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Homeopathy for Dogs

Remedies for better health

For many years classical homeopathic medicines have been recognised as a safe and effective means of treating ailments, serious and minor, in humans and animals alike. Essentially it's a natural healing process, providing remedies to assist the patient to regain health by stimulating the body's natural forces of recovery. It concentrates on treating the patient, not the disease. Christopher Day, Hon. Secretary of the BAHVS, explains.

When we study the vast armoury presently available in modern drug medicine, we may not realise that the staggering leap in medical technology have taken place in a relatively short time. The concept which stimulated and continues to drive the constant search for ideal drugs dates from 1906 and the actual weapons from twenty years later.

Magic Bullet
In 1906 Paul Erlich, a German chemist, communicated his attractive dream of a 'Magic Bullet' which would selectively attack invading organisms and not adversely affect the patient at all. This may have seemed far-fetched to his peers for all their medicines were to varying extents very poisonous, but Erlich none the less pursued the dream.

He soon realised, however, that his dream of some manufactured chemical having these marvellous properties was perhaps a little unrealistic. He saw anti-bodies as being the archetypal example, but these were natural substances manufactured by the body, not a laboratory.

Nevertheless, this seductive dream drove researchers forward, and it must have seemed like a dream-come-true when Penicillin emerged in 1929. Here was a chemical which selectively destroyed bacteria but which was only minimally harmful to a few patients.

Since that day, modern medicine has produced a vast array of drugs in the search for Ehrlich's 'Magic Bullet'. Many are anti-biotics like Penicillin, many are aimed directly at reversing specific cellular processes. Despite modern medicine's creditable achievements, however, the 'Magic bullet' has not been found but the search goes on. More and more drugs are being tried and produced but sadly not one of these creations is totally without side effects. Even vaccination is not considered entirely free of adverse effects. Happily most modern drugs have very few harmful effects and, of these, most are fairly minor. The wholesale disasters of lethal drugs are thankfully very few and far between.

In the veterinary context, these side effects are, by and large, considered less important than in the human because of the animal's relatively short lifespan compared with human longevity. Antibiotics are, however, constantly running into bacterial resistance problems, necessitating the development of new ones. Also, tissue residues and milk residues in our food animals and residues of drugs in sporting performers are a very real problem, causing large scale financial losses in the respective industries and possible dangers to the consumer.

Alternative Medical Methods
However interest has, of recent years, focused on alternative medical method and more particularly, on homeopathy, the brainchild of another German, the physician Samuel Hahnemann. His work came 100 years earlier than Ehrlich's and has attracted a significant body of adherents ever since. Hahnemann, rebelling again the heinous irrational medical practices of his day (bleeding, emetic, clysters, poisoning etc.) devised a system of medicine which treats like with like. He postulated that those symptoms a substance can cause in a healthy body can also cure a diseased body.

This theory did not come out of thin air but as a result of an experiment upon himself with Cinchona Bark, the material which gives us Quinine which is still successfully used against malaria to this day. He tried to discover how this substance was able to be very effective against malaria when most of the contemporary medicines in use for any purpose were, at best, ineffective, at worst lethal. The only satisfactory and meaningful way he could find to research on it, in those days of primitive science, was by taking the substance himself. What he found formed the basis of his new medical theories. He found that, on taking the substance, he developed symptoms similar to malaria. When he stopped, the symptoms subsided. This he repeated several times over, satisfactorily to prove cause and effect to himself. He also confirmed this effect in other people. He then studied some 70 other remedies in students and other healthy volunteers as 'guinea pigs'. What he developed was a formidable array of substances to help him combat disease in a powerful and humane way, totally without side effects.

He later found that his substances became more potent curatively and had less power to do harm as he serially diluted them, subjecting the solutions to succussion (violent mixing) at each stage of dilution. He postulated that the process of dilution/succussion harnessed the 'vital energy' of the substances and when we study the most frequently used dilutions, we are forced to agree with him for the concentrations are, in fact, sub-molecular!

At these dilutions, it is easy to concede that homeopathic medicines have no power to produce side effects. What is not so easy to accept is that they can have any curative effect at all. Happily, results obtained by Hahnemann and his followers fighting against typhoid and cholera, the great epidemic killers of the 19th century, give us all the evidence we need. Their results would be considered creditable, even in these days of powerful anti-biotics and supportive therapy despite their lack of knowledge of bacteria.

Hahnemann's method was strangely simple in that he selected remedies, for the cure of a patient, which had the power to produce similar symptoms in a healthy body, hence the name Homeopathy' which derives from the Greek meaning 'similar to the disease.'

A Holistic Approach
In any disease, the symptoms noted and used for the selection of a homeopathic remedy are not only those obvious ones associated with the disease itself (e.g. diarrhoea, cough, eczema, etc.), but all the symptoms which can be detected anywhere in the body including especial emphasis on any mental symptoms. This approach, taking into account the whole patient, its build, temperament and interaction with its environment (rather than studying disease as many different named diseased), is coming to be known as the 'holistic' approach.

If we take as an example the named acute disease - Kennel Cough, we can illustrate how different remedies may be needed depending not upon identifying the causal organism but upon the patient's own reaction to the disease, the symptoms. We must study the individual patient's reaction not so much the viruses or bacteria. In the same boarding kennel during the same outbreak (therefore presumably the same virus or bacterial challenge in each case), we may need at least five different remedies to match the differing symptoms in the various patients:-

  1. Pulsatilla
    Mild of temperament, friendly but shy, not at all thirsty and affected with bland, creamy (greenish/yellow) ocular and nasal discharges with itchy eyes and an irritating cough, all symptoms worse in a warm, stuffy atmosphere and in the evening.
  2. Arsenicum
    Much sneezing, watery discharge which is a little corrosive, marked thirst and restlessness showing improvement in warm surroundings. The mouth may be dry.
  3. Mercury
    Greenish, corrosive , purulent discharges with raw nares, dilated pupil, thirst, wet mouth, with bad odour, perhaps bleeding gums and a quick temper with symptoms worse at night.
  4. Aconite
    Shows very sudden onset of symptoms, sore, red, watery eyes, sneezing with little nasal discharge, dry coughing, great fear and anxiety and symptoms worsening in a warm room and up to midnight.
  5. Kalium Bichromicum
    Yellow, elastic, ropy discharge from eyes and nose, nasal septum ulcerated. There is usually a bad smell from the throat with much sneezing and a hacking cough. Symptoms are usually better in warmth and worse in the morning.

Further possible remedies also with distinguishing characteristics are Ipecauanha, Drosera and Coccus.

Many more concomitant symptoms for each remedy may exist in each of these patients, e.g. diarrhoea or sickness, again each with its own characteristic variations, all these needing to be taken into account when prescribing. Over and above each of these remedies, we could also prescribe the 'specific' homeopathic treatment for Kennel Cough - the nosode - which may also be used for prevention prior to outbreaks.

Constitutional Remedies
In all cases of chronic disease (in which patient and disease are in long-term uneasy equilibrium, representing the most challenging form of the disease) one gains best results by applying what is known as 'constitutional prescribing in addition to matching the present symptoms. Constitutional prescribing in the art of extending one's interpretations to include the full holistic approach, i.e. applying the approach used with the couch symptoms described above to the whole patient itself as opposed to just the local disease symptoms. It is difficult to describe this concept concisely but suffice it is to say that, in following the procedures described in the above example of Kennel Cough, one may or may not arrive at the constitutional remedy. However, the constitutional remedy can be found for the patient whether in sickness or in health. One takes into consideration the dog's disposition, moods, likes, dislikes, responses to stimuli, skin and hair characteristics, build, eating and drinking habits etc. to find the dogs' type. 'A remedy can be matched to this type which, when used, will enhance the patient's general ability to fight disease and can stimulate a deep cure.

To illustrate this concept, let us look at a recurring cystitis problem, in a given dog. This is not a state where new acute infections occur at each occasion but more a constitutional predisposition to the cystitis state, with acute episodes. To match a remedy to the bloody urine, repeated squatting or leg-cocking, painful urination etc. one would probably arrive at Cantharis but, whereas this remedy may produce alleviation, its use may not cure the underlying problem. One will need, alone or in addition, a deep constitutional remedy chose from the powerful and wide acting 'polycrests' (the name given to the remedies which affect all parts of the body.) This may be Arsenicum, Calc. carb., Causticum, Lycopodium, Nux vomica, Pulsatilla, Sulphur, etc. These remedies are described in great detail in homeopathic books and their 'pictures' need to be compared to that of the patient in order to find a match. This is the method by which one arrives at deep and lasting cures.

A further use of homeopathic medicine, already hinted at, is in the prevention of specific diseases by use of the 'nosodes.' These are medicines prepared from infective disease material, or actual organisms, diluted and potentised in the customary, previously described manner so that no substance remains in the solution. (There is, therefore, no infective potential in these medicines nor are they, strictly speaking, vaccines in which one would expect to find demonstrable antigentic material.) These medicines can then be used in preventive programmes, in much the same way as vaccines, both prior to and in the face of outbreaks of specific infectious disease. Examples are Kennel Cough, Canine Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Leptospirosis.

In all cases, where any of the above specific diseases states is actually present, one does not need to be blocked or overawed by the fact that a specific named disease is involved because normal homeopathic prescribing, with or without concurrent nosode therapy, can be very beneficial or even achieve a cure alone. The example of the principles and method of prescribing for the differing cough symptoms described above can just as easily applied to the vomiting and diarrhea of Canine Parvovirus. Remedies frequently used in diarrhea and vomiting are: Aloe, Antimonium crudum, Arsenicum, Mercurius, Nat. sulph., Phosphorus, Podophyllum, Pulsatilla, Rheum, etc. In all instances, the character of the diarrhea or vomit, the way it affects the patient and the concomitant symptoms all influence the choice of remedy. It is interesting to note in passing that 'virus' diseases may be favourably treated by homeopathy whereas conventional medicine has little to offer against these agents. Acute Parvovirus is a very serious disease, however, and in addition one may be required to give fluid therapy but the principles apply and homeopathic treatment can greatly enhance the chances of recovery.

First Aid
More popularly, homeopathy has a reputation in the first aid field. This article will only contain a few examples to illustrate the potential for its use. Here one is taking less consideration of the whole patient and more of the pathology of the injury and the needs of particular tissues. One is trying to assist the natural healing mechanisms and this application of homeopathy is very simple to adopt. Arnica is the remedy everyone should possess for injury treatment. It is helpful in all cases of injury for both the mental and the physical states which result. It reduces bruising, pain, shock and hemorrhage and in invaluable in both trivial and serious cases.

Other remedies include:-

  • Aconitum - Mental shock and panic
  • Hypericum - Injury to areas which in nerve-endings (e.g. toes, tail)
  • Ledum - Puncture wound
  • Calendula - A graze
  • Hepar Sulphur Acute septic infection or even cellulitis
  • Silica - Chronic suppuration or foreign body damage
  • Nat. sulph & Helleborus - Cranial injury and concussion
  • Symphytum - Bone injury or injury to the orbital area
  • Ruta - Bone or ligament damage
  • Rhus tox - Muscle injury

One can, therefore, see that homeopathy, far from being simply a first aid/do-it-yourself system of treatment or a system of 'quack' medicine, is in fact, a complete system of medicine able to tackle all medical problems, from the trivial to the serious, completely without side effects. This accounts for its increasing popularity with veterinary surgeons for they are constantly searching for the best form of treatment of the disease. Homeopathy has long been the province of keen do-it-yourself owner for first aid situations both because of its innate safety and because of the shortage of veterinary surgeons using it but there has hitherto been little application of it in cases of serious disease. This situation is rapidly changing with more and more veterinary surgeons joining the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons and taking up the challenge of homeopathy. Rather than trying to tackle serious disease yourself, it is, therefore, preferable to seek veterinary advice on the subject.

C. Day 1992

About the author...
Christopher Day
(MA VetMB, MRCVS, VetFFHOM) is Secretary of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons. He works at the Alternative Veterinary Medicine Centre, in Farringdon, Oxfordshire where they speciaise in holistic treatment for equine, pet and farm animals.

He believes in natural dog feeding and has written a book on the subject.

Photo sources:
Herbs for Cooking & Health by Christine Grey-Wilson, illustrated by Jill Coombs (HarperCollins Publishers)
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies by C. Norman Sheaky (Element Books Ltd)

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