The first problem to overcome in treating epilepsy is the fact that we are dealing with a condition that, in most cases, has very violent symptoms. The salivation, muscular spasms, sometimes involuntary howling that can occur, together with the in-coordination of the recovery period, produce an understandable state of revulsion in many owners, compounded by a feeling of helplessness, especially when they witness it for the first time. This has two consequences with regard to treatment. The first is that there can be an undue concentration on the presenting symptom rather than on the whole picture, and an undue emphasis in treatment on preventing further fits at any price.
Hahnemann laid great stress on the fact that disease can only be cured “if the physician clearly perceives what has to be cured… in each individual case of disease”, and this applies to epilepsy just as much as to any other condition. True epilepsy is not an acute condition but is part of a chronic disease pattern, in many instances what Hahnemann referred to as a “one-sided disease”. The really successful approach to its treatment is constitutional.
The second consequence is that accurate observation and reporting of the exact symptoms of a fit can be difficult. In one sense this is not as important as it may seem, as many of the features are local or common symptoms, but useful information can be obtained from this area of the picture.
Another factor affecting the disease picture is that many cases that present for homeopathic treatment are already receiving conventional anticonvulsant drugs. These may be failing to control the situation adequately and/or there may be concerns over the side effects of their long-term use. One of the commonest drugs used is phenobarbitone and one of the other standard medications, Mysoline, is broken down in the body into barbiturate. Long-term use of these agents can pose a strain on the liver. In addition, from the homeopathic point of view, this approach represents a degree of suppression of the case, with all the problems that that implies. However, in spite of this it cannot be stressed too strongly that such treatments must not be withdrawn suddenly, and any changes must take place under veterinary supervision. However, homeopathy right from the start gives the best chance of cure.
More cases of epilepsy are seen in dogs than in cats. Cats, unlike dogs, are a species that cannot synthesize the amino acid Taurine and hence, care is taken to add it to their diet. One of the effects of Taurine in the body is as a controller of nervous impulses, and supplementing the diet of dogs to give higher levels can raise the threshold at which fits are triggered. Although not homeopathic, its use can be beneficial in the overall management of a case. Other ways of reducing the susceptibility to fits involves the use of herbal preparations, which can be helpful on occasions.
In some ways the cases where there is complete control of the fits by conventional medication are the most difficult. The picture is distorted and also the assessment of progress following a remedy is extremely difficult. Other changes in the body, usually behavioral, may give an indication of some action by the remedy, but a reduction of the medication is often the only way of ascertaining any beneficial effect. In contrast, those cases where there are still some fits occurring, do offer a yardstick by which to judge progress.
Because we are dealing with a chronic disease, often treatment will throw up symptoms in other areas as the whole case is revealed. The major systems that are associated are the skin and the bowels, and there may be a “see-saw” between the symptoms.
The question of potency is an important consideration when prescribing the constitutional remedy. This is one of those conditions where the last thing we want is an aggravation! Hence caution is advisable and more moderate potencies are often initially employed, even in those cases where the indications for a particular remedy are strong. Of course in any acute episode where a remedy is being used to control a fit, then high potencies are very useful, as there is a high-energy output from the condition at that time.
The causes of epilepsy are many and it would not be appropriate here to consider all the factors that can possibly be linked, but one in particular is worthy of mention. That is vaccination. It is well documented that vaccinations, both primary and boosters, can on occasion produce convulsions. No animal with a history of convulsions, from whatever cause, should be given a vaccination without very good reason. Silica, having both convulsions and “ailments from vaccination” in its picture is extremely useful here.
Homeopathic treatment falls into two types. One is the full constitutional approach, aimed at obtaining a complete cure, as this offers the best hope of success. Sometimes an “acute” remedy is used in addition. The other involves a compromise, with the use of both homeopathic and conventional medications. The aim here is to use homeopathy to reduce the dependence on heavy medication, thereby increasing the safety margins and improving the quality of life for the patient.
Coco was a four-year-old golden retriever. She had had several fits over the previous three years, but these had been fairly mild and “very occasional”, with a quick recovery. No conventional treatment had been given as the fits were mild and infrequent. However, the latest two fits had been more severe and frequent, and although apparently recovered, she now appeared “not quite her usual self”. The fits had lasted about five minutes. There was no incontinence or howling, just a general spasm of the whole body with the head thrown back over the right shoulder. She had been vaccinated regularly with no apparent ill effects and there were no other health problems, only a behavioral inconvenience.
Coco had lived with three other neutered bitches all her life and was friendly towards them. However, she would frequently mount any one of them, and if they protested run off and hide.