Who are you?
It doesn’t matter who I am. My ideas and arguments should be judged on their own strengths and weaknesses, not on the basis of whatever prejudices you may have about me as a person. Am I more likely to be right if I am a woman or a man? Does my analysis of scientific research suddenly become more or less accurate if you discover where I went to school, where I practice, or what color I am? These are irrelevant facts that people use to distract from the points I make rather than deal with them directly. The focus remains on the issues, ideas, and facts under discussion, not on irrelevant personal details about me.
I have no particular desire for attention or notoriety, but I am certainly willing to take responsibility for the statements I make here. While it is (barely) possible to blog completely anonymously, it requires a great deal of effort, and I have not made that effort (though given the amount of angry, even hysterical hate mail I get, I sometimes wish I had). You can find my identity here, or pretty easily online. But before you do, ask yourself if it is really relevant to the merits of my argument, or if it is just going to make it easier to dismiss what I say by applying your pre-existing biases and prejudices to me.
Have you tried all the methods you criticize for yourself? How can you know if something works or not without trying it?
A core belief that seems to run through all kinds of alternative medicine is that personal experience is the best way to evaluate a medical treatment. This is the central issue that divides scientific medicine from pseudoscience and faith-based medicine. If you believe that the personal experience of pet owners and veterinarians is as reliable, or even better than, objective scientific research, then nothing I say in this blog is going to make any sense to you.
I am often criticized for being arrogant, for thinking that just because I have studied the scientific evidence I know better than people who have practiced or used alternative medicine for years. The truth is that arrogance is believing our own perceptions and impressions are trustworthy and sticking with what we believe regardless of the amount of evidence against it. True humility lies in recognizing our limitations and acknowledging that we are easily fooled, especially by ourselves. We see what we want and expect to see, we notice facts that support our beliefs and ignore those that contradict us, and we cannot suspend or compensate for our own biases just by willpower and honest intentions. Sure, I’ve tried some alternative therapies, and some seemed to help while others didn’t. But I know enough to know that that is not how I should decide whether or not they work!
The history of medicine makes it clear that the scientific method is not simply one of many equally valid ways of looking at heath and disease. It is a more effective way because it compensates for the innate flaws in human perception and judgment. In only a couple hundred years, science has allowed us to double the average life expectancy of human beings (at least where modern nutrition, sanitation, and healthcare practices are available), eliminate some diseases all together (such as smallpox), and make other improvements in health and well-being that were never achieved in the thousands of years we relied on intuition, tradition, and individual experience to evaluate the causes and treatments of disease and the best ways to maintain health. Pre-scientific medicine persisted in practices such as bloodletting, purging, and the use of toxic “natural” medicines such as mercury because they seemed to be effective, although they actually did more harm than good.
In the modern era, many practices that patients and doctors believed were effective based on personal experience and judgment turned out, when studied scientifically, to be worthless or even harmful. Mammary artery ligation surgery and arthroscopic debridement and lavage of arthritic joints are a couple of examples in human medicine. And there are just as many examples in veterinary medicine. For years we gave antibiotics to young cats with blood in their urine because we thought they had urinary tract infections. They almost always got better on the medication, so the vet got the credit and everybody was happy. Unfortunately, controlled scientific researched showed that the cats didn’t really have infections and they would get better just as often and just as fast if we didn’t give them antibiotics, and without the risk of vomiting and diarrhea from the medication.
Personal experience and anecdotes are incredibly powerful and persuasive. They just aren’t reliable guides to the what really works and what doesn’t. And the hardest part of accepting science-based medicine, and all the remarkable successes that have come from it, is having the humility to acknowledge that what seems obvious to us isn’t necessarily so. Below is a collection of resources which I recommend for starting to come to grips with this unpleasant truth.
Don’t Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking by Thomas Kida
Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer.
Becoming a Critical Thinker- A Guide for the New Millenium by Robert T. Carroll
The Role of Anecdotes in Science-Based Medicine
Why We Need Science: “I saw it with my own eyes” Is not Enough
Pitfalls of Thinking: Anecdotal Evidence
Are you paid by the pharmaceutical industry or commercial pet food companies? Aren’t you just afraid of alternative medicine because it threatens your income?
I am an employee in a private, small animal practice where I get paid a salary, so how much money I make isn’t connected at all with which/how many drugs or other medical products I use or sell. I could also make a lot more money doing other things, but I chose clinical medicine because I believe it is important and ethical work and because it is challenging, interesting, and satisfying intellectually and emotionally.
I do not receive any money directly from pharmaceutical companies or commercial pet food companies connected with my clinical work. I do not accept gifts from such companies, though I cannot guarantee that I haven’t ever used a pen or pocket calculator with some company’s logo on it. I have participated as a researcher in clinical trials sponsored by pharmaceutical companies investigating new veterinary medicines. I am also employed by a biotech company studying aging in dogs and hoping to develop therapies to reduce the impact of age-associated diseases. I joined this company in 2020 because of my interest in the work and my confidence in the scientific integrity of the team.
I do think there are legitimate and serious concerns about the influence of industry funding on the reliability of scientific research and the practice habits of individual doctors. As a supporter of the All Trials Initiative, I feel strongly that all the information produced in the course of drug development should be freely available to the public, as should potential sources of bias or conflict of interest. I also support disclosure of any financial or other relationships between researchers, clinicians, and the biomedical industry so that any potential conflicts can be openly identified and considered.
However, the notion that scientific medicine is all about corporate profit and that alternative medicine is an altruistic labor of love is self-serving nonsense. Providers of alternative therapies make their living selling the products and services they believe in, and so do I. And all those “free” and “unpatented” natural remedies are manufactured and sold by a multi-billion dollar supplement industry that is no more altruistic than any pharmaceutical company. Attempting to dismiss my arguments as financially motivated is inaccurate, lazy and, for anyone who also works in healthcare, hypocritical.
Some more detailed responses to this line of argument:
The AHVMA-Bought and Paid for by Big Supplement?
Thank you so much for the information provided on your website. I have been working for an Internal Medicine Practice for 12 years under 3 Dip. ACVIM doctors. On currently practicing for 47 years. As time goes by more and more of our clients are being stooped into believing non-science based information they read online. Most recently, Glacier Peak Holistic Pet Life Scan. I have provided my client with your review of their rubbish. Thanks again!!!
I’m in the USA and read your review of the causes of death of cats with interest. I constantly argue for keeping cats indoors for public health reasons, and benefits to cats of avoiding traumatic death under car tires. If I’m generalizing, not doing an age breakdown, what would be a fair % to say of outdoor cat deaths due to trauma (such as cars) plus disease or infection due to attacks from other animals such dogs, cats, or wild life? I was using roughly 2/3 outdoor cats (including feral or unowned cats) die traumatic deaths, over all. Is that a fair guess, due you think? Realize I’m usually saying that in the context of opposing the release of feral cats (trap neuter release), also opposing feeding of feral cats (neutered or not), and opposing leaving pet cats to wander (and get hit or attacked).
Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any reliable data on the proportion of owned cats allowed outdoors who die from trauma, infectious disease, and other risks associated with the outdoors. I think it very likely that these risks are common, but there are many variables, especially the temperament and behavior of the cat and the nature of the local outdoor environment. I think it is fair to say these are real and serious risks, but putting a number on it probably implies greater precision than we can claim without more evidence.
My almost 7 year old Doberman was just diagnosed with Wobblers Disease and my search for alternative treatment to steroids led me to you , What do you recommend as the best treatment for this? I have had suggestions from Gold Bead Therapy to Massage. I am hoping you may have seen successful treatments and would share them.
I agree with your argument that one should rely on the quality of arguments instead of relying on heuristics we have in virtues of a person. However, as you know, humans are most likely to be persuaded by a person with a head, rather than relying on the abstract information.
If you rely on deontological notions of ethics, you should do what is right. But I would argue, from a utilitarian point of view, if you persuade more people, more pets would be saved, and their lives and their owner’s life would improve.
I would say, ends justify the means. I absolutely believe that a physician must use any tools necessary to achieve the best results for the majority.
To put it in the formal form:
1. You have knowledge about animal welfare.
2. Persuading others, about that knowledge, can help improve and save the lives of many.
3. You should improve and save the lives of many, when you can.
4. Ends justify the means.
5. Using superficial methods of persuasion can help more people to be persuaded.
6. Using superficial methods of persuasion is justified. [2,4,5]
7. You should use superficial methods of persuasion to persuade other. [1,3,6]
Interesting argument, I guess I am not clear on what you mean by “superficial means of persuasion?” If you are suggesting that I should employ the argument from authority fallacy or other logical fallacies in an attempt to convince others, I would respond that this is contrary to the very purpose of my endeavor, which is to discourage such fallacious reasoning and encourage a more evidence-based epistemology. Even if the end of convincing people would justify the means of using fallacious arguments, I suspect I would not ultimately be changing behavior in the desired direction by using poor reasoning to convince people to eschew poor reasoning.
I certainly accept that persuasion needs to be effective to be useful, and there is plenty of evidence that evidence alone is seldom persuasive. I have made some changes in my approach over time to try and make my case more effectively. But there is an inherent problem in advocating for science against pseudoscience in that core elements of the persuasive techniques of pseudoscience (reliance on anecdote, authority, logical fallacies, etc) are unavailable to opponents of pseudoscience because they are precisely the kind of reasoning we are trying to discourage. This does give us a disadvantage in the marketplace of ideas, but I don’t see a perfect way around the problem.
I see your point. However, maybe I should have been clearer: Humans don’t like ambiguities. Studies in behavioural economics suggest that to some extent, humans prefer a bad known risk when a better ambiguous choice is available. One of the most important ambiguities one could face is a faceless agent.
You believe that we should not judge you by gender, color or other prejudices one may have. However, a basic fact of cognitive science is that, we categorize. We assume. and we judge; regardless of what we priorly intend. I do not ask you to rely your reasoning on fallacious ends. But you can make your arguments more user-friendly. Mathematics is much more accurate than natural language. However, many brilliant people hate it, because the language of mathematics is not user-friendly. Still great mathematics professors rely on natural language to make abstract ideas more tactile.
For example, read the books of Steven Pinker. He explains theories in cognitive science rather more accurately than most textbooks. However, he utilizes anecdotal information, to show the implications of a theory and make it more sensible.
All this is to say that, you don’t need the flaw your original point, that would be both horrible and successful, in ruining all of this. I’m just saying, that you should consider the power of human intuition when delivering information. A good font is not an argument, however, it makes a good argument, a better one.
Maybe it’s because we are looking at it from different points of view. You mostly have information about when we are wrong. And you want to communicate information, in its most accurate form.
I’m looking from a cognitivist point of view. I see how brains work, and I care that your messages get received in it’s most accurate form.
To be clear, I’m not asking you to change your arguments. I’m asking you to add components which makes the original arguments more persuasive in delivery.
So what specifically do your recommend? It sounds like you’re talking mostly about revealing my identity since having a face to put to the arguments will make them more acceptable to some readers. As it happens, my CV is available on the site, and a 1-second Google search will show anyone interested who I am. And, of course, when I speak at conferences or give media interviews, I do so under my real name.
But my experience, at least, has been that when people refer to this information, they use it as a pretext to dismiss my arguments using an ad hominem of some kind, so I’m not convinced it will make the arguments accepted by a significantly larger number of folks to change how I identify myself on the blog. I think the cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias that impedes believers in alternative medicine from taking in my critiques are far more significant a factor than the issue of how much I personalize myself in making these critiques.
nobody bothers to do research on alternative but doesnt means its wrong. all i know is in my case it was a combination of western n homeo plus the five leaf pet pharmacy…everytime we introduced westen meds to my renal failure dog the kidney test got worse. i took that option n as one of the best vet in my country dr marga said there is no correct formula but finding that combination is best. i join the ranks of many whose dog is out of the woods in renal failure with the option to concemtrate on diet homeo hebal subq n probiotic with other homeo fot he enlarged heart. with this the death sentence never came true.
i took that option in my personal life tumeric n ginger.. n i am healed..no scientif data just experience.
Unfortunately, as compelling as such personal experiences are to those who have them, they aren’t a reliable guide to the way nature actually works or what will be effective or ineffective medical care. Here are many previous discussions of why this is the case (plus a humorous illustration):
Why Anecdotes Can’t Be Trusted
Following on from the Tramadol article I would find an overview of pain relief options for dogs extremely useful or direction to where I could find a science based look at the subject.
My context is a GSD bitch with arthritis already on Meloxicam, I don’t think her pain is under control, my vet recently added Pardale for a couple of weeks to see how she does and has suggested Tramadol and Gabapentin as other possibilities.
Thank you for providing so much useful information, it really is enormously helpful.
A review of pain control methods for arthritis is a great idea. I have actually collected a number of articles on this subject, but I haven’t updated it in a while, and much of it covers approaches that aren’t very well supported by evidence.
In general, the evidence for NSAIDs is by far the most persuasive, so these should always be the core of treatment if possible. Other analgesics have considerable less evidence to support them, and as you have seem tramadol is unlikely to be helpful. Evidence for other analgesics (gabapentin, amantidine) is pretty scant and inconclusive. Evidence for laser and physical therapy is also limited, so some potential there and little risk, but unclear how much it helps. Most of the supplements are also theoretical but unproven.
It might be a good idea to speak with a rehabilitation specialist. They do employ a lot of methods that haven’t been rigorously tested, but they can definitely give you some insight into evaluating comfort consistently, and they have options you can try.
Thank you (trying to make comment long enough to post …)
I’m new to this group so I’m not sure what initiated the first few paragraphs of this post. I will say that your advise and other input are invaluable. I have nothing but praise and respect for someone who takes the time to help these beautiful animals. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Why name is Edward Anzalone and I’m not afraid to discuss with, or take advice from, anyone with caring and love for animals.
Thank you for remaining faceless and not giving your personal information! I agree with your approach 100% and wish that our politicians would use the same approach. All I want are the facts; unfortunately, I don’t feel that your article gave any specific facts, but merely rebuked homeopathic veterinarian medicine. I will check the links that you provided, however, and, hopefully, they will provide actual scientific facts. The issue that I have with conventional medicine is that it seems to provide us with a lot of synthetic remedies/cures, basically pill-pushing, focusing on just the current issue without considering interrelated or correlating issues. I’ve never used holistic medicine, nor ever had a pet diagnosed with cancer until now, which is why I am researching before making a decision on which treatment(s) to go with. I would like to find a veterinarian who combines both conventional and holistic treatments; is that possible? On a side note, I think what Amirhossein is saying is that it’s more important to get factual and helpful information across to pet owners than it is to be right about them not needing a face or background information. My dog will not willingly take a pill unless it is cloaked in cheese. Even though the cheese is not necessary and does not change the facts or medicinal value, I cloak the pill in the cheese because I know that my dog will accept it that way, the same way that your readers will more willingly accept your information if it is cloaked with your face and background information. (-: Thanks again.
I just want to say “thank you.” Finding your blog fills me with relief – that I have someone to go to who uses critical thinking skills to produce relevant, science-based information about veterinary medicine. I too write a blog (about parrot behavior) and have similar goals for the material I produce. I found your blog because I am including a piece in my next newsletter about a product called Avicalm (L-theanine + maltodextrin) that is being hailed as the answer for every parrot behavior problem out there. Screw those critics. Rock on.
Thanks, much appreciated!
I love the power of barking cartoon. Very appropriate.
I just discovered you and I am so grateful, and relieved. This will make my own debunking so much easier, as I am not a vet, a doctor or scientist. So thank you for doing the hard work for me, and those like me who want the best scientific evidence for our pets. I seem to be under a constant barrage of suspicious “remedies” and concerns from quack-loving friends and neighbours.
FWIW, I learned something important from a quack-loving friend. What people like about “alternative” medicine is the surity with which diagnoses and remedies are given. A quack doctor/vet will tell you “ah, i can see from the colour in your eyes that your liver is out of alignment. Take these pills and it will clear up.” A medical doctor/vet will say, “Hmm, not sure. It could be one of these 3 things. We will have to do some tests. In the meantime try this for the symptoms, and if that doesn’t work we’ll look at other possibilities.” People HATE that. They hate uncertainty. It makes them think “Doctors don’t know anything.” They prefer the certainty of the quack doctor and the instant gratification of a “cure.”
I have two German Shepherds. Female is 14-1/2 yrs. Male 12-1/2. Female has had pannus and has arthritis, basically knees are shot.And has urinary incontinence. So she’s on three eye meds, quellin, and Proin. The male has degenerative myelopathy of the rear. Diagnosed a yr ago. He’s on gabapentin, tramidol, quellin. Plus we’ve been giving them both Extend Joint Care. My husband wanted to know if the Extend Care is worth continuing and if Nzymes is worth trying. Obviously we are trying to keep them both comfortable.
No reason to think Nzymes is worth anything. I don’t know what’s in the other, but my guess would be glucosamine and a hodgepodge of other supplements, and I’ve written about arthritis supplements HERE.
Hello Skeptvet, I hope you are doing well.
Is there any research about how quickly wet/can food can be digested verses commercial kibble? A dog trainer on a forum stated that kibble takes 14 to 18 hours to go through dogs and puppies while canned and raw only takes 5 hours.
Stay safe, Jena
This is untrue. There is research comparing digestibility between foods in different forms. Of course this is an oversimplification to begin with, since there are many factors that affect digestibility besides the form (canned fresh-cooked, raw, and extruded), so one could easily have some raw foods that are more digestible than some kibbles and some kibbles more digestible than fresh-cooked or raw foods, so the very question is a bit misleading. However, studies looking at precisely this issue, found no difference in digestibility-
Thanks for your fantastic blog! I came across it while reading up on calming probiotics for dogs, and am delighted to find a woo-free zone. 😀
I recently adopted a yorkiepoo with significant behavioral issues. We’re her fourth adoptive family (no kids, no other pets), and she bites! I’m sure she would have been euthanized by now if she were a larger animal, but she’s tiny, so she doesn’t do serious damage. She is fear reactive (extremely), resource aggressive, and riddled with separation anxiety. She seems to have had some pretty negative past experiences, based on the random things that set her off (the words “Come”, “No”, and “Outside”; people’s feet in the evening; men but not women in the evening). Our vet also said that she seemed to have probably missed out on necessary early socialization. She had a full physical and got a clean bill of health (and a needed dental cleaning), so her madness isn’t pain-related.
We’re making significant progress on the behavioral issues with counter-conditioning and force-free training methods. She’s improved a lot, but still has a looong way to go. I’d take her to vet behaviorist, but the ones in SoCal charge more for a one hour consult than I earn in a week. In conjunction with training and just generally creating a safe space for tinydog, we’ve been using a CBD product (PawCBD Calming Oil) to admittedly little effect, and have ordered some of the Calm probiotic supplement.
All of that said, I suspect that pharmaceutical intervention might be helpful for her (and for us to work with her more effectively), but couldn’t find anything on your site in regard to use of Prozac/other psychotropic medications in dogs. What’s your take? Thank you in advance for your thoughts, and sorry for the tl;dr!
Sound like you have quite a challenge there! Psychoactive medications can be useful in managing behavior problems, but the evidence for which drugs work for which problems in what types of patients is quite limited, so there is still a lot of trial and error involved. The advantage to a nutritionist is that they have a lot more of this kind of direct experience with he drugs. That said, any vet can discuss the basics of these medications and supervise their use. There is no single best choice or comprehensive summary of the available options, so the details are something you have to discuss with your vet.
Read your article on screen tests for pets. What is your take on the use of the antibody screen tests for tick diseases? Positive results in dogs that are currently asymptomatic and no known past history of clinical disease. Should the dog be treated or not without running additional tests like PCR for antigen, which are expensive? My experience is that many dogs have positive antibody titers for years but never clinical so what does the first positive screening test mean? There is now tend to treat with Doxycycline even if no disease as best to be safe. Many pet owners do not want to treat a dog that in their mind is not now nor never was sick. So what is the value of the testing for tick related disease in dogs that have no symptoms?
Of course, every case has to be judged individually, and the local prevalence of disease is an important factor. In my area, for example, tick-borne disease is very rare, so screening asymptomatic dogs would make no sense at all, and positive results would likely be errors and not warrant treatment. However, if you live in an area with a high prevalence of these diseases, the value of testing might be different.
Again in general, treating an antibody titer without clinical signs is rarely a good idea since the tea only indicates exposure, not clinical disease. Clinical symptoms or a confirmatory test like a PCR (which, again, would only make sense to run if there is reason to think the disease might be present) would be smarter than routine use of antibiotics. I trained in Pennsylvania, and nearly all dogs there have positive titers for Borrelia (Lyme disease). Most never get sick, but it was common for dogs to get doxycycline if they had a positive titer and any symptom at all that could even theoretically be due to Lyme disease. Some may have needed this treatment, but statistically many, many dogs received unnecessary medication for every dog that benefitted, so this isn’t a sound strategy.
Do you have any thoughts regarding niacinamide to control phosphorus in CKD cats?
Out of curiosity, do you ever use anything off-label for cats and/or that hasn’t been fully studied for their species? Because there are countless medications we aren’t “technically” supposed to use in them but do anyway because we have no other choices that have been scientifically studied and proven to work. So where do you draw the line of not relying on anecdotal evidence and extrapolation?
Of course, many of the therapies used in veterinary medicine are off-label and based on limited evidence. This means we have to make limited and provisional claims for them, which I certainly do. It doesn’t mean that any alternative proposed is equally likely to be as good or better, especially when the evidence for these is often much weaker than for those things we use routinely. The line is drawn on the basis of many factors, including
a. biologic plausibility (if it is likely to be impossible unless well-established understanding of nature is wrong, then it is unlikely to be true regardless of anecdotal evidence; e.g. homeopathy, reiki)
b. pathophysiologic rastionale
c. preclinical evidence
d. extrapolation from human clinical trial evidence
e. target species clinical trial evidence
Thank you for your effort and what you’re doing. It’s amazing. I read one of your articles on healthy mouth water additive and was very impressed by your thorough evaluation of ingredients and research methods. I can’t seem to find an EFFECTIVE and HEALTHY toothpaste for my dog. Even the VOHC recommended ones are skeptical. I currently have one toothpaste for my dog that has sorbitol as the first ingredient. I don’t think that’s good since it’s a sugar and I’m using more than a pea size every day. Do you recommend any toothpastes that are safe and effective? What about dog chew dental treats? And water additives? Please help! Thank you!!!
I am not aware of direct comparisons between toothpastes looking at how well each prevents dental disease, so I doubt you will find that kind of evidence. Most experts believe it is the mechanical act of brushing that does most of the good in brushing, and the toothpaste is more of an incentive for the dog than anything else. There is some evidence that some ingredients, like chlorhexidine, can reduce plaque, and that might improve the benefit, but overall if you’re brushing daily it probably doesn’t make a huge difference what toothpaste you use.
Most experts don’t believe the toothpaste makes much difference. It is the mechanical act of brushing that does the most to prevent periodontal disease. Some ingredients, such as chlorhexidine, can help prevent pique buildup, but my suspicion is that if you are brushing effectively, it doesn’t make much difference what toothpaste you use.
Sorry, I have a question. I’m dealing with a dog who has kidney disease and I have a question. You said you don’t really recommend homemade food but it’s the only kind my dog really likes to eat. I was thinking that I could use BalanceIt with the kidney option selected, would that be fine or do I need to look for a way to force my dog to eat the renal food (Royal Canin wet/dry food at the moment)? I’m not sure which would be ultimately better for my dog, but I know Royal Canin has a lot of vets working on developing their kibble as opposed to a single person figuring things out from their own kitchen. At the same time he really prefers homemade and that’s the only thing that gets him to clean his plate completely. What would you recommend that would keep him going personally?
Homemade food is fine so long as it is balanced and complete and formulated for the needs of the individual dog. the best way to ensure this is a consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. Balanceit, pettiest.com, and several other sites can do this for you, and you can also check with your local veterinary college nutrition service.
I have been struggling for the past year to gather impartial health and nutrition information about my 14th-month golden male. I have never found a field of knowledge more difficult to navigate than canine nutrition. I believe this field is overwhelmed with industry lobbying and market influences on all sides.
Like most pet owners my education is not in the veterinarian sciences, so even when I encounter pure unadulterated facts I cannot properly contextualize them within a three-dimensional understanding. I find it so unfair to prey on pet owners, whether it be the traditional (Aratana Therapeutical/ Nestlé/Hills & Royal Canin) lobby with is powerful influence on veterinarians and university research or the new wild fire of anti-traditional ideologies promoting their alternative product lines. My strategy has been to apply academic standards I learned at school and imposed on my students. I have confined my research exclusively to independent studies in veterinarian journals but as I said earlier cannot always contextualize what I am reading. I bought The Forever Dog book because of its emphasis on science, I thought it would offer me a condensed bibliography or pertinent studies. So when I opened the book and read in the authors’ notes that the references were not included in the book because they were far too numerous (references which I was able to copy into a word file of 2½ pages), and in an effort to save trees were published online, I was dismayed. There is no question that the given references are to legitimate science, the question is how that legitimate science relates to the facts affirmed in the book. Without citing references in context (at least to the layman such as myself) any outlandish and unfounded affirmation cannot be distinguished from fact based statements.
I am grateful that the law requires researchers to disclose any conflict of interest within the published study, unfortunately there is no such law for websites and blogs. I found this site this morning. Mr. McKenzie in the video “who is the skepvet” you make exactly the kinds of sounds I want to hear to be able to trust the impartiality of the information contained on your site, especially in the statement that the information you provide is just more material that needs to be processed through our own research and fact verification process.
I don’t want to go into a lengthy discussion about my struggles with trying to figure out what is the best food to feed my dogs but I think this is going to be long anyway because it usually is. I am so stressed and frustrated at this point and I feel that I am in no better spot now in this vicious cycle of dog food researching than I was when I started years & years ago. I don’t know who to trust anymore. I have 3 small dogs, two of them are teddy bear dogs (Shih Tzu / Bichon Frise mix) who are 12 & 14 years old, and then I have a rescue dog who is exactly half West Highland Terrier & Brussel Griffon mix according to Embark DNA testing and he is 10 yrs. My dogs are currently eating kibble that they are not overly excited about. I am feeding the two teddy bear dogs (Cooper 14yrs & Charlie 12yrs) Carna4 venison diet. And my other dog (Otis 10yrs) who was also eating Carna4 has just been put on Hills Prescription Diet for skin/food sensitivities by my vet. I hate Hills, Royal Canin, and Purina because it’s always the 3 same dog foods in most vet’s offices and it makes me question the whole story behind these three major dog food companies. First of all, what makes Hills a prescription food that can only be obtained through a vet? The first ingredient listed on the bag is corn starch, that doesn’t sound healthy to me. Otis doesn’t even like the food. I have had Otis for 9 years and he suddenly developed bad skin allergies last summer right after he received emergency treatment for eating a mushroom from my yard. This is the third time that Otis has eaten one of those teeny tiny mushrooms that I missed during my daily mushroom check. For some reason this time his paws were swollen after I picked him up from his day long stay of emergency treatment. His paws remained swollen after we got home and he started licking them nonstop which led to the fur coming off his paws. He also developed crusty skin under his chin and around his watery eyes. Over the last year I have brought him to the vet three times for this problem. They have since given him an injection of Cytopoint on two different occasions, Hydroxyzine HCL tablets, Clindamycin HCI capsules two different times, Dasuquin Adv Dog Soft Chews due to his back legs (knees being out of place), and Meloxidl for his back legs. I don’t know why he developed these allergies. Nothing has changed in my home. I have all hard wood floors that I clean with white vinegar & water. I don’t use any chemicles, harsh cleaners, deodorizer sprays or plug ins, I don’t burn candles or use diffusers, I don’ wear any perfumes, I haven’t changed laundry soaps that I wash all the dog beds / blankets with. We are non-smokers. I clean houses for a living so my house is always clean as well. The only changes in the last year were that Otis ate a mushroom and received treatment, the dogs got new collars with metal id tags, and my dogs started eating Carna4 food (they tried the lamb, fish, and now venison) and a little bit of Answers Raw food which I only tried a few times and have since quit doing. I never tried raw food on my dogs before until this last year, my dogs actually loved it the most out of all their food they have tried but it was super expensive and I wasn’t sure about raw diets so I no longer do it. I feed my dogs from stainless steel bowls, maybe porcelain would be a better option, I don’t know? I would so appreciate it if you could just give me some advice/suggestions. If you tell me to just get a good quality kibble, PLEASE tell me specifically which one(s) to try because I am going to lose my mind if I have to spend countless hours, days, months, and years researching dog food. I will still look into any suggestions that you have to offer but at least I feel like I will have an expert opinion and that would be so helpful. Thank you for your time.
I’m sorry that you are having to struggle with this so much. I can’t, of course, offer advice for individual pets online, so all I can do is make some general comments that hopefully will be useful.
1. There is no perfect food, and not everything that happens, good or bad, is because of the diet, so you will never find the “right” food. Many different kinds and brands of food can support a healthy happy life, and I think most people put too much energy into thinking that a specific brand or type of food will have dramatic effects on their pets’ health. Good nutrition is important, of course, but food is not medicine, and it is neither the cause nor the solution to most health problems, just one of many factors. Sometimes, acknowledging this takes away some of the pressure and anxiety.
2. Ingredients lists are not a good way to evaluate the nutritional quality or health effects of a diet. Hill’s Z/D, for example, is intended to be used in a formal elimination diet trial to rule out food as a trigger for certain kinds of allergies. It is neither terrible nor magical, it is simply a tool for helping to figure out if food is part of the reason for allergic symptoms. Be sure and talk to your vet about how a diet trial works and how you are going to carry it out- what can you feed, how will you know if it is working or not, when will you stop, etc.
3. “First of all, what makes Hills a prescription food that can only be obtained through a vet?”
Therapeutic diets are intended for specific medical situations- treating kidney disease, ruling out food allergies, etc. They aren’t available without veterinary supervision because they aren’t appropriate for all pets and so can’t be freely available for anyone to feed as they choose. Again, not magical or terrible, just tools for specific situations.
If you don’t feel like your vet is giving you good communication or effective help with your dog’s skin issues, it might be worth trying to find a board-certified veterinary dermatologist. They are not always available or affordable, but they do only treat skin problems, so they have the best chance of finding you a solution when the basic things already one haven’t worked. In my experience, though, communication and expectations are more of a problem than the actual treatments used. Many skin problems are chronic and recurrent even with the best management, so rather than looking for the cause (there may be many) or the cure (there may not be one), we focus on management and quality of life, and that is often the best choice for the dog and the human caregivers.
I have seen thousands of dogs living great lives in good health on hundreds of different diets, so I don’t think the emphasis sometimes put on finding the “right” food is really appropriate, and I think it leads to exactly the kind of frustration you are experiencing.