The Dog Doc — Sit. Stay. Heal.

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance

  • Filmmaker Cindy Meehl and integrative veterinarian Dr. Marty Goldstein have created a must-see documentary, The Dog Doc
  • The film covers Dr. Marty’s remarkable 45-year veterinary career working minor and major miracles in animal healing by thinking outside the box and combining conventional and holistic healing methods
  • In addition to the film, there are also plans for an educational series for pet parents and veterinarians that will feature even more of Dr. Marty’s patients and the protocols used to heal them

Today I have two very special guests — award winning documentary filmmaker Cindy Meehl, whose first feature film, Buck, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and world-renowned integrative veterinarian Dr. Marty Goldstein, author of The Nature of Animal Healing: The Definitive Holistic Medicine Guide to Caring for Your Dog and Cat.

Cindy and Dr. Marty joined forces to produce a brand-new film called The Dog Doc, celebrating Dr. Marty's 45-year career "creating a mecca for pets and their owners looking for hope and a last chance for animal healing." Following are the highlights of our discussion. You can download the full transcript at the link above.

Hope for a Dying Shar-Pei

Cindy met Dr. Marty almost three decades ago when she began taking her own pets to him. The first pet of hers he treated was a 6-year-old Shar-Pei who was dying, according to all the veterinarians who saw the dog before Dr. Marty.

"Somebody told me about Marty, and I thought there was really no hope, but I went to him," Cindy explains. "And the first thing he did was give me hope and relieve the fear I'd been living with for so long. He changed my entire perspective on how dogs heal."

After her movie, Buck, was released and well-received, Cindy began thinking about future projects, and what else she could do to offer hope and help to people and their animals. (For those of you who haven't seen the film, Buck Brannaman is a real-life horse whisperer.) She immediately thought of Dr. Marty and all the things she had learned and seen from him over the many years she'd been taking her pets to him.

"Filming The Dog Doc at his clinic for three years," Cindy says, "I really got embedded in the environment and with all the people and doctors, and it was even better than I imagined. Prior to that, I had just been his client. But over those three years, I got the full picture."

The Beginning: Physician, Heal Thyself

I saw The Dog Doc and loved it. I can't wait for everyone else to see it. One of the reasons I'm so excited about the film is that it showcases the real-life benefits of nontoxic therapies and functional, common sense veterinary medicine. I asked Dr. Marty to talk a little about his transition from a reactive conventional veterinarian to a proactive wellness veterinarian.

"Holistic veterinary care didn't really exist when I graduated from Cornell vet school," he explains. "I actually became interested in holistic medicine due to my own health problems — genetically based chronic degenerations that are in all the males in my family. So, it was fear and vanity that made me search for better answers than conventional medicine provided."

Once Dr. Marty was able to heal himself, he began thinking about his animal patients. He realized semi-moist dog food was all he sold in his practice, and all he fed his own dogs. At the time, he had a severely arthritic Golden Retriever who also had allergies so bad all four of her paws were bandaged.

"I made a home-cooked diet," says Dr. Marty, "and within a month all the itching stopped, and she started running around again. And I thought, 'Is it really this simple'?"

And then there was Cindy's Shar-Pei, Coco, who came in with a 107oF fever of unknown origin. Cindy had been giving the poor thing ice baths to try to bring her temp down. "What's the purpose of the fever?" Dr. Marty wondered. "Fever has a purpose."

This led him to realize that perhaps disease actually has a purpose. Perhaps it's a step the body must go through to heal.

"It was a juxtaposition of everything I learned at Cornell," he says. "At one time I was number two in my class at Cornell, so I knew this side really well and it was a radical shift in consciousness, learning about health and not so much about disease."

Fierce Resistance to a Holistic Approach

As Dr. Marty made the transition from conventional medicine to a more holistic and integrative approach, he encountered a lot of both passive and active resistance. He was ridiculed. He'd hear comments such as, "He used to be a good veterinarian, but he's lost his mind."

In 1978, he was even threatened with losing his license for treating arthritic dogs with glucosamine sulfate. When he received his certification in acupuncture in the mid-1970s, he was judged. But things are slowly (very slowly) changing. Today, 19 of 34 U.S. veterinary schools embrace some form of acupuncture.

"It's the gateway for a conventional veterinarian to become alternative," says Dr. Marty. "And the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine sent five residents to the Chi Institute to study last year. So, it's happening, but unfortunately, way too slowly.

I'm hoping the documentary is a major national and international wake up call for not only society, but also for veterinarians. And I want to point out that we're not saying conventional medicine is wrong. We're expanding the concept of conventional medicine to include holistic medicine and incorporate the best of both worlds."

Conventional veterinary medicine is essential in many situations, such as when we need to treat patients with acute trauma. But when we want to try to prevent cancer, slow down degenerative disease, or avoid organ failure, a conventional approach can be very limiting.

As you'll see in The Dog Doc, the young Dr. Marty moved into what he calls "the shack," because he couldn't afford anything else.

"As I made more and more terminally ill patients better, I asked clients to return to their regular veterinarians and share with them how well, for example, their cat with the brain tumor was doing two years later," Dr. Marty explains. "Eventually, they began to accept me again because my patients were the proof that I knew what I was doing."

The next awakening for Dr. Marty was when he thought to himself, "If I can help terminally ill patients remain not only alive, but well, for years after diagnosis, what would happen if I started 'treating' them before they got sick?" And that became his number one priority — working every day on wellness. His goal was to prevent his patients from needing a disease recovery program.

The Dog Doc Educational Series

Many of Dr. Marty's amazing cases are featured in The Dog Doc. During filming, Cindy was also blown away by the three female veterinarians who work in Dr. Marty's practice and share his philosophy.

"It was so great to see the entire clinic doing this work and the successes they were having," she says. "And the pet owners would come in and remark on how beautiful the place was and how different it felt from anywhere they had been.

I have the luxury of living less than half an hour away from his clinic. And what breaks my heart is, I think people are going to see the film and then where will they go? Where can they go? It's my mission to make more people want this, to make more people realize the benefits of it.

Because I've certainly lived it for almost 30 years. And I think the universities will start to pay attention because I think we're all moving into more organic and holistic living.

Disease isn't something we want. We don't want it for ourselves, for our children, our pets, patients, or families. And so, I think it's important that people start gearing their lifestyle and their pet's lifestyle in this direction."

The Dog Doc film runs about 90 minutes, but Cindy actually filmed over 300 hours with Dr. Marty. So, the plan for the extra footage is similar to what she did with Buck — produce an educational series.

"We have experts and a lot of cases that didn't make it into the film," she explains, "and we're planning to put together some concrete information that will be helpful to pet owners.

And hopefully, veterinarians will also see the work, and the results Marty's team achieves, and they'll realize it's not rocket science. But it's usually more than simply medicating chronically ill patients. Too often, medications don't address the body that created the illness. We need to start from ground zero and work up."

Shifting the Paradigm

One of Dr. Marty's cases that will be featured in the educational series involves a 15-week-old Golden Retriever pup who developed hydrocephalus shortly after a rabies vaccination.

After 3 or 4 days on intravenous (IV) vitamin C and certain homeopathic remedies, the puppy went from a comatose state, paralyzed in all four legs and able only to wag the tip of her tail, to running around the clinic. A follow-up MRI when the dog was two years old showed that 75% of her brain had grown back.

Dr. Marty presented the case to veterinarians and vet students at LSU's veterinary school. When he looked out at the audience, many were crying, and he told them, "You can do this, too. This work can be replicated."

"I think it's all about healing the animal," says Cindy. "No veterinarian, conventional or integrative, wants an animal to suffer. So, sometimes you just have to relax and use your brain and not say, 'Well, the rules say this, so I'm never going to do that'."

If you'd like to learn more about The Dog Doc, you can visit the film's Facebook page. To view the trailer, go to the watch page, where you can also click through to Prime video or Apple TV to watch the film in its entirety. (Prior to mid-March, certain theaters were releasing the film, however, most theaters have since closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.)

Many thanks to Cindy Meehl and Dr. Marty Goldstein for talking with us today about their very important work!



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