Allergies are a common and frustrating problem for many pet dogs. While the details are incredibly complicated and not completely understood, allergies are the result of inappropriate inflammation and other immune system responses to triggers in the environment. These triggers can be anything from flea saliva to food ingredients to pollens or dust. Dogs with allergies likely have a genetic predisposition to such excessive immune reactions, and early environmental exposure may play a role. While there are many therapies available that significantly reduce symptoms, improve quality of life, and modulate the abnormal immune response that is the cause of allergies, there is no simple or single cure.
The unpredictability of allergy symptoms, their chronic waxing and waning nature, and the lack of a definitive cure make allergies a popular target for alternative therapies. And just as alternative practitioners ignore much of the science behind vaccines in order to promulgate made-up theories that support their own methods, so many CAVM advocates ignore all that is known about the pathophysiology of allergies and the available diagnostic and treatment interventions and instead make up their own unscientific theories to sell alternative allergy treatments. A reader recently drew my attention to a particularly ridiculous example of this that approaches self-parody: Glacier Peak Holistics Pet Wellness Life Scan Stress Test.
What Is It?
This is actually a relatively difficult question to answer since the company materials about the test are mostly faux-scientific gibberish with a lot of repetition of the meaningless term “energy.” Here’s a sample:
Most allergy-type symptoms are not caused by actual allergies at all…Certain stressors in your pet’s diet are more likely the root source of the allergy symptoms.
Because dogs and cats lack the proper digestive enzymes to digest starchy root vegetables, grains and most fruits, feeding these types of foods can contribute to yeast overgrowth and immune system issues.
Traditional medicine usually prescribes steroids that only mask the allergy symptoms by suppressing the natural function of immune system and can cause damaging, irreversible side effects…Sadly, most pet’s allergy symptoms return stronger than before treatment beginning a vicious cycle that has ZERO lasting benefits.
The Pet Wellness Life Stress Scan, formerly “Healthy Dog and Cat Alternative Sensitivity Assessment”, is the original hair and saliva scan for identifying over 300 stressors in your pet’s diet and environment…The Pet Wellness Life Stress Scan uses biofeedback, which has the ability to read the energetic resonance that emanates from the hair and saliva samples.
Biofeedback energy status analysis measures the body’s bio energetic balance or homeostasis in relation to various food and environmental factors that an animal is exposed to.
The Chinese would call this a balance of yin or yang, with the ultimate goal removing or reducing incompatible energetic disturbances that diminish the body’s Qi or life-force. It is well known in TCM, homeopathy and western holistic medicine, that energetic and spiritual disturbances often precedes physical disturbances…It is a non-invasive energetic analysis seeking to identify and diminish non-harmonic energetic factors.
Using biofeedback analysis, the biofeedback device can identify over 300 food and environmental factors that may disturb an animal’s energy balance.
So, how many woo-woo clichés and warning signs of quackery could you spot? A partial list would include:
- Rejection of established scientific knowledge- While allergies aren’t completely understood, the idea that they aren’t really allergies or that they are due to vague “stressors” is nonsense. There is extensive scientific evidence demonstrating the causes and processes of allergic problems in humans and dogs which this company ignores.
- Dismissal of science-based medicine as “only symptomatic” and causing more harm than good- While much allergy treatment is symptomatic because a true cure would involve either changing the genetic constitution or past exposure of a dog or eliminating all allergens from the environment, which often is not possible, some treatments do address the closest we can get to the root cause by either eliminating the triggers (limited antigen diets, for example) or desensitizing the immune system to prevent the initial inappropriate reaction to antigens (immunotherapy or “allergy shots”).
- Focusing on risks and ignoring benefits from conventional treatment- All treatments that do anything at all have both risks and benefits. Steroids (and the many, many other topical and system allergy medications this website neglects to mention) can have risks, especially when inappropriately used. However, they also can give dogs suffering from allergies relief and a good quality and normal length of life, which they might otherwise not be able to have.
- The nonsense about “grains” that has become quite the alternative nutrition fad, and which I’ve addressed many times (e.g. 1, 2).
- Vague pseudoscientific language that is actually meaningless as used here: biofeedback, energy, energetic resonance, energetic status analysis, homeostasis, non-harmonic energy factors.
- Reference to non-scientific folk beliefs or fundamentally religious concepts that must be taken on faith and cannot be evaluated scientifically- Qi, energy, life-force, spiritual disturbances.
- Complete absence of any scientific evidence to support the claims made.
- Presence of anecdotes and testimonials in place of reliable evidence
Does It Work?
In terms of the test itself, it is pretty easy to recognize the complete lack of validity to it. The concept of energy employed here is vague and mystical with no relationship to the science of allergy medicine. The terms biofeedback and homeostasis have real meanings, but those are unrelated to their use here, which is just a smokescreen intended to make folk beliefs and completely made-up explanations sound scientific. Hair analysis is an old and long-debunked practice, and I have already addressed the bogus use of saliva testing for allergy diagnosis in my respond to Dr. Jean Dodds’ claims about it.
Of course, as is often the case with quack medicine, the promoters try to have their cake and eat it too. In addition to trying to make the test sound scientific, the site clearly implies that the test identifies the cause of allergy symptoms:
More Than an Allergy Test
Certain stressors in your pet’s diet are more likely the root source of the allergy symptoms…
The Pet Wellness Life Stress Scan…is the original hair and saliva scan for identifying over 300 stressors in your pet’s diet and environment.
We can show you what foods and environmental factors are currently impacting your pet’s well-being
However, the company also wants to sound “alternative” and, perhaps, to dodge around legal restrictions on claiming to test for allergies when there is no scientific support for the test they are selling. This leads to the usual empty disclaimers that contradict the clear overall message of the advertisement:
This is not a traditional medical laboratory allergy test…It is complimentary and is in no way meant nor to be inferred as a substitute for traditional allergy testing methods that use blood samples such as the ELISA and antibody testing. We highly recommend that you consult with your vet if you wish such traditional testing be done for your pet.
The company also can’t legitimately claim to diagnose or recommend treatments for allergies since this requires a licensed veterinarian. Instead, they use a lot of doublespeak to suggest that they can help you solve your dog’s allergy problems without actually saying they offer diagnosis and treatment of allergies:
We have Pet Wellness Coaches standing by to help you understand your results and show you the road map back to balance…Our Wellness Coach will go over the results with you page by page….
The Glacier Peak Holistics Pet Wellness Life Stress Scan (formerly “Healthy Dog and Cat Alternative Sensitivity Assessment”) is a completely implausible test based on vague, mystical nonsense and pseudoscientific theories that contradict the legitimate scientific evidence regarding the cause and management of allergies. The general concept that hair and saliva testing can identify the causes of allergies is false. The marketing of this test is misleading and contains many of the hallmarks of quack advertising. Dog owners struggling with allergies would be far better spending their time and money consulting a veterinary dermatologist for a science-based approach to helping their canine companions.