CAM=Miracles, Science=Death?

I really shouldn’t be giving this guy so much attention, but after our little tiff I’ve taken to checking in on his blog, and the vicious and self-serving marketing strategy is offensive enough to stimulate a response. Dr. Shaw Messonnier is continuing his tirade against veterinarians who stubbornly cling to science over faith-based medicine. His most recent blog post is still combining the blatantly unethical and deceitful mischaracterization of science-based veterinary medicine with the self-serving plugging of his own practices, and his book.

“Every day I see pets whose owners share with me the same tragic story. Their veterinarians have told them there is nothing they can do to help their pets. Many of these pets were seen by their veterinarians for routine checkups or what appeared to be minor problems. During the visit, a serious condition, often cancer, was diagnosed. As a result of the seriousness of the disease, the veterinarian offered no hope. Instead, the veterinarian told the owners that their pets had only a few weeks to live and recommended euthanasia when the pets’ condition declined.”

Of course, honestly discussing the inevitability of death is taboo in our culture, and while scientific medicine has much to offer in the treatment of cancer, and outperforms alternative methods whenever real tests are done (and this study), the reality is that some diseases cannot be cured and treatment must focus on maintaining comfort and a good quality of life. And the ultimate act of care for terminally ill pets is to let them die peacefully and without pain, rather than suffer the frequently awful and prolonged experience of an unaided death.

But Dr. Messonnier prefers confidently offering false, unsubstantiated claims of miraculous benefit from his methods (including diets free of supposed “toxins,” unproven or disproven nutritional supplements to “boost the immune system,” and of course avoiding “unnecessary” vaccinations). He makes wild and unsubstantiated claims about the success of his own methods, based solely on his opinion of what a great doctor he is. For example, “In general, pets treated with a combination of conventional medications plus natural therapies will usually live 2 to 3 times as long as those whose treatment does not include natural therapies.” This seems odd considering the evidence that in human cancer patients alternative medicine may actually be associated with shorter survival, either because of the effects of the CAM therapies themselves or because patients turn to CAM when they have diseases for which no real therapies exist. Still, he insists, “Integrative/holistic/natural/green therapies can offer “hope for the hopeless.” While I can’t always cure all of my patients, I can offer all of them hope and make them healthier. It is not uncommon for me to treat a pet who is given weeks to live by the previous veterinarian and have that pet live many months or even several years!”

In addition to such fanciful “clinical impressions,” and false hope, Dr. Messonnier bases his marketing strategy on mischaracterizing mainstream medicine, with all the cliches about real medicine only treating symptoms an CAM creating health, and so on: “The reason for my success? Unlike conventional doctors, I focus on HEALING the pet rather than TREATING the disease. This is a foreign concept to many doctors. When I was in veterinary school, I was taught to diagnose and treat disease. Our goal was never to improve the health of the pet but simply to win the battle against the disease. When that is not possible, the only other alternative is euthanasia.”

Not surprisingly, the rant ends with a plug for his new book: Unexpected Miracles-Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets. I have no doubt this will be a touching and emotion collection of anecdotes which create the impression, false though it is, that his methods can save those who we closed-minded and ineffectual science-based practitioners have given up on. Despicable and deceitful nonsense couched in the self-righteous language of the enlightened bringing hope and compassion to those abandoned by the cold and heartless practitioners of  mainstream medicine. Truly, if it were possible Dr. Messonier should feel ashamed.

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6 Responses to CAM=Miracles, Science=Death?

  1. Bartimaeus says:

    I notice he is careful not to make any specific claims, and who knows if his characterizations of what the clients were told by other veterinarians are accurate or not. Even if they are, how many of his patients have not lived longer than expected, or had more pain or suffering than was necessary. Unfortunately Dr. Shawn is not open-minded enough to consider how selection/confirmation bias may be working on how he views his treatments. But I have to think at this point that he is more interested in selling things than anything else. If he is not careful, his legacy will be nothing more than a case study in quackery.

  2. v.t. says:

    If he’s in actual practice, he ought to be investigated for animal abuse (based on his claims of healing cancer-stricken pets). He’s nothing more than an evangelical nutcase and a supplement peddler. :

    “Changing vaccine protocols……Based upon our own clinical experience, most pets only need to be vaccinated every 5 to 10 years. The best way to determine if and when your pet requires a vaccine is through the use of a simple and inexpensive blood test called an antibody/titer test.”

    “New Therapies For a Serious Cancer in Cats…….Integrating these three conventional cancer-fighting therapies with herbs, nutritional supplements, and homeopathics can also improve the cat’s recovery and longevity.”

    “Greater Focus on Pain Management…….And fortunately, there are also wonderful herbs, supplements, and other natural therapies that can be used with or in place of conventional pain relieving medications to help pets with chronic pain.”

    That latter sentence (well, all of it actually), makes me cringe, I want to scream.

    And this:

    How dare he, to pass off this nonsense to pet owners who blindly believe him and further harm their pets (by not providing them the benefit of real medicine, least of all real pain relief). Bad enough he even has clients that fall for this crap.

    He won’t respond to you, skeptvet, and deletes your posts because he doesn’t have the guts to rationally debate, let alone does he want to be challenged. As long as he can peddle the nonsense and supplements, and keep his blind readers following, that’s all he really wants. You don’t think he is really one of those vets who is misguided, do you? He’s beyond misguided!

    I’m glad you exposed him for what he truly is.

  3. weez says:

    In the realm of pet-woo, I’d like to present a likely candidate:

    Check out the shoo!TAG:

    * Shoo!TAG represents a paradigm shift in the pest management industry.
    * Shoo!TAG utilises Nature’s energetic principles in combination with physics, quantum physics and advanced computer software technology.
    * The key to Shoo!TAG is the three dimensional electromagnetic field embedded in the magnetic strip.
    * Shoo!TAG utilises the power of the bio-energetic field which surrounds all living things to create a frequency barrier which repels targeted pests for up to four months.
    * Shoo!TAG’s magnetic strip is encoded with beneficial frequencies and resonances and an electromagnetic charge bearing a polarised energy signature, which when introduced into the bio-energetic field of the wearer produces results.
    * Shoo!TAG also assists the body in altering its external bio energetic field so as to effectively repel targeted pests. This is possible because various insects and pests react to frequencies. These frequencies are introduced into the bio-energetic field of the wearer. These specific frequencies and resonance have proved to disturb pests and create a barrier.

    If your woo-ometer isn’t pegged, get a new one.

    shoo!TAG is a plastic card with a magnetic stripe. If it will repel pests, so will any credit card.

  4. skeptvet says:

    You hit on one of the key reasons why I do this–because well-intentioned or not folks peddling therapies that don’t work do real harm, and pet owners need to know that.

  5. skeptvet says:


    Oh brother! There’s one born every minute, eh?

  6. meatsticks says:

    As teenager, I used to help my dad out at his clinic. This was around the time when parvovirus first started to hit Southern Ontario. I’ll tell ya, I noticed the drop in the number of cases after the vaccine came out. I think if folks had a little more experience bleaching out parvo’d kennels, they’d be thinking more highly about science, its methodology and its results.

    This may be anecdotal, but hey, “they” use ’em when it suits them.

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