. Handing clients a bag full of homeopathic remedies and an ebook to treat such serious illness in their pets makes no more sense, and may quite possibly be illegal (though the FDA has historically paid little attention to the use of homeopathy in animals, so that would be a matter for the FDA or the courts to decide). Regardless of the legal technicalities, in my opinion such a practice cannot be reasonably viewed as sensible or ethical.

Now individual veterinarians may not always be representative of a whole method of practice. I have no doubt homeopathy proponents could produce lots of stories of conventional veterinarians practicing in unethical and indefensible ways, and yet clearly such stories don’t fairly represent, much less invalidate, all of conventional medicine. Though the principles and evidence of homeopathy clearly mark it as ineffective pseudoscience, I am sure the majority of homeopathic veterinarians are ethical by their own standards. Then again, so is Dr. Falconer. He undoubtedly believes he has found a better way of treating his patients and that he is doing good while I and the rest of the profession who do not share his delusion are doing harm. Does this justify making the recommendations he makes?

And while many veterinary homeopaths might agree that Dr. Falconer’s recommendations regarding emergency care are inappropriate, I have not found any evidence to suggest the AVH repudiates them. After all, the AVH promoted his claims on its Facebook page. And Dr. Falconer is still listed on the AVH web site as a member and certified veterinary homeopath. The AVH describes this certification this way:

Accredited veterinarians have demonstrated a basic level of competency in theory, principles and philosophy, remedies, and prescribing in veterinary homeopathy. Currently, this certification process is the best method available to the AVH to ensure competency of homeopathic veterinarians to the public.

Plenty of caveats are given elsewhere on the page, and likely this cannot meet the legal definition of an “implied warranty” or anything, but it seems reasonable to infer that the AVH at least does object to Dr. Falconer’s practices.

The remainder of Dr. Falconer’s web site reads like a pretty typical example of the most extreme type of alternative medical practitioner. He tells a frightening story of his conversion experience from conventional to alterative practice.

I put the antibiotics away for good when my own cat Cali, in trying to have her first kittens, did so out in the wilds of Haleakala on Maui, and came dragging herself in with a horribly infected uterus, leaking a foul smelling discharge, and clearly seriously ill. I knew even antibiotics would have a hard time helping her, but I also knew I had something deeply curative to offer now: homeopathic medicine.

Cali was treated with pyrogenium 30C, a remedy made from rotten beef, and described by Dr. H.C. Allen, a brilliant homeopathic MD of the mid-1800s. He wrote, “In septic fevers, especially puerperal (pertaining to child bearing, around birth time), Pyrog has demonstrated its great value as a homeopathic dynamic antiseptic.”

After a few doses of this remedy and a couple of uterine flushes with a bit of anti-infective Chinese herb (Yunnan Paiyao), Cali made a full and remarkable recovery. It was as though she’d never been sick. I had an “Ah-ha!” moment, and tossed my antibiotics in the trash.

In my view, the treatment of a serious illness in a suffering animal with unproven and almost certainly useless homeopathic remedies is not justified by the good fortune of the cat in surviving such inappropriate treatment.

Apart from his recommendations for treating emergencies, Dr. Falconer promotes a pretty standard list of unproven or clearly false alternative medicine claims:  

  1. He presents the usual exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims about the dangers of vaccination.
  2. He provides similarly exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims about the dangers of heartworm preventatives and goes further in claiming that alternative methods are effective, which is not accepted by experts on this disease or even by most proponents of alternative veterinary medicine (it is not clear specifically what alternative preventative he recommends since you have to buy another ebook from him to find out).
  3. He promotes raw diets despite the lack of evidence to support such claims.
  4. He even recommends a local practitioner of Gerson Therapy, a thoroughly discredited mélange of practices that include coffee enemas.

As I’ve often said before, reasonable people can disagree politely and substantively about the merits of alternative therapies. But even honest belief and a kind heart cannot excuse practices which clearly and needlessly endanger patients. Dr. Falconer is clear and direct in his claims that conventional medicine is often ineffective and outright harmful, yet likely believers in his methods, and even others who doubt them, will feel my criticism of his claims and actions is unkind or wrong.

I have no doubt that clients of Dr. Falconer, who genuinely believe his absurd claims and feel he has helped their pets, will make all sorts of personal attacks and insinuations about me in response to my criticism of him, as supports of Dr. Plechner and Dr. Andrew Jones and others I have criticized have done in the past.

Though it is probably pointless, I will make try to make clear ahead of time that I don’t consider myself any smarter or any better a person than Dr. Falconer. I don’t believe he is a bad person or that he deliberately misleads anyone.  However, I do believe that some ideas are true and others are false, and that science is the best way to tell the difference. Science has clearly identified homeopathy as nothing more than a placebo, so it is genuinely wrong to claim it is an effective therapy for serious medical problems.

Furthermore, testimonials and other personal experiences, intuition, and faith are not reliable ways to decide if a therapy works, and they do not justify denying therapies which have been proven effective (like vaccination and antibiotics, which Dr. Falconer largely rejects) or recommending implausible, unproven, or outright bogus therapies. Good intentions notwithstanding, making such recommendations harms patients, and challenging these claims is a duty for those of us who honestly believe them to be wrong.

That said, I understand true believers in homeopathy, or in Dr. Falconer personally, will be deeply offended by my having the temerity to criticize his methods. While I do not expect to change any already made-up and solidly closed minds, I do hope some pet owners considering substituting a homeopathic emergency kit and an ebook or webinar for actual emergency veterinary care will consider the real danger for their animal companions in such a choice.

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47 Responses to When Homeopathy Becomes Truly Dangerous

  1. Kelly says:

    I can’t find that he’s still licensed in the state of Texas. Also, I wonder if him shipping out these “emergency kits” would constitute as both prescribing without a valid VCPR as well as practicing without a license. It’s a stretch but good lord, I can’t imagine anyone treating the illnesses on that list with some freaking herbs. He needs to go.

  2. v.t. says:

    (AVH): Currently, this certification process is the best method available to the AVH to ensure competency of homeopathic veterinarians to the public.

    Uh, no, the best method available is through attempting to validate your claims through the scientific process.

    As you know, skeptvet, I will never believe even half of these alt vets are sincere or genuine in their dillusional beliefs. That they can be so brazen to show the world what they are up to, and not in the least be concerned about a member of their organization who practices in such a manner that defies belief – fraudulent and illegal at that – suggests to me they are not interested in improving the lives of their patients or improving medicine. These vets seem to be lacking ethics and something more; something went terribly wrong somewhere along their path and they are attempting to justify their failures by ultimate deceit.

    Accredited? Competency? OMG, nothing could be further from it.

    To whom do we complain? FDA or FDA/CVM? Falconer’s state medical board or the state AG?

    And here, happily promoted by the editor of Dogs Naturally Magazine (no surprise): http://offers.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/homeopathy-first-aid-dogs/

    “The Book and Video Series Plus Custom Remedy Kit – $450”
    “The Book Plus Video Series – $325”
    “The Kit – $175”

    He says he’s saved 90% of his patients in what I assume, assuring pet owners they need not seek emergency care at an emergency facility – he can do all of this over the phone, telling them how to give magic water. Pray tell, how would we ever know how many animals he has saved, but maybe led to their demise?

    I feel sick.

  3. skeptvet says:

    Yes, it seems hard to imagine this not constituting a violation of the practice act. Unfortunately, I’ve seen even more egregious behavior overlooked by VMBS, and I have never seen any action taken in response to any complaint about such behavior. If you’re addicted to drugs, the VMB will suspend or take your license, but if you’re selling people sugar pills for parvo, that’s apparently acceptable practice of medicine.

  4. Don’t you wish YOU had such a successful practice?

  5. skeptvet says:

    And the outrage begins. Such a well-though-out, civil, and substantive a response says far more about the near religious attachment you have to homeopathy, and your intolerance for criticism of it, than about me or my arguments. Still, one could read all kinds of implications in your snarky comment, so for the record:

    1. Thanks for your concern, but my veterinary career is quite successful. Homeopathy represents neither a threat nor an opportunity to me.
    2. If you mean don’t I wish I owned my own practice, no I have no interest in that.
    3. If you mean don’t I wish I could sell placebos instead of medicine and have people be grateful to me for it, no I have to sleep at night.

    You see, as difficult as it is for you to believe, my objections to homeopathy as a therapy, and to Dr. Falconer’s claims about it as an emergency treatment, do not stem from any resentment, anxiety, or inadequacy in my own life. My objections are solidly rooted in my considered conclusion that the evidence clearly shows homeopathy to be ineffective and my real concern for patients inappropriately treated with it.

  6. Michael Ross LHP says:

    It’s unfortunate that you choose to attempt to take down some very legitimate and proven alternative treatments along with this outrageous, self-promoting idiot that is Falconer.

    Homeopathy may or may not work (I don’t think it can, personally). However many herbs and supplements do. Especially those upon from which allopathic pharmaceuticals are derived.

    So here we have it: the credibility of someone making valid rational arguments (yours) against a true fraud gets lost when that someone gets carried away and thinks it’s a good time to throw in their entire prejudice list. I suggest you examine these things one at a time, lest you yourself be labelled an unthinking fanatic. Skepticism is healthy. Blinders are not.

  7. skeptvet says:

    I’m not sure what blinders you thik I have, or which effective therapies you think I unthinkingly reject. You will find plenty of therapies for which I acknowledge and discuss positive, as well as negative, evidence. I think veyr carefully and provide a measure of the degree of uncertainty in any conclusions. ANy specifics you care to address?

  8. Art says:

    ANy specifics you care to address?>>>>
    This should be fun. I hope he starts with herbs that can be smoked.

  9. v.t. says:

    Ah, that nasty “allopathic”. Usually, when the term is used, the rest of the argument is lost. Not always, but often enough.

    And the majority of those pharmaceuticals which were derived from herbs underwent the scientific process – Big Herb and Big Supplement are getting off easy because they are not required to submit to the rigorous methods of science.

    If you spent enough time on this blog, you would find that skeptvet has indeed examined one thing at a time, in detail, providing resources in which to examine further.

  10. Art says:

    Ah, that nasty “allopathic”. Usually, when the term is used, the rest of the argument is lost. Not always, but often enough.>>> I always hate it when a client or vet uses the term allopathic.


  11. Andy Wilson says:

    That’s an excellent article. measured and accurate. Thanks for posting. The UK government last year made it illegal for vets to dispense unproven medicine, such as homeopathy. Pity they haven’t applied the same criteria to humans yet but we are making progress with homeopathic hospitals (yes HOSPITALS!) being closed down and funding reduced year on year for homeopathy, the most insidious of the mainstream alt meds in my view.

    The most common veterinary claim for homeopathy here is for the treatment of mastitis in cows.

  12. Diane says:

    This article left me absolutely speechless. And like v.t., feeling sick. I really can’t understand how this is legal.

  13. skeptvet says:

    [on behalf of sandymere]

    There is always room for academic discussion but at times one feels that it is a wasted effort, alas although ignorance is only skin deep ignorance runs right to the bone, for those times humour is the right resort..

    Regards Sandymere.

  14. Pingback: Another Reminder of the Real Dangers of Veterinary Homeopathy | The SkeptVet Blog

  15. DrHomeopathy says:

    I cannot agree more with those who say that homeopathy is dangerous since it delays proper medical treatment. But I think the bigger issue is the regulatory framework surrounding homeopathy in some countries. A practitioner who utilizes both allopathic drugs and homeopathy when and where necessary (yes, I’m talking integrative medicine) is obviously in a better position to circumvent the potential dangers of delaying the use of antibiotics for example.

    Look at countries like South Africa where a homeopath has to undergo full medical training before even starting up on homeopathic training. Students there have to study 6 years full time just to call themselves homeopaths. And then in other countries like the UK, students do a 3 year part time course in homeopathy. No reputable, properly trained homeopathic practitioner will shun allopathic drugs and surgery or diagnostic investigations.

    The problem is the lack of proper training putting homeopathy into the hands of people who have no basic understanding of anatomy, physiology, pathology or pharmacology and no experience in clinical medicine.

  16. skeptvet says:

    How can one be “properly trained” in the use of a placebo as if it were effective medical treatment? Any doctor who believes homeopathy works despite all the evidence to the contrary is not a properly trained or qualified healthcare provider.

  17. Emilia says:

    In a 2011 my Irish Setter has been condemned to death by local London “conventionally qualified” UK Royal College registered Vet. “Complete liver failure, heart failure, enlarged spleen, tumor in the stomach, metastathic growts in the lungs internal bleeding plus non-regenerative anaemia in which case blood transfusion would help only for 2-3 days”. 16 x-rays!!! Unexpected and sudden diagnosis with morphin injection and euthanasia appointment booked for the next day. As it became apparent after my complaint to RCVS it was too big dose of NSAID which they have failed to prescribed correctly and which has caused stomach bleeding, liver failure and enlarged spleen. The “tumor” in the stomach was a lump of the grass which she cleared out eventually. We did not euthanised her, we gave a dose of homeopathic Arsenicum Album. 20 minutes after the remedy my dog who was under the morphin and for 3 days could not move without the pain and spreading blood from his anus STOOD UP, JUMPED ON THE SOFA, drunk litre of water and soundly asleep with no signs of pain or stomach cramps whatsoever. She started her way to recovery on homeopathic remedies and raw diet. Little did I know about homeopathy at the time but I would have tried anything to save her, and I am so happy I did, and forever grateful to the person who advised me so. I imagine that conventional vets are trying to protect their market and services in it. Example: Ursodiol, also known as ursodeoxycholic acid, cost £25 in human pharmacy. Dear readers, my vet was selling it to me for £124,27 😀 until I found out of course. Liver morphology test in IDEX lab was £36 (again it only took an inquiry to make) but my vet was charging £146, weekly…for 9 weeks…Dear conventional vets, why do you scare us with chicken bones? My setter puppy has started chewing them at 4 months! Why do you scare us raw diet at all? Don’t you study dogs’ nutrition? Don’t you know that they are not given flat teeth hence they’re carnivores? Why don’t you disclose the true about rendering factories into which euthanised animals with barbiturates in their system are delivered and from which “a soup” denaturated by chemicals become a basic for the dry food eventually labelled with all “goodness” labelled on it, like genetically modified soya for instance… How can you explain cancers, diabeties, thyroid problems in our pets? Why don’t youWhy you do not tell us that every vaccine has a life, i.e. the period of immunity guaranteed, and keep overvaccinating our dogs annually? Immunologists have known for well over 20 years that viral vaccines confer a very long duration of immunity (DOI), likely lifelong in most animals. Our pets are victims of the billion industry: fed by kibble, overvaccinated and neutered even before they reach full puberty. Understandably you hate holistic vets. It will take long time for the true to emerge and to be believed into but it starts!

  18. skeptvet says:

    You can rant all you like, or tell stories about individual veterinarians. Unless you are able to provide some actual scientific evidence to support your beliefs, there is simply no reason for anyone to take what you say seriously. With all your exclamation marks, sarcasm, and rhetorical questions, I’m thinking you are the one who has the problem with “hate” and irrational fear.

  19. v.t. says:

    Yikes, Emilia, are you so prone to believe every crazy thing told you is so true you can’t see how ridiculous it all really is?

    Homeopathy: not a soul on earth has ever proven it to work, ever. It’s way past the time to consider it for what it is, bogus snake-oil.

    Chicken bones: who on earth was the dufus who advise you to feed your puppy chicken bones?

    I won’t even get into your spiel about pet foods. Nothing said obviously, could ever get past your utter bias.

    Without vaccines, neither you, nor your family, children nor pets would live long. We’ve eradicated some of the most dreadful diseases known to man, and can prevent an equal number of dreadful and fatal diseases in pets, but antivaccinationists such as yourself are sure to keep those diseases on the map and others suffer due to your ignorance.

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  21. Lynn Whinery says:

    Here’s a list of double-blind studies on homeopathy:

    Ronald Schultz, one of the world’s leading veterinary immunologists homepage:

    Here’s a list of his publications:

    There are dozens of articles written about the dangers of vaccines, regarding their effect on the immune system, cancer at the injection site, and more. Contact him or Jean Dodds for articles.

    Also, no one is saying you shouldn’t go to the ER if your dog was hit by a car, or whatever. They’re saying that homeopathy can aid the healing process. DUH!!!

    I haven’t vaccinated my dogs for 4 generations, without them getting sick.

    Oh, someone mentioned chicken bones. Bones are perfectly safe RAW. Cooked bones are dangerous, raw ones can be swallowed whole and still be digested.

  22. skeptvet says:

    You clearly haven’t taken the time to read my thorough evaluation of the evidence concerning homeopathy, or even the recent systematic review of veterinary homeopathy I recently wrote about. You say “Here are some studies” without realizing that critics of homeopathy have read all of those studies, and many more, and there are clear and straightforward reasons why they don’t demonstrate homeopathy is actually effective.

    You clearly also haven’t read my (or anyone else’s) thorough discussions of the risks and benefits of vaccines. I’m pretty familiar with the literature, and while I agree with Drs. Schultz and Dodds on many points, I disagree completely with you belief that not vaccinating at all is rational or safe. You have been lucky, no more.

    What you are doing is simply picking out bits of science or scientists that look like they support your beliefs and ignoring the much larger scientific evidence, and far more numerous scientists who do not. That makes you faith in homeopathy simply that, faith, not a scientifically validated position. You are entitled to believe whatever you like, of course, but don’t make the mistake of believing that those of us who do not share your beliefs are ignorant of the evidence and that simply referring us to websites or experts you happen to like is going to open our eyes to the obvious we have overlooked. The widespread belief among the vast majority of scientists and healthcare professionals that homeopathy is a placebo and that vaccines do far more good than harm is not the result of ignorance, prejudice, greed, or anything other than a thoughtful consideration of the scientific evidence

  23. John says:

    So, I don’t have the time to read through this entire article.First, to preface: I’m a Paramedic. I deal with dead and dying humans everyday in the emergency setting. Although I lean towards the Naturopathic ideology as much as I can, after reading Dr. Falconer’s bulletpoints in his “emergency kit,” something became quickly apparent: He’s FULL of it and has lost ALL credibility with that list. A home kit for an animal in Shock? Or with a Gunshot Wound? Burns? Bullshit! Shock? They need an IV catheter and a systemic fluid bolus. You non med professional folk are going to cannulate your animal with an IV and hang a bag of saline? Sure you are. Gunshot wound?Know how to apply an occlusive dressing? Can you identify a possible tension pneumo developing, and if so, are you going to perform a Needle Thoracostomy on your animal? Does a Needle T kit come included in Falconer’s Kit?
    Unfortunate, because I had hope for Falconer before reading the ridiculous kit he’s selling. Everything else he now says will be flung into the briny depths of the bullshit abyss.
    With that said: I need to read more of SkeptVets claims on other issues. I feed Raw for example and am still desperately searching for natural flea repellents. SkeptVet May be simply a pawn of the Big Pet Industry, but one things for sure: Dr. Falconer is officially absolutely full of S***!! Ah, the search continues..

  24. skeptvet says:

    SkeptVet May be simply a pawn of the Big Pet Industry

    A pretty facile way to dismiss somebody’s argument. Apart from being untrue, and you have to admit the only evidence you have for this is that it’s what you want to believe, it doesn’t make any difference. As I said, we’re both either right or wrong based on the quality of argument and evidence we present. Trying to make baseless personal comments like this only betrays a lack of any substantive evidence against anything you disagree with.

    But hey, at least we agree about Dr. Falconer. 🙂

  25. Darci Michaels says:

    You have no idea what you’re talking about. Placebo?? No. Homeopathy is used with GREAT success outside of North America on a daily basis. Homeopathy has a higher access rate than conventional medicine. It actually cures not like allopathic medicine which dangerously suppresses. It was considered a threat here in N.A. and was shut down. Well, you can’t keep truth down. Like a phoenix rising, Homeopathy has and is rising again. My animals (and my family and friends) have been healed deeply and they do not have a clue about placebos. I think, you’re threatened by the power of Homeopathy and I think that if you have a practice, would benefit greatly from a 3-4 year course in Homeopathy so you too can bring this amazing art and science to your clinic.

  26. skeptvet says:

    Sorry, but I do know what I’m talking about. The claims you make for homeopathy are supported only by anecdote and individual opinion, not by sound science, and are believed only by, not surprisingly, followers of homeopathy. Taking a course in homeopathy would be about as useful as taking a course in astrology, since I would learn a great deal of details about a theory and practice which 150 years of scientific study has shown to be fantasy. Hundreds of studies and dozens of reviews of these studies in humans and animals have failed to find evidence sufficient to convince anyone except true believers that homeopathy is successful. The very fact that nothing I or anyone else could say could ever change your mind about this only emphasizes that this is more of a religion than a scientific medical practice.

    I challenge you to talk to a believer in any health practice you yourself think is not truly effective- prayer, Lourdes water, animal sacrifice, whatever- and try to get them to justify why their therapies work even though the scientific evidence shows they cannot or should not or don’t. Every one of them will give arguments and examples indistinguishable from those you give to justify homeopathy. So either we must believe anything that even a few people say has cured them, or we must distrust personal experience and anecdote as proof. I think the lesson of history is overwhelming that the right answer is to distrust anecdote and rely on evidence.

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  28. Debbie says:

    I would not treat my pets without the oversight of a licensed vet. I have learned quite bit from reading Dr. Falconer. And I do agree with him in that we are over vaccinating our pets, so much so that we are inadvertently causing harm to our pets. I opt for titer testing to check for antibodies. If results are positive my fur babies will not receive another vaccination for that year. It may be more expensive to have a titer test done, but having your pet treated due to adverse reaction from a vaccination is much more expensive and I do not want to risk the health of my pets. And you must take risk of exposure in consideration. Why do I need to vaccinate for rabies every 3 years when my pets live indoors 100% and are not exposed to other animals? Nope, don’t have any bats flying around in my attic. Rabies isn’t prevalent where I live, so not too concerned if my babies decide one day that they want to venture outside. You may believe that the risks of vaccines do more good than harm, but tell it to the pet owner whose animal died because their pet had either an adverse reaction or died due to being over vaccinated. Homeopathy is a placebo effect? I didn’t realize that animals could be tricked into believing they were healed when receiving anything other than medication. As for feeding cats a raw diet? It has been proven that it is healthier to feed your pets a raw diet. Have you heard of Dr. Pottenger’s Cat Studies? This study was performed over a 10 year period in a controlled environment. The end results were that cats fed a raw diet lived much longer and were healthier than cats who were fed cooked food. Additionally, what about the thousands of veterinarians who promote raw diets and have noticed overall health improvements in their animals once they started them on a raw diet? Safety is key when feeding an animal a raw diet. You must ensure that your meat is fresh, you maintain a clean area when preparing your raw food and you are feeding your fur baby a balanced diet. I have done a lot of research on this topic before switching my babies to a raw diet. They are thriving and I have noticed a significant increase in energy levels and their fur is much softer and shinier. You promote feeding commercially prepared food? Have you read the ingredients in the food you are feeding your pets? What about pet food recalls? How can you say it is safer to feed your pets unknown meat by products, to include animals that have been euthanized? No thank you!

  29. skeptvet says:

    1. Vaccination intervals should be determined on the basis of duration of protection and exposure risk. Unfortunately, Dr. Falconer essentially recommends no vaccination at all, and that endangers pets. I have written about
    and vaccination intervals, and it is possible to make rational, science-based individual decisions about each animal. Sadly, that is not what Dr. Falconer offers, only dangerous, belief-based nonsense.

    2. As for raw diets, I have also written extensively about these, and to date there is no good scientific evidence suggesting they are safer or healthier than existing commercial diets, so that too is merely an opinion not an established fact.

    Pottenger’s study comes up often in discussions of raw diets. Though not bad for his era, his work with the cats is pretty sloppy by modern standards, and there is not enough information in his published writings to determine crucial things like whether there were differences other than cooking between the food the two groups received, whether the groups of cats themselves were different in terms of condition, health, age, sex, and all sorts of other relevant variables. And even from the information that is out there, it is clear that neither group received an adequate diet, especially in terms of taurine, not discovered to be an essential amino acid for cats until after Pottenger’s time. So his work cannot legitimately be regarded as scientific evidence in favor of raw diets, though it is often cited as such

    As for the ingredient list, all the hysteria about “good” and “bad” ingredients is based on fear, not on scientific evidence of health effects. And raw diets have been recalled and shown to have dangerous bacteria, nutritional deficiencies, and other issues as well, so there is not yet any proof that these are safer or healthier than commercial diets. Your “research” is just a surveying of opinions on the internet, and ultimately it is not based on real evidence.

  30. Annie says:

    Having the point of view that vets should be the go-to team for animal emergencies, such as you suggest in your article, that is exactly what I did when my 12 year old male cat became lethargic. Unfortunately after visiting four different vets, spending $2000 in Metacam, antibiotics, arthritis injections (cartiphen) and multiple blood tests, fluid injections, etc. they still had no idea what was wrong with him.

    What I object to, is the arrogance of not being able to say the simple phrase “I do not know what is going on with your cat” would have been so much more kind and honest. While there is absolutely a place for emergency visits to a vet, there is also room for alternative practices and to suggest an all or nothing solution is close minded of you.

  31. skeptvet says:

    And to suggest that because you had one bad personal experience with veterinarians we can dismiss science-based medicine and accept the kind of magical nonsense offered by quacks like Dr. Falconer is as arrogant as anything you accuse me of. The reason to avoid homeopathy in an emergency is simply because the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn’t work. There is nothing arrogant about stating a simple and obvious truth. Nowhere have I said science has all the answers, only that homeopathy has none.

  32. Annie says:

    My friend, I am not intending to insult but merely to state my experience. If only scientific studies were truly unbiased. My background is in evidence-based research. I know better than anyone how skewed results can be depending on the vested interest of the sponsor. To assume vets know it all, is of the highest arrogance which is what you are suggesting by being contrary to admitting “I don’t know” when they clearly do not.

  33. skeptvet says:

    Your critique isn’t insulting, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. You are attacking fictional straw men, not anything I have actually said.

    To say that science is more reliable than anecdote and personal experience isn’t to say that science is perfect or that “vets know it all.” You are treating those as equivalent when they have nothing to do with one another. Scientific research is deeply flawed and limited in many ways. But it is more reliable than trial and error and personal experience, which is why we’ve doubled our average life-expectancy in the last 200 years when we failed to do so in the tens of thousands of preceding years. And the fact that homeopathy is worthless nonsense is a fact-based claim, just like saying astrology is nonsense. There is nothing arrogant about making a claim based on fact, and it doesn’t imply that the person making that specific claim thinks they are perfect or always right.

    If you truly work in science, then you should know how science works, both where it fails and where it succeeds, and you should understand the difference between saying “Homeopathy is ineffective,” which is demonstrable fact, and “Science is perfect and I know everything,” which no one working in science actualy says.

  34. Annie says:

    You are putting words in my mouth my friend. You will read into my words however you choose. I am grateful you are kind enough to read and respond.

  35. skeptvet says:

    Well, “vets know it all” and “arrogance” are direct quotes, so I’m not sure what words I’m putting in your mouth. Pointing out the limitations of science and then following that with those kinds of statements sends a pretty clear message, so if you meant to say something else, please clarify.

  36. Laura says:

    I feel it is sad for your underlying resentment of homeopathic vets and most likely homeopathic and holistic doctors in general. I am a scientist, physiologist and nutritionist, and I believe that the Pharma industry has gotten out of control. Take for instance “Heartguard “, a pill pushed, yes almost threatened on animal owners, with no scientific backing that our animals need this. For those of us who get our pets (I am assuming indoor cat owners are not stupid enough to fall for the ruckus) heartworm tested each year we should be educated on what heartworm is, caused by mosquitos in a certain stage of development and only functioning at a certain degree (this is scientifically proven, 54 F I believe and for a minimum of 24 hours.) So, when mosquitos are dormant, heartworm “prevention” medicine is obsolete. Also, the word “prevention” is a lie, look at the fine print. This medicine does not prevent, it kills the eggs and larvae in the dogs heart. That means this poison is working in our dogs heart! If it kills the larvae and eggs, what is it doing to my dog????
    Oh, and p.s., if I am not supposed to get the flea control on my hands, how is that safe for my dog???
    P.p.s. Homeopathic and holistic doctors may go beyond sanity, but so do Pharma companies, who have millions at stake, pretty sure the vets that you are bashing do not

    P.p.p.s (just to irritate you) . Dogs lived happy, long lives prior to Pharma getting involved. My grandparents (95 and 94) have had 8 dogs in their lives, not counting farm dogs, and never did any of them go to the vet, other than emergency situations, and not one lived less than 15 years (living on scraps and a raw food diet).

  37. skeptvet says:

    A great example of so many of the bad arguments made for alternative medicine.

    1. “You’re resentment”- Silly and irrelevant personal remark. I don’t resent vets who sell magic water as if it were medicine, I object to their lying to pet owners and endangering animals.
    2. Heartworm prevention is “unnecessary- Complete nonsense. These preventatives (and yes, they prevent disease, which is the point, by killing the larvae before they reach the stage that causes illness) has=ve saved countless with very, very little risk. Seasonal prevention may be appropriate in some places if owners can remember to resume prevention when needed (which many do not), and no prevention at all is certainly appropriate in others where the disease is not endemic. None of that changes the fact that prevention is necessary and effective for millions of dogs, and the characterization of it as “poison” is nonsense.
    3. “I am a scientist…” Whether true or not, your comments are incompatible with scientific practice and evidence. Your credentials are meaningless if you support voodoo medicine and promote misinformation.
    4. “Big Pharma, blah, blah, blah” Totally irrelevant misdirection. All the bad things done by the pharmaceutical industry have nothing to do with the bad things done in the name of alternative medicine. Whether drug companies save lives or kill people (and both are true), neither makes homeopathy any less dangerous and ridiculous.
    5. “My dogs live to Age X on crappy food with no medical care so medicine and nutrition are worthless” Yeah, and some human centenarians smoked all their lives. That doesn’t mean smoking isn’t bad for you. The overall health and life expectancy of humans has consistently improved to unprecedented levels due to the application of science to health, and the fact that the occasional individual lived a long life before this doesn’t change this fact or make up for all those who suffered and died from diseases now preventable or treatable with scientific methods.

  38. Melissa says:

    Super confused now! Just a pet owner of a Chorkie I adore with sever allergies and a vets recommendation to administer Apoquel. Worried about its possible side effects. My vet said it’s been used in Europe for decades but I can’t find any info to corroborate.Was thinking I’d try Falconers colostrum. Any thoughts/direction?

  39. skeptvet says:

    Apoquel hasn’t been used “for decades” anywhere since it’s a fairly new drug. It was approved in Europe in 2013 and is also approved in the US. There is good scientific evidence for both benefits an possible risks, though new information about both always comes up when a new drug goes into wider use. For now, the experience of vets in Europe in the US has been generally very positive.

    There are certainly many other options for allergy treatment (which I’ve written about in detail here and here. The best option is always to see a veterinary dermatologist, a board-certified specialist who can go over the best options for your pet.

    Finally, as I’ve explained in several posts, Dr. Falconer is a dangerous quack whose approach to medicine is actively and defiantly anti-science, an I would never recommend anyone trying any of his treatments.

  40. L says:

    Please see a veterinary dermatologist. It was the only thing that helped my dog with environmental allergies. Intradermal skin testing is the most accurate way to test for environmental allergies, food allergies are rare.
    Allergen specific immunotherapy is the most natural treatment.
    I almost fell down the homeopathic rabbit hole myself after losing a dog to a rare form of cancer. Some homeopathic vets mean well and some of what they say makes sense.
    But when you have a serious condition causing the dog to be miserable, go to a specialist.
    The natural stuff is crap….look what happened to Steve Jobs.

    @ skeptvet, I hope I am not overstepping. I just had to chime in 🙂

  41. Kelly says:

    Dear skepvet, I know I’m late to the party but this post is actually funny! I can’t decide whether you are serious about disbunking alternative medicines or just having fun keeping the antaganism going. I really think the later. I not only use homeopathy on myself and my pets, but rely on it. The only use modern medicine has to me is acute care. Period. What got me work up was your comment, ‘Unless you are able to provide some actual scientific evidence’. Well that goes both ways. There is plenty of scientific evidence that heartworm meds, paraciticides, vaccines, processed dog foods and treats are all damaging and killing our pets. That is indisputable and a fact. I on the other hand have yet to kill a pet with homeopathy. And I have 6 vibrant, healthy, happy dogs.

  42. skeptvet says:

    No, I’m quite serious. Homeopathy is useless and relying on it instead of real medicine kills people. Examples:

    NINE-MONTH-OLD Gloria Thomas was in such distress that her crying alarmed some passengers on a plane trip from India to Sydney.

    She had been overseas for two months receiving medical treatment, and homeopathic medication from an uncle for severe eczema.

    But in that time she missed two appointments which separate doctors had made for her at specialist dermatologists.

    In May 2002, less than 10 days after her return, she was admitted to the Children’s Hospital at Randwick severely malnourished and with infections to the skin and eyes.

    She had died within three days of sepsis (bacterial infections) which had caused bleeding in her lungs and airways.

    The reason for the baby’s death:

    Her father, Thomas Sam, who practised and taught homeopathy, had applied homeopathic remedies to try to cure Gloria’s eczema since she was diagnosed with it when aged about four months, he said.

    Penelope Dingle from Perth Australia, according to local news reports, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003. Her doctors gave her a good chance of survival with standard therapy – surgery to remove the cancer, and chemotherapy to mop up any loose cells and reduce the risk of recurrence. It is not a pleasant prospect, but with modern care it’s not too bad, and it buys in many cases a greatly improved quality and duration of life. Penelope Dingle, however, chose to refuse all science-based treatment and opted instead for a regimen of diet and homeopathic treatment….

    Not only was Penelope Dingle allowed to die, according to reports she was allowed to remain in pain without the benefit of even pain killers. That’s the kind of thing that can happen when you blithely reject our entire system of medical ethics and science-based practice.

    The fact that you believe in homeopathy is not evidence that merits ignoring experiences such as these or all the scientific evidence that homeopathy is worthless. The fact that you think your personal experience is more reliable that science is just a sign of the strength of your faith in yourself and your beliefs, not evidence anyone else is obliged to take seriously.

    As for your claim that all the things you fear, such as heartworm preventatives, vaccines, and commercial diets are “damaging and killing our pets,” that too is just you belief, not reality. Any medicine has both risks and benefits unless, like homeopathy, it does nothing at all. Individuals may be harmed by medicine, but when many more are helped than harmed, the balance of risks and benefits supports using the medicine. Your elief that you can have only benefits and no risks is naive and inconsistent with reality.

  43. Nicholas Waterton says:

    Homeopathy arose as an alternative to the somewhat barbaric medical treatments offered in the 19th century. If I had lived in the 19th centuary, I too would probably look for alternatives also, as without knowledge of disease processes or vectors, homeopathy was a lot less traumatic, and probably as effective.
    Medicine has moved on a lot in the last 150 years though. Modern understanding, diagnostics and treatments are nothing like those in the 1850’s. Strangely though, Homeopathic diagnoses and treatments (remedies) seem not to have changed at all. Homeopaths still refer to “allopathic” medicine in a derogatory way, as if modern medical practitioners are still using 19th centuary techniques like leeches and blood letting.
    They cling to their 1850 roots, as though no improvements need to be made, they can already cure all diseases with their established theory “like cures like” and their processes “dilution”, “potenization”, and so on, no questions or improvements required (or allowed).
    One characteristic of modern science based medicine, is that if a treatment or theory is proved to be incorrect, a new theory or treatment is devised, based on the new evidence. Now this is not perfect, fake theories and evidence abound, and long held beliefs are clung to in the face of new evidence, but it does change, evolve, and get better results over time.
    The thing about modern medicine is that it works whether you believe in it or not. Antibiotics and Insulin work whatever you believe or your religion is (and Homeopathy does seem to be some sort of religion). Belief helps, but is not required.
    Homeopathy on the other hand will not work unless you believe in it, but then most people who use it do so because they believe in it.
    This new revival in outdated medical practices seems to have arisen because people have forgotten what it was like to be without modern medicine. When infant mortality was high, and death in childbirth common. When simple injuries lead to death or disability. When TB, Polio, Whooping cough, Typhoid, and Cholera killed millions in the developed world every year (to name a few). Now people can advocate any oddball medical practice they want, secure in the knowledge that they can always fall back on “allopathic” medicine, when the sugar pills prove ineffective.
    Vaccines are demonized as “dangerous”, based on a few bad reactions.
    The fact that most of these killer diseases have been eliminated (at least in the developed world) due to the efforts of “allopathic” medicine and vaccination programs is conveniently ignored.
    The danger is when Homepaths hold themselves out to be as qualified as Medical Doctors, and that their remedies can replace modern treatments and vaccines completely (or can be used in conjunction with modern treatments, as if the modern treatment is some sort of “support” to their real treatment).
    I am an Engineer, I believe in science, so maybe I’m biased, but I’m alive due to modern medicine, not sugar pills. And so are my pets.

  44. Andre says:

    I use a combination of healing treatments on both myself and my horses. Traditional and non-traditional.
    I was skeptical about homeopathy until I reinjured my thumb in a volleyball game years ago. My host pulled out her homeopathic kit. And that thumb, which had been problematic for years with conventional medicine – my sportsmedicine MD was terrific and had healed
    my previous sports injuries- was healed the next day. I couldn’t believe that little pill worked. But it did. Therefore, I select certain homeopathies that work. Not everything does, just as in conventional medicine. I move farther and farther away from drugs and vaccines as time goes on. I use antibiotics after culturing when bacterial infections need treatment. And so forth. Yet for overall immune healing, I think a lighter hand works better, and that is where homeopathy serves me well. There is a great deal we do not know about healing a body and mind. And I observe what works and what does not, with my animals. I know them well. There is little guesswork in my approach. Thank you for the forum.

  45. skeptvet says:

    Unfortunately, your confidence in your personal experience and observations is understandable but misplaced. Research studies have shown owners and vets often believe they see clear improvement in animals getting placebos. We see what we expect and hope to see. And no therapy has ever failed to generate positive anecdotes, so either every therapy every tried works or anecdotes don’t. History shows pretty clearly that anecdotes can’t be trusted, even our own.

    Here’s some more detailed discussion of this problem.

    Why Anecdotes Can’t Be Trusted

  46. Tonjia Griffith says:

    I want to thank you for your willingness to take on the ignorant, and as far as I am concerned, juvenile shots thrown at you.
    I am NOT a veterinarian, I have NOT studied medicine, NOR am I an expert on preventing/treating problems in animals.
    I am, however, a parent to two beautiful American Bully Pits. I also live in a small country town in Arkansas. The closest veterinarian is 48 miles away and focuses mainly on livestock. I love my dogs. I do as much research as I am able, so that I can decide what I think is best for MY pet’s.
    On every search I find pro’s and con’s, NEVER have I done a search, that EVERYONE agrees, has only one answer….?.

    I read nothing in this article that was malicious, vindictive, or untrue. You gave me the information I needed to help me make an informed decision. I do appreciate your effort.
    It is NOT easy! BUT, I honestly believe, if not for advocates like you, that one day we would forget GOD gave each of us Free Will.

    I, a Christian and
    an American Citizen,
    Thank you,

  47. Anon says:

    Years ago, an animal communicator in the NC referred me to Falconer (notice I am not saying Dr. Falconer-yeah, I know an animal communicator from North Carolina-first clue). He sent homeopathic meds (some of which were past their expiration dates-which he said didn’t matter) that I had to put in cream. It did NOTHING for my pet. I thought of reporting him-as well as the animal comm. (I wondered if she received any “referral money”-but I will never know). It was so long ago that I don’t have any documentation to complain. It was HUNDREDS of dollars.

    Point is, these “homeopathic only” vets should NOT be allowed to practice. People get desperate with very ill pets and can be taken advantage of. Please report them-I looked on the Texas website for license verification and he is NOT listed so maybe someone took care of that already with him. It looks like he is in India now where he belongs (who knows maybe in the river from Covid)

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