Respectful Insolence

It’s been a pretty good week on the ol’ blog here, with lots of good material to draw from, finishing up yesterday with my expression of disdain for the choice of Bill Maher for the Richard Dawkins Award. I expected some blowback for my criticism, and I got some. However, I was surprised at how mild it was, at least from the one person I expected to defend the decision, P.Z. Myers. Quite frankly, his defense of the decision to select Bill Maher struck me as enormously half-hearted, in essence saying, “Sure he’s a wingnut, but he’s our wingnut, and, oh, by the way, all that quackery he supports has nothing to do with the award anyway because he made a movie atheists like. So stop harshing our buzz at getting to have a real celebrity well known in the mainstream address the convention.” It wasn’t really worth a whole post to respond to (just one an aside in one of my characteristically long-winded non sequiturs of an introduction), because P.Z. struck me as being rather embarrassed at having to defend the choice of Maher. That such a tepid defense of the choice of Maher was the best that P.Z. could come up with told me pretty much all I need to know about how crappy the choice of Maher was.

Thus endeth the non-related introduction to this post.

Besides, I realized that I hadn’t done Your Friday Dose of Woo in over a month, and I needed a fix.

So searching through my infamous Folder of Woo, along with some more recent candidates for a a discussion, I noticed that a lot of them were fairly old. I guess that’s what I get for farting around so much about doing YFDoW on such an irregular basis. I noticed one thing fairly quickly. I’ve been doing this little flight of fancy for three years now, less frequently in the last year, and I don’t think that I’ve ever found any really good woo for pets. Oh, sure, I’ve found the occasional pet acupuncture site, but they’ve never been anything all that woo-ey. Ditto the occasional pet herbal remedy site. But then, I hadn’t really looked–until now.

Meet the Paw Healer, which bills itself as “natural paw healing with Chinese herbals.”

The very first page I found on this site (don’t ask me how I ended up there) is one for treating “Hind Leg Weakness.” Now I’m not a veterinarian, but I know that in a dog hind leg weakness can be a sign of all sorts of nasty things, in particular hip dysplasia. Weakness and favoring one hind leg was the first sign in our beloved Echo of the cancer that ultimately killed her. So I know not to blow off this sort of symptom in a pet. What does Paw Healer have to say?

This:

Although modern medicine really doesn’t really have a name for this type of weakness, Traditional Chinese medicine surly does and it’s called “Wilting” (wei syndrome). Here’s the official definition:

“Weakness and limpness of the sinews that in severe cases prevents the lifting of the legs” (Practical Dictionary of CHINESE MEDICINE; Weiseman & Feng)

But what, you may ask, is the cause of wei syndrome? Glad you asked. Obviously, this being traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), it has to do with qi and woo, woo and qi, and…well, whatever:

  • Soddening by damp heat: Hind leg weakness that is mostly caused by diet taxation. Because as a result of a lifetime of bad food there’s an accumulation of systemic dampness that’s transforming to heat (damp heat). This pattern will present by your dog seemingly to run hot most of the time, seeks out cool places, perhaps has bad breath, very yellow urine, constipation, ear discharges, eye discharges, a greasy coat, etc.
  • Spleen-stomach vacuity: Hind leg weakness that has been gradually worsening and along with this weakness there has been profound fatigue, stools maybe loose, and your pet may just seem to not be “with it”, and there may be a diminishing appetite.
  • Liver-kidney depletion: Along with hind leg weakness, there maybe also problems with pain of the lower back, loss of hearing, some type of incontinence and this pattern seems to present with mostly older dogs.
  • Lung heat damage to liquid: Hind leg weakness that occurred during or after an an illness and along with it and you will see some coughing, dryness of the throat, restlessness, maybe constipation etc. (the least common of the four patterns)

You know, I’ve often wondered: Just how did the ancient Chinese work all this out? Science? It sure doesn’t seem so. One of these did catch my eye, though, namely the damp heat. This is a recurring theme on this website. It’s “damp heat” this and “damp heat” that. How a lifetime of bad food results in an accumulation of systemic dampness (whatever that means), I have no idea. Of course, no one recognizes his or her dog in a description of running hot and seeking out cool places, all the while having bad breath, very yellow urine, ear discharges, and eye discharges. No one’s older dog just gets those sorts of things as a consequence of aging, does he? Perish the thought!

But that woo above was fairly obvious. One woo I didn’t expect was subjecting pets to Live Cell Therapy. But, hey, if it’s woo enough for humans, I guess it’s woo enough for pets. Or so says Dr. Russell Swift, DVM, Classical Homeopath (don’t tell me they’re subjecting pets to homeopathy!):

There are many reasons why fresh, natural foods are superior to processed pet foods. Processed foods (canned, dry, etc.) contain ingredients that are unnatural for pets. Common ingredients are grains and soy products. These are not found in a carnivore’s natural diet. It is my opinion that high complex carbohydrate levels are incompatible with carnivore physiology.

The wild relatives of dogs and cats (wolves, tigers, etc.) eat other animals. It is logical that domestic dogs and cat should eat a similar diet. Despite breeding and domestication, they are not very different physiologically from their wild counterparts.

So what’s his answer? To feed dogs and cats raw thymus, spleen and bone marrow concentrates; raw kidney and heart concentrates; raw thyroid, adrenal, thymus, pituitary, spleen and kelp; liquid, ionic trace mineral solution; and a whole lot of other supplements. But get this. These aren’t even the organs, which a typical dog or cat would probably love to scarf down. They’re concentrates. That means they’re either freeze-dried, powdered, or in some other way mashed into a “concentrated form.” The animals don’t even get their hunger sated.

But wait. Surely you must be asking, “Where’s the qi?” Patience, faithful readers. You know it’s coming, and here it is:

What is an immune system actually?

Since this is a site dedicated to healing and supporting our pets natural resources while using Chinese herbs, it is most appropriate that we provide the definition of what Chinese medicine considers to be the “immune system”;

Defense qi (wei qi): A qi described as being “fierce, bold, and uninhabited,” unable to be contained by the vessels and therefore flowing outside them. In the chest and abdomen it warms the organs, whereas in the exterior it flows through the skin and flesh, regulates the opening and closing of the interstices (i.e., the sweat glands ducts), and keeps the skin lustrous and healthy, thereby protecting the fleshy exterior and preventing the invasion of external evils. The Magic Pivot states, “defense qi warms the flesh and flushes the skin; it keeps the interstices replenished and controls their opening and closing.”. If the defense qi (energy) is in harmony, the skin is supple and the interstices are kept tight and sound.

Silly me. I thought the immune system was made up of a complex network of cells, including lymphocytes, macrophages, and monocytes, all regulated by a complex system of signaling molecules consisting of cytokines, hormones, and other peptide signaling molecules.

But that’s just me, the evil Western reductionist scientist. I want to keep the antiaging medicine from your pet because…well, I’m just evil.

Naturally, there are two things on this site that show it to be woo. First, it includes an online questionnaire that you can fill out and find out exactly what Chinese herbs your dog supposedly needs. I tried filling it out, but at the end it asked for too much information about my dog and me (like my phone number; I don’t relish the thought of a woo-meister calling me at my home). There’s one option that it did ask that I could honestly answer with a resounding “yes!” That’s basically, “Does your dog fart a lot?”

Why, yes. Yes he does. But we love him anyway.

The second thing the website says is this:

The products offered on this web site are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate or prevent any disease.

The information and statements presented on this site have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The use of herbs and essential oil for the prevention, treatment, mitigation or cure of disease has not been approved by the FDA or USDA. We therefore make no claims to this effect.

We are not veterinarians or doctors. The information on this site is based on the traditional and historic use of herbs as well as personal experience and is provided for general reference and educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or promote any direct or implied health claims. This information is and products are not intended to replace professional veterinary and/or medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your vet and/or doctor. We present the products on this site and the information supplied here without guarantees, and we disclaim all liability in connection with the use of these products and/or information. Any person making the decision to act upon this information is responsible for investigating and understanding the effects of their own actions.

I never thought I’d see it, but that sure looks like a Quack Miranda warning–for dogs!

Hey, as I said before, if the woo is good enough for humans, it should be good enough for dogs, cats, and other pets.

Comments

  1. #1 Becca Stareyes
    July 24, 2009

    So, we’re not supposed to feed our dogs ‘processed food’ or things they wouldn’t eat in the wild, but we should feed them concentrates and kelp. Okay, yeah. (For that matter, I’ve had at least two cats who loved corn muffins, one who will practically maul you for a piece of French bread, and one who would eat anything dry and crunchy from a plastic bowl, even if it was something for a human, like cereal or pretzels. Someone tell them that they’re carnivores and shouldn’t be eating grains.)

    (I’ve heard of homemade pet food, and it seems like most vets I’ve spoken to are opinionated on which brands of pet food are worth feeding to animals. But that at least has some logic — the homemade folks seem to like controlling what their animals eat*, and I’d assume a vet would at least know what some of the stuff on the labels mean.)

    * It was around the type of the Chinese pet food scare that I read this.

  2. #2 ceridwen
    July 24, 2009

    It’s good to see something on woo directed to pets. I saw a fair bit of woo when I was active in the horse world as a kid. I started hearing a lot more about it again recently when I worked as a pet-food rep and spent time in a lot of independent pet stores. The people there would frequently tell me I needed to treat my cat’s asthma with herbs instead of steroids (nevermind that he had life-threatening attacks 10+ times per day when off his meds). Most of the time it seems like people just add stupid useless stuff in addition to getting their animal real treatment, sometimes it’s much worse though.

    I have a friend whose childhood dog developed a tick-borne illness last year. The dog was still living with her parents, who dutifully took the dog in to the vet when it started limping and acting lethargic and got the diagnosis of erlichiosis. The vet gave them the appropriate treatment (a month of antibiotics) and stressed that even though the dog would appear much better within the week, it was very important that they give the entire course of antibiotics.

    They didn’t.

    When the dog stopped limping and acting tired they stopped the treatment. When her symptoms relapsed they returned to the vet, but lied and told him they were still giving the antibiotics. The vet, thinking the dog was still on the antibiotics and thus suffering from immune-mediated arthritis (a relatively common complication of this disease and I understand it), gave them corticosteroids. The symptoms did not respond much to the steroids and the dog suffered from some side effects.

    At this point, her parents went off the deep end. Rather than going back to the vet and explaining that they had stopped the antibiotics early and the steroids weren’t working, they concluded that the “western medicine” vet was not able to help the dog and started going to an alt med vet.

    The alt med vet (whose site I wish I could find now because it’s got some pretty crazy woo) told them it was all related to a food allergy and too many vaccines! She gave them hundreds of dollars in herbal supplements that were supposed to clean out “toxins” introduced through vaccination and then subjected the dog to weekly ozone therapy. This included ozone administered rectally and straight into the dogs lungs.

    It took months for my friend to convince her parents to take the dog back to a real vet. Unfortunately by that time too much damage had been done, and the dog ultimately had to be put to sleep.

    The parents are certainly ultimately at fault in the whole situation, but I can’t help but feel pissed off at the alt med “vet” who continually convinced them to dump hundreds of dollars into bogus treatments and told them that it was the evil “western medicine” that was poisoning their dog.

  3. #3 BGT
    July 24, 2009

    Orac, there is homeopathy for dogs, and there is some company running adds on TV for it. I can’t remember the name of the product, but it allegedly helps older dogs with their arthritis. When I see the ad, I just get pissed and flip the channel.

  4. #4 Rita
    July 24, 2009

    Just responded to a horse forum question asking which “alternatives” people favour – this stuff is becoming incredibly widespread. But There is Skepvet blog, The British Veterinary Voodoo Society webpage and David Ramey’s “Veterinary CAM Considered” to help with keeping one’s head when all around……..
    The big laugh is that TCM uses animal parts, so does Homeopathy. At least in England, a qualified vet must supervise “alternative” treatments, which are otherwise illegal. However, only too many vets, like human doctors, “go with the flow” on this stuff and recommend – or practise themselves (!)acpuncture etc etc etc.
    Like the wretched raw food diets mentioned here, all these endeavours prioritise some animals over other (helpless) ones. Humans can’t think straight – let alone ethically – over their use of other species – how are they going to straighten out their mental processes when it comes to woo?
    Mental rigour needs a lot of practice, and favouring interests doesn’t help.

  5. #5 DVMKurmes
    July 24, 2009

    Ceridwen, I have seen similar stories to yours several times. Unfortunately, the alt med vet was probably actually a licensed vet. Because of the veterinary practice laws in most states and the UK, anyone treating an animal not their own can be prosecuted for practicing without a license. This leaves veterinarians with a bit of a monopoly that some unfortunately use to practice woo. In my town, based on a quick survey of the yellow pages, 30% of the veterinarians do some sort of woo-the most common being acupuncture and chinese herbs, but also chiropractic. In my opinion, this is the dirty secret of my profession, and something that could (and probably should) be a huge scandal at some point. Of course, there are the pet psychics, etc that are not veterinarians, but I suspect that most of the people practicing quackery on animals are licensed, trained veterinarians who ought to know better.

  6. #6 Calli Arcale
    July 24, 2009

    Orac, there is homeopathy for dogs, and there is some company running adds on TV for it. I can’t remember the name of the product, but it allegedly helps older dogs with their arthritis. When I see the ad, I just get pissed and flip the channel.

    I wanna see the provings. :-D In fact, the next time I run into an alt-vet-med type, if they mention homeopathy, I’m gonna ask if the substance was “proven” in dogs or just in humans, since toxins definitely have different effects on dogs. Oh, and how they get all the mood and dream stuff in a proving when they’re testing it on a dog.

    Irks me to see the claim that “western” vets don’t even have a name for hind leg weakness, and therefore don’t understand it. Yes they do! They call it “hind leg weakness”, in either English or Latin, while the “traditional” Chinese vets call it something similar in Chinese. These people really cheese me off sometimes.

    I bet they think they’re treating the “cause” while Western vets are just treating the symptom since the western vets insist on not considering hind leg weakness to be a disease. (It’s not a disease. It’s a symptom, and the Western vet generally won’t treat it until they know what the disease is, because they can’t treat it until they know that.)

    The “heart dampness” thing is stupid, but hauntingly familiar in one respect. My parents old dog, a crotchety (and very large) standard poodle, developed some hind leg weakness. At first, there was concern of injury or hip dysplasia. (He was 80 lbs and not at all fat; an unusually tall poodle, so big he violated the breed standard. And some of his siblings were even bigger! Giant poodles.) But lots of x-rays ruled out skeletal issues with the hips, and legs. Eventually they started thinking he might have a slipped disk or something, causing nerve damage (which of course can also cause hind leg weakness), but that wasn’t it either. Eventually, it was just chalked up to him being an old fart — but he was only eight.

    Meanwhile, although the leg weakness didn’t get any worse, he started to act much more tired. Reluctant to go for walks. Not so exuberant on greeting people. (Poodles are very exuberant, so you can tell when they’re down.) He was acting like he was twice his age.

    An ultrasound revealed problems with circulation in his descending aorta, and that started to point towards the real problem. They tried a number of different drugs to help with that, but none made any difference. Finally they did some ultrasound scans of the heart itself and found the real culprit: a benign tumor in the aortic arch. It was inoperable; you couldn’t remove it and sew it back up without him bleeding to death. In a human, you might use a heart-lung machine, but the use of such a device is controversial in dogs for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the fact that the machine is made for humans and dogs don’t seem to do as well on it.

    So the treatment of his case turned to palliation. He didn’t seem to be in much pain; he was just very tired all the time. Drugs normally given to dogs with congestive heart failure were ineffective, although his symptoms were starting to resemble congestive heart failure. The obstruction in his aorta was just preventing his blood from getting around his body efficiently. Within a year of the diagnosis, he was dead. TCM would’ve done absolutely zip-doodle for him.

    So problems with the heart can definitely have their first symptom be hind leg weakness. Practically every canine illness can have that be its first symptom; it seems to be the canine equivalent of lower back pain in humans — an extremely common complaint that is often difficult to treat and can mean a ton of different things, which of course also makes it a very easy target for quacks.

  7. #7 Squillo
    July 24, 2009

    Why does so much woo invoke the “Ancient Chinese Secret”?

  8. #8 ceridwen
    July 24, 2009

    DVMKurmes: I actually know for sure that it was a licensed vet. I put vet in quotations near the end because I feel that she had gone so far into woo (to the point of discouraging them from using any real medicine and doing alternative practices that were quite dangerous to the dog) that she should no longer be considered a vet.

    I hold vets in very high regard (I wanted to be one until halfway through college when I started research in evolutionary biology) but I find it incredible how many of them have started to get into this kind of stuff. I absolutely will not see a vet that does integrative/alternative medicine.

    One thing that gave me a little bit of heart was that the group I joined when I found out my cat had asthma was very good about telling new people who joined that they were risking their animals life if they chose to pursue alternative treatments. So many of the pet-related groups and forums out there now are completely on board with woo.

  9. #9 James Sweet
    July 24, 2009

    I’d just point out that in the very first sentence of PZ’s post, he characterized you as being “quite rightly appalled” about the choice of Maher. So, uh, yeah… I think he’s making it pretty clear he’s not crazy about defending the choice. Is it really any surprise?

  10. #10 James Sweet
    July 24, 2009

    Okay, so, there’s actually a really huge problem with this statement:

    There are many reasons why fresh, natural foods are superior to processed pet foods. Processed foods (canned, dry, etc.) contain ingredients that are unnatural for pets. Common ingredients are grains and soy products. These are not found in a carnivore’s natural diet. It is my opinion that high complex carbohydrate levels are incompatible with carnivore physiology.

    Au contraire! I’m not going to defend processed pet foods, many of which are complete crap, but to say that dogs shouldn’t have grains is totally wrong. Actually, dogs’ ancestors in the wild got a non-trivial amount of veggies&grains from eating the stomach contents of their prey. In fact, that’s the primary difference between dog food and cat food: Dog food contains significantly more grain and other veggies, because dogs have a dietary need for that stuff.

    (What he says is basically true, with cats, though, the ideal diet for cats is 100% carnivorous, and the grain in cat food really is just filler)

  11. #11 Shay
    July 24, 2009

    Funny how the “Ancient Chinese Medicine” advocates all seem to be waiguoren.

    Sort of like those not-quite-American Indian Shamans, I guess.

  12. #12 LovleAnjel
    July 24, 2009

    Woo is not restricted to larger mammals! I was in the American Gerbil Society for quite a few years, and whenever any health or behavioral problem came up, many people would use or tell others to use homeopathic plant extracts to calm gerbils down and help them heal quicker. You were supposed to put 2-3 drops of the stuff in their water dispenser every day for several weeks. A small bottle of the extracts cost about $20. Certainly cheaper than a qualified vet, but more expensive than just letting the problem resolve on its own (as you can imagine, most would– gerbils heal very quickly, a broken leg will be good as new in 2-4 weeks).

  13. #13 Ramel
    July 24, 2009

    I love the description of Defense qi (wei qi)as uninhabited, and the line “Traditional Chinese medicine surly does” alt med with attitude!

  14. #14 WakeUp
    July 24, 2009

    Orac – “You know, I’ve often wondered: Just how did the ancient Chinese work all this out?”

    Orac? You are completely hopeless.

    The Chinese figured it out by examining their own bodies from the inside with their minds. They did not use machines to investigate their bodies from the outside.

    Why are scientists so stupid? Why would they use a machine to investigate the body when they can use their mind?

  15. #15 Pablo
    July 24, 2009

    The Chinese figured it out by examining their own bodies from the inside with their minds.

    Let me interpret: They made it up.

    Thank you, though, WakeUp. I tend to lead an insulated life. I interact with highly educated and smart people in my daily activities, and tend to gravitate toward internet sites like the same. It is useful to have someone like you around to remind me that there are still some really stupid and clueless people around.

  16. #16 Travis
    July 24, 2009

    PZ’s response struck me as a valid and plausible one to make for Maher getting this award, but a very weak one. I was not too pleased to hear he was getting the award but thought about the same reasoning.
    Well, I guess he is getting the award no matter what but I do hope people do not just pat him on the back, I want to know that people ripped into him for his silliness.

  17. #17 KristinMH
    July 24, 2009

    Is WakeUp “Happeh” in disguise?????

  18. #18 whamo
    July 24, 2009

    I have a cat that is bonkers for lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, all fruits but citrus, all grain products (she’ll eat plain flour) and is passionate about chocolate, which she only gets through her own covert machinations. Yet you can pretty well leave cooked or raw meat in front of her and she’ll ignore it.

    She probably needs some spinal manipulations -clearly her innate intelligence is blocked.

  19. #19 Noadi
    July 24, 2009

    Last weekend I was with friend and her husband at a cookout thrown by her parents. I was talking to them about my dog and how I’d had to give him double his usual arthritis meds because he’d been playing outside and slipped on wet grass. This lady how I guess is a neighbor butted in talking about how I shouldn’t give those meds to my dog and that homeopathy is the best treatment.

    It took a lot of self control to tell her no thanks and not completely tear her apart over it. I wasn’t going to cause trouble at someone else’s home, it’s disrespectful when they weren’t the ones spouting woo at me.

  20. #20 jj
    July 24, 2009

    What he says is basically true, with cats, though, the ideal diet for cats is 100% carnivorous, and the grain in cat food really is just filler

    Not entirely true, cat’s do eat a very small amount of vegetation, normally in the form of grasses. My cat eats plenty of grass (and Catnip!), and you can buy a little carton of living ‘cat grass’ (why you’d buy this I don’t know, maybe for an indoor cat?) Anyway, it’s for fiber/digestion and as you said, should not make up a real percentage of the diet.

  21. #21 jj
    July 24, 2009

    I have a cat that is bonkers for lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, all fruits but citrus, all grain products (she’ll eat plain flour)

    My old cat used to love corn, if we had it with dinner he’d just sit and stare at you till you gave him some. I think he learned this from eating creamed corn on Thanksgiving, we’d catch him eating it off people plates. Then there’s honey nut cheerios, they are the only one’s he’d eat, but i think he got that from drinking my milk after breakfast when he was a kitten (and I’d always eat honey nut cheerios). Then there was his weird obsession with trying to lick glossy photos, and once he was caught licking a gel-cap pill (Advil liquid gels, I believe). But the cat won’t eat raw meat (will eat fish and lunch meat).

  22. #22 Scott
    July 24, 2009

    you can buy a little carton of living ‘cat grass’ (why you’d buy this I don’t know, maybe for an indoor cat?)

    It has a similar effect to catnip.

    And speaking of that, interesting fact – catnip is VERY easy to grow in large quantities. If you have a feline friend, it’s worth looking into even if you don’t normally have green thumb. Our two Meezers LOVE what I affectionately call “my front-yard drug operation.”

  23. #23 Matthew Cline
    July 24, 2009

    From the “Glossary of Traditional Chinese Medicine Terms”:

    Heat: An external or internal “climatic” imbalance or ailment characterized by fever, aversion to heat, overactivity, constipation, dehydration, sparse dark urination, and insomnia. Heat can also progress and penetrate to the interior of the body and frequently combines with damp to create internal heat-damp imbalances. Heat is Yang in character.

    From a page on “damp heat”:

    Now, when we talk about heat, we’re talking about what Western medicine would call an infection. … You may have symptoms of heat, which I’m calling an infection, even though there is no indication according to Western tests that there is a problem. That is okay. Heat is heat. I’m just calling it an infection for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the concept of heat in the intestines or stomach.

    Hmmm. Still can’t find a definition on “systemic dampness”.

    If you have indications of heat in your system I don’t suggest that you go running off to get some antibiotics unless, as I must mentioned, the water loss is becoming a health hazard in and of itself. Antibiotics can kill the infection or get rid of the heat but because they are so cold in nature they can end up killing the other bacteria in your intestines that help you digest your food and that would aggravate the dampness.

    So… bacteria are “hot”, so anything that kills bacteria is “cold”? Does that make bleach “cold”? Bleach can kill pretty much any living cells. Are animal cells “hot”?

    From “WakeUp”:

    The Chinese figured it out by examining their own bodies from the inside with their minds. They did not use machines to investigate their bodies from the outside.

    Why are scientists so stupid? Why would they use a machine to investigate the body when they can use their mind?

    Heyah, Happeh! How ya doin?

  24. #24 James Sweet
    July 24, 2009

    @KristinMH: I had the same thought. The “Why are scientists so stupid?” line is classic H*ppeh.

  25. #25 Ktesibios
    July 24, 2009

    @ James Sweet-A couple of years ago one of my cats became so constipated that she was unable to defecate- she actually had a stool stuck part-way out that she was unable to pass.

    The vet gave her an enema and kept her for a few hours so that she wouldn’t crap all over my home and told me that if the problem recurred we would want to put her on a higher-fiber diet. I said that it seemed a bit odd to be talking about dietary fiber for an obligate carnivore and he explained that in the wild felids got an adequate supply of it by eating the gut contents of prey.

    She’s been fine since; increasing the proportion of gooshyfood in her diet has been helpful. Perhaps the moister diet helps to keep things moving through.

  26. #26 jj
    July 24, 2009

    If you have a feline friend, it’s worth looking into even if you don’t normally have green thumb

    Yeah, I’ve grown catnip in the past. Since I always planted in ground, it was pretty hard to keep it alive. Not that I had trouble growing it,more that my cat and his little neighbor buddies (or rivalries) would roll around and eat it to death. I guess using a pot and keeping it out of reach would probably remedy. Cats go way crazy over the fresh stuff compared to the stuff you get at the store.

  27. #27 Coyote
    July 24, 2009

    Sheesh, woomeisters seem to think that the world works like seventies tunes..

    “It’s an ancient Chinese art, and everybody knew their part..”

  28. #28 James Sweet
    July 24, 2009

    Thanks for the correction from various folks that cats actually do need a small amount of dietary fiber as well. I think I sorta knew that, but wasn’t really thinking about it. (I feed my cat(*) ordinary cat food out of a bag, so I don’t think about it in that much detail)

    My basic point remains, though: This woomeister saying that dogs’ wild ancestors never consumed any complex carbohydrates is just wrong.

    (*) Ooof… One of my cats passed away suddenly and mysteriously a couple weeks ago. I had typed “I feed my cats” at first, then realized after typing it that the plural wasn’t accurate anymore. Damn, that hurt.

  29. #29 Scott
    July 24, 2009

    Since I always planted in ground, it was pretty hard to keep it alive. Not that I had trouble growing it,more that my cat and his little neighbor buddies (or rivalries) would roll around and eat it to death.

    Our cats stay indoors, and while there’s a neighborhood cat who roams about he doesn’t seem to appreciate the stuff. So I haven’t had a problem. (Lucky, perhaps, though the fence may contribute too.)

  30. #30 Travis
    July 24, 2009

    James, I had three cats for many, many years and they all died within a short period of time (all old, 18-20 years) but because at the time they died I was living on the other side of the country I find it still strikes me as a group of events that did not happen. Pehaps because I was a little detached from the reality of their deaths I still find myself talking about “my cats” only to realise they are no longer living. A realization that always hurts a bit.

  31. #31 SimonG
    July 24, 2009

    Loads of the woo freaks raise objections to the use of animal testing in real medical research, as humans and test animals are supposedly too different. So why would they recommend using human woo on animals?

    And I’m pretty sure that the ancient Chinese treatment for ailing animals would involve a wok.

  32. #32 skepticalbunny
    July 24, 2009

    @BGT: The homeopathic spray for dogs you’re thinking of is, I believe, “Dr. Frank’s Joint Pain Relief for Dogs and Cats”. Whenever I see the commercial, I start to growl. It really irritates me.

  33. #33 Kate from Iowa
    July 24, 2009

    Um…to anyone planning on planting catnip, not only are some pets immune to it (so check your cat’s reactin first) but other critters like the stuff to.

    The most entertaining night of my life was when my next door neighbor ran into a skunk in her backyard catnip patch when I was a kid…

  34. #34 anna
    July 24, 2009

    There’s “T-Touch” (Tellington Touch) for pets being touted at the vet/vet tech conferences & many animal related events.
    It’s so good! So magical! These Special Movements you make on the pet’s body are so calming and magically healing. Um, isn’t that what most people call petting the pet? It’s complete nonsense. The Bach flower remedies are also alarmingly popular amongst flaky pet owners. “Rescue Remedy” anyone?

  35. #35 Jess
    July 24, 2009

    I have dogs. The pet world is rife with woo. There’s enough material to keep Orac occupied for at least a months worth of YFDoW. Beyond the endless debates on diet (dogs are really just wolves, doncha know, and feeding your dog kibble will give him cancer, diabetes, and yeast infections) we even have very vocal antivaxxers that believe it is better for a pup to die from Parvo than be vaccinated for it.

  36. #36 tim gueguen
    July 24, 2009

    I regularly thumb through Cat Fancy magazine in the library so I can get my vicarious cat fix. Both the editorial content and the ads carry cat related woo regularly.

  37. #37 Travis
    July 24, 2009

    I get my cat fix by playing with almost any cat I bump into, usually on someone’s front lawn or step. I never read the magazines so I do not know what woo exists in them but sometimes the owners come out while I am getting my fix and we talk and they are often fairly woo filled.

  38. #38 Rahne Everson
    July 24, 2009

    “systemic dampness” sounds like the dog needs radiator installed. Since he’s running hot all the time ya know. Then maybe drinking all those homeopathy remedies might actually work.

  39. #39 Ramel
    July 24, 2009

    Still not getting my head around why damp heat is a bad thing in a warm-blooded furry bag of mostly water…

  40. #40 Pham
    July 24, 2009

    This is the link for product on http://www.pawhealer.com
    http://www.pawhealer.com/89/Hind_Leg_Weakness.aspx

    I have worked with this formula for a while, it’s really good and all people on pawhealer.com is really nice.

    They have a Free consultation for Dogs, Cats as well as People. All free, after we fill out the survey they will response back to you same day.
    You can find the survey on homepage: http://pawhealer.com/homepage.aspx “Free Herbal Consultation For Dogs & Cats”
    and for people http://pawhealer.com/people-herbs.aspx “Free Herbal Consultation For Your Health”

    I hope this will help for other people who are finding for natural remedies.

  41. #41 Kimberly
    July 24, 2009

    Anna – At the shelter where I volunteer, one of the foster parents had their cat on those Bach flowers remedies for psychological (catological?) issues. The only thing that stops me from “accidentally” dropping the bottle is the knowledge that the stuff inside is essentially water.

  42. #42 Mark P
    July 24, 2009

    “and the grain in cat food really is just filler”

    But very important filler.

    Firstly it is good for their teeth to eat hard food. An all-meat diet is no good at all. In the wild they eat the carcasses of animals, bones and all. But most pet owners are too scared to give them bones. They hear about bone splinters and won’t do it — but roasted bones are fine as they crumble rather than splinter. (One cat I had loved roast chicken bones — he would eat a thigh bone in a minute.)

    Secondly most pet owners dramatically over-feed their pets. If you give them effectively pure meat you will have a fat pet in no time at all. The filler in pet food makes the pet feel full, and helps prevent obesity.

  43. #43 Gummi Braga
    July 24, 2009

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  44. #44 Chris
    July 24, 2009

    Gummi Braga, are you a cat or a spam troll? Choose one.

  45. #45 ebohlman
    July 25, 2009

    ceridwen: “Ozone administered rectally” is one of those phrases that you’d never, in a million years, imagine that you’d ever read or hear.

    In a demonstration that fanaticism is associated with a severe lack of humor, and therefore a stunted ability to recognize the ridiculous, the doggie raw-food perseverators call their dietary ideal the Bones And Raw Food diet, and actually use the acronym! One is reminded of one Ms. Granger, and of one incarnation of a far-right Canadian political party.

  46. #46 Matthew Cline
    July 25, 2009

    @Jess:

    we even have very vocal antivaxxers that believe it is better for a pup to die from Parvo than be vaccinated for it.

    I wonder what those selfsame antivaxxers think about the rabies vaccine for dogs. Or about humans getting the rabies vaccine if bitten by an unknown dog.

  47. #47 Uncle Glenny
    July 25, 2009

    Cats have a high need for taurine, which they get from the viscera of animals. Feeding them just muscle meat and bones (or dog food) is insufficient.

    I have a good, bushy spider plant for my remaining cat to chomp; some of the hanging fronds are just within reach when she stands on the back of a rocking chair. This way the main body of the plant isn’t destroyed, and I get entertained.

  48. #48 LC
    July 25, 2009

    I wonder how long it will be before people start claiming “Autistic Pets”?

    My pet has autism because of Parvo vaccine! They give too many vaccines (CanVac 5 in 1) at once and overload its immune system! It’s a consipracy by Big-Veteniran!

  49. #49 Matthew Cline
    July 25, 2009

    @LC:

    I wonder how long it will be before people start claiming “Autistic Pets”?

    From this article at Age of Autism:

    Recently I came across several articles and books about adverse reactions to vaccinations among animals such as dogs, cats, horses and cattle. The harm caused by over-vaccination is referred to as “vaccinosis”. Interestingly, pet owners and veterinarians report that vaccine-injured animals suffer from many of the same health conditions as people with autism …

  50. #50 alison
    July 25, 2009

    Until the last year or so of her life my lovely dog Bella used to adore fruit & vegetables. She’d go along the grape vine nipping off the ripe grapes & eating them. (The first time she did that I got really worried, not realising at first why her faeces had turned this weird colour…) She liked pears too, & most cooked veges. Strange old thing :-)

  51. #51 Hu
    July 25, 2009

    Funny how the “Ancient Chinese Medicine” advocates all seem to be waiguoren.

    Actually, ACM seems to be very popular in China. However, I’ve heard that many Chinese men otherwise wary of Western medicine are willing to use Viagra instead of the more traditional remedies. Maybe they’re concerned about the endangered species or something…

  52. #52 Missy Miss
    July 25, 2009

    My pug will graze like a cow when we’re at the dog park. He doesn’t like the grass at home nearly as much. Pugs gain weight easily (like me), but he’s been at an optimum weight all his life.

    I’ve seen all kinds of woo on dogs mailing lists. There’s frequently a claim that dogs used to live much longer before we started vaccinating them, and that commercial dog food dooms them to an early death. Almost anything you’ve heard claimed in people woo, you can find in dogs woo.

  53. #53 coz
    July 25, 2009

    After being at TAM and a few panalists talked about find something you are interested in and write about it. So I have been inspired to do a SkepPet type of blog.
    A place to put all the wierd animal and pet based woo.
    The pet industry is sooo huge that there must be a whole lot of craziness out there.
    I have the page, now all I need to do is write something. I was thinking of starting out with Heartworm Homeopathy and its ilk.
    If you don’t mind I will link this article on my blog. Hopefully this weekend it will get off the ground.

    I’m a Vet Tech at a shelter so I do have access to lots of good information and good vets who don’t go into the woo side.

  54. #54 Calli Arcale
    July 27, 2009

    And speaking of that, interesting fact – catnip is VERY easy to grow in large quantities. If you have a feline friend, it’s worth looking into even if you don’t normally have green thumb. Our two Meezers LOVE what I affectionately call “my front-yard drug operation.”

    Catnip, being basically a type of mint, is indeed very easy to grow. Arguably too easy; once it’s established, you will find it difficult to get rid of it. :-D

  55. #55 Shay
    July 27, 2009

    @Cali:

    Which is why I grow it in a half-barrel on the patio. I’m surprised half the neighborhood’s cats aren’t in my backyard all the time.

  56. #56 Pablo
    July 27, 2009

    I have the page, now all I need to do is write something. I was thinking of starting out with Heartworm Homeopathy and its ilk.

    I could recommend starting with accupuncture, but the amount of crap out there is so monumental it would probably scare you away from the project. Not a good place to start.

  57. #57 Helen
    July 27, 2009

    Don’t forget the “natural horsemanship” thing if you don’t mind including psychological as well as physiological woo.

  58. #58 coz
    July 29, 2009

    Thanks Pablo and Helen. There is a lot out there once you start digging. I want to do a bit of everything.Also trying not to bite off more than I can chew.
    I have the first draft and hopefully on my day off tomorrow I’ll get it up.

  59. #59 Pablo
    July 29, 2009

    Thanks Pablo and Helen. There is a lot out there once you start digging.

    To give you an idea of the extent of “accupuncture” woo, I was recently to the AVMA conference, and there were probably four accupuncture booths in the exposition. Granted, it is a huge vendor exposition, but still, that is a lot of woo.

  60. #60 Jake
    March 19, 2010

    Fill out pawhealer’s initial questionnaire and you will get a nice evaluation. Question them later if their herbs might be causing any troubling side effects your pet gets when taking their herbs, and you will get no answer back. Call and they will not pick up. Another reinforcement of woo-ism.

  61. #61 Judy
    December 7, 2010

    I’m just a simple grandma on a farm near the mountains loves her 11 yr. old Lab, who has been a therapeutic dog to our family. It hurts to see him restlessly looking for a place to cool off. He shows for damp heat.I know we outlive our pets, this is my 5th dog, that is not the issue.
    I want to make him comfortable. He has lost 20 lb., may have cancer, and back legs weak, no feeling in his hind feet, and is diagnosed with vertebrae nerve impingement.
    I’m researching forgoing $1000. in diagnostics because he is an old dog. His mountain dog days are over.If he gets progressively worse, to the point I don’t want to care for him, or he is in pain,we’ll put him down.
    So far, what I have read gives no assurance. The vet put him on prednisone. Not enough time to see if it helps with his back. What about his overheated reaction, and loss of appetite? Judy

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