Michael Goldberg, DVM, CHom
Homeopathy for pets? I thought that was just for people!
That's a common misperception among a growing number of clients I see who are involved with alternatives for their own health. With today's growing demands on our minds and bodies we, as a collective society, have begun an awareness of alternatives to drugs in order to attempt to live healthier lives. This extrapolates to our pets, who have become part of the family. Physiologically, our pets are very similar to us. In fact most of the drugs we rely on are used in veterinary medicine as well.
Homeopathy is a 200-year-old system of medicine discovered by a German physician chemist and translator named Samuel Hahnemann. Homeopathy is derived from the Greek word " homoios" which means like or similar. It is a therapy based on the principle like cures like.
A few years ago a client came to me. Her dog had immune mediated polyarthritis (arthritis of more than one joint). The owner, wanting to try some natural therapy, had given the dog echinacea for the immune problem. As long as the dog was on the echinacea, he would do fine, but when off it, he would begin to limp. One day the dog began breaking out in skin blisters that would open, ooze clear fluid and then heal. At this point, she called me to help her with the use of homeopathy.
One of the symptoms of echinacea over-use is blister-like eruptions or boils. It was the echinacea in its crude form that was probably causing this. At that point I prescribed homeopathic (diluted) echinacea. Within a week the dog had stopped limping and no further blisters had erupted. At a six-month follow-up the dog was normal, with no recurrence of either the limping or the blisters.
How about the case of the midnight snacker in the garbage? (If your dogs or cats are like mine!) They may get nauseated, irritable and thirsty, with vomiting and a grumbling stomach. Nux vomica is excellent in these situations and has worked well for me time and time again. If there is diarrhea with vomiting then you can try Arsenicum album. When the symptoms are repetitive vomiting only, then try Ipecac in a homeopathic preparation, as Ipecac syrup will actually cause vomiting. Remember like cures like.
Remedies that I have found useful for urinary tract problems include Nux vomica (poison nut), Arsenicum album, Cantharis (Spanish fly) and phosphorous to name a few.
Homeopathy is excellent when the problems are acute. Insect stings or bite wounds with swellings can be treated with Apis (bee venom) when they are very puffy, Ledum (marsh tea) when they are cold to the touch, or Hypericum (St John's wort) when they are tender to the touch.
The medicines are prepared from pure, natural, animal, vegetable or mineral substances listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the US and in the European Pharmacopoeia. They are processed in modern labs by a process of serial dilution and succussion (repeated shaking). During this process, the medicines are diluted with water and alcohol from 10 times to millions of times. The medicines come in pill or liquid form and are usually administered orally.
By the nature of their preparation, there are no unwanted side effects to the medications. It is safe to use on neonates, geriatrics and during pregnancy.
I have been using homeopathy in my practice of veterinary medicine for the past four years and have been astounded at some of the results. The above are but a few examples. It is a hard pill to swallow (and humbling I might add) when, after four years of grueling veterinary college, you graduate and find that diseases that you thought you could cure are getting worse and worse.
I see chronic problems almost everyday in my practice. These include ear infections, urinary tract infections and skin infections to name a few. Chronic problems can take years to cure with homeopathy by careful prescribing of the most appropriate medicines. The chronic problems can be tricky to treat and sometimes they are best dealt with through a homeopathic veterinarian who has studied this medical art and who is familiar with treating chronic diseases.
Currently there are few recognized avenues to study this medical form. Richard Pitcairn has been practicing veterinary homeopathy for the past 25 years in Oregon and has been teaching veterinarians all over North America for the past six years. He offers both introductory and advanced training courses for veterinarians. The British Institute of Homeopathy (which has a veterinary course) is a correspondence course and the Vancouver Homeopathic Academy (human) in Vancouver, offers a four-year part-time diploma program of approximately 600 hours of class time study.
The beauty of this medical form is that there are no unwanted side effects to the medicines, they are inexpensive and can be found over the counter at most progressive health stores. Most health stores now have copies of Dr Richard Pitcairn's Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats and Homeopathy for Cats and Dogs, Small Doses for Small Animals by Dr Don Hamilton, which are excellent references for this method of treatment.