How Vitamin C Got Into Veterinary Medicine

Vitamin C, a liver metabolite in dogs and cats, was never considered an essential element for treating diseases other than a deficiency disease such as scurvy. Dr. Wendell Belfield was the first veterinarian to institute vitamins as a therapeutic agent for treating infectious diseases.

Upon release from active duty from the US Air Force in May of 1960, Belfield entered into private Veterinary practice. My specialized area of practice, was endemic for canine distemper, unfortunately I soon found that following the textbook protocol for treatment did not produce healing results for my patients.

Seek and ye shall find”

While doing research at the County hospital medical library I happened upon an article by Dr. Fred Klenner, a South Carolina physician, who developed a successful Polio treatment protocol using vitamin C injections. I wondered if this could also be successful for the treatment of distemper in dogs since polio and distemper are both filterable viruses and dogs, unlike humans, do synthesize vitamin C in their livers.

Since vitamin C treatment for distemper had never been done before and there was no known dosage scale, my first patient's owner was explained the risk and trusted in me with her permission to experiment on her dog. I started with an arbitrary amount of 2000 mg. to infuse intravenously and administered the dosage with no adverse reaction. The following day there was no change, the temperature was still elevated, the lethargy, mucopurulent ocular and nasal discharges were also present. However, there were no neurological symptoms, chorea, twitching of the temporal muscles of the head and no seizures usually observed in the terminal stage of the disease, this was a plus. Day two I administered another two thousand mgs of vitamin C and later in the day I decided to give another 2000 mgs since there was no reaction. Day three the patient displayed improved activity; the temperature had decreased to near normal so we proceeded with two more 2000 mg injections. Day four, temperature dropped into the normal range, increased activity and the dog wanted to eat! A jar of Gerber baby meat was provided and consumed in its entirety. Was the treatment over, the patient seemed to think so. I decided to administer two more infusions of the vitamin before releasing the patient. Patient returned home and lived a normal life.

Happy ending, no; I attempted the same protocol on other patients but some did not live. Over several months of treatment it established that patients of different weights and sizes would require specific quantities of the vitamin and the best time to begin the therapy was determined as not during neurological symptoms.

This was a happy time and thought I should share my clinical experience with my colleagues, and presented a professional paper, on the subject for publication. The publisher was impressed but he did not know how the profession, as a whole, would receive the publication. To soften the blow, to the profession, he did a preface explaining this unorthodox approach for treating canine distemper. The paper was not well received, some of the comments were “how do you know the diagnosis was correct, dogs synthesize their own vitamin C, the solution to this disease can’t be this simple.” And, “ this guy is a quack.” I became the “laughing stock” of the profession; many uncomplimentary words were spoken and written about my treatment protocol for distemper. But what was most frustrating was that there was no better protocol; the conventional textbook approach was not solving the problem so why not give it a try?

Some months later a Veterinarian and former Air Force buddy phoned to say “Your distemper treatment really works; I had a couple cases that responded”. This was good to hear and the news lifted my spirits. My reputation had become so poor I refrained from attending professional meetings and conventions. Be that as it may, in 1995 I received a letter from Mosby, one of the largest publishers of medical, veterinary, dentistry, and nursing textbooks asking that I be a contributing author to a new veterinary textbook, ”Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine” without hesitation, I accepted. It was most gratifying that my work, with nutritional treatment protocols, was being recognized. Today, every veterinary facility has vitamin C in one form or another since it is included in pet foods and supplements, treats, oral care or on their shelves to be administered. I am no longer called a “quack” but rather “a Maverick completely outside the box and years ahead of his time”.

Great Clients

Because of success with my distemper treatment, my clients expected me to solve every malady and encouraged me to, at least, try. It became important for me to live up to their expectations. I have always had a feeling of gratitude and indebtedness for the support of my clients, in that they were willing to trust me with the treatment of their pets using unorthodox, unproven theoretical treatment protocols. To honor these brave people I have dedicated my book “How to Have a Healthier Dog” to them.