Is the SketpVet Blog Driving Veterinarians to Suicide (Seriously?!!)

One of the most common criticisms of this blog has been that it is mean, unkind, or unfair of me to critique claims about conventional and alternative medicine made by vets and others. I have addressed this subject before:

Are Homeopaths Innocent Victims of Skeptical Attacks?

CAM Vets Attacking Conventional Veterinary Medicine

Who’s Behind the The Truth About Pet Cancer?

These posts, and the quotes they contain from many proponents of alternative medicine, including Mr. Habib, illustrate how the people who are upset by my criticism are frequently loudly proclaiming that science-based medicine is useless or harmful and that conventional vets are ignorant, dupes or shills for industry, or otherwise knowingly providing poor patient care compared to that provided by these advocates of alternative medicine. They base their work and advocacy around the notion that everyone else is wrong, and then they feel unfairly treated when someone disputes their claims.

Nobody likes to be criticized, or even to have their claims disputed in a fact-based, impersonal way. However, when you make a point of publicly attacking mainstream science or medicine, or when you promote unproven or demonstrably ineffective treatments and claim they are safe and effective, it is fair and appropriate for others to challenge these claims and attacks. I try to be fair and focused on ideas and claims, not personality or other irrelevant personal characteristics, but I don’t feel it is inherently wrong to push back against efforts to denigrate science-based medicine or convince pet owners to fear it and to turn instead to unproven or ineffective alternatives. Complaints that challenges to their claims is unkind or meanspirited are just a self-serving way for alternative medicine advocates to try and insulate themselves from criticism.

Most of the angry reaction to my critiques has taken the form of comments or emails, but social media personality and activist Rodney Habib has used his communication skills to take this self-righteous and hypocritical outrage to a new level. In a slick video of a series of talks he has apparently given to students interested in veterinary medicine, he refers to the suicide crisis in veterinary medicine. In this talk he implies that I am partly responsible. (Interestingly, this video was posted well before my recent article specifically discussing the individuals, including Mr. Habib, who participated in the Truth About et Cancer videos.)

Mr. Habib’s video suggests that I “slam” vets who dare to “think outside of the box.” This not only mischaracterizes my substantive critiques of pseudoscience, but it ignores the attacks and criticisms the folks I write about make against conventional veterinary medicine. It also infantilizes veterinarians by suggesting that disagreement and debate about these issues is harmful to our mental health.

Additionally, this kind of sideways attack on my work here trivializes the serious problem of mental health and suicide in veterinary medicine by using the topic as a vehicle to attack me just because Mr. Habib dislikes what I have to say. It also directs attention away from real and addressable causes of the problem. There are many factors that contribute to the mental health crisis in veterinary medicine, from work environments, financial stresses, and cultural factors, but the refusal of skeptics and mainstream veterinarians to allow pseudoscience in our field to pass unchallenged is not one of them.

There are many thoughtful discussions of the mental health problem in veterinary medicine that deserve to be taken much more seriously than Mr. Habib’s comments. Here are just a few:

Suicide in veterinary medicine: Let’s talk about it

AVMA Article on Suicide in Veterinary Medicine

AVMA Wellness and Peer Assistance Resources

Additional AVMA Coverage

Incidence of suicide in the veterinary profession in England and Wales

Mental health resource list for veterinary teams

Canadian veterinary health and wellness resources

 Note 5/18/2018
Mr. Habib ends his video with the url and logo for Not One More Veterinarian (NOMV), a non-profit focused on addressing the issues of suicide and mental health in veterinary medicine. I have been assured by the board of NOMV that the organization did not produce or endorse this video or the attack on me contained in it.


This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Is the SketpVet Blog Driving Veterinarians to Suicide (Seriously?!!)

  1. Rebecca Wortman says:

    Has there been any results from this study?

  2. Carrie Becerra, RN says:

    Dr. Brennan McKenzie is one of the most knowledgeable, capable, thoughtful, insightful, thorough, caring, intelligent vet/person that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with ever.

    You are despicable for showing his image in this manner and insinuating that he could even be remotely responsible for another’s thoughts of suicide. You should be ashamed of yourself. If you don’t care to educate yourself, then just ignore him and move on! You disgust me!

  3. Coleen says:

    Thank you for your truth and insight on various subjects. I have worked in the veterinarian field for over 20 years, and live in the same city as Rodney Habib. When I would question a few of his claims, he would block or ban me. As I was being respectful and professional in my questioning. I can only surmise he didn’t have evidence to back up his claims. We have seen many sick animals on the type of nutrition he preaches. He is a social media celebrity that is very slick with the smoke and mirror show when it comes to fear mongering pet owners against conventional and science based medicine. Too bad so many people listen to him, as he does give out much misinformation.

  4. Rob Sigafoos says:

    “Outside the box” thinking can lead to improved therapy and better outcomes. However, “Outside the box” reasoning must always, always be confined within the boundary of the scientific method. Outside that line is nothing more than fantasy.

  5. skeptvet says:

    There have been a number of studies investigating both the rate of T. gondii in peopl working in veterinary medicine as well as possible links between latent infection and suicide. I haven’t been able to find results from this survey specifically. The evidence so far is mixed and low quality, so I don’t think we really know yet what role it might play. Here are some of the relevant studies:
    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

  6. art malernee dvm says:

    I have watched veterinary ad hominin evolve on the internet since the AOL and CompuServe days some thirty or forty years ago. The most common attack at first was for bad grammar. Now the biggest problem with grammar is not checking the auto correct on your software program. In the good old days if someone did not like EBM on your website( the word blog came later) they just used a software program to put hundreds of porn post and pictures on your website in the middle of the night. Hard to have an EBM debate when most post you read in the morning were porn post. Now the blog computer program will not even allow a post if the sentence seems to short. So now it would seem those trying to promote EBM are attacked because apparently veterinarians are committing suicide in Lemming like numbers because other veterinarians will not be so open minded that they let their brains fall out. I look forward to the day when the computer can also reply “seriously??” to Mr Hibib’s movie and also enjoy the humor in what a human has put on the internet.

  7. John Warren says:

    I appreciate your blog and I am so glad that I found it several years ago. You provide a great service, especially for pet owners such as myself. The articles you have published have helped me have informed opinions about different alternative treatments. Plus, your discussions about EBM approaches in conventional medical care have helped me understand how to better discuss and interact with our vets when we seek care for our poodles.

  8. skeptvet says:

    Thanks, that’s great to hear!

  9. Carol says:

    I want to thank you also; your website provides good information and helps me avoid quackery. I just looked at Habib’s Wikipedia page which is not nearly critical enough. How a guy has the affrontery to sell pet products, have little experience with animal care and tell vets they are doing things incorrectly is disturbing. I wish GSOW (Guerilla Skeptics in Wikipedia) would give this site the attention it deserves.

  10. Carol says:

    Comparing the statistics of ‘thinking about suicide’ versus actually committing suicide was also baffling. Could any of those students spot this fallacy? Doesn’t Habib realize there is a vast difference between thinking about something and doing it?

  11. Greg Bishop says:

    You made it on one of Rodney’s videos! And they have a sweet picture of you playing the banjo! That’s actually awesome, apparently this guy is the biggest thing to come out of Canada since John Candy!

    Seriously, this guy is whack and clearly has no idea what he’s talking about, and plenty of an agenda. Hopefully people are drawn to your blog since it’s extremely well researched and presented. Thanks again for everything you do!

  12. skeptvet says:

    Yes, I thought the picture of me with the mandolin detracted a bit from the demonic image he was trying to convey, though the glowing eyes as the other photo transitioned into a negative made up for that. Some thoughtful argument, eh?

  13. Jeff Perret, DVM says:

    I seem to recall reading that the widely cited statistics pointing to higher risk and/or incidence of suicide in the veterinary profession, and other professions for that matter, may not be reliable. Would Skeptvet have any insight onto whether the numbers are based on good data, or anecdotes and suppositions?

  14. skeptvet says:

    It’s a difficult question because it’s a difficult thing to study. Suicidal thoughts and depression are generally self-reported, which inevitably introduces bias. Surveys also have other limitations, such as selection bias and errors introduced by the form of questions, the method of recruitment, and other methodological factors. Not all studies have found vets at higher risk than the general population, but many have. There is definitely more than anecdote to go on, so despite the limitations of the literature I think there is reasonable evidence to suggest the profession as a whole may be at higher risk. Nearly all surveys, though, have found great variation by age, sex, and other factors, so individual risk can’t be predicted just by membership in the veterinary profession. Here are some of the studies often cited so you can look at the results and the potential limitations.

    AVMA Survey in the US
    The survey results, based on answers from more than 10,000 practicing veterinarians—most (69 percent) of whom are in small animal practice—revealed the following:

    6.8 percent of males and 10.9 percent of females in the profession have serious psychological distress compared with 3.5 percent and 4.4 percent of U.S. male and female adults.
    24.5 percent of males and 36.7 percent of females in veterinary medicine have experienced depressive episodes since veterinary school, which is about 1 1/2 times the prevalence in U.S. adults overall throughout their lifetime.
    14.4 percent of males and 19.1 percent of females who are veterinarians have considered suicide since graduation. This is three times the U.S. national mean.
    1.1 percent of males and 1.4 percent of females in the veterinary profession have attempted suicide since veterinary school.
    Regarding the last point, the suicide attempt rates for veterinarians are below the national mean—1.6 percent for men and 3.0 percent for women. One possibility suggested by the survey authors is that veterinarians’ ready access to drugs may more often result in lethal suicide attempts, leaving fewer survivors to respond to the survey. No information was given on suicide rates.

    Australian Study
    Risk for veternarians was significantly higher than the general population and was non-significantly higher for veterinary nurses.

    One systematic review from 2010 also found a higher rate among veterinarians than the general population.

    More recently, here in the US, another survey by the CDC has also found rates of depression and suicidal ideation in vets higher than the general population.

  15. Jeff Perret, DVM says:

    Thanks. Man, you’re good!

  16. AKBAR WIGUNA says:

    Yes, I thought the picture of me with the mandolin detracted a bit from the demonic image he was trying to convey, though the glowing eyes as the other photo transitioned into a negative made up for that.

  17. Heidi Holtz says:

    I’m with you! It is infuriating that the Pet-Fooled and Truth About Pet Cancer movies (and the same orchestrators behind the avalanche of misinformation videos online) are the REASON people don’t trust veterinarians. Suicide in our industry IS a real problem. They aren’t helping us! Dr. Becker and Habib are connected to everything. While bashing real medicine and going against the actual science of nutrition, convincing people to turn away from the best, in my opinion, pet health defender online ( was just a hurdle they had to address. Fact checking the bull-shit is a tangled knot and you are a source of light! The vets and vey techs battling this craze thank you!

  18. Sabra Ewing says:

    What? This is ridiculous. People commit suicide because of the pain they feel because of unbalanced mental health, not because of a blog.

  19. Brennen,
    Stay your course and stay strong. Real scientists like yourself will always be punished by those that live by “feel” and “faith.” Our understanding of the world changes every day as we learn. We try to live in the real world of facts. I don’t know who this Mr. Habbib is, or what his credentials are, but his attack on you is cruel and unfounded. You give HOPE to vets. I haven’t spent 36 years in practice to treat my patients with magic potions and fairy dust. Your post in VIN is excellent.

  20. Mrs Eyedealistic says:

    I’m a new parent of rescue pup and, like many other pet parents, want the best for him. A lot of well-meaning friends have pointed me in the direction of Dr. Karen Becker and her business partner, Rodney Habib. Ironically, it was a livestream video between him and Dr. Becker that made me start to investigate their claims, which ultimately led me to your blog and (through your recommendation in one of your posts) Linda Case’s book on Dog Nutrition, “Dog Food Logic.”

    As a healthcare professional, it is a humbling experience to realize how non-critical I was of the advice of others (however well-intentioned they might be). I just want to take a moment to sincerely thank you for committing to evidence-based medicine and for continuing your blog through all the hate and backlash. Your entries serve as a guiding beacon in the admittedly tumultuous sea of pet nutrition/science. I hope you’ll keep doing what you do.

  21. skeptvet says:

    Thank you! It is always gratifying to know the work is useful to someone. 🙂

  22. Pingback: Book Review- The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier, and Longer |

  23. Pingback: Dr. Karen Becker Pleads for Freedom from Criticism |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *