Charlatans have been around since the beginning of human history. They use your love of health and well being for yourself and your loved ones to convince you that their concoctions born of quackery and pseudoscience are the answer to good health. They tag their so called remedies with titles like “homeopathy,” “alternative medicine,” and “naturopathy” to give them legitimacy, while never seeking real scientific credence through thorough objective study following the princicples of the scientific method.
Charlatans are indeed gifted in their ability to sell. They stir up distrust of doctors, insisting on our great conspiracy to use our positions to keep these health potions from being known. They are such good sales people that they know and take advantage of the placebo effect to at least temporarily convince people that their remedies work. Sadly, some people, having been successfully duped by charlatans, go about life distrusting doctors and forsaking legitimate medicine for quackery and false promises. Even more sadly, charlatans are sometimes successful in using greed as motivation to get actual doctors to promote their nonsense and create undeserved credibility to their products.
With pet owners becoming ever increasingly concerned with the health of their pets, the new frontier for charlatans is the relatively untapped pet industry. The inspiration for this post and prime example of what a charlatan is, can be seen on the web page below that showcases the unveiling of a miracle herbal cure for canine Cushings Disease:
If this ridiculous advertisement was not enough convince you of the danger of charlatans, perhaps one my own experiences with this kind will help drive the point home. Two years ago, a lady brought very emaciated 8 year old cat to see me. The cat had been declining over the past year and on the advice of a friend, she brought the cat to see a nearby homeopathic vet. Still new to my area, I had heard of this man, but I did not fully understand how dangerous he was until this case was presented to me. Since following this case I tagged this homeopathic vet with the name Dr. Yin Yang, I will refer to him as this for the sake of this short story.
Fully brainwashed by her friend and by Dr. Yin Yang, this sweet lady explained to me how the cat kept getting sicker and sicker despite several herbal concoctions that Dr. Yin Yang had maintained the cat on, and if not for his best efforts, she would have died a long time ago. Reading directly from his notes (I can’t make this stuff up), I ascertained that Dr. Yin Yang had arrived at the necessity for this herbal regimen by determining that the cat had “Yin and Yang kidney and thyroid imbalance.” Dr. Yin Yang arrived at this diagnosis by simply examining the cat, never having ordered even one diagnostic test.
One blood test and an abdominal ultrasound later, I quickly determined that this cat’s kidneys and thyroid were just fine. The cat actually had intestinal lymphoma which, if diagnosed early, is a type of cancer that offers a favorable remission rate with treatment, approaching 13 months and longer.
Unfortunately for this owner and this kitty, having wasted nearly a year treating with herbs, the lymphoma was very advanced, infiltrating a large portion of her intestines, liver, and spleen. With her advanced cancer and her now debilitated state, she was a poor candidate for aggressive treatment. Dr. Yin Yang did a great job of ensuring this result.
Still, however, the owner did not bring her cat to us entirely too late. Forgoing conventional chemotherapy for less invasive high dose steroid therapy, the kitty responded remarkably. She began eating, regained most of her body weight, and had a good quality of life for 4 months, after which time she had to be euthanized when the cancer once again got hold of her.
Much to the relief of every legitimate veterinarian in my area, Dr. Yin Yang has retired. Amazingly enough, he left behind a rather substantial following that misses him dearly, despite this being but one example of many Dr. Yin Yang charlatan-esque cases that ended up in my, as well as other, legitimate veterinary clinics.
Roger L. Welton, DVM