Dr. Epstein, here’s who you are: You graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1985. After graduation, you began working at the Wilmington Animal Hospital in Delaware. You now own the hospital, wow–that’s quite a promotion! Ten years ago, you became interested in complementary medicine, so the hospital now offers, in addition to medicine and surgery: homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic and nutrition for the health of your patients. You are also the former President of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy!
So that’s who I am! How interesting…
Shelley, since you’re in such a hurry…
…our first question comes from Barb, who tells me that dogs with allergies are everywhere these days! You can’t help but wonder if the vaccination schedule has something to do with this?
Well, Elaine, you make a good point about the vaccination schedule being excessive because even the official recommendations on vaccination in dogs and cats are changing, thanks to an awful correlation that was made about 15 years ago: killed rabies vaccine caused fibrosarcomas (FSA) in cats. After the Pathology Department at the University of Pennsylvania wrote a letter to the editor of JAVMA, further studies were conducted at various labs, and these studies showed that other killed vaccines, such as those for feline leukemia virus, could also induce the formation of FSAs.
In addition, holistic veterinarians, especially homeopathic ones, were fully aware of this syndrome of rabies vaccinosis, in which a rabies vaccine given to a patient could induce symptoms reminiscent of rabies virus. These symptoms could be passed from one generation to the next. Meanwhile, while conventional veterinarians were observing documented types of vaccine reactions in patients, like, for example, anaphylactic reactions, holistic veterinarians were also observing other problems
that occurred after routine vaccinations.
All of the above observations caused some major rethinking in the vaccine world of veterinary medicine. The result is that the American Association of Feline Practitioners came out with updated guidelines for vaccination a few years ago, as did the major veterinary organizations (AAHA, for example). All of these guidelines recognize that annual boosters are not necessary, and giving all vaccines available to all patients is not indicated. These groups tended to categorize vaccines into “core” and “non-core” vaccines, and in some instances went so far as to totally discourage certain vaccines from being given.
My goodness, this is quite a shift in policy!
In our practice, which uses holistic medicines like homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic, we recognized problems with vaccines years ago.
I don’t doubt it!
For the past 10 or more years, we’ve been measuring immunity to parvovirus and distemper virus (these tests are called “titers”) in lieu of giving annual boosters. Rabies vaccine is required by law in our state, and can only be exempted for medical reasons. These medical exemptions, however, do not preclude a 6-month quarantine for unvaccinated animals exposed to bite wounds from potentially rabid animals.
I tell my clients: Vaccines can prevent diseases, but they never make you healthy. From a homeopathic perspective, animals with the susceptibility can develop problems from vaccines. This means that not 100% of animals will develop vaccine problems (if this were so, vaccines wouldn’t remain so popular), nor will all animals develop the same problems.
Problems we see in animals include: autoimmune diseases like Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia Purpura (note that this, as with all autoimmune diseases, has multiple causations), behavioral problems like fears and aggressive behavior, and tumors, to name but a few consequences.
In general, the field of veterinary medicine is slowly changing its vaccination policies. Some veterinarians are still giving multiple vaccines to every dog and cat that comes in for check-ups, while others have modified their policies to give the minimal number of vaccines.
Does a homeopathic vet, though, really have to vaccinate at all, other than the required rabies vaccine? Because I should think that we would have remedies for feline leukemia, distemper, etc. and what, in your estimation, is the real cause of these diseases anyway, for which prevention may be the better approach?
It is always up to the client to make the final decision on vaccines. However, it is the veterinarian who is educated in these infectious diseases and their consequences on the pets, so it is our duty to provide the information to allow the client to make an informed decision. I’m sure the remedies exist to help animals who have acquire distemper and parvo and other diseases, but the question is can we guarantee with 99% certainty that we can cure the pet once it’s contracted the illness? That $1000 purebred who gets the disease 3 weeks later? It is up to the owner to understand what is involved here and make that decision. By the way, 99% is the efficacy rate of high quality parvo and distemper vaccines.
And remember, most animals will not suffer adverse effects from vaccines. If one does, then that gives us window into the nature of their chronic disease and enables us to treat them for that.
In talking about prevention, I think of the food we serve them, and our way of “breeding”–breeding for recessive traits that may be bad for the health of the animal, such as narrow hips and pushed-in faces. Also, in terms of breeding, the way we breed–in puppy mills, for example, I wonder to what extent these environments are responsible for disease in later life? I hear the healthiest animals are the mixed-breeds. Would you care to comment?
Hybrid vigor is really true!
Breeding for adorable traits like “pushed in” faces in the
brachycephalic breeds of course is breeding for lethal mutations.
Speaking as a former dog owner, I have to ask, why all the worms? Do wild dogs such as wolves and coyotes have the same worm problems that domestic dogs do?
I don’t see too many wormy dogs. Dogs that have been kept in puppy mill/pet shop situations (and racing greyhounds) have higher exposure, and these are often empirically given numerous wormers and drugs for coccidia and giardia and still have worms. This is all inbreeding, poor housing, and stress-related. Once in their new comfy homes, these dogs tend to de-worm very well and stay wormed- unless, of course, they pick up more worms and parasites at the dog parks…
I have no idea about wild animals, but I assume they’ve reached a homeostasis with their parasites, as long as their environments remain wide-open and not subject to suburban impingements…
Most of the conventional wormers are very safe and effective. It is important to address their environment, as discussed above. Whenever possible, I also treat these dogs homeopathically to strengthen their systems and make them more resistant to some parasites. Probiotics and raw diets are great for strengthening their immune systems.
How problematic is it that the average domestic dog is just given “dog food” and people food, including snack foods–same
question for cats?
Dogs: Definitely problematic. Many problems can be prevented or decreased by feeding raw diets. These include skin allergies, obesity and dental problems. Arthritis can be prevented or pains ameliorated on these diets. I could go on for hours on this topic alone.
I know, I’ve seen your web site; you have a whole section dedicated to raw food diets; hopefully, our pet owners will go there and read it.
For cats, the situation is even more dire. Cats are really not designed to eat processed cooked foods. A recent study showed that cooking chicken and beef, processing it to go into canned foods, made it allergenic to cats- ie, they produced antibodies to the proteins whereas they did not produce any antibodies when the food was fed in the raw state.
I had no idea it was that serious! You’re saying they actually produce antibodies to cook food, as if the food was a foreign substance! Amazing!
Cat foods are too high in carbs (mice are 1-5% carbs, pet foods 20-60% carbs, with dry being at least 40% for most high quality brands); cat’s don’t use carbs as an energy source, and they gain weight, become obese, stop grooming, and get type II diabetes. Canned fish variety foods and poptop cans have been associated with hyperthyroidism in cats. I have observed a marked decrease in hairballs in my cats (which are fed 100% raw)- like one hairball/year/3 cats! Commercial diets also contribute to periodontal disease, and are not the best way to boost the immune system.
Is there a book or books people can read who want to feed their pets right?
There are many. Check our website for the one we sell- it is simple, for dogs. Billinghurst has Give Your Dog a Bone and other books that are great.
Shelley, I’ve asked the animal lovers among our readers to write in and ask you a question and, amazingly, a letter just came pouring in! A Mr. Richard Fedder from Fort Linn, New Jersey writes:
I heard one vet say he generally only used polychrests with animals because it was too difficult to get all the nuances for the smaller remedies. Another vet said 6C was the best potency for animals. What do you think?” Well, Mr. Fedder, I know just how you feel, because I can remember struggling with these same questions myself, but it’s like my great grandmother, Lewaliky Lewinsky, always used to say: “It’s always something! Either you’re giving a polychrest or you’re not giving a polychrest…Either you’re…..”
Elaine, you’re starting to ramble! Mr. Fedder, one has to be very careful when hearing absolutes. It’s like the True/False questions on the tests we used to take. “Always” and “Never” were clear indicators that the answer was False.
But regarding only using polychrests, I use MANY different remedies, polychrests as well as smaller, lesser-known remedies- whatever appears to be the simillimum in the case. Studying with different teachers and going back to the masters and rereading them offers great insight into remedy pictures. Being around the species we treat offers great insight into those species.
As far as potencies, I use many potencies, and use both the centessimal and LM scales. The lower potencies usually correspond to more physical symptoms being the uppermost in the case; the higher potencies correspond more to cases with strong mental/emotional symptoms and higher vital forces. These are generalizations, broad guidelines. I use LMs when palliating terminal cases or when aiming for cure in cases in which the pet is on allopathic medications that can’t be stopped abruptly. (I use them in many other circumstances as well.) Are there any other questions?
Well, I’ll be leaving then.
Watch out for the…moat! Gee, that was unexpected! Do we still stock the moat with alligators?
Luckily, she’s a vet.
Shelley Epstein, VMD
Wilmington Animal Hospital
828 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE 19809