Dr. Jean Dodds
I have, unfortunately, had to write about Dr. Jean Dodds many times over the years. She has undergone a depressing transformation from a pioneer in transfusion medicine to a shameless promoter of dubious or bogus alternative medical ideas. She is particularly known for promoting diagnostic tests that claim to be revolutionary breakthroughs but which are based on questionable theories and little to no evidence. Here are some previous articles related to Dr. Dodds’ activities:
Canine Nutrigenomics by Dr. Jean Dodds: Science as Windowdressing
This is a comprehensive review of Dr. Dodds’ book Canine Nutrigenomics. Like so much of what she produces, the book is a mixture of fact and fiction, science and pseudoscience, plausible ideas and outright nonsense. Overall the work is deeply misleading. It has little at all to do with nutrigenomics or epigenetics, despite the title and claims to the contrary, and it uses real science primarily to give an aura of legitimacy or authority to claims which are unproven or outright false. The book is a collection of opinions, some plausible and some not, supported in most cases by very little evidence and in some cases clearly contradicted by this evidence. The references employed are often simply other people’s opinions or, in some cases, Dr. Dodds’ own opinions reprinted elsewhere.
The recommendations made for and against specific feeding practices and dietary supplements are typical for proponents of alternative medicine, and they stem from ideology and philosophical beliefs rather than scientific evidence. Occasionally, such claims turn out to be true, in the manner of a broken clock which happens to be right twice a day but this has little to do with the underlying principles. And while there are a few evidence-based claims here and there in the book, and some recommendations I would agree with, overall Canine Nutrigenomics is misleading, misguided, and in conflict with the best evidence and expert consensus in veterinary nutrition.
Hair and Saliva Test for Allergies are Worthless Pseudoscience
Dr. Dodds’ proprietary test for food allergies using saliva has beenshown not to work(along with similar tests by other companies), and yet she continues to promote and sell it. Charging pet owners hundreds of dollarsfor a bogus allergy test is unethical and should not be allowed regardless of whether or not Dr. Dodds refuses to accept the verdict of the evidence against the test.
What’s the Right “Dose” of a Vaccine for Small-Breed Dogs?
Evidence Update: Dodds’ Study on Vaccine Dose in Small Breed Dogs
Dr. Dodds is, if not outright anti-vaccine, certainly an alarmist about vaccine safety, and she promotes the unscientific and unproven notion that arbitrary reductions in the volume of vaccines given to dogs and cats will reduce the risks of adverse effects from vaccination.
Quack “Documentary” about Pet Cancer
Dr. Dodds was interviewed for a propaganda film about cancer in pets, which I have evaluated in detail, and she contributed an impressive variety of pseudoscientic nonsense to the project, ranging from claims about vaccines and GMO ingredients in pet foods to praise for animal psychics.
Dr. Dodds has also been involved in promoting questionable claims about thyroid disease in animals which are not accepted by experts in veterinary endocrinology, in suing a pet food manufacturer for the exclusive right to use the term “nutrigenomics” (1,2), in legal wrangling with the state of Californiaover the taxes owned by her company Hemopet, and in legal and ethical controversies over Hemopet’s blood bank operations.
CellBio- Salivary Isoprostane
The latest questionable test Dr. Dodds is marketing through Hemopet is promoted this way:
CellBIO is a novel biomarker test for cellular oxidative stress in pets using saliva and measures Cellular Oxidative Stress (inflammation, injury) and Microbiome Health.
The new easy saliva collection device with a volume indicator offers non-invasive sampling of saliva by veterinary clinic of pet owner— this is a patented test. Positive results occur with inflammation, infections, obesity and cancers (dysbiosis). Functional beneficial foods and supplements are given to re-balance the Microbiome and restore health.
The marketing then lists a hodgepodge of foods and supplements supposed to undo the damage detected by the test:
Garlic (in moderation)
Honey (not for young puppies)
Resveratrol (as a natural supplement or as food like blueberries and cranberries)
Turmeric (curcumin) – without black pepper for pets
These claims fall under the general concept Oxidation=Bad and Antioxidants=Good. I have written about this idea before, and the decades of research based on it have not been encouraging. Like most things in biology, reality has turned out to be more nuanced and complex than our simplistic ideas about good and bad. Oxidation can, in some cases, be beneficial, and antioxidants have failed to show dramatic benefits and have even been harmful for some patients, so the general principle is shaky to begin with.
In more specific terms, the explicit and implied value of the CellBIO test involve three core claims which must be proven for the test to be worthwhile:
- The test accurately identifies oxidative damage in dogs and cats.
- The test results accurately predict the risk of disease.
- Interventions based on using the test, such as supplements or foods, reduce both oxidative damage and, more importantly, risk of disease.
Does the Test Work?
There is no published research evidence demonstrating the validity of the specific test Dr. Dodds is selling. The test fails the most basic criteria for a legitimate laboratory test, which is proof that it accurately and consistently measures what it is supposed to measure. Given the demonstrable failure of Hemopet’s Nutriscansalivary food allergy test, it is not reasonable to expect the veterinary profession or the public to take the company’s word for the validity of this new test.
There is plenty of research in humans and laboratory animals showing that isoprostanes are accurate indicators of lipid peroxidation, a chemical process that indicates active oxidation and oxidative stress.1There is some limited research in dogs and cats investigating the measurement of isoprostanes, but the significance of the findings is not at all clear.2–4Typically, these compounds are measured in blood or urine, and there is less support for the accuracy of saliva as a sample for measuring systemic oxidative stress. All of this evidence illustrates how far we are from being able to support the claim that a salivary isoprostane test is accurate or useful in dogs and cats.
Do the Test Results Predict Disease?
Even with other tests in humans that have been shown to accurately measure oxidative stress, it is not always clear that doing so allows us to predict health problems. Isoprostane levels have been associated with some diseases in some studies, and they have not been reliable indicators in other studies.1The idea that measuring isoprostanes could predict the chances of specific diseases is a reasonable hypothesis, but it is still being investigated in humans, and it is almost entirely untested in pets. A couple of studies have explored the measurement of isoprostanes in dogs and cats with various health conditions, but no clear conclusions about the predictive value of such testing have been reached.2–4Dr. Dodds is extrapolating well beyond the bounds of the available evidence—in other words, she is guessing.
Does Antioxidant Treatment Based on the Test Reduce Disease?
Once again, there is absolutely zero published evidence that using this specific test to guide the use of antioxidant therapy has any benefit at all. The claim is based entirely on speculation and anecdote.
Extensive testing of a variety of antioxidants over several decades in humans has been profoundly disappointing. The evidence not only hasn’t found that consistent health benefits can be achieved in healthy or ill people with the use of such supplements, there have even been studies in which antioxidants actively harmed patients.5–11Antioxidants can have some benefits in specific circumstances, but they are not a universally safe and effective treatment, and in many cases they do nothing or cause harm. Using such supplements should be based on specific and compelling evidence for their safety and effectiveness in treating or preventing disease, and there is little of this available for most of the things Dr. Dodds recommends.
There is little research evidence on the use of antioxidant supplements in animals. A handful of studies show some potentially promising effects on markers of oxidative damage, and a couple seem to show some clinical benefits, but the evidence is scant and weak.12–21The harmful effects
of antioxidant supplementation in humans has only emerged with studies of large numbers of individuals over periods of time far longer than typical veterinary trials, so while few specific safety risks are known for common antioxidants, the assumption of safety in pets is not justified for most.
The bottom line is that most of the claims concerning the benefits of antioxidants are based on theory or indirect and limited evidence. The specific antioxidant given, the form in which it is given, the other components of the diet, the species, health status, and individual makeup of each animal, and many other factors all influence the effects of antioxidants. Whether such effects are strong enough to be clinically significant, and whether they are beneficial or harmful if they do have a real effect, is a complicated question, and simplistic, strong claims are not justified.
Using antioxidant supplements in your pets or patients is a roll of the dice. You might protect them, you might put them at risk, and you probably won’t ever be able to tell which you are doing because the complexity of biology makes individual cases unreliable predictors of the true benefits and risks of such products. The claim that using this test can reliably tell you whether antioxidants will benefit a patient or pet is simply not supported by any evidence.
Dr. Dodds has a long history of promoting questionable and unproven tests and treatments. Real experts in veterinary endocrinology, nutrition, immunology, and other relevant fields rarely agree with Dr. Dodds beliefs or claims. Some of her recommendations are unproven (e.g. her beliefs about thyroid testing), others are demonstrably false (e.g. the Nutriscan food allergy test).
The CellBIO saliva test for inflammation and oxidative stress is another unproven idea being sold well before it is properly tested. There is no specific published research showing the test is accurate, that its results are clincally useful, or that the treatments Dr. Dodds recommends based on using the test have any value. All of the claims for this test are based on theory, dramatic extrapolation from complex research evidence in humans and lab animals, or anecdote.
Both the details of the claims made for this product, and Dr. Dodds track record, should inspire significant skepticism about the value of this test. Perhaps this will be the exception, a test Dr. Dodds promotes that is one day actually validated with strong research evidence, but based on the past I am not optimistic that this will happen, and I would not recommend using this test in the meantime.
1. Milne GL, Dai Q, Roberts LJ, II. The isoprostanes–25 years later. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015;1851(4):433-445. doi:10.1016/j.bbalip.2014.10.007
2. Whitehouse W, Quimby J, Wan S, Monaghan K, Robbins R, Trepanier LA. Urinary F 2-Isoprostanes in Cats with International Renal Interest Society Stage 1-4 Chronic Kidney Disease. J Vet Intern Med. 2017;31(2):449-456. doi:10.1111/jvim.14634
3. Kendall A, Woolcock A, Brooks A, Moore GE. Glutathione Peroxidase Activity, Plasma Total Antioxidant Capacity, and Urinary F2- Isoprostanes as Markers of Oxidative Stress in Anemic Dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2017;31(6):1700-1707. doi:10.1111/jvim.14847
4. Viviano KR, VanderWielen B. Effect of N-acetylcysteine supplementation on intracellular glutathione, urine isoprostanes, clinical score, and survival in hospitalized ill dogs. J Vet Intern Med. 2013;27(2):250-258. doi:10.1111/jvim.12048
5. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud C. Antioxidant supplements and mortality. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013;17(1):1. doi:10.1097/MCO.0000000000000009
6. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Gluud LL, Simonetti RG, Gluud C. Mortality in Randomized Trials of Antioxidant Supplements for Primary and Secondary Prevention. JAMA. 2007;297(8):842. doi:10.1001/jama.297.8.842
7. Bjelakovic G, Nikolova D, Simonetti RG, Gluud C. Antioxidant supplements for prevention of gastrointestinal cancers: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2004;364(9441):1219-1228. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(04)17138-9
8. Bjelakovic G, Gluud LL, Nikolova D, Bjelakovic M, Nagorni A, Gluud C. Antioxidant supplements for liver diseases. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(3):CD007749. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007749.pub2
9. Sesso HD, Buring JE, Christen WG, et al. Vitamins E and C in the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Men. JAMA. 2008;300(18):2123. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.600
10. Paulsen G, Cumming KT, Holden G, et al. Vitamin C and E supplementation hampers cellular adaptation to endurance training in humans: a double-blind, randomised, controlled trial. J Physiol. 2014;592(8):1887-1901. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2013.267419
11. Schürks M, Glynn RJ, Rist PM, Tzourio C, Kurth T. Effects of vitamin E on stroke subtypes: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ. 2010;341:c5702. doi:10.1136/BMJ.C5702
12. Piercy RJ, Hinchcliff KW, DiSilvestro RA, et al. Effect of dietary supplements containing antioxidants on attenuation of muscle damage in exercising sled dogs. Am J Vet Res. 2000;61(11):1438-1445. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11108194. Accessed December 11, 2018.
13. Freeman LM. Focus on nutrition: antioxidants in cancer treatment: helpful or harmful? Compend Contin Educ Vet. 2009;31(4):154-158. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19517407. Accessed December 11, 2018.
14. Hall JA, Chinn RM, Vorachek WR, et al. Influence of dietary antioxidants and fatty acids on neutrophil mediated bacterial killing and gene expression in healthy Beagles. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2011;139(2-4):217-228. doi:10.1016/j.vetimm.2010.10.020
15. Milgram NW, Head E, Zicker SC, et al. Learning ability in aged beagle dogs is preserved by behavioral enrichment and dietary fortification: a two-year longitudinal study. Neurobiol Aging. 2005;26(1):77-90. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2004.02.014
16. Plevnik Kapun A, Salobir J, Levart A, Tav ar Kalcher G, Nemec Svete A, Kotnik T. Vitamin E supplementation in canine atopic dermatitis: improvement of clinical signs and effects on oxidative stress markers. Vet Rec. 2014;175(22):560-560. doi:10.1136/vr.102547
17. Barrouin-Melo SM, Anturaniemi J, Sankari S, et al. Evaluating oxidative stress, serological- and haematological status of dogs suffering from osteoarthritis, after supplementing their diet with fish or corn oil. Lipids Health Dis. 2016;15(1):139. doi:10.1186/s12944-016-0304-6
18. Snigdha S, de Rivera C, Milgram NW, Cotman CW. Effect of mitochondrial cofactors and antioxidants supplementation on cognition in the aged canine. Neurobiol Aging. 2016;37:171-178. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2015.09.015
19. Sechi S, Fiore F, Chiavolelli F, Dimauro C, Nudda A, Cocco R. Oxidative stress and food supplementation with antioxidants in therapy dogs. Can J Vet Res. 2017;81(3):206-216. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28725111. Accessed December 11, 2018.
20. Head E, Murphey HL, Dowling ALS, et al. A Combination Cocktail Improves Spatial Attention in a Canine Model of Human Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease. J Alzheimer’s Dis. 2012;32(4):1029-1042. doi:10.3233/JAD-2012-120937
21. Hesta M, Ottermans C, Krammer-Lukas S, et al. The effect of vitamin C supplementation in healthy dogs on antioxidative capacity and immune parameters. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2009;93(1):26-34. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0396.2007.00774.x