2019 Tribeca Film Festival movie review: ‘The Dog Doc’

April 28, 2019

by Carla Hay

The Dog Doc
Dr. Marty Goldstein (far right) with dog Waffles and Waffles’ owner in “The Dog Doc” (Photo courtesy of Cedar Creek Productions)

“The Dog Doc”

Directed by Cindy Meehl

World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 28, 2019.

Dr. Marty Goldstein, who has a thriving but controversial veterinary practice in New York state, has received much criticism from others in the medical community for using alternative methods to treat sick animals. Goldstein believes that combining alternative and traditional treatments can increase the chances of recovery and possibly extend a sick animal’s life expectancy. The problem is that most vets believe that traditional medicine (which relies heavily on prescribed medication) is the only legitimate way to treat a sick animal.

“The Dog Doc” takes a fascinating look at Goldstein’s integrative methods, with a behind-the-scenes look at several cases that he had over the course of two-and-a-half years. Even though his Smith Ridge Veterinary Center—which has patients from all over the world—treats several types of domestic pets, Goldstein says that dogs are his personal favorite, and they are the focus of this documentary. Goldstein, a self-described former hippie, is over the age of retirement, but his passion for his work still remains, and it’s also evident with his loyal and professional staff.

The case of an adorable young male dog named Waffles (a small white terrier mix) is probably the most heart-wrenching and the most heartwarming story in the movie. Waffles, who was abandoned as a puppy, had a rough first year of his life, which is documented in the film. He’s been constantly plagued by mysterious illnesses that have robbed him of his appetite, left him in chronic pain, and even hindered his ability for his bones to grow properly. But he has a will to live that’s inspiring to anyone who’s faced life-or-death challenges.

Goldstein repeatedly states that his methods do not cure cancer or other terminal illnesses that have no cure. Instead, he believes that medication can often cover up a problem instead of reducing or eliminating the problem. Instead of over-medicating a sick animal, Goldstein believes in treating an animal with medicine in conjunction with holistic methods, such as changing the animal’s diet. He’s not a fan of over-processed animal food, and he encourages pet owners to switch to more organic meals that fit with an animal’s natural diet.

One of Goldstein’s most fascinating alternative treatment methods is cyro surgery—freezing tumors in animals that have severe tumors that can’t be removed. It’s not a cure if the tumor is cancerous, but the results are usually that the animal gets more relief from pain, and the tumor usually doesn’t grow at the rate that it had been growing before the freezing operation.

“The Dog Doc” also examines the issues that Goldstein’s detractors have with his type of combined holistic treatments, which are still not taught at accredited U.S. veterinary schools. He’s been called a crazy quack by some of his critics, but the documentary interviews a fellow doctor who used to be skeptic until he saw for himself how Goldstein’s methods worked better than traditional medical treatments. The film also shows Goldstein giving a presentation to veterinary students at Cornell University, his alma mater, in an effort to inform future vets of options they might not learn in medical school. One of Goldstein’s constant laments is that the medical industry has been slow to change many teachings that he considers to be outdated.

“The Dog Doc” director Cindy Meehl, who directed the “horse whisperer” documentary “Buck,” had a dog that was a patient of Goldstein’s several years ago. But that hasn’t prevented her from being objective enough to take a look at the pros and cons of his methods. One traditional vet concept that Goldstein vehemently disagrees with is that domesticated animals, such as dogs, with the same disease should receive the same medical treatment, regardless of the size and breed of the animal. Goldstein believes that each animal should be treated on a case-by-case basis, since each animal has a unique genetic makeup that might affect how they react to different treatments.

Viewers can judge for themselves if Goldstein has the right ideas, but the documentary shows that Goldstein has hundreds of cases to prove that his methods have worked. Most of all, the movie is a testament that dogs and other pets are treated like members of a family, who often will do what it takes to get the best help possible when their beloved pet gets sick.