Adventures in bad veterinary medicine reported by the local media, year end edition

dog-acupuncture

Ever since moving back to the Detroit area nearly seven years ago, one thing I've noticed is a propensity for our local news outlets to go full pseudoscience from time to time. I'm not sure why, other than perhaps that it attracts eyeballs to the screen, but, in reality, most of these plunges into pseudoscience and quackery are so poorly done that I find it hard to believe that even believers find them interesting. For example, back in 2008, I discussed a particularly dumb story aired by our local NBC affiliate WDIV entitled Orbs: Myth or Real?, which, not having started my new job yet, I gleefully deconstructed at the time. For those of you who aren't familiar with "spirit orbs," which are claimed to be the spirits of the dead but almost always represent photography artifacts, such as lens flare, dust on the lens catching light, or similar things that can lead to light blobs showing up on photos.

Also at the time, an investigative reporter named Steve Wilson was still spreading antivaccine mercury militia pseudoscience through the local ABC affiliate WXYZ, leading me to wonder whether he was a a legitimate investigative reporter or an antivaccine propagandist. Indeed, his antivaccine propaganda dressed up as news reports was spreading to a national audience, thanks to Age of Autism and other antivaccine groups. Actually, he was both. When it came to politics and corruption, he was a decent investigative reporter; indeed, his exposes of our utterly corrupt former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's were, in retrospect, prescient, and provoked Kilpatrick to take his revenge. When it came to vaccines, he had completely swallowed the Kool Aid that claims that mercury in vaccines caused an autism epidemic. I'm not sure if it was the antivaccine reporting or other issues, but Wilson's contract was, fortunately, not renewed in in 2010.

In any case, given the record of local news stations when it comes to credulously reporting medical pseudoscience (and pseudoscience in general), I would normally not be surprised to see a report on a local station in which quackery is presented as real medicine. (Heck, I deconstructed just such a story a year and a half ago.) I was more surprised (but probably shouldn't have been) to see such a report in our local newspaper, the Detroit Free Press complete with a video for the online story. The story is by Jennifer Dixon and is entitled Veterinarian offers alternative approach to healing. The story is even showing up in statewide media. Ms. Dixon is an investigative reporter, but in this case hers was a massive fail to do even the most basic investigation, so much so that one wonders if we have another Steve Wilson in the making.

Basically, it's so credulous that it might as well be an advertisement for a veterinarian named Dr. Loren Weaver, who subjects animals to a variety of nonsensical treatments:

The video is painful to watch, so steeped in mystical woo is it. It's hard to believe that this sort of rot made it even on the air even from a local news station, but it did. The text begins:

Dr. Loren Weaver practices "energy medicine" on dogs, horses and the occasional cat.

"There's a big transfer of energy from me to the dogs, from the dogs to me, me to the horses and the horses back to me. That's what makes this work is that transfer of energy," the veterinarian said. "That's what I pass through with my hands."

He said that energy, or Chi, is carried through 12 meridians, or channels, in the body.

"I don't ask someone to believe it exists," he said. "If you let me work on your animal, I can show you how it works."

His patients' owners are believers.

Let's get one thing straight right here, right now. "Energy medicine" is quackery. It's mystical mumbo-jumbo with no basis in science. Reiki, for instance, the most common form of "energy medicine" is basically faith healing in which Eastern mystical beliefs replace Christian beliefs as the religious basis for belief that laying on hands can heal. It's "The Secret"-level wishful thinking, and, unfortunately, reiki for Fido is becoming more common.

Of course, what Weaver describes as his "energy medicine" doesn't sound like reiki. He doesn't invoke the "universal source" as the source of the healing energy but rather seems to be claiming that he can manipulate animals' "energy fields." That sounds a lot more like "healing touch" (HT) or "therapeutic touch" (TT) another pseudoscientific mystical modality that is, unfortunately, all too commonly practiced in hospitals and is equally ridiculous as reiki. I like to say that it's so ridiculous that even an 11-year-old girl could design a controlled study that demonstrated that TT practitioners cannot even sense a human "energy field," much less manipulate one. This is not surprising, given that what TT practitioners mean by "energy" and what scientists mean by "energy" (to put it simply, the capacity of a physical system to perform work) are not even related by coincidence. Even with the most sophisticated and sensitive instruments, science has never been able to find anything like these "energy fields" around humans or animals that can be manipulated in the way that people like Dr. Weaver claim. Basically, energy medicine is prescientific vitalism infused with a heavy dose of religion. That is why I consider it quackery.

In any case, it turns out that Dr. Weaver is a veterinarian and a chiropractor. As I and others have pointed out before, basically any form of alternative medicine to which humans are subjected is also used in animals because, well, I guess we humans can't help ourselves. We have to subject our furry, feathered, and scaly friends to the same sort of prescientific and pseudoscientific nonsense that we subject ourselves to. Hence, we see travesties, such as turtles and owls getting needles stuck into them and ducks and Basset hounds having their spines adjusted. Not surprisingly, Dr. Weaver is heavily into both chiropractic (being a chiropractic veterinarian) and acupuncture, both of which are on full display in this story.

Weaver even goes full Palmer on us and talks about the "innate intelligence" (although he doesn't call it that) flowing from the brain through the nervous system and how anything impeding that flow will cause problems. Meanwhile, we are treated to images of Weaver doing spine adjustments on dogs, who most definitely do not appear to be enjoying it, as at least one of them has to be held and jerks as if in pain when Weaver does a lower spinal adjustment. One dog, a Dachsund named Rocky, is shown trying to bite Weaver as he adjusts his spine, all while his owner exults about how fantastic Rocky is doing for his slipped disc ever since Dr. Weaver started treating him. Of course, in the case of actual pathology, such as a disc problem, it is possible that spinal manipulation might be of some benefit, or, as is the case in humans, the course could be resolution in many cases. After all, from what I've observed we apear not to operate on herniated discs nearly as often as we used to.

Later in the video, Weaver is shown sticking needles into dogs, most of whom most definitely appear not to be liking it at all, as they all flinched as the needles were placed and had to be held to keep from biting at them. Meanwhile, he pontificates on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and how TCM teaches that disease is due to "blockages" of qi that can be resolved using acupuncture. Doesn't Weaver know that TCM is a retconning of the actual history of Chinese folk medicine perpetrated by Chairman Mao Zedong back in the 1950s? Apparently not:

Weaver has been a veterinarian for 34 years and has been practicing acupuncture and chiropractic medicine for the last 26 years. He was first exposed to acupuncture while living in Kenya and saw how it helped horses in pain.

"It worked, and the horses relaxed and felt better," Weaver said. When he returned to the U.S., he began studying acupuncture, which he uses for pain relief and back problems. He then immersed himself in chiropractic medicine. The son of a farmer who saw a chiropractor for his back, Weaver said he was exposed to chiropractic medicine as a child.

"When I started, no one was doing chiropractic," Weaver said.

How does he know it helped? Proponents of alternative medicine will claim that quackery like acupuncture "works" in animals because it couldn't possibly be due to placebo effects, but they are only sort of correct. The reason is that the only way we can know what animals are feeling is through the observations of humans, who interpret those observations as the animal either being in pain or getting better. Thus, placebo-like effects can occur in animals, but in reality they are a result of a change in perception of the animal's condition by the owners, who expect results and, after treatment, look for results. If they believe acupuncture will work, often they report results. It's difficult enough to quantify pain reliably in humans; in animals, it's even harder. Add to that the tendency of most conditions to regress to the mean or to slowly improve, and, if the acupuncture or chiropractic adjustment is performed as improvement is beginning or around the time when the symptoms are at their worst (which is often the time when treatment will be sought), then it can appear that the treatment "worked." There appears to be a phenomenon in veterinary medicine known as caregiver placebo effects, which appears to be a real phenomenon. Indeed, frequently, there is little or no correlation between owner-reported observations of animal pain and objective measures.

All of this explains why Dr. Weaver can have so many glowing testimonials about the efficacy of his methods, some of which are presented in this story. Unfortunately, our intrepid "investigative reporter" didn't actually investigate. Instead, she produced an advertisement for Dr. Weaver, chiropractic veterinary medicine, and the use of TCM in animals. I realize that local reporters are often assigned human interest stories like this. People love their pets, and the story of an appealing, warm and cuddly vet who seems to be "working miracles" is a very tempting story to do. Everybody loves a story like this, particularly animal lovers, except, of course, "nasty" buzzkill skeptics like myself who, upon seeing a story like this, can't help but look deeper.

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That poor dog!

By palindrom (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

Indeed, poor dog. I can only hope mr. Weaver gets bitten a lot. Perhaps trying his quackery on something really dangerous, like a crocodile, or an aligator.

Not gonna lie, provided she wasn't actually sick, I'd pay good money to have some quack TRY to try chiropractic on my cat, Daisy. Just for the laugh.

By Quiet Lurker (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

I'm imagining a woo-bent practitioner attempting chiro or acupuncture on my large and rather self-possessed cat.

At any rate, web woo-meisters know that they can inveigle money due to pet owner's fears and quite a few sites manage this well. "Healthy pet food" is all the rage. Altho' I notice that Mercola still lists a pet section at his store, Null and Adams have less than they did before

My absolute worst tale of woo-driven nonsense for pets goes back about 10 years:
Null instructs his audience about long-lived cats of dogs of his own, his aunt and rural folk he visited in Italy and France. 25 year old dogs and 30 year old cats are common- all of which are VEGANS.. These animals are incredibly healthy and active, despite their age.

Well, after a while, someone must have informed him that cats are obligate carnivores and can't survive on tofu. So his tales focused on dog vegans at first and SLOWLY, he added tales of ancient but lively cats who ate only raw fish or lived entirely as hunters out of doors eating 'palm rats' ( at his estate). OBVIOUSLY these fortunate creatures enjoyed only the best supplements and dry, powdered vegetables in their daily smoothies.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

This isn't a novel objection, which is why, in quite a few acupuncture studies in animals published in recent years, the observers of symptoms and behaviors are blinded to the treatment. (At least one that used pet dogs also concealed treatment allocation from owners.) Thus you would have positive results for acupuncture rejected out of hand as Placebo even when there is a control group (either sham or no acupuncture) and observers are blinded - yet the vast majority of animal studies relating to current or potential conventional treatments do not blind observers, and neither you nor anyone else in the field suggests that all those thousands of studies could be automatically presumed worthless. What matters therefore, in judging whether a scientific publication counts as Science or not, is not the quality of the methodology, but whether those conducting the study have the Right beliefs and get the Right answers.

That is not a methodological process; it's a religion, the religion of scientism. Notably, it's a religion with multiple sects, because there are plenty of professional scientists in China, and apparently also Italy and South America, who would assure you that they are devoted to the primacy of Science as a source of knowledge, and yet think it is okay for science to be used to investigate forms of treatment invented in China. You would like the small group of American authorities who share your beliefs to be able to prescribe the proper Scientific values for believers worldwide, much as African Catholics for centuries could expect to be taking orders from leaders who were largely Italian and therefore reflected Italian cultural biases in the dogmas handed down. No foreigner who does the work to get a PhD is going to put up with that kind of attitude in the modern age - especially not when they notice that medicine in America is an entirely profit-driven and largely dysfunctional enterprise, which no foreigner in his right mind would want to emulate.

* Pardonnez les typos, svp*

pet OWNERS", cats AND dogs, OF his aunt

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

Weaver is shown sticking needles into dogs, most of whom most definitely appear not to be liking it at all, as they all flinched as the needles were placed and had to be held to keep from biting at them.

It's good that the dogs are reacting normally to this kind of thing. That's evidence that they are smarter than their owners or Weaver. But it's unfortunate that they have such oblivious owners.

Somewhat OT, but may help explain why Detroit media are so credulous about this kind of thing: I recently learned (via comments on another blog) that quackademic medicine at the University of Michigan is required by law:

390.5 Board of regents; powers.
Sec. 5.

The regents shall have power to enact ordinances, by-laws and regulations for the government of the university; to elect a president, to fix, increase and reduce the regular number of professors and tutors, and to appoint the same, and to determine the amount of their salaries: Provided, That there shall always be at least 1 professor of homeopathy in the department of medicine. [Emphasis added]

To be fair, this provision cannot be blamed on any politician alive today: the statute in question was enacted in 1851.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

Jane,

in quite a few acupuncture studies in animals published in recent years, the observers of symptoms and behaviors are blinded to the treatment. (At least one that used pet dogs also concealed treatment allocation from owners.) Thus you would have positive results for acupuncture rejected out of hand as Placebo even when there is a control group (either sham or no acupuncture) and observers are blinded – yet the vast majority of animal studies relating to current or potential conventional treatments do not blind observers, and neither you nor anyone else in the field suggests that all those thousands of studies could be automatically presumed worthless. What matters therefore, in judging whether a scientific publication counts as Science or not, is not the quality of the methodology, but whether those conducting the study have the Right beliefs and get the Right answers.

Sources? And what are they blinded against? Nothing? Knowing the animal received something, but not knowing what? What were the criteria for feeling better? You can't just throw out such an extreme statement regarding things known to be quackery, except now we're talking about animals, without backing it up.

2) YES, in a sense, many studies can be dismissed based on the "right beliefs" or "right answers" from the get-go. The first thing an investigation should attain is scientific plausibility. All homeopathy studies, blinded or not, are BS based on simple physics and the nature of the dilutions they do. They have not met that basic requirement. So yes, if something believes chiropractic is going to cure cancer or prevent infection, I can effectively say on the basis of pure, objective known fact about the natural world, germ theory, etc, that they do NOT have the right "beliefs."

Also, way to generalize the entire non-American world. You have no authority to speak on what they will or will not do based on what you find wrong with them American system. Your ethnocentrism is showing.

By Quiet Lurker (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

Ugh. The vet woo is everywhere here in SE Pennsylvania. The vet I've been using for over ten years recently hired a TCM practitioner, and the emergency vet in the area also has one on-staff. As I was waiting for my dog to see the oncologist, the woman next to me had an acupuncture appointment for her arthritic dog. It saddens me, but since Penn Vet (which rules around here) is actively promoting and graduating vets that practice this crap, it's inescapable.

At my dog's first appointment pre-cancer surgery, the vet asked me if my dog was on any medicines or supplements. Nope. Then he asked me if she was on any homeopathic treatments. Well, she does drink water...

acupuncture for owls and chiropractic for ducks??

I hope this "vet" has some idea of the differences between mammalian and avian anatomy.

It seems to me that random deep pinpricks in a bird are going to pop into air-sacs, probably not good for their respiratory cycle. Of course humans too can get pneumothorax from a.p.

And anyone who's eaten a duck [or chicken] would be aware that there will be no subluxations below the neck...

lkr's comment brought up a hilarious vision of a shyster attempting acupuncture on a Canada goose. I would pay to see that.

Jane, it's always a delight to read your breathless, pearl clutching missives. Could we have the links to these physics-altering studies? Now, you must forgive me, I have to get back to praying to St. Orac. "Our Doctor, who art in surgery, hallowed be thy name . . ."

By Pareidolius (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

This isn’t a novel objection, which is why, in quite a few acupuncture studies in animals published in recent years, the observers of symptoms and behaviors are blinded to the treatment. (At least one that used pet dogs also concealed treatment allocation from owners.)

Citations needed.

acupuncture for owls and chiropractic for ducks??

To be fair, I don't think that this particular chiropractic veterinarian uses acupuncture on owls or adjusts ducks' spines. I simply included links to stories about dubious vets who actually do these things as examples of how we mistreat our animal friends in the name of woo.

jane,

This isn’t a novel objection, which is why, in quite a few acupuncture studies in animals published in recent years, the observers of symptoms and behaviors are blinded to the treatment. (At least one that used pet dogs also concealed treatment allocation from owners.) Thus you would have positive results for acupuncture rejected out of hand as Placebo even when there is a control group (either sham or no acupuncture) and observers are blinded

How does that follow? Where does Orac say that any positive results would be rejected even if there is a control group and blinding? He suggested that placebo-like effects may explain how, "Dr. Weaver can have so many glowing testimonials about the efficacy of his methods".

– yet the vast majority of animal studies relating to current or potential conventional treatments do not blind observers,

On what basis do you make this statement? This systematic review found that 35% of studies in 31 systematic reviews of animal clinical trials reported blinding, and that, "blinding reduced effect sizes, especially where outcomes were subjective". That's hardly a vast majority that didn't use blinding. Even a brief look at the literature shows that this has been a concern in animal research for some time, just as it has in human research.

and neither you nor anyone else in the field suggests that all those thousands of studies could be automatically presumed worthless.

Not automatically worthless, but prone to bias, certainly, especially when outcomes are subjectively assessed. SBM gives weight to prior plausibility, of which acupuncture has very little. It doesn't dismiss implausible hypotheses out of hand, but when we see implausibility combined with very poor evidence as we do with acupuncture, it is sensible to be skeptical.

What matters therefore, in judging whether a scientific publication counts as Science or not, is not the quality of the methodology, but whether those conducting the study have the Right beliefs and get the Right answers.

You have an unusual was of using of "thus" and "therefore" when there is no logical link between your statements. I don't see how the trend towards using blinding in both human and animal studies as a means of reducing bias in clinical trials is evidence of bias against acupuncture.

That is not a methodological process; it’s a religion, the religion of scientism.

Eliminating bias and trying to get to the truth of a matter is not a hallmark of religion. Could it be that your accusations are due to your cherished beliefs being challenged? If so it seems to me that you are the one who is behaving like a religious zealot here.

Notably, it’s a religion with multiple sects, because there are plenty of professional scientists in China, and apparently also Italy and South America, who would assure you that they are devoted to the primacy of Science as a source of knowledge, and yet think it is okay for science to be used to investigate forms of treatment invented in China.

No one has suggested that it isn't OK for science to investigate anything. You just don't like the results now it has done so. Are you seriously suggesting that the scientific method is intrinsically racist? Otherwise, isn't is racist to suggest that we shouldn't apply the same standards to Chinese medicine as we do to any other types of medicine?

You would like the small group of American authorities who share your beliefs to be able to prescribe the proper Scientific values for believers worldwide, much as African Catholics for centuries could expect to be taking orders from leaders who were largely Italian and therefore reflected Italian cultural biases in the dogmas handed down. No foreigner who does the work to get a PhD is going to put up with that kind of attitude in the modern age – especially not when they notice that medicine in America is an entirely profit-driven and largely dysfunctional enterprise, which no foreigner in his right mind would want to emulate.

What an extraordinary statement. How does the profit-driven nature of medicine in America affect research in the UK, where the systematic review I linked to above was carried out? The whole point of SBM is that there is no dogma, everything is based on what scientific evidence, including current scientific knowledge, supports a hypothesis. I find it amusing that you complain about bias in a system that is designed to eliminate it, merely on the basis that your beliefs are challenged by the results.

By Krebiozen (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

If I was an enterprising skeptic, I'd create an organization for the protection of animals from quacks because sometimes people seem to care about animals more than they do about humans.

Either that, or I'd sic PETA and Temple Grandin on them.

Oh dear. Acupuncture for animals makes me mad at their owners and vet and sorry for poor pets.
Now, I regularly stick one big needle in my cat - but that's a needle connected to a drip with saline solution, which has been keeping her alive and in good shape for the last 4 years. And I would give a lot to be able to stop doing it. But I know it works. And my cat graciously allows me to do it. As for acupuncture - no, never.

there will be no subluxations below the neck

You are too optimistic. Chiropractors happily realign the fused bones of the skull. They find misalignments in the sacroiliac joint. The fusion of a bird's spine will present no obstacle.
Also, look at all those extra cervical vertebrae where things can go wrong.

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

Jane, [...] Sources?

Heh. I just spent 2.5 hours back and forth on public transit to a cardio appointment that I learned had been rescheduled again without a phone call, and I needed a chuckle.

Now you can just take your religion of Citationism and put it where the vital energy don't flow, buster.

scientism

LedgerJokerAndHereWeGo.gif

Honestly, this is a tiring and pointless form of reducing an idea to a hollow talking point. Stop doing it, for everyone's sake.

By Chan Kobun, th… (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

As a veterinarian, let me just say "AAAARRRGGGGGHHHHHH!" Dang, I hate this! And I see it creeping into my profession despite my best efforts. And I might add, PeTA is the last bunch of misanthropes (yes, they hate people too) that I would want taking care of animals.

Luckily, my own creature's doctor ( & associates) seem woo-free- altho' the owner/ head doc is hippie-ish looking.. They actually prescribe packaged cat food ( for IBS)!

I should know I spent more than an hour there yesterday ( only an annual check ) I usually don't mind a wait HOWEVER a cat with ( possibly) neurological issues was crying plaintively throughout which was distressing to me.
I didn't like what her person told me about her symptoms- not holding head straight, not walking normally.

AND Alia: I did sub-q also for another cat.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

@ Narad:

And I hope your appt was only a check as well.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

Sometimes when I verbally admonish my black Labrador for bad behavior, she responds by running feverishly in tight circles, emitting snuffing noises or barks. This may go on for thirty seconds or more.

Some might say I am passing chi to the animal through an unknown meridian. But because I'm a devout member of the religious sect of Scientism, I prefer to believe the alternate explanation - that the dog is nuts.*

*most appropriately, her name is Patience.

By Dangerous Bacon (not verified) on 30 Dec 2014 #permalink

And I hope your appt was only a check as well.

Routine annual visit, thanks. I was an every-six-monther for a while. I was out $5 for escapade, though, and I had a specific question I wanted to ask, and some guy butted in while I was talking with the sympathetic front desk and flatly stated that he had "left me a voicemail" about the second rescheduling,* and it was in the teens outside, and the bus/train combo had been going down with zero wait time on the first three legs and only four minutes for the final one – not to mention no crowding – until being spoiled by the last bus's horn inexplicably getting stuck in the "honk" position, leading to everyone being dumped on the street, and I may have discovered that I forgot about a load of laundry downstairs two weeks ago, meaning that 80% of my socks are long gone, but at least it may have helped me reset my sleep schedule.

* I have an answering machine, not "voice mail." I also still had the first rescheduling call still on it. So... cram it, clownie.

This year Mr Woo decided that I *still* was not spending enough time outside (vitamin D is an anti inflammatory, etc.), so when Fyre's breeders offered us a rejected colt and his mother (depending on formula make-up, foals have a very similar feeding schedule to human infants in the beginning and weigh a little over ten times as much as a guess). Since he hasn't had normal horse interaction, this has been an adventure of sorts (I am better with smaller mammals and hatchlings).

Today Baby (Shadow) was startled by a squirrel running up a hedge, went tearing across the back yard and ended up almost on his back my the time he was done sliding and pin-wheeling. And that was with me, the closest thing he probably considers a momma...

I am trying to imagine how he would react to acupuncture. He had joint ill (infection acquired at birth went septic and settled in his joints, possibly in part because of a lack of adequate colostrum) and received regular antibiotic shots for an extended length of time. It didn't take long until the "Honest, this will hurt me more than it hurts you" was a very honest statement.

I like to believe I am practical when assessing any animal for pain (i.e., dogs in distress pant heavily, looking for restlessness, limping, etc., etc.). It is too easy to be crazy about animals, anthropomorphize them and even assume the big brown eyes are hurting or hungry when really they just want to figure out how to get your sandwich.

*by the time.

Old eyes...

@Dangerous Bacon:

Best laugh I've had all day. I almost broke Rule #1! ;)

Interestingly, I think I inadvertently discovered a way of evaluating these things without confirmation bias. I spent the last few months clicker training my cat, mostly teaching him to follow me around and be less skittish. I thought it was having an effect, but I wasn't certain. I dropped him off at our usual boarding place over Christmas, where he was familiar to everyone there. Several people described him as a "sweetheart", and talked about how friendly he was. Mind you, he was already quite easygoing to begin with.

It seems the best way to test a veterinary method is to have an outside observer who isn't aware of what's been done with the animal.

By Gray Falcon (not verified) on 31 Dec 2014 #permalink

A dear friend of mine is a vet. She says that all dachshunds are grumpy, because they all have bad backs.

No doggy-chiro from her though - least woo-ish person I know!

By BoxTurtle (not verified) on 31 Dec 2014 #permalink

Porcupines are sometimes kept as pets. That would be an interesting match up: Weaver and his needles against a porcupine and its quills.

By Chris Hickie (not verified) on 31 Dec 2014 #permalink

Speaking about acupuncture - my mother-in-law called me today to ask me what I think about acupuncture. My father-in-law is in pain, the source has not been diagnosed so far (but he has some neurological problems, so that might be connected) and she wanted to get him off NSAIDs. I told her all I know, hopefully this time she will heed my advice - for a retired pharmacist she is awfully woo-prone: chiropractors, homeopaths, energy healing, dietary supplements, you name it. My father-in-law's condition is already bad, I don't want him to undergo any unnecessary pseudo-treatment, especially one so invasive.

She says that all dachshunds are grumpy, because they all have bad backs.

Maybe it's because they're German? Every English bulldog I've ever met has back problems as well, but remain even-tempered. Must be that famous British stiff upper lip.

(On the other hand, when Germans get grumpy they tend to invade their neighbors).

Will have to talk to my sister the vet about pet woo. I object to people needlessly putting their pets through stress and pain for placebo (at best) affects but have come to understand that vet medicine doesn't offer much in some cases (such a cancer) so I can understand the owners falling for it. With these sorts of credulous reporting more people unfortunately will also fall for it. Good luck Mrs. Woo with your foal, I haven't bottle raised a foal but have done several calves. Included in that was one who was orphaned shortly after birth. Their general problem seems to be that they begin to think you are part of the herd (momma) and they forget they outweigh you by a lot. They are very friendly but their normal behaviors (head butting) can be quite painful as I have been literally knocked off my feet by 'playful' behavior. Good luck to you!

@Kiiri - he is 8 months old now, and more than heavy enough to be dangerous. Worse, mouthiness and biting are common, even more common with colts. I recognized his early mouthiness as searching for something to suckle and felt sorry for him, but as he got older it became necessary to "wean" him. At night when I put him back in his stall (if I go back and forth between outside and the house he stays in the yard without fencing) he will spend as much as twenty minutes mouthing at me and playing with the lead rope while he watches me. Teeth and increasing jaw strength makes letting him have my hand in his mouth increasingly dangerous.

Mr Woo hopes to keep him intact and breed him (he comes from some well-known blood lines and has a gorgeous head). His older half brother was Mr Woo's first attempt to keep me outside more, and became quite a challenge when the hormones really started running, so I am not as hopeful about this one as Mr Woo is.

As much as I am "momma" to this colt, I can't imagine acupuncture being "calming" or making him feel better.

Thank you for your well wishes! :-)

@Alia - I am a chronic pain patient and have been debating which is more dangerous - maximum daily doses of NSAIDs or continual opioid drugs. It seems like there are never good options.

@Denice Walter

I think the condition you're describing (not holding head straight, unsteady gait) may be somewhat common and benign for cats, if it happens to be the same that my family cat went through. I was scared to death but the vet suspected it would pass and it did. Some sort of inner ear infection? I can't recall.

Thanks for this one, Orac. I've been railing about this in another forum. Vet acupuncture is woo-placebo for the human, to make her think all possible steps are taken to relieve a pet's pain. I've seen educated people misled this way, placing trust in a academic institution that should dam well know better. Acupuncture did not fool the human - she could see the dog's discomfort. It is the institutional betrayal that added further insult.

@ ScottK:

Thanks.

That was my first thought however there were other issues I didn't describe ( too much): they took blood and kept the cat overnight so I fear for the worse

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 31 Dec 2014 #permalink

The Armies of Woo are becoming more and more prominent in veterinary medicine, and as a veterinarian who tries very hard to practice evidence-based medicine, I find myself on the defensive against this crap on a regular basis. It angers me that people who have been trained in medicine and science actually believe they're not wasting a client's time and money.

By Deborah Cottrell (not verified) on 31 Dec 2014 #permalink

Working in a veterinary teaching hospital I've unfortunately witnessed the woo infiltration first-hand. Our oncologists seem particularly susceptible. Even my own direct supervisor who is quite bright, and double-boarded in internal medicine and cardiology is more credulous than I'd like about "alternative" medicine. Most of our clinicians ignore me because I'm just a vet tech (more or less equivalent to an RN in human medicine) but he, at least, has seemed to pay attention to my arguments. It's a very small service, and he has to deal with me every day, so...

I should know I spent more than an hour there yesterday ( only an annual check ) I usually don’t mind a wait HOWEVER a cat with ( possibly) neurological issues was crying plaintively throughout which was distressing to me.
I didn’t like what her person told me about her symptoms- not holding head straight, not walking normally.
The cat could've had vestibular disease - my previous cat had a bout with it which is how I know about it - which when peripheral and not central could just be self-limiting (as happened with my cat). If this is the case with this cat, then the cat will get better and they would claim it's because of whatever alternative treatment the cat gets. It's actually fairly easy to say if it's central (bad news - some brain issue) or peripheral (inner ear) by eye movement pattern being all over in central and side to side in peripheral - as the neurologist explained to me.

@ kitty:

Thanks.
Vestibular problems were my first thought but the cat's carer mentioned other worrisome symptoms.and she was kept for a series of tests. I saw two very upset looking faces- the doctor's and the cat's owner- after the exam.

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 02 Jan 2015 #permalink

Though I've never been offered any veterinary woo by the rotating series of service up-sellers that seem to rotate through....I noticed my vets website mentions they now offer acupuncture and stem cell treatments.

So far no woo offered in my small local hospital. There was an aborted attempt to introduce Therapeutic Touch many years ago, but it was aborted principally by yours truly, and nobody has had the nerve to try again.

By NewcoasterMD (not verified) on 02 Jan 2015 #permalink

Of course, in the case of actual pathology, such as a disc problem, it is possible that spinal manipulation might be of some benefit

Did you actually mean what that seems to say, Dr G?

Acute disc problems in dogs usually mean sudden extrusion of disc material and this may compress the spinal cord leading to paresis or paralysis. Resting the patient is our main treatment modality. Our worry is that if the patient remains active they risk converting a merely painful back into a paralysing event. Easing the pain is very much a secondary consideration after protecting the dog from becoming paralysed. That said, although we do offer analgesia, my impression is that it is the imposition of strict rest that is itself the best pain relief (uncontrolled observation: animals present with varying durations of clinical signs but tend to show monotonic improvement over a small number of days once cage-rest is imposed regardless of whether we prescribe drugs).

Given what chiros do I would be very worried that their manipulations might cause deterioration. On the one occasion where I know that a client's animal was subjected to chiro manipulation soon after the onset of acute back pain such a deterioration is exactly what happened: their merely-painful animal was now brought to me with significant hindlimb ataxia. The idiot interfering chiro was apparently a family member and even after the event the owners resented any implication that their back-cracker may have made things worse.

Fortunately the dog did go on to recover.

By Badly Shaved Monkey (not verified) on 03 Jan 2015 #permalink

P.S. and parenthetically;

Dr G when I post here, iPhone Safari snaps its display to my numbered comment, but at SBM it simply reloads the page and displays the top. This is fairly frustrating once a large number of comments have been posted and you have to scroll down a long way to find the just-posted comment.

By Badly Shaved Monkey (not verified) on 03 Jan 2015 #permalink

So, just yesterday my lovely kitty tried to bit through my finger when I inserted the drip needle. Can't blame her, probably for some reason this was more painful then usual (hit an adhesion, perhaps?). And so, if it weren't so stressful for my cat, I would really love to see an acupuncturist try to "treat" her. Of course, first they would have to prove to me that they have an insurance and sign an informed consent form. ;-)