Your Friday Dose of Woo: Paw-erful woo for paw-erful pets

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

Thus endeth the non-related introduction to this post.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is an immune system actually?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second thing the website says is this:

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

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

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

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

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