Documentary Review: When hope is lost, call “The Dog Doc”

“The Dog Doc” is a documentary portrait of a Cornell-trained New York veterinarian who pioneered the use of homeopathy, acupuncture, “vitamin C therapy” and other groundbreaking treatments to “hopeless cases” in the animal kingdom.

It’s a feel-good film of wags and tears, hugs and worry as concerned pet owners from across the country come to his Smith Ridge clinic when all hope is lost.

“Her other vet was about to put her down, today,” or words to that effect pop up a lot in this film about an “integrative” veterinary practice.

“If we work on his health and not the disease…support the patient’s immune system” by understanding “the biological effects of good food, homeopathy” along with, if necessary, more conventional cutting edge treatments such as cryosurgery,” Dr. Marty Goldstein is certain he can save many a “helpless” case, improve the quality of a pet’s life and/or extend that life.

“This is NOT ‘snake oil,'” he declares. Because he’s heard that before. We do not hear from a single soul questioning his theories and practices, just his wife reading a mean blog post and a former Doubting Thomas in his profession, now a convert.

Filmmaker Cindy Meehl follows Goldstein and other doctors and vet techs at his practice as they deal with cancers, autoimmune reactions to vaccines, kidney failure and other life-threatening crises facing the pets brought there as a last resort.

“It’s very rare that we cannot offer some sort of hope,” one doctor tells a desperate pet owner. And we see anecdotal proof of that aplenty. We see treatment, often including vitamin C, operations and a radical change to a “carnivore’s diet” — meat, not corn-based dog or cat food — deliver “before” and “after” results that are often remarkable.

Other patients test the staff’s resources and skills to the fullest. Not everybody wags their way out of there.

“The Dog Doc” is a just a tad more emotional and specialized than your average TV veterinary practice program. There’s a little evangelism here, too.

Goldstein is invited to speak and share what he’s learned at his alma mater. And while Dr. Marty is “NOT anti-vaccine,” the sloppy traditions of pet vaccination — “one dose fits all,” and “annual vaccines” and the like —  are making animals sicker, he insists. TEST to see if they still have immunity rather than injecting them every year for every pet malady.

But it’s weird seeing this pleasant little sermon on veterinary homeopathy during an incompetently-managed human pandemic, with tens of millions of Americans facing illness, many of them without health insurance.

No, you don’t see a particularly diverse client base at Smith Ridge. Nobody really flinches at this $1200 treatment, or those follow-up visit costs. One woman’s got her recovering dog on a “Boston Market (rotisserie) chicken” diet. He eats one or more a day, she grins — at $11.49 per chicken.

So aside from the fact that the medicine is not challenged, if there’s a more unironic depiction of “white privilege” on film, I’m hard-pressed to name it.

Nobody on Earth loves dogs more than me, but “The Dog Doc” is too credulous and tone deaf to affluence to give a pass.


MPAA Rating: unrated, surgical scenes, profanity

Cast: Marty Goldstein, Randie Shane, Jaqueline Ruskin, Jennifer Lenarz-Salcedo staff and patients and pet owners at the Smith Ridge Veterinary Clinic

Credits: Directed by Cindy Meehl. A FilmRise release.

Running time: 1:36

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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