Respectful Insolence

Reiki for Fido

I don’t like quackery.

I know, I know. Big surprise, right? After all, I’ve only spent the last six years laying down a nearly daily dose of Insolence, Respectful and not-so-Respectful, on the anti-vaccine movement, alternative medicine practitioners, quacks, and pseudoscientists of many different stripes. Seeing my fellow human beings fall for unproven or even dangerous remedies leads me to want to try to convince them to pull back and stick with science-based medical therapies. When quackery causes harm, I become even more motivated. Yet there is an area of quackery that I rarely write about. I don’t know why, because it’s not as though it’s any less unscientific or pseudoscientific than the usual varieties of quackery I discuss daily, but there it is. Maybe it’s because I don’t know as much about the subject as I know about surgery and medicine in general. I’ll introduce the topic with a question:

What have our four-legged friends ever done to us to deserve the same sorts of woo to which humans are subjected??

Most commonly, it’s acupuncture. Many are the times when I’ve seen people take their pets to have acupuncture done, as though sticking needles in a dog will magically fix his pain from hip dysplasia to the point where he can walk again. As much as I sometimes enjoy watching The Dog Whisperer, I cringe inside when Cesar Milan goes all woo (which is fairly frequent). In particular, I remember episodes when Cesar subjected dogs to acupuncture and various other woo. It’s part of the reason I don’t watch the show as often as I used to; well, that and because it’s on Friday nights.

Most advocates of animal acupuncture argue that it’s impossible for animals to be affected by placebo effects, the way humans are. In fact, some acupuncturists argue that the “effectiveness” of acupuncture on animals is evidence that the effects of acupuncture in humans must be due to more than placebo effects. Regular readers of this blog know–or at least have been exposed to arguments–that this isn’t true (use the search box to find posts about acupuncture if you don’t believe me), but that doesn’t stop animal acupuncturists from puncturing Fido with multiple needles. Never mind that acupuncture points and meridians are even more fantastical on animals than they are on humans, and that’s hard to achieve. The reason is because the acupuncture charts for animals are 20th century inventions in which fantastical human acupuncture points and meridians are transposed onto animals, in essence the transposition of a fantasy onto creatures for which the fantasy wasn’t even designed. Large animal veterinarian Dr. David Ramey reviewed the evidence for animal acupuncture not too long ago and concluded that it doesn’t work and that it’s a “triumph of style over substance.” None of this has stopped animal acupuncture from being being a lucrative veterinary specialty or the development of “certifications” in animal acupuncture.

As far as quackery for Fido and Kitty, though, I thought I had seen it all. Yes, I know. I really should never, ever think I’ve seen it all because invariably I’m proven wrong. So it is this time. Ask yourself: What form of unscientific and unproven “treatment” would you least expect to “work” in animals? Think about it. One form of quackery that you might not expect to work in animals is reiki. Remember, reiki is nothing more than faith healing in which an Eastern mystical viewpoint based on Buddhist and Shinto beliefs is substituted for Christian beliefs. Instead of channeling the healing power of Jesus into a person to heal, as faith healers claim to be able to do, reiki practitioners channel the healing power from the “universal source” into people for allegedly healing effect. It’s pure placebo medicine, of course; so one might expect that it wouldn’t work on animals. Not so fast, say reiki practitioners, on a website called Animal Reiki Source (Facebook here and Twitter here), which proclaims itself a resource for “education in energy healing for animals.”

Wow. The woo doth flow.

Because I’m distinctly a dog person rather than a cat person, I’ll concentrate more on what this website says about dogs. Animal Reiki Source is the website of one Kathleen Prasad, who is described thusly:

Kathleen Prasad has been a life-long animal lover and an educator for over fifteen years. After receiving her BA in History from U.C. Berkeley in 1991 and her California Teaching Credential from Sacramento State University in 1993, Kathleen went on to teach History, Social Studies, English, and Drama in the San Francisco public schools for nine years. In the course of these years, she designed curriculum and community projects for her students in animal kindness, encouraging volunteer work in animal shelters. In 1998 she learned Reiki and began regularly volunteering Reiki with local shelter animals.

You know what? It sounds to me as though Prasad just likes playing with the shelter dogs. And that’s great. Both our dogs, both our late, beloved Echo and our current dog Bailey, came from shelters. Back when we were looking for our first dog more than ten years ago, the search that ultimately led us to Echo, we perused a number of animal shelters in New Jersey and environs. We even visited the Staten Island Animal Care Center. One thing I learned is that many shelter dogs are starved for human attention. Indeed, it was incredibly hard on at least a couple of occasions, to leave the shelter because we wanted to take more dogs home than we could ever possibly care for (which was one). Is it so hard to imagine that shelter animals would respond positively to loving human contact? Unfortunately, she adds layers of imaginary appeals to “energy” from the “universal source” to justify her liking to hang out with shelter animals. There’s no need to invoke mystical faith healing woo to explain why dogs and cats in shelters might appear to improve after undergoing a reiki session. If you think I’m being too dismissive, take a look at Prasad’s advice on how to approach animals with reiki.

First, we are told:

  1. Always begin by asking permission of the animal directly OR by setting your intention that you are open to facilitate the healing process for the animal for as much energy as they are open to receive, or none at all (this is a form of permission).
  2. It’s best not to initiate hands-on contact when working with an animal. Always allow the animal to be the one to initiate contact.
  3. Allow the animal to move freely in the treatment space. Pay attention to what your animal is telling you by their behavior about how he or she wants you to give the treatment.
  4. Animals appreciate a passive and open approach.Do not “beam” or “send” energy to the animal or to a specific health issue the animal has that you “think” needs healing. Instead, try “offering” the energy in a non-assertive manner. Imagine you are creating a Reiki bubble around yourself which the animal can move into and out of freely, or build an imaginary “Reiki bridge” which the animal can cross if he or she wants to participate in the healing treatment. In this same vein, your body language should match this passive intention: in other words, don’t initiate and hold eye contact, don’t make yourself “big” and dominant in your body position. For example, try to stay on the same physical level with the animal and remain in a non-threatening pose -ideally, don’t stand up over a small animal on ground level or have your hands up and palms facing out like a predator about to pounce.
  5. Let go of your expectations about how an animal should behave during the treatment (they usually do not behave like humans, lying down motionless for 60 minutes). The typical treatment consists of an ebb and flow of hands-on/short distance Reiki as well as short periods of movement and relaxation. Also, let go of your expectations about what healing result the animal should manifest.
  6. After you finish the treatment, always thank the animal for participation in the treatment.

I’d love to know how Prasad can tell whether animals appreciate a “passive and open approach” or how one “beams” or “sends” energy to a specific health issue. However, notice #4. The way it’s phrased leaves a perfect “out” if the reiki doesn’t seem to work. Because Prasad demands that the reiki practitioner “ask permission” of the animal and “offer” the reiki energy to the animal, if the animal doesn’t get any better, then the animal must not have wanted to be healed. Yes, indeed! It’s exactly the same idea that woo-meisters use in humans: If you aren’t healed or the woo doesn’t work, the person receiving the treatment must not have “believed” strongly enough! Of course, applying the concept of “believing”–or even of “giving permission”–to animals is ridiculous in the extreme, but that’s exactly what Prasad is doing. How does she know if the animal “gives permission”? How does she know if the animal “accepts” the reiki energy? She doesn’t. She deludes herself into thinking she does, but she doesn’t.

As I’ve said time and time again, reiki is far more religion than science. it’s belief without evidence, and Prasad’s ecstatic description of reiki for animals makes that explicit:

Then along came Reiki. And as Reiki swept into my life and carried me away on its vast wave of swirling change, suddenly new possibilities began to present themselves. As the animals (my own, other animals in my life and even unknown animals) came forward to literally demand that they be a part of Reiki in my life, their people also followed. They wondered about this amazing modality that could create peaceful responses and connections in even the most highly stressed and nervous animals and situations. And so I began, out of my love of helping animals, the long journey of coming out of my shell and meeting many new people to share a combination of two things I love most (well, besides my family), and what seems to resonate to the very core of my being-Reiki and animals.

If that isn’t a description of religious conversion, I don’t know what is. This religious conversion led Prasad to teach reiki by e-mail:

One of my first, and perhaps (by attendance) most successful, classes is my Animal Reiki Workshop: Core Curriculum by Correspondence class. This class, offered for Reiki practitioners seeking a foundation in animal approach and ethics, is done completely through e-mail, so it is ideal for people living far away. Each week students read the lesson and receive a homework Reiki practice to do with an animal based upon the lesson’s teachings. Students then e-mail me their treatment results along with questions that come up. In writing and preparing this class and responding each week to students’ notes, my initial motivation was to help to “teach” them something to assist and empower them in their connections with other species

All this for a mere $199! And if that isn’t enough there’s distant reiki healing of animals, too! In any case, the animal reiki course is completely subjective. Students evaluate how their animals are “responding” to the lesson’s teachings and to the reiki being administered to them by beginners. It isn’t hard to imagine that the apparent “effects” of reiki are due to the expectations of the reiki practitioner, who sees what she wants to see and disregards the rest (apologies to Simon and Garfunkel). In any case, reading through this, I wonder how my dog would respond to me coming at him and trying to do reiki on him. Chances are, I bet he’d think I was playing with him. Either that, or if I did “hands on” reiki on him, he’d relax, because he loves to be petted and is very affectionate. In fact, I bet I could outdo any reiki master on my own dog by gently petting his front paws, because he really likes that. All it takes is a little persistence to make him calm down. Of course, if he’s all hopped up and you stop petting him, he’ll instantly revert to being excited, but I don’t have to invoke any magical, mystical “energy” from some “universal source” to explain why I can, with persistence, at least temporarily calm my dog down. And my wife is actually much better at it than I am. She must be a more powerful reiki master than I could ever be!

Perhaps the most unintentionally amusing (and disturbing) part of the Animal Reiki Source website is the Code of Ethics, for instance these guiding principles:

  • I believe the animals are equal partners in the healing process.
  • I honor the animals as being not only my clients, but also my teachers in the journey of healing.
  • I understand that all animals have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects, to which Reiki can bring profound healing responses.
  • I believe that bringing Reiki to the human/animal relationship is transformational to the human view of the animal kingdom.
  • I dedicate myself to the virtues of humility, integrity, compassion and gratitude in my Reiki practice.

Which all sounds very well and good, but how is it “ethical” to claim to these animal owners that you can somehow channel “energy” from the “universal source” into their pets–but only if their pets “accept it” or “give permission”?

I will say one thing in closing, though. This whole “animal reiki” thing is the perfect woo. First, the creatures to which it is being applied can’t talk, and judgements of the efficacy of reiki are, at least the way Prasad is doing it, completely subjective. Second, there is no way of knowing for sure if the animal got better or not; no objective measures are mentioned. It’s all “feeling.” Finally, animals, particularly dogs and cats, do respond to human contact and touch. There’s no way to tell if this “reiki” does anything more than what would be accomplished through just petting the animals and paying attention to them.

I do have one question, though.

What did the animals ever do to deserve this? And wouldn’t all these shelter reiki practitioners do a lot more good if they spent all that time, money, and effort trying to find good homes for shelter dogs, rather than imagining the animals are “inviting” them to “channel” life energy from a fantastical “universal” source?

Sorry, that was two questions.

Comments

  1. #1 Enkidu
    March 23, 2011

    The excellent vet hospital that I’ve had my dogs treated at for their various medical emergencies has a Chinese herbalist/ acupunturist on-staff. I just try to ignore her presence as I am there, but it makes me sad (and a bit angry) that top-notch surgeons and radiologists would associate themselves with her.

    On a side note, our pound dog Fozzie lost his battle with cancer just last month. He was diagnosed and recieved a splenectomy and blood transfusion at the aforementioned vet hospital. All excellent care. Oh, and yes, as you might imagine, our $90 pound dog ended up costing us upwards of $10,000 over his lifetime in medical care – he was a walking disaster. Every penny worth it, though, as he gave us so much love, good times, and funny stories.

  2. #2 Beamup
    March 23, 2011

    While it wasn’t the main point of the post, I want to second and enthusiastically endorse Orac’s comments on adopting from shelters – which apply equally well to cats as to dogs. Get a wonderful companion AND save a life – what could be better? (Even if you adopt from a no-kill shelter, that frees them up to take in an animal from another shelter, so it’s still saving a life.)

    Not just shelters, either – there are dedicated rescue organizations that use a fostering system. Linked in my name is the one we got our latest Meezer from, and he’s an incredible sweetie.

  3. #3 Denice Walter
    March 23, 2011

    Concerning those of the feline persuasion:

    Cats have two conditions that set the woo-meisters off into marketting mode: elderly cats can get CRF, any may get IBD. I’ve had one of each.

    Illnesses like IBD/IBS are frustrating and the symptoms vary, so “results” of that special diet or treatment may be related to other factors ( note: real vets do use diet to deal with both of the aforementioned conditions). ( continued)

  4. #4 Enkidu
    March 23, 2011

    I just re-read my post, and realized it might give the impression that every pound dog is a medical nightmare like Fozzie lol. Not so. We have two other rescues (from a foster system, like Beamup mentioned) that are very healthy, loving dogs. :)

  5. #5 joemac53
    March 23, 2011

    My wife gets the rescue dogs from the no-kill shelter. It ain’t pretty. When one had mammary tumors, the local animal hospital quoted $6000 with “no guarantees”. They did not want to release the dog back to us, saying she was in “great pain” as she jumped up into the back of the truck. I had to sign some paper.
    Our horse vet trusts us to know when the dogs are near the end. She trusts us to know when the horses are near the end.
    The rescue dogs have a great time here until their time is up. Some of them are around here for several years. They get to run around the farm and get lots of attention. No woo.

  6. #6 Poodle Stomper
    March 23, 2011

    I had to try to convince a family member once that buying homeopathic stuff (i.e water) for their dog was a waste of time and money. The response I got was “well if I want to spend my money on it and it makes [the dog] feel better then why shouldn’t I?” I tried to explain that the dog either a) was getting better on her own or that b) it was simply their perception of the dog’s condition getting better but to no avail. I guess next time I’ll just recommend some Reiki instead *headbang*.

  7. #7 Denice Walter
    March 23, 2011

    A few random woo-tastic websites for cat IBD/IBS:

    felineinstincts.com- advocates a raw diet and homeopathy. Questions vaccination. Staffed by *vets*.
    blakkatz.com- advocates a grain-free diet. Anti-vax sentiment.
    holisticat.com- Raw meat. Homeopathy, flower essences, and aromatherapy. Questions vaccination.

    It’s amazing how much the pet-woo resembles woo for humans:
    I’ve read similar pseudo-scientific approaches for human IBS, usually diet oriented combined with handfuls of over-priced supplements, although I’ve yet to hear that cats “repress their emotions” or “aren’t following their true path” and thus get a “nervous stomach”. Believe me, I know the standard line of drivel.

    Pet food similarly can be organic, natural, pure, without groddy “animal parts” and “by-products”.

    On a lighter note, the funniest animal woo I’ve ever encountered was from RadioWoo, Inc. ( naturally) years ago: it recommended a vegan diet. for. cats… it wouldn’t work so well, being that they are friggen CARNIVORES. ( However, that spiel has gone down the memory hole.)

    People are very vulnerable when their pets get ill and easily manipulated by the unscrupulous. Pity.

  8. #8 Beamup
    March 23, 2011

    I just had an idea for how to make homeopathy work much better for cats. Instead of putting the magic water on sugar pills, put it on (for instance) some nice fresh chicken. See, homeopathy makes cats happy!

  9. #9 Lindsay
    March 23, 2011

    THANK YOU so much for addressing this concept specifically in dogs. I am a grad student at UC Berkeley (a city where the woo is plentiful) and also a part-time dog trainer. I’ve been studying science-based dog training (yes, it does exist!), and recently joined the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. It’s been a great thing, I’ve learned a lot from very experienced trainers, but there is a quite large contingent of people who refer their clients to reiki masters, acupuncturists, and homeopaths (Bah!!) for behavior problems! ARGH! And there is literally NO skeptical voice among the society. Tomorrow there is even a webinar about “A Pet Guardian’s Perspective on Holistic and Complementary Healthcare.” Should I crash it as the only skeptic?! ;-)

    PS – I have to mention that there is more woo to Cesar Millan than just the acupuncture, mainly the entire way he trains. Science-based dog training it is not!

  10. #10 Denice Walter
    March 23, 2011

    More typical animal woo:

    “Pet Food Ingredients Revealed”- a NaturalNews Special Report by Lisa Newman, ND. PhD. and Mike Adams.

  11. #11 Enkidu
    March 23, 2011

    Poodle Stomper said: “[...]it was simply their perception of the dog’s condition getting better[...]” EXACTLY.

    I enrolled in a study at the local teaching vet hospital, to assess pet owners’ perceptions vs. pain the dog was actually feeling from arthritis. They monitored the dog for 2 weeks with a pedometer and assessed the amount of weight the dog put on each foot; at the same time I was given a questionnaire to see how much pain I thought the dog was in. Then they gave the dog either a drug or placebo, and did the same measurements/questionnaire. The study is on-going but I’d love to see the results when it’s done.

  12. #12 Scott Cunningham
    March 23, 2011

    How to do CAM for cats:

    1 – Photograph cat.

    2 – Write testimonial for cat in which you express his deepest glowing appreciation for your woo. Something like:

    I can has homeopathy now?

    3 – Post cat photo and testimonial on the internet.

    4 – Bury dead cat.

    So um, basically the same as CAM for humans.

  13. #13 erika
    March 23, 2011

    Several years ago, our sweet yellow lab had been limping around for a month or so, and we thought he’d probably pulled a muscle on the ice. (He was about 13 at the time.) I noticed an ad in the neighborhood newsletter for animal reiki, and–thinking that it was some form of therapeutic massage–I called the woman. She was very nice, and clearly loved animals, but charged us $25 to basically hover her hands over our dog, while he looked at us like “WTF?”

    A month later, we had x-rays taken, and it turned out he had osteosarcoma in a front shoulder. He lived reasonably comfortably for another few months, thanks to prednisone and some sort of painkiller. Turns out, though, that the reiki didn’t help so much.

    And imagine my chagrin when I found out what reiki actually was! I still can’t believe I spent 25 bucks on that…

  14. #14 Andreas Johansson
    March 23, 2011

    Orac wrote:

    And wouldn’t all these shelter reiki practitioners do a lot more good if they spent all that time, money, and effort trying to find good homes for shelter dogs, rather than imagining the animals are “inviting” them to “channel” life energy from a fantastical “universal” source?

    Perhaps. Would they feel motivated to do anything at all for shelter animals if they didn’t think they were doing magic?

  15. #15 Calli Arcale
    March 23, 2011

    How convenient — the therapy only works if the animal chooses to accept it. Which means that when the patient doesn’t appear to get better, it must mean the poor thing didn’t know what was good for it.

    What’s next — proselytizing the animals to embrace Jesus Christ as their lord and savior? (Wouldn’t be all that new; back in the Middle Ages, the Church actually considered excommunicating a plague of rats at least once.)

  16. #16 MikeMa
    March 23, 2011

    Our vet never offered anything but compassion when my 13 year old rescued (as a pup) Aussie was euthanized as a result of cancer. The vet explained that we’d know when the dog was ready because it would be up all night and restless due to being uncomfortable. We took Trixie home for a last couple of weeks of fun and sadness.

    Woo for dogs has got to be the next frontier of vet marketing. I am actually surprised we saw no woo at this vet office as they are near some potentially wealthy areas near Greenville, DE. I will look more closely when our Sheltie is due for shots.

  17. These aren’t the dogs you’re looking for. You can go about your business. Move along.

    Do you need a midi-chlorian count of a certain level, or can anyone do Reiki?

  18. #18 Militant Agnostic
    March 23, 2011

    Do you need a midi-chlorian count of a certain level, or can anyone do Reiki?

    No, in addition to learning the symbols etc. you have receive some “attunements” from a Reiki master. You can’t do Reiki if your chakras are out of whack. Fortunately Reiki masters are a dime a dozen these days.

  19. #19 MikeMa
    March 23, 2011

    A dime a dozen and overpriced at that.

  20. #20 OleanderTea
    March 23, 2011

    I’m fighting the urge to take my my tortoiseshell cat in for acupuncture and shoot video of the woo-meister’s experience.

    Torties, according to every vet who’s treated her, are kind of the “redheads of the animal world”. They do things THEIR way. My vets have to put her in the Cat Sack (sort of a straitjacket for felines) just for an exam. No way she’s let someone’s stick a bunch needles into her.

    Hm, I really should do the video…she looks like such a sweet, cute little tiny cat, too.

  21. #21 Terrie
    March 23, 2011

    I can get the appeal of pet woo. Lord knows, I wish acupuncture worked, because it’s preferable to long term pain pills, with the risk of damage to various organs. (My poor guy has early arthritis due to a broken leg that healed without vet care – this was, of course, before I got him). But wishful thinking is not a substitute for real care.

  22. #22 Poodle Stomper
    March 23, 2011

    Enkidu,

    Awesome. Can you link to the info so I can keep an eye out when the study is published? I have very little doubt what the outcome will me but it may be helpful to illustrate the facts to some people.

  23. #23 Gray Falcon
    March 23, 2011

    This is why I prefer Victoria Stilwell. She at least uses positive training methods, which have more scientific basis than Milan’s dominance-based methods.

    Of course, I’m a cat lover, and there’s not much you need to teach a house cat beyond “This is where you do it.”

  24. #24 Sastra
    March 23, 2011

    My favorite part was this:

    Also, let go of your expectations about what healing result the animal should manifest.

    Your animal may be healed without your knowing it. Stop burdening poor Fido with your expectations of what it should look like if he’s better. “Better” according to whom? Reality has many hidden layers, there is so much we have to learn. In fact, he might even appear “worse” after treatment.

    It is not for us to judge.

  25. #25 Enkidu
    March 23, 2011

    Poodle Stomper: Here is the link, it’s being done at Penn Vet in Philly:
    Arthritis Assessment

  26. #26 Militant Agnostic
    March 23, 2011

    Sastra @24

    FSM help us all if you ever go over to the dark side. You have the word wooze down pat.

  27. #27 Emily
    March 23, 2011

    Dog woo infuriates me. We recently adopted a shelter dog, and I was looking for info on grain-free dog food online. It was almost impossible to find info on high-quality dog food without having to read anti-vax and homeopathy woo on every page. Who knew that annual rabies vaccinations actually cause an “autism-like” disorder in dogs?

  28. #28 KristinMH
    March 23, 2011

    Yeah, basically every kind of woo you can get for a human you can get for your dog. It’s infuriating.

    Appreciate the science-based vet in your life!

  29. #29 Reading Frame
    March 23, 2011

    I was a veterinary technician for many years, and I have seen it all. There was a vet at my last clinic (in Berkeley, home of the Woo) who specialized in Chinese and herbal medicine, and talked about blocked meridians and other bullcrap. I will say though, she really had a way with cats. I saw her do a jugular stick one handed with no restraint.

    For those unfamiliar, vets and techs try to take blood from the jugular vein in order to save the peripheral veins from any scarring that might later prevent IV catheter placement. In cats it can be quite tricky.

    It is possible to scientifically quantify pain in animals without a subjective opinion from the owner. I would really like to see pain scores before and after: Reiki, chiropractic, (yes, there are dog and cat chiropractors, though equine chiropractors are more common because horses are often athletes) and homeopathy.

    Oh, and by the way: NEVER feed your animals raw food diets or raw foods of any kinds, especially bones. If you want a horrible story about aspiration pneumonia, by all means ask.

  30. #30 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 23, 2011

    Also, let go of your expectations about what healing result the animal should manifest.

    Inevitably, this comes to mind.

  31. #31 Emily
    March 23, 2011

    Oh, and by the way: NEVER feed your animals raw food diets or raw foods of any kinds, especially bones. If you want a horrible story about aspiration pneumonia, by all means ask.

    Oh, but don’t you know that dogs only get aspiration pneumonia from kibble? Wolves never get pnuemonia! Wolves live twice as long as dogs because they don’t get vaccines and only eat raw foods! Don’t believe the lies of Big Kibble!

  32. #32 Tsu Dho Nimh
    March 23, 2011

    I would love to have a reiki master work on my big cat.

    Wonder if they can get him to accept the healing energy before he administers his specialty: acupuncture and bloodletting.

  33. #33 NancyNew
    March 23, 2011

    There’s a terrific recent book out, by a group of vets from Tufts–on health issues of aging dogs–”Good Old Dog.” It’s excellent! The advice in general is straight-forward–and bless them, science-centered, but always with an eye on the emotional attachments we build with our pets.

  34. #34 lilady
    March 23, 2011

    Gee, I wish my mother knew about animal reiki when she was caring for her totally white (albino), totally deaf, psychotic cat.

    Crazy cat’s specialty was taking a flying leap from across the room, claws extended and hanging on to your back.

    Mom talked my brother, a “cat lover”, to provide transportation to a far away animal hospital for neutering, after a number of local vets refused the business. Sneaky brother managed to get himself admitted to the people hospital with a gangrenous gallbladder and my husband and I were stuck with the task. Needless to say, the attack cat inflicted major injuries on me and my mother. At the animal hospital crazy cat was finally subdued, with a load of injected tranquilizer.

    The now testicularless cat remained crazy and in attack mode to the end of his life and, we didn’t mourn its death.

  35. #35 sadmar
    March 23, 2011

    Beamup @9, Scott @12, Sastra @24, TBM @29:
    You all made me smile! Thanks!
    Of course, we’ll have to rewrite the parrot sketch for our New Age. The bird is no longer ‘resting’ but meditating, and John Edward will come in to channel Polly from beyond.
    Oh, help me… I just Googled ‘pet psychic’. Google added CT, since that’s where I live. The first hit, a woman who ‘practices’ in a suburb of New Haven:

    I am an animal/pet communicator and people psychic. I can communicate with alive and deceased pets. It doesn’t matter if the pet is a dog, cat, horse, bird, snake, insect, etc. I can communicate with all of them.
    I also do people psychic sessions. I can connect with your Higher Self and assist you in areas of your life such as romance, work, health and finances. I can also communicate with deceased family and friends. I can do a phone session with you, you can come to my home or you can meet me at one of the events listed below.

    That’s on the front page. The ‘services’ page goes into more detail:

    Pet communication
    Sharon charges for time, not per pet. In one session, Sharon can connect with multiple pets. There is no limit on the number of pets, deceased or alive, that Sharon will connect with in a session.
    Psychic session
    Much like how she connects to pet’s energy, Sharon can connect to your higher self to give you an accurate psychic reading. Your higher self is directly connected to the Divine and knows all. Sharon can find out from your higher self questions you may have about health, work, romance and finances. Just ask and Sharon will try to find out what you want to know. A pet and person session can be done easily.
    Medium/Channeling
    Sharon can connect with deceased people as well. If you are concerned how a loved one is doing in Spirit, Sharon can ask them. Sometimes the Spirit will talk through Sharon and that is when it would be considered channeling. Sharon cannot guarantee at this time if a Spirit will channel.
    Space Clearing
    This is Sharon’s earth work. If you have spirits on your property that you believe need assistance, Sharon can communicate with them and assist them in going to the Light. Some Spirits are not a nuisance to us and Mother Earth. On the contrary, they want to help us and Mother Earth. Sharon go to your property and investigate who and what is going on. They clear the property of Spirits that need to go to the Light. They assist the property owners in how to honor and respect whatever Spirits want to stay in this dimension with us and live in a harmonious relationship.
    LaHoChi Energy Healing Sessions
    Gift certificates are available
    Sharon accepts payment via personal check, money order or Paypal.

    Actually, I think my Higher Self is an insect, so Sharon would be perfect to help me roll off my back and get out of bed in the morning. It’s just so amazing she can do it over the phone! I wish I’d known Sharon could get Earth Spirits to move toward the light before my septic tank backed up. Shit, I’ll bet she could have cleared that up via email.

  36. #36 sadmar
    March 23, 2011

    Beamup @9, Scott @12, Sastra @24, TBM @29:
    You all made me smile! Thanks!
    I had stuff to try to add to the fun, related to TBM’s link, but the comment system is holding it up. Maybe it will appear later…

  37. #37 Krebiozen
    March 23, 2011

    The British Veterinary Voodoo Society website is worth a browse – it takes a (very) sceptical look at veterinary homeopathy. As in humans, if the patient gets worse, it’s a cleansing crisis, if the patient gets better, it’s worked.

    This page nicely illustrates how a dog’s condition was thought to have greatly improved by its owner after homeopathic treatment, while it looked worse to a non-homeopathic vet. How do placebos work in animals? They don’t have to, they can work on the owner instead.

  38. #38 Andreas Johansson
    March 24, 2011

    Reading Frame:

    Oh, and by the way: NEVER feed your animals raw food diets or raw foods of any kinds, especially bones. If you want a horrible story about aspiration pneumonia, by all means ask.

    Does that mean one also should not let one’s cats feed on wild prey?

  39. #39 sadmar
    March 24, 2011

    llady:
    I’m sure if your mother had refrained from vaccinating the cat, it would have been fine. :-) Or perhaps ‘cat lover’ brother had “AgeOfAutism” up on your mom’s computer, and Albinocat read it over his shoulder, caught the rage virus (like in 28 days later) and…
    But seriously, nobody should be anti-cat on the basis of experiences with crazy ones (especially albinos or torties). Cats that are difficult by nature are generally that way because humans have bred them for appearance, while others are difficult by nurture because they have been horribly abused.
    Get a pound cat that has a lot of Maine Coon in the mix, and you’ve got a feline Golden Retriever — mellow, affectionate, gregarious — but it won’t bark, and you don’t have to take it for a walk with a pooper scooper in hand. Of course, it won’t play Frisbee either, but you can’t have everything.

  40. #40 Alissa
    March 24, 2011

    Ok, let me admit that I totally dabbled in this stuff for my pets, before I knew what Reiki or homeopathy was.

    I have a *crazy* dog. She hated my husband (then BF), and at the time he was practicing Reiki. He learned it from his karate instructor, who basically left out the whole nutty story behind it (He no longer does it now that he knows what it is). Anyways, he decided to try Reiki on my dog, and she totally relaxed. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the ‘energy’ or whatever, but rather the slow movements and getting positive attention with a lack of touching (she has space issues). So it ‘worked’ to calm her and improve their relationship, but only because it gave them a way to interact that they both found acceptable. He thought he was helping, and she enjoyed the non-touching slow-moving attention. I can see this being very effective in scared shelter dogs, but not because of the magical energy. The way she’s talking about ‘offering’ and not directly approaching is the ideal way to interact with an overwhelmed freaked out dog.

    I think a lot of pet owners get pushed towards the woo by the craziness that is the pet vaccination schedule. We know most vaccines confer long immunities, yet the recommendation for pets is yearly for everything. So you are putting your pet at risk of real adverse events (ie allergic reaction, not doggy autism) with no benefit (because they are already immune from last year’s vax). It’s another anecdote, but I know of multiple dogs who have had seizures or severe allergic reactions to vaccines, so IMHO it makes sense to not vaccinate a dog when the dog is already immune. It’s like saying people should get MMR every year–it’s a *bad* idea and people would be right to refuse to do it past the few toddler shots.

    We feed raw (ground) food to our cats also. We battled struvite crystals in one cat for 2+ years, finally settling on science diet prescription canned food that smelled like vomited poop when fresh. The cat began losing clumps of hair, developed severe dandruff, and finally started refusing her food. We moved to raw 4 years ago and haven’t had an issue since, except when we got lazy and moved back to canned food for a month. Supposedly (I have no idea how true this really is) it changes the urine pH so that the crystals can’t grow. So at least for us and our one cat, raw has been a great solution. Some raw food pet people are crazy, but we just do what works. We’d rather feed canned, but then our cat is peeing blood drops all over the house. So don’t make fun of raw too much, unless you have another solution for my cat.

  41. #41 Interrobang
    March 24, 2011

    A year ago in January, I lost my cat to an atypical lymphoma. Took him to the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph. No woo there! They did a great job, but the lymphoma came back; in retrospect, I realised that I’d already read about what happened right here on Respectful Insolence — microtumours getting very large very quickly after the primary tumour was removed. *sigh* Thanks, Orac, for helping me to understand why my beloved old Nero died.

    Of course, I’m a cat lover, and there’s not much you need to teach a house cat beyond “This is where you do it.”

    I find “Come here,” “No…”, “Get down,” “Lie down,” and a few other things are also important. I taught the smarter of my two cats to lead me down the basement stairs instead of waiting for me to be halfway down and then zipping past me, since my balance is already crappy and I didn’t want him to break my neck for me.

    Sadmar — You can’t play frisbee with a cat, but a lot of cats will fetch; my tortie does, and I didn’t even have to teach her.

  42. #42 Natalie
    March 24, 2011

    This makes me think I should get around to sending Orac the Solid Gold dog food ads my pet-store-manager friend pulled out of a trade magazine. They are extra strength crazy and encompass all sorts of woo. The food is good, but still…

  43. #43 OleanderTea
    March 24, 2011

    But seriously, nobody should be anti-cat on the basis of experiences with crazy ones (especially albinos or torties). Cats that are difficult by nature are generally that way because humans have bred them for appearance…

    People breed torties on purpose? I always think they look like cat fur crazy-quilts.

    Strangely, my tortie lets me do anything to her. I can even give her a shot, a pill, and check when she’s sick or injured (she let me touch and examine what was a dislocated toe without biting, scratching, growling, or trying to get away; she just gave a sad little ‘mew!’). But woe unto anyone else who tried that.

    I agree that there is much more “nurture” involved in cat ownership than ppl think.

  44. #44 katydid13
    March 24, 2011

    My elderly cat has IBD and probably pancreatitis (still waiting on blood work). I’ve been told to expect lots of ups and downs (and vomit). And that’s what I’ve seen. I’m sure it would be quite easy to find woo to work around that because it does go in cycles.

  45. #45 Militant Agnostic
    March 24, 2011

    Erika @13

    I noticed an ad in the neighborhood newsletter for animal reiki, and–thinking that it was some form of therapeutic massage–I called the woman. She was very nice, and clearly loved animals, but charged us $25 to basically hover her hands over our dog, while he looked at us like “WTF?”

    This is why most Reiki practitioners are “Masters”. Many of the people who get Reiki treatments are probably like Erika – they think it is some kind of massage and they don’t come back a second time. The ones who do are come back are hard core believers who likely going to want to learn more. As a result teaching Reiki is much more lucrative than doing treatments.

  46. #46 Spo
    March 25, 2011

    I’m a volunteer at the local SPCA Shelter here, and all I can think is that if this lady or any reiki “master” wants to start waving their hands at dogs, I know the perfect kennel. Two 6 month old pit bulls.They are the most fun, loving, attention wanting dogs. They are also big and heavy and like to jump and nibble and roughhouse. They’ve sent volunteers home crying. Her ” … ebb and flow of hands-on/short distance Reiki as well as short periods of movement and relaxation” will be twenty minutes of trying to keep the dogs from knocking you down and having their way with you. Most of the dogs in our kennels are rambunctious, since they don’t get a lot of exercise (we do what we can, but it’s not always enough).

    I’m still laughing at the idea that these dogs and cats give a shit about the woo people push on them.

  47. #47 Spo
    March 25, 2011

    I’m a volunteer at the local SPCA Shelter here, and all I can think is that if this lady or any reiki “master” wants to start waving their hands at dogs in my shelter, I know the perfect kennel. Two 6 month old pit bulls.They are the most fun, loving, attention-wanting dogs. They are also big and heavy and like to jump and nibble and roughhouse. They’ve sent volunteers home crying. Her ” … ebb and flow of hands-on/short distance Reiki as well as short periods of movement and relaxation” will be twenty minutes of trying to keep the dogs from knocking you down and having their way with you. Most of the dogs in our kennels are rambunctious, since they don’t get a lot of exercise (we do what we can, but it’s not always enough).

    This woo is so stupid.

  48. #48 Spo
    March 25, 2011

    Sorry about the double post. Figures the first time I post a comment I screw it up.

  49. #49 Barry
    March 25, 2011

    Right, acupuncture is “woo.” Tell it to my patients who get off the table in less pain. I won’t tell you to go look at the literature, ’cause you’ve made up your “mind.” Such as it is.

  50. #50 Alison
    March 26, 2011

    I have a very old cat who may have had a back injury at one point, but most definitely had a problem with what we initially thought were seizures. My friend who’s into that woo “sent reiki”. Eventually we tried regular cortisone shots for what turned out to be paroxysmal itching. Guess which one worked?

  51. #51 The Panic Man
    March 26, 2011

    Yuo want to do some actual scientific testing, “Barry”, or are you satisfied with untested anecdotes?

    Not like you care about the facts anyhow – you’ve made up your mind, such as it is.

    Moron.

  52. #52 Militant Agnostic
    March 26, 2011

    I won’t tell you to go look at the literature

    Because the literature indicates it is nothing more than an elaborate placebo. Use the search function on the blog.

  53. #53 dreamer
    March 26, 2011

    check out the marketing success of woo for animals. It’s raking in the $$.

    Cranio-Sacral growing in popularity among horse owners. Maureen Rogers works with veterinarians:
    http://www.equinecraniosacral.com/

    Veterinarians endorse the herb concoctions of this supplement company, a well-known popular site with many users swearing the herbs work:
    http://www.smartpakequine.com/

  54. #54 lilady
    March 27, 2011

    @ dreamer: Thanks for the link to equinecraniosacral therapy.

    I suppose if you buy into cranial-sacral therapy for your infant and you happen to also have a few horses….

    The Huffington Post had a blog “Cranial Sacral Therapy for Kids” (March 4, 2011) and while I was slumming on the Ho-Po, I spotted the headline. Perusing through the drivel I took note of the “specialist” who “practices” out of Italy, and could not resist posting. It was like shooting fish in a barrel to tear down her bogus degree and “credentials”.

    Thanks again for the amusing pet woo.

  55. #55 Heliantus
    March 29, 2011

    @ barry

    Re:acupuncture

    I won’t tell you to go look at the literature, ’cause you’ve made up your “mind.”

    Well, actually some of us have been reading. See the last entry on the Science-Based Medicine blog.

    As an aside, the first commenter there seems to go straight for an out-of-topic Pharma shill gambit, if I read it right. Indeed, some people have made up their mind.