The 400-Word Review: The Dog Doc
By Sean Collier
April 12, 2020
This is definitely the only film that includes a German shepherd receiving magnetic muscle stimulation. There’s that.
“The Dog Doc,” a new biographical documentary, looks at veterinarian Marty Goldstein and his New York clinic. Goldstein is a practitioner of and advocate for “integrative medicine” — treatment that mixes traditional methods (he has a degree from Cornell) and alternative practices.
These are loaded topics; any discussion of alternative medicine, no matter how measured, can inflame passions.
“The Dog Doc” does a number of things well. It raises valid concerns about the diet of American pets, illustrating a concerning lack of nutrition in common pet foods. It points out an over-reliance on certain medications — and, troublingly, a rush to euthanasia — among vets. It also, perhaps unintentionally, is a powerful illustration of the impact a pet’s health can have on the animal’s human family.
There are, however, numerous things “The Dog Doc” does not do well — or does not do at all.
It does not interrogate Goldstein’s methods; it’s occasionally mentioned that many veterinarians are skeptical of alternative medicine, but these voices are dismissed as establishment naysayers. It provides no actual statistics or data. It gives no voice to any opposing view who might be able to explain the drawbacks or risks of an integrative approach.
It does not question why, for example, three Vitamin C treatments cost a troubled dog owner $1,200.
“The Dog Doc” is sometimes compelling, and Goldstein is an interesting subject (when he’s not preaching). It paints a full portrait of life at the clinic, offering a serviceable slice of life. And, yes, there are a number of very good pooches gamboling about after happy recoveries.
The most admirable quality of “The Dog Doc” is its unwillingness to sell its subject as a miracle worker. He frequently reminds us that his work is focused on improving quality of life and extending life expectancy, not curing the incurable; the film is commendably unflinching on this point.
Unfortunately, the film also veers dangerously close to the language of the anti-vaccine movement. While Goldstein is measured in his discussion of animal vaccines — raising valid points about one-size-fits-all practices in the veterinary world — director Cindy Meehl drifts, via onscreen graphics, into the dangerous world of vaccine skepticism. It’s enough to make me caution viewers against “The Dog Doc,” unfortunately; there’s not enough here to justify such irresponsibility.
My Rating: 4/10
“The Dog Doc” is available now on demand through virtual-cinema services.