As a practicing veterinarian, I am personally and professionally devoted to promoting real, beneficial medical therapies for companion animals, and to discouraging those approaches that have not proven to be safe or effective, or that may even be harmful. I strive for true open-mindedness, but I believe all medical practices must be open to critique and must be validated by reliable science, not merely tradition, intuition, opinion, or anecdote. In this blog I will be addressing the broad range of philosophical, ethical, economic, legal, political, and most of all scientific issues raised by complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), particularly as it is applied to veterinary medicine.


121 Responses to About

  1. skeptvet says:

    You’re correct that the evidence is mixed and not conclusive. In general, there is some evidence that the risk of long-term development of orthopedic problems, especially cruciate ligament rupture, may be increased in large-breed dogs neutered before 1-2 years of age. The relevant variables are probably growth plate closure (which is delayed in neutered animals) and obesity (which is more common in neutered animals). I think there is a reasonable case to be made for waiting until full growth (about 12-14 months for a breed the size of a golden) to reduce this risk, but the supporting evidence for this is limited.

    Even more questionable is the role of neutering on long-term risk of development of some cancers. Female Goldens may have a higher relative risk of some types of neoplasia if neutered. It is not clear what role the timing of neutering might play in this, and the absolute risk is not greatly changed. Furthermore, this finding hasn’t been seen in males or several other breeds, so it is pretty tenuous. Set against the risk of mammary cancer and pyometra, which are far more common in intact females than any of the cancers that might be slightly more likely with neutering, I think the balance of evidence is still in favor of neutering. It is not at all clear how much impact delaying neutering has on this issue.

    If you’re not sure what to do, it means you have correctly interpreted the evidence as mixed and limited. I generally recommend waiting until full growth for females based on the logic that there is some evidence of benefit and little evidence of risk, but I don’t think the data is strong enough to make a strong claim that it is wrong to neuter earlier.

  2. Hello Skeptvet, again, and thank you for having a well-balanced scientific approach to healing conversations. I previously approached you about an ‘Aural hematoma Treatment’ the Auralsplint. The five-year study has been self-published on Researchgate.com and is available at your pleasure to read and evaluate. I have also written a few articles supporting my beliefs the non-surgical approach using an auralsplint is both very effective and a good alternative to surgery if used at early onset. To correspond with your intent of scientific analysis, the study manuscript Auralsplint – Descriptive Report is lengthy and very encompassing. I hope you find it interesting and informative.

  3. Kirstin Tedore says:

    Are allergy shots ok to give to Yorkies?

  4. skeptvet says:

    “Allergy shots” is used in a number of different ways, so I can’t be sure what you are referring to. Most commonly, this means hyposensitization or immunotherapy, in which dogs with environmental allergies are gradually desensitized to their triggers using gradually increasing antigen exposure. This is typically done by a dermatologist and can be done in any breed.

    There are also a variety of medications used for symptomatic treatment of allergies that can be given by injection, and these are sometimes called “allergy shots” by owners. There isn’t anything about Yorkies that would preclude them from using these medications in general, but of course the risks and benefits for any individual dog should be something you discuss with your vet.

  5. Maggie Stouffer says:

    It seems my silver lab has diluted alopecia. I am aware there is no cure or treatment. But do you have any recommendations of things that could potentially help my dog. I’m not expecting miracles but just to help his coat and skin. Unfortunately he’s also allergic to fish so fish oil is a no go.

  6. Mel says:

    Dear Skeptvet
    I do find it interesting that you are willing to condemn Dr’s that are willing to put their name out there in the name of veterinary medicine but I find no mention of who you are or what your credentials are on your website. They open themselves up to lots of harassment by putting their name forward but obviously believe in what they do. Why don’t you? It would five you some credibility.

  7. skeptvet says:

    You are mistaken. There is nothing secret about my identity, and my credentials are readily available, so you don’t seem to have looked very hard. The real question, though, is why it matters. Does who I am change the strength of the evidence of the arguments I make. Are scientific questions settled by reputation or appeals to authority? How do we use what we know about someone to inform how we evaluate what they say, and is that useful or legitimate?

  8. Angie says:

    Hey Skeptvet,

    I was watching an interesting documentary about Neuroscientists discussing NDE. One doctor said an interesting statement that made me think of you. He said, “if you look at the history of science, all science starts as collecting anecdotes. And then finding patterns among those different stories.”

    I was just curious what your thoughts were regarding this statement being about anecdotes.

    Thanks so much

  9. skeptvet says:

    All science absolutely STARTS with observations and anecdotes. But it doesn’t end there, whereas pseudoscience does.

  10. Dee Marsh says:

    My 13 year old Nova Scotia Duck Toller developed a stage 3 soft tissue sarcoma and mast cell tumors. I am fortunate to live in an area where great science based veterinary care is available, expensive, but available. I was told my dog would have 3 to 5 months to live. My dog’s vet found a possible treatment in Boston and after raising money my dog went thru treatment….surgery to remove as much tumor as possible and then 3
    Treatments of stereotactic radiation to the area . My dog no longer limps and is lively, and is now almost a year out from treatment. A CT scan may be next to check on any new growth but to date I am thrilled with her recovery. No alternative medicine given.
    Hooray for science based research, and treatment!

  11. Brian Wermeyer says:

    Hello Dr. McKenzie,

    Do you have any comments on PEMF therapy on tumors? Thank you.

  12. skeptvet says:

    My latest look at the evidence is here. Hope it helps!

  13. Brian Wermeyer says:

    I would be more than happy to share the data I have for my dog who has been getting treated with PEMF since January 2020.

    If you are comfortable with software used to view CT and PET/CT files I have those as well.

  14. skeptvet says:

    Unfortunately, a case report, even with detailed data, doesn’t support general conclusions about the safety or efficacy of specific therapies. This is essentially a well-documented anecdote, and as such can only suggest hypotheses for formal testing, not answer the question “Does it work?”

    Here’s a bit more detail on why anecdotes aren’t very helpful:

    Why Anecdotes Can’t be Trusted


  15. Cindy says:

    My dog suffered severe trauma being beaten as a puppy before I adopted her and has elbow issues that causes her to limp at only 4 years old. She already has osteoarthritis and bone spurs in that elbow. Other than that she is eager and healthy and wants to run and play which only causes more issues. I have tried…..and am trying Galliprant, CBD, Dasuquin with MSM, goats milk, massaging her elbow. I even tried laser therapy but none of this has made any difference. I am not sure if there is anything else out there that I should try. It is a very bad place for acupuncture, I have checked into that option. My orthopedic vet is helpful but has said that surgery on the elbow rarely is successful. I read the article on the assisi loop and it does not seem to promise much benefit. Thanks for any thoughts and suggestions.

  16. skeptvet says:

    It sounds like you have been very thorough. If you haven’t done so already, you might talk with a boarded specialist in veterinary rehabilitation (the vet equivalent of physical therapy). They may have some additional idea, though it doesn’t sound like there will be any perfect fix.

    Good luck!

  17. Lauren Tanner says:

    This is AWESOME. I’m a veterinarian working in general practice. Debunking pseudoscience I hear from clients feels like an uphill battle. Your writing is appreciated!

  18. skeptvet says:

    Thanks! Keep up the fight!

  19. SUE MINSUK says:

    I have a senior dog who has CCD. the biggest issue is the disruption (to say the least!) of his sleep wake cycle.
    An Holistic vet was recommended to me and that Vet uses herbs, supplements and mushrooms of some sort to treat this.
    I am hesitant to shell out the $400 for her consult without any evidence.
    I have tried all of the prescription drugs my regular vet has prescribed in various combinations and doses with no consitant results.
    Would love to hear your opinion.

  20. skeptvet says:

    I am sorry to hear your dog is struggling with this awful condition.The frustrating bottom line is that this condition is very similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Despite enormous investment of resources in research, we don’t have an effective treatment for most people, and not surprisingly we have even less in the way of proven options for dogs.

    The herbs etc. that you are talking are pretty much just a roll of the dice, with no evidence to show they are safe or effective. When we are desperate enough, sometimes rolling the dice is appropriate, but when a holistic vet tells you they have an effective treatment, they aren’t talking about something that has ever been scientifically tested or proven to work in dogs with CCD. They are simply relying on speculation, extrapolation from lab animal studies, and personal experience. I won’t say it is wrong to take a chance, but I will say you are at least as likely to see no change or even to see things get worse as you are to see improvement.

    Good luck!

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