Archive for January, 2014

Snake Oil

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

There has always been fertile ground for those selling hope to those most desperate for it, witness the $30 billion spent each year on weight loss products in the USA alone (sadly, for most of us, it’s making sure calories in = calories burned;  a pill would be a lot easier since I drive by Krispy Kreme every day).  Hair replacement pills, hair removing potions (if only we could figure out a useful exchange there, huh?).  These have proved to be staples of hucksters for over a hundred years, and while the individual products come and go, the categories themselves are perhaps timeless.  In addition to those, I add much of what passes for nutraceutical/herbal/holistic products–these are not regulated for efficacy, and indeed–holistic remedies are defended by their proponents are being very useful/excellent, but inconveniently immune to traditional demonstrations of efficacy.  That is, you cannot conventionally prove they work.  Let that sink in a bit–”please give me $$ for this highly effective remedy that cannot be shown to be effective by any traditional scientific inquiry”.  Nice work if you can get it, right?  Here’s a great resource for debunking a host of quasi-medical scams:

A little about veterinary holistic medicine.  There is no “holistic veterinary school”, so any knowledge about this topic must be acquired from sources other than traditional Western veterinary schools.  That means a rather substantial lack of academic rigor in the “certificate” courses that allow you to graft extra capital letters behind your name.  Colleges must meet certain educational standards–certificate programs have no such oversight, and are often nothing more than a pretty piece of paper in exchange for some amount of cash–sure, you have to attend 125 hours of coursework, but nothing more than buzzwords and nonsense about “ancient healing techniques”, “energy balance”, etc.  BTW–for all the references to “ancient healing” methods, the ancients had, in about 3,000 years of trying, not improved human lifespan by any great degree.  Please notice that lifespan chart–in just over one hundred years of interventive, problem-based (non-holistic) Western medicine, discovery of the germ theory, clean water, disinfection, aseptic surgery, antibiotics, and vaccines DOUBLED human life expectancy.  Take that reiki, Chi, herbs and spices!

So imagine my head explosion when I was sent a link to Galaxy Jackson’s line of cat holistic remedies.  Things like “Bully Remedy”, formulated for “all species”  (really–marmosets, oryx, cat, dog?) composed of “natural spring water, alcohol, essence of Lotus (presumably not the British sports car Lotus, unless you want your cat to leak oil, too), Full Color Spectrum (um, light?), Reiki Energy–in a bottle (?!?), gem infusion, plus other various essences. The sales page is festooned with testimonials from users singing the praises of how effective these remedies have been, so it must be true, right?  Deep breath.  I’m sorry, but you can’t bottle reiki energy, whatever that is or isn’t.  Or “gem infusion”.  And while there may or may not be other herbs and spices present in infinitestimally dilute concentrations, this, pardon the term and apologies to Penn and Teller, is bull**** in a bottle.  There is no potion or lotion or scent that will make your cat less of a bully or more tolerant/resistant to bullying.  It’s not possible.  There are behavioral modification techniques, environmental modification and optimization techniques, enrichment and play techniques that can be helpful, but the preying upon false hope that goes along with the sale of voodoo quack medicines is unconscionable.  Outrageous.  Shameful.  This creeps into other areas, too, as there are countless topical products or nutraceutical products for decreasing shedding, solving complex skin/allergy issues, slowing the development of cataracts (nothing, nothing slows cataract development, sorry folks).  At least once a week I treat an ear infection that has been smoldering for a while despite an over-the-counter potion (often for ear mites, which are pretty uncommon in dogs, BTW).  Oh–I also see a lot of improper treatment technique on the part of owners;  there is a skill level required for the successful treatment of ear disease, not a hard skill, but a particularly important one to learn well.  In a lot of cases, these product are not actually harmful, but they delay or substitute for proper treatment and therefore contribute to pet discomfort and decreased quality of life.  That’s frustrating to see, and sad for the pet to endure.  I’m sorry to see Galaxy Jackson prostitute himself in this way, when the cat owners buying and trying these bottles of false hope will be utterly scammed and their cats’ problems untreated.  Sad, but it is Mr. Jackson who deserves to be ashamed.

If your cat does have a problem getting along well with other cats, not using a litterbox correctly, human-directed aggression, destruction of furniture, etc., there are in fact treatments that can be helpful.  It’s just not in a little bottle.