Veterinary Homeopathy

Animal Behavior & Veterinary Homeopathy

The author discusses the importance of mental symptoms, Freud’s work and its relation to homeopathy, similarities between Freud and Hahnemann, and how the mental section of the repertory is used.

Are Mental Symptoms Important?

In September 1815, Hahnemann is approached by a 40 year old woman for pain and discomfort that interferes with her work.1 She manually washes clothes for a living, bending over a washtub and vigorously scrubbing and rubbing the clothes until they are clean. Her difficulty is that pain prevents her from working which is a critical situation in the 1800’s when there is no sick leave or health insurance. She lived a mile and a half away but walked from her home to see Hahnemann in spite of her pain. After taking her case, Hahnemann lists her symptoms like this:

  1. On any movement, especially at every step, and worst on making a false step, she has a (shooting pain) in the pit of the stomach, that comes, as she reports, every time from the left side.

  2. When she lies she feels quite well, then she has no pain anywhere, neither in the side nor in the pit of the stomach.

  3. She cannot sleep after three o’clock in the morning.

  4. She relishes her food, but when she has eaten a little she feels sick.

  5. Then the water (saliva) collects in her mouth and runs out of it, like the water-brash.

  6. She has frequent empty eructations after every meal.

  7. Her temper is passionate, disposed to anger.

  8. When the pain is severe she is covered with perspiration.

In his discussion of this case he goes through the symptoms one by one showing what remedies he is thinking of in regard to the details given. For example, with the first symptom he says:

“Now, as regards Symptom 1, Belladonna, China, and Rhus toxicodendron cause shootings in the pit of the stomach, but none of them only on movement, as is the case here.

“Pulsatilla certainly causes shooting in the pit of the stomach on making a false step, but only as a rare alternating action, and has neither the same digestive derangements as occur here at symptom 4 compared with 5 and 6, nor the same state of the disposition.

“Bryonia alone has among its chief alternating actions, as the whole list of its symptoms demonstrates, pains from movement and especially shooting pains, as also stitches beneath the sternum (in the pit of the stomach) on raising the arm, and on making a false step it occasions shooting in other parts.”

Notice his mention of “nor the same state of the disposition” so that we see he is factoring in the mental state of the patient but only as one of several details that are available for consideration. He focuses first on the stomach pain and its associated modality and then brings in the mental state of his patient.

For our discussion here, I want to emphasize this statement towards the end of Hahnemann’s analysis:

“To symptom 7. – One of the chief symptoms in diseases (see Organon of Medicine. 213) is the ‘state of the disposition,’ and as bryonia causes this symptom also in an exactly similar manner – bryonia is for all these reasons to be preferred in this case to all other medicines as the homeopathic remedy.”2

To summarize, Hahnemann analyses this case by going through the details of the physical symptoms and then, at the end, differentiates among the remedies (makes the final decision) based on the mental/emotional state of the patient. He does indeed give Bryonia, a single dose, one drop of undiluted Bryonia juice, and she was told to return in 48 hours for evaluation, but she did not return.

A friend of Hahnemann’s, curious about the outcome, makes the trek himself to visit the woman who he finds quite well and working. When she is asked why she did not return she responds:

“What was the use of my going back? The very next day I was quite well, and could again go to my washing, and the day following I was as well as I am still. I am extremely obliged to the doctor, but the like of us have no time to leave off our work; and for three weeks previously my illness prevented me earning anything.”

Trying to Grasp The Significance of Mental Symptoms

As shown in this case, Hahnemann tells us in the Organon that the mental and emotional state are important parts of a case and have to be taken into account. In paragraph 217 of the Organon, he tells us the remedy must fit the physical symptoms but also “preeminently, offers the greatest possible similarity of the mental and emotional state.” The word “preeminently” has the meaning of “above all, particular”. At the same time it does not mean that the mental symptoms are so important that they trump the physical ones. In par. 218, Hahnemann says that in the elucidation of the symptoms of the patient “these symptoms should include an exact description of all the befallments of the former so-called somatic disease…”

Still, the mental symptoms are often critical in determining the selection of the remedy. So what do we mean by “mental symptoms”? Let’s look first at par. 15 to give us a foundation for answering this question:

“The suffering of the morbidly mistuned, spirit-like dynamis (life force) enlivening our body in the invisible interior, and the complex of the outwardly perceptible symptoms portraying the present malady, which are organized by the dynamis in the organism, form a whole. They are one and the same. The organism is indeed a material instrument for life, but it is not conceivable without the life imparted to it by the instinctual, feeling and regulating dynamis, just as the life force is not conceivable without the organism. Consequently, the two of them constitute a unity, although in thought, we split this unity into two concepts in order to conceptualize it more easily.”

We see that Hahnemann is not thinking of the mental activity as being distinctly different than the rest of the patient, but for our purposes of discussion and analysis it has a practical use of classifying the symptoms in this way.

My Confrontation With This Issue

Early on in my attempts to understand how to use homeopathy in animals, I had to somehow deal with this. I could see that it was important, after all Hahnemann said so, but in what way is it important? Why should it be of more significance than any other symptom? Are animal mental symptoms any relation to those seen in human beings? Most importantly, how does one accurately use the mental section of the repertory? Lots of questions but you can sense the uncertainty with which I approached it at first.

The answer to many of these questions for me came about in this way: I studied what was in the mental section to see what possible organizational thread all of this could be strung on. Is there a common denominator, and if there is, what is it? On examining the mental section I thought I could divide symptoms like this:

  1. Mental symptoms – the functioning of the mental apparatus, such things as thinking in a linear way, connecting thoughts, solving problems logically.

  2. Emotional symptoms – these being the basic emotions of fear and anger and all the variations and subdivisions of these, along with sadness, hopelessness, despair – in short the range of human emotion. These are not all unpleasant emotions and can be ecstasy or blissfulness for example.

  3. Memory symptoms – the ability to remember, to recall.

  4. Exaggerated interests – repetitive behaviors, fascination with certain things.

  5. Delusions, illusions & insanity – and the associated behaviors with these states.

  6. Normal personality traits exaggerated – like fastidiousness, laughing, talking.

  7. Vices – an older term but refers to greed, gluttony, lasciviousness, etc.

  8. Dreams – not included in Boenninghausen or Kent, but moved to this section in the newer repertories. We will discuss the significance of this later.

I could see that this mental section of the repertory is really a compilation of many different types of symptoms. They are not all of the same type or same value and this is what can lead to confusion in terms of which rubrics to choose and what importance to give to them it seems to me.

The thought occurred that it might be of use to look at these from what has been discovered in the field of psychology. After all, this area, more than any other, is focused exactly on these questions – What is the meaning of these altered behaviors? Where do they come from? So I began to study that field, starting with Freud, and then continuing on with Melanie Klein, Jung, Adler, and the other prominent people of this field.

What was the result of all this study? What struck me most was finding out the importance of the unconscious mind as a source of behaviors. I had heard of this, of course, but figured it was a little pimple on the surface of the more important conscious mind, not anything really of much importance except as a repository of bad memories. But as I read about what has been found out about the mind, and the really excellent work both clinically and as research, I found out it is the other way around. The unconscious mind is what we (and animals) are primarily and the conscious mind is the pimple. So let me explain.

The Unconscious Mind

At the time of Hahnemann (1810, first publication of the Organon) the defined concept of the unconscious mind was not in the language. It was later, about 1895, that Freud presented this idea and example cases. However, it is clear that Hahnemann had some inkling of this even then—insightful man that he was. For example, in the Chronic Diseases, page 76, there is a discussion of the symptoms of a psora that have developed beyond the latent stage, what Hahnemann calls “a manifest secondary disease”. He lists, as one of the symptoms he has observed in this situation, a “mania of self destruction” and follows with this footnote:

“This kind of disease of the mind or spirit, which is also merely psoric, seems not to have been taken into consideration. Without feeling any anxiety, or anxious thoughts, there also, without anyone’s perceiving such anxiety in them, apparently in the full exercise of their reason, they are impelled, urged – yes, compelled by a certain feeling of necessity, to self-destruction.3 They are only healed by a cure of the Psora, if their utterances are noticed in time. I say, in time, for in the last stages of this kind of insanity it is peculiarly characteristic of this disease, not to utter anything about such determination to anyone.4

Freud’s Work

Let us turn to Freud and his work for a more complete explanation of the working of this aspect of consciousness. Before we go further, a note about the work of Freud—a statement of the validity of his work before you tune it out. It is common today to dismiss Freud and his ideas as ones that were expressions of a particular time, and even to dismiss Freud himself as someone both obsessed with sex and as patriarchal or sexist. These ideas are not accurate and it will help you to understand this if we compare attitudes towards Freud as similar to that as towards Hahnemann. We know, those of us that do homeopathy, that the work of Hahnemann is often dismissed as either dated, or naïve, or incomplete, or even the work of a madman. Yet if have worked with homeopathy we come to have exactly the opposite conclusion. In the same way, Freud’s work is dismissed by those that have not studied what he did or, basically, just don’t like what he found—and this for the same reason his work was rejected during his life time.

At the time that Freud was in medical school, one of the more frustrating conditions to deal with was what was called “hysteria”. It was a condition of women and was thought to be due to some disturbance of the uterus, females being an unstable and emotional sort of human being overly influenced by this organ of reproduction. The treatment for it was harsh—women were physically punished, beaten, packed in ice, had the clitoris or uterus removed. While Freud was studying this condition under the tutelage of another doctor (Dr. Charcot, Paris), he began to think this was not a physical condition at all but one related more to emotions. He approached this differently, treating women kindly, talking to them, asking them about their state. He was surprised to discover that this talking could bring awareness to underlying factors and that this awareness (in the patient) would then completely resolve what seemed to be an entirely physical problem. He did not expect this and was very puzzled over it but as this experience was repeated he gradually came to understand its importance. Here, for example, is how Freud and his collaborator, Breuer, put it in their early writing:

“But the causal relation between the determining psychical trauma (Greek word for “wound”) and the hysterical phenomenon is not of a kind implying that the trauma merely acts like an agent provocateur5 in releasing the symptom, which thereafter leads an independent existence. We must presume rather that the psychical trauma – or more precisely the memory of the trauma – acts like a foreign body which long after its entry must continue to be regarded as an agent that is still at work;6 and we find the evidence for this in a highly remarkable phenomenon which at the same time lends an important practical interest to our findings.”7

And here they describe this unexpected outcome of working with patients:

“For we found, to our great surprise at first,8 that each individual hysterical symptom immediately and permanently disappeared when we had succeeded in bringing clearly to light the memory of the event by which it was provoked and in arousing its accompanying affect, and when the patient had described that event in the greatest possible detail and had put the affect into words.

“Recollection without affect almost invariably produces no result.”9

Let us look at an example case. One of Freud’s patients was a woman experiencing severe attacks of facial neuralgia, which had already been treated by conventional means and without success, and this many times. As Freud worked with her, she suddenly recalled a period of great upset with her husband and a conversation they had during which he made a comment she heard as a bitter insult. “Suddenly she put her hand to her cheek, gave a loud cry of pain, and said ‘It was like a slap in the face.’ With this statement her pain and attack were at an end.10

Freud & Hahnemann, the similar lives of two pioneers

In closing this part about Freud’s work, I will mention briefly that the life of Hahnemann and that of Freud were similar on a professional level – they were both pioneers whose work was rejected by their professions at large. We know the difficulties that Hahnemann had in terms of being accepted by his medical colleagues. Basically, he had to build his own following, a group that then did further work, established schools and published journals along side of the rest of the medical community that was not interested in, or accepting, of his work (rather much as it is today).

In the same way, Freud was almost universally rejected by the medical profession. This is unexpected today because his name is so well known and many of his discoveries are still considered important and, indeed, continue to be affirmed by subsequent research. In his life time, however, it was very difficult for him. There were two main things that were responsible for his rejection, these being his finding of the importance of sexuality in both adults and children, the other was that the same phenomenon of “hysteria” was also seen in men. Of the latter, when Freud returned from his work in Paris with Dr. Charcot, he described some cases of hysteria he had observed in men. “The president of the Viennese Society of Medicine declared that this was incredible” and he was challenged to present cases to prove this assertion. When he did try to do this “the senior physicians in whose departments he discovered them refused to allow him either to observe the patients or to work with them. The basis of their refusal was epitomized by one old surgeon who protested: But my dear sir, how can you talk such nonsense? Hysteria means the uterus. So how can a man be hysterical?”11

An even more egregious offense was his assertion that when working with both adults and children (and to his surprise he found that children were quite aware of sexuality) that their problems often involved what can be described as a sexual conflict involving their gender, their relationship with their parents, and other acquaintances. In other words, at the root of the problem, as evidenced by the resolution of the issue of concern, a sexual tension was often found. This was simply not acceptable to the medical community and, even today, his discoveries in this direction are often dismissed as unique to his time or even an expression of his own sexual hangups.

Freud described his relation with the medical community like this: “I innocently addressed a meeting of the Vienna Society of Psychiatry and Neurology….expecting that the material losses I had willingly undergone would be made up for by the interest and recognition of my colleagues. I treated my discoveries as ordinary contributions to science and hoped they would be received in the same spirit. But the silence which my communications met with, the void which formed itself about me, the hints that were conveyed to me, gradually made me realize that assertions on the part played by sexuality in the aetiology of the neuroses cannot account on meeting with the same kind of treatment as other communications. I understood that from now onwards I was one of those who have ‘disturbed the sleep of the world’ as Hebbel says, and that I could not reckon upon objectivity and tolerance.”

“At a congress of German neurologists and psychiatrists in Hamburg in 1910, (a professor) interrupted a discussion in which Freud’s theories had been mentioned, by banging his fist on the table and shouting ‘This is not a topic for discussion at a scientific meeting – it is a matter for the police!'”

“In the same year, Professor Oppenheim, a leading German neurologist, an author of an established textbook on the subject, demanded that Freud’s writings should be subject to a boycott in any respectable psychiatric institution.”12

The Function of the Unconscious

The work of Freud and others that followed them is extremely interesting and helped me very much in understanding the meaning of much behavior that is seen as abnormal in human beings and in animals. I want to just emphasize a few points that will help us in our discussion.

1. The word “unconscious” was chosen to mean specifically that this part of the mind is not available to us in our usual state. It is not a question of our preference or lack of attention, but rather the nature of the unconscious part of the mind is simply that it is not known to us and cannot be accessed. “A better working definition of the unconscious is mental processes that are inaccessible to consciousness but that influence judgments, feelings, or behavior.”13

2. There is no sense of time in the unconscious, everything there has happened now. There is no sense of a past. This relates interestingly to memory.

3. We, in our conscious functioning, have the experience of memory recall. That is, we “ask” for the memory to return (though sometimes it comes unbidden). We can observe a lag between “trying to remember” and the surfacing of the item of interest. For the unconscious there is no lag, memory being always there as pristine as when it was first formed.

Freud, in regard to memories that are traumatic:

“To this we must add the general effacement of impressions, the fading of memories which we name ‘forgetting’ and which wears away those ideas in particular, making that area no longer affectively operative. Our observations have shown, on the other hand, that the memories which have become the determinants of hysterical phenomena persist for a long time with astonishing freshness and with the whole of their affective coloring.14

“We must, however, mention another remarkable fact…that these memories, unlike other memories of their past life (e.g., their earlier memories), are not at the patient’s disposal. On the contrary, these experiences are completely absent from the patient’s memory when they are in a normal psychical state,15 or are only present in a highly summary form.”16

More recent studies have confirmed the persistence of memory:

Much of the information does remain in our memory, though we cannot recall it. “To this day”, Bjork says, “most people think about forgetting as decay, that memories are like footprints in the sand that gradually fade away. But that has been disproved by a lot of research. The memory appears to be gone because you can’t recall it, but we can prove that it’s still there. For instance, you can still recognize a ‘forgotten’ item in a group. Yes, without continued use, things become inaccessible but they are not gone.”17

“I then made some short observations upon the psychological differences between the conscious and the unconscious, and upon the fact that everything conscious was subject to a process of wearing-away, while what was unconscious was relatively unchangeable.”18

  1. The unconscious will repress certain experiences or feelings. We are all familiar with the word “repression” and use it easily. However, the word as it was used by Freud to describe what was happening in his patients has a different meaning than most people realize. If the unconscious mind sees the experience (event, feeling, thought) as dangerous it is repressed immediately. It is not that the conscious mind, that part we identify with, represses it. It happens automatically without our awareness. This is very important to understand.

a) The repressed material then undergoes an unconscious processing in which the “content” is separated from the “affect” or emotions associated with it. It is stored (the content) in one place, if you will, while the feeling or emotion (fear? anger?) is attached to some other memory that is quite unrelated to what just happened. For example, an unpleasant and frightening encounter during a meal can be dissociated into the stored memory of the event (on the unconscious level) and the feeling of aversion or anger or whatever is attached to one of the food items in the meal. Sometime later the person may find themselves having an aversion to a particular food with no explanation as to why.

  1. The unconscious does this process to protect the individual. It is seen as necessary and protective. However, the unconscious part of the mind is not able to see, in many situations, that there really is no danger.

  2. What is repressed can sometimes be accessed but it is very difficult as the unconscious mind actively prevents it. Much of the work in human beings to resolve these problems requires convincing the unconscious mind that looking at it is safe. One of the ways that this material can be seen again is through coming upon it indirectly – thus the emphasis on dreams,19 free association, etc.

  1. The unconscious mind is primary, the conscious is secondary. Thus the information gained through interacting with the conscious mind is often of little value in using mental symptoms in homeopathic cases (we will get more to the differences here later in this paper).

As we go through this list one can begin to think of the unconscious as sort of a primitive obstacle that really does not serve us well but this is very definitely not the right understanding. What we call the unconscious is conscious in a sense, just not the experience reflective consciousness that is responsible for our experience as conscious human beings. The correct way to understand the unconscious mind is that it is, by far, the main part of the mind that is engaged with the world and the conscious part a very, very small part.

Here is a graph from research in neurology, showing information flow through the organism, to give you some idea of the differences between the unconscious processing vs the conscious part.20

Almost ALL information flows through the unconscious part of the mind resulting in the output of language, facial expression and motor movement. A very small, almost inconceivable small amount actually is processed through the conscious mind. It looks like this:

Information Flow in Sensory Systems and Conscious Perception

Sensory System Total Bandwidth (bits/sec) Conscious Bandwidth (bits/s)
















“Bits” is a term referring to information pieces if you will. So the larger the number the more information. For example in this table, the eyes actually take in 10 million bits of information each second, while the conscious part of our mind receives only 40 bits out of all of that – 40 bits out of 10 million!

It is the unconscious that runs the organism. It is from here the life force of Hahnemann operates – growing, maintaining, repairing the body.21 Remember that Hahnemann said that the life force is lacking both intellect and awareness.22

All the normal physiological processes go on without our awareness or control – breathing, beating heart, digestion, repair and regeneration of the body tissues. This is the expression of the life force of Hahnemann. However, we add to the function of the unconscious what has been learned through further study in psychology – that it holds memory, creates images, thoughts, makes decisions for us. It is not just a place that repression is stored – this is just a small part of what is there.23

How does this relate to us as homeopathic practitioners?

The conscious mind does not know the impetus or motives behind many of our psychological processes. Such things that can become symptoms such as preferences, likes and dislikes, food cravings, desire for order (or the opposite), interest in certain things – all of these spring from the unconscious mind but are rationalized and explained by the conscious mind (which is its job – what it does for a living). The problem is, for us as homeopathic practitioners, is that the conscious explanation is misleading.

There is considerable and very interesting research that shows how prevalent this is and I will give just a couple of examples. These are not enough to be convincing but I do want to emphasize how very much research has shown that our own conscious explanations of our behavior is really not very accurate.

As one example, a study was done in a park in British Columbia. An attractive female assistant approached males in the park and asked them to fill out a questionnaire as part of a study (having to do with scenic attractions and creativity). When they were done, she thanked them, told them she would be happy to answer more questions about the study, tore off a corner of the questionnaire and wrote her phone number on it. She invited them to call if they wanted to talk more.

The study had to do with assessing how attracted the men were to her and how many would call and ask for a date. What was interesting was that it was done under two circumstances.

1. Half the men were approached on a scary footbridge that spanned a deep gorge, one requiring holding on tight as it swayed in the wind.

2. The other half of the men had already crossed the footbridge and were resting on a park bench.

The study was interested in which group would be most attracted to the woman or would there be no difference at all? The men on the bridge were in a different emotional state that the ones resting on the bench. They were anxious, heart beating rapidly, a bit short of breath, and perspiring. Would they understand their state of arousal was because of the bridge or would they mistake it for attraction to the woman.

When the results were tallied, in terms of how many called for a date, it was like this:

Group 1 (on bridge)

65% called for a date.

Group 2 (resting on bench)

30% called.

Their conclusion: by failing to recognize why they were aroused, people are more attracted to someone than they would otherwise have been.24

Another example:

A bargain thrift store, outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, on a busy Saturday morning was set up with a display table which had panty hose arranged in 4 neat rows across the table for people to examine. A sign at the top of the table read “Consumer Evaluation Survey – Which is best quality?” It was known, from previous studies, that there was a marked preference for any item on the right side of a display. The rows of panty hose were marked, left to right, with A, B, C, and D.

When people announced their choice and the results tabulated, the preferences were like this:

A (most left) B C D (most right)





It was known that these results were a position effect because all the panty hose were identical, a fact unnoticed by the participants.

“After people announced their choice, we asked them to explain why they had chosen the pair that they did. People typically pointed to an attribute of their preferred pair, such as its superior knit, sheerness, or elasticity. No one spontaneously mentioned that the position of the panty hose had anything to do with the preference. When we asked people directly whether they thought that the position of the panty hose had influenced their choice, all participants but one (a psychology student that had just studied position effects in class) looked at us suspiciously and said of course not.”

How Does This Apply to Homeopathy?

For me, these ideas were a way to organize the symptoms both as to value and in application to animal cases. From this perspective and coming back to the mental section of the repertory I could see that many of the rubrics listed really were very specific to human consciousness. I understood it like this:

There are two parts to the mental/emotional symptom – the unconscious expression and the conscious explanation of it. We want the first part which is characterized by immediacy and directness, and therefore accuracy as a reflection of that individual. The repertory will contain both types of information but that which is of most value are the expressions coming from the unconscious part of the mind as they are what allow us to see the mistunement of the life force. (As a reminder, Hahnemann tells us that the disease is restricted to just this – mistunement of the life force. The function of the conscious mind, what he calls “our indwelling, rational spirit” is not part of this, and though it will be affected secondarily in terms of thinking, strategies, explanations, etc., Hahnemann does not really consider it to be part of the mistunement that occurs.25)

Differences Between Human and Animal Mental Symptoms

Our animal patients are showing their mental symptoms directly from the unconscious. They do not have reflective consciousness, a specially developed function of the human mind. Knowing this we can equate their symptoms to what is in the mental section of the repertory that is a direct expression in the same way – the emotions, the cravings, the aversions. Another way of putting this is that we will not be able to use what are specifically human events – especially what is coming from either “explanations” or “repression”.

Animals have memory (as this is a function of the unconscious mind) but the memory they have is somewhat different than ours, simpler. We can make the conscious effort to recollect a memory but for animals the memory returns automatically, what is called eidetic memory. This type of memory, often called photographic memory when seen in human beings, is characterized by a memory retained in the same clarity and intensity as it was first experienced. As well, eidetic memory is not recalled in the usual sense that we use the word, but comes up when encountering a stimulus that was present at the time of the event. For example, a dog may act frightened of certain objects or certain people because there is a stimulus (one of the many sensory stimuli coming at the animal – remember the graph above) that has brought back the image of an event that was unpleasant or frightening. Even though the present circumstances are different and not a threat the returned image will be powerful and overwhelming and results in this behavior we are seeing in the dog.

Animals don’t have repression and they are not caught in a sense of time or by making symbols of what happens. Everything is immediate, a continuous “now”.

Many homeopaths that treat people have understood, if only intuitively, this distinction between what comes from the unconscious mind and the attempt by the conscious to explain it. It has long been a tradition in homeopathic practice to let the patient speak without guiding them (much like is done in psychotherapy) and the underlying idea (though not necessarily always recognized) is that they will reveal themselves in this way, that what comes up is more “direct” and avoids the tendency to speculate and give false reasons for the behavior.

We must do something similar with our animal patients. We want to observe them in their more natural expressions and not when they are restrained or controlled by circumstances. Then we have the chance of seeing the information directly that will be of use to us. This is a real advantage in making house calls as the veterinary office experience can be so intimidating to an animal that we gain very little from seeing them there (at least in terms of behavior).

The other thing we must factor out are the explanations by the client for the behavior. These explanations are almost always incorrect. For example, “Well, of course my dog does not like to be in the sun, he has a black coat”, “It is typical of the breed to act this way”, “She must have been mistreated when young and that is why she is now afraid of certain men”. None of this is of use to us in our work. If we come back to just the behavior that can be observed then we have something to work with, but we must be careful not to interpret it too much (give it conscious explanation and analysis).

How Do We Know What Is Normal And What Is A Symptom?

Assuming we have the observations, the next determination has to be made: Is this behavior a symptom or is it within the range of normal behavior? That is the first question. Then the second question is, if it is a symptom, what rubric can we match it to.

It is more difficult to decide if a behavior is normal or a symptom than would seem to be the case at first. Many of the behaviors that are listed in the mental section of the repertory are also normal ones under some circumstances. It is like the saying “you are not paranoid if someone is after you”. So if we have an animal that is acting afraid, say a cat in a multi-cat household, that is acting afraid all the time and the actuality is that another cat is making moves which threaten it (moves we cannot perceive), is this a symptom or is it normal behavior? Put another way, if there is a perceived threat, isn’t it normal to be afraid of it? We might say that a cat who is not afraid, is actually less normal. But of course, what makes it complicated, is that it is possible that there is fear without cause. Here are possibilities:

  1. There is a threat and it is appropriate to be afraid.

  2. There is a threat but the animal is unusually calm about it, unconcerned.

  3. There is really no threat but the animal thinks there is.

So no. 1 we would have to call normal, while no. 2 and no. 3 are symptoms. So one of the difficulties for us as veterinary homeopaths is making that first determination as to whether or not the behavior is a symptom. There is certainly a tendency, at first, to project onto the animal what we would do as human beings: “He is afraid of the mean dog next door”, “She doesn’t like that color because a person that hurt her was wearing it”, etc. More factually though, we don’t really know why the animal is acting that way, at least in detail. We observe “fear”, “anger” and so on, but the details of this are not available to us if we are honest about it. Our conscious mind will give very interesting explanations of the behavior but will be almost always wrong.

There is also the mistake that can be made of choosing normal behaviors as the deciding factor in our prescriptions, for example, that dogs want company, or that they are suspicious of strangers. These things are part of dog nature and are not really symptoms unless, of course, they become very distorted or exaggerated – and then it is obvious to us that they are mistunements.

How Can We Use the Mental Section of the Repertory?

When I look at the mental rubrics, what I do is to think of them in terms we are discussing here and though it is a rapid process, the sequence is something like this:

  1. Is this behavior we could see, or recognize, in an animal?

  2. Is this symptom one that correlates directly to the observed behavior?

  3. Is it general enough (that is, a specific fear may be part of a generally fearful state, and choosing a “partial” rubric does not really serve us).

Let’s look at some rubrics as examples. Here from Boenninghausen are the first group from the mental section of the Boger/Boenninghausen repertory, starting at the “A’s” with my commentary.

Mental Rubric Commentary

Mind; Absence of (78)

I would not be able to determine this. This means that the mind is not working, cannot process thoughts, concepts. Perhaps if the animal was just quiet and non-responsive it would fit but I would be inclined to use other rubrics.

Mind; Abusive (26)

Animals will attack others, fight, intimidate. Does this equate to “abusive”. I doubt it especially when there are rubrics more directly applicable for this behavior.

Mind; Active (59)

Active mind? How would I ever know this in an animal? That they are up and about?

Mind; Affectionate (3)

Maybe, but certainly not for common pet behavior. The 1828 Webster Dictionary defines affectionate as “having great love, or affection, fond” with the additional meaning of “warm in affection; zealous”. Zealous? What of the cat with persistent head butting of the client – is this zealous affection? Or something else?

Mind; Agitated (38)

Has the meaning of “disturbance of tranquility of the mind, excitement of the passions”. I suppose you could use this rubric for an excited animal but I would be inclined more to one corresponding to the emotion – fear, anger, etc.

Mind; Alcoholism (67)

I don’t think so.

Mind; Alternating with physical symptoms (5)

Appealing, but I have never identified this in a case.

Mind; Ambitious (3)

We would have no way of knowing, I doubt an animal can be ambitious as it requires a developed sense of time.

Mind; Amorous (57)

This relates to the “mind, affectionate” above, same issue. I read this as having a more sexual component and an animal can show this towards another animal or the client but, again, there are other rubrics having to do with sex drive that would be more accurate.

Mind; Anger (96)

Certainly, a very useful and common behavior.

Mind; Anthropophobia (32)

Does this mean dislike of other people? Of the same species? Of all living creatures within sensory detection? The Yasgur dictionary says “abnormal fear of people and society” but if I really saw an animal that acted this way I could never identify it as this. I would use “fear in company” or “fear in public” or something like that. I have met people that express this state of mind but I think this an example of repression.

Mind; Anticipations, from (7)

One is tempted to use this for the animal afraid to go to the veterinarian but if you look at the remedies in the rubric (arg., ars., gels., ign., med., nat-m., ph-ac) they correspond more to the human ability to dwell on the future, to worry. To anticipate is to have an image of something coming that excites fear, whereas the animal gathered up to go to the vet has emotions triggered by the signals of the process – the container, the direction the car is going, etc.

Mind; Anxiety (101)

How is this different than fear? David Sault dictionary, A Modern Guide and Index to the Mental Rubrics of Kent’s Repertory, defines anxiety as “a state of distressing uneasiness from the dread of evil”. Let’s compare this to fear which is “the apprehension of impending danger”. So to my understanding an animal will not experience anxiety because they don’t have the ability to “dread” anything. They won’t be holding the image of an expected future event. However, they very definitely can have fear of “something impending”. So I would turn to “fear” over “anxiety”.

Mind; Aphasia (11)

This is a condition resulting either from damage to the brain so that the ability to talk is lost. However, at least in modern terms, some patients can talk but don’t make sense or they cannot name objects but know what they are for. The closest we would see to this would be the animal that has become quiet, perhaps, or maybe the “silent meow” but I would never feel confident using this rubric in that way.

Perhaps this gives some idea of how the translation of rubrics proceeds, at least for me. Of the short list we have gone through here, the only one I would feel confident using is “anger”.

Well then, what about anger? We do see what seems to be angry animals at times if we include aggression, raving, etc. Let’s look at some subrubrics for anger. In Boenninghausen we have:

Mind; Anger; effects of (15)

Mind; Anger; hysteria, alternating with (1)

Mind; Anger; remorse, followed by (1)

Mind; Anger; repressed (1)

I don’t think any of these apply to animals. “Effects of anger” would be the emotional reaction that follows letting anger come out. As human beings we have all experienced this, we are sorry it happened or we (inwardly) seriously criticize ourselves for it but animals aren’t going to do this. The second one, “alternating with hysteria” will not apply as animals don’t have hysteria. Remorse? I don’t think so. Repressed? No, a human thing.

Let’s look at the same subrubric section in Kent:

Mind; ANGER; morning (5)

Mind; ANGER; forenoon (1)

Mind; ANGER; evening (9)

Mind; ANGER; absent persons, at (3)

Mind; ANGER; ailments after anger (66)

Mind; ANGER; answer, when obliged to (6)

Mind; ANGER; caressing, from (1)

Mind; ANGER; consoled,when (3)

Mind; ANGER; contradiction, from (30)

Mind; ANGER; convulsion, before (1)

Mind; ANGER; former vexations, about (3)

Mind; ANGER; interruption, from (3)

Mind; ANGER; mistakes, over his (3)

Mind; ANGER; misunderstood, when (1)

Mind; ANGER; past events, about (3)

Mind; ANGER; stabbed, so that he could have, any one (4)

Mind; ANGER; suppressed, from (5)

Mind; ANGER; thinking of his ailments (1)

Mind; ANGER; throws things away (1)

Mind; ANGER; touched, when (3)

Mind; ANGER; trembling, with (11)

Mind; ANGER; violent (32)

Mind; ANGER; voices of people (3)

My own experience is that I could identify these rubrics out of the list, as having possible accuracy – these 5:

Mind; ANGER; contradiction, from (30)

Mind; ANGER; interruption, from (3)

Mind; ANGER; touched, when (3)

Mind; ANGER; trembling, with (11)

Mind; ANGER; violent (32)

I am not so sure about no. 3 sometimes. Is it anger from touch or is it that they are suddenly frightened? Not always possible to tell.

The objections I have raised to most of these relate to conditions 1 and 2 that I listed at the beginning of the rubric listing – could we see them in animals, could we recognize this is the appropriate rubric to use? What about the third requirement, is it general enough? An example that is common is the dog that is afraid of thunder (or storms). This is so tempting to use and now and then works out but if you inquire into the emotional state of many of these thunder-fearing animals, you find that this is just a subset of a general pattern of fear. A more accurate way of putting it is that they are afraid of many things – thunder, noise, explosions, sudden movements, things being dropped, etc. – maybe afraid of everything. So if we were to focus on just this rubric it would not be accurate and would distort our analysis. How then should the rubric be used? If you had an animal (or human) patient that was ONLY afraid of thunder, it would apply. Otherwise you need to use a larger, more general rubric, and, unfortunately, sometimes you have to use just “fear” which doesn’t help us much in narrowing down remedies considering how large the rubric is.

In Conclusion

I have tried to put together here the understanding I have developed that allows me to use the mental symptoms in animals accurately, at least accurate in the sense of getting the bests results using these rubrics in my cases.

To summarize, I will reiterate these things:

  1. The animal patient will show direct and immediate symptoms based on present stimuli. They do not have a sense of time as we do and do not project into the future or dwell on the past.

  2. We must be careful, in applying these human-derived symptoms to animals, that we do not project patterns of consciousness that are really only applicable to people, especially symptoms coming from the neuroses.

  3. We need to be mindful that the animal mind is not the human mind. Their experience, even of the same environment, is different than ours. They have the emphasis of different senses (as smell being more prominent than sight), different sensitivities, especially different priorities. It would be a mistake to think they are just “little people”.

  4. Remember that an animal may be showing an emotion which is appropriate. There may really be a threat directed towards them but not one that we can see – in other words, it may be a husbandry issue rather than a homeopathic case. An example that comes to mind is the aggressive dog in the yard as you walk by. I think they are simply doing what is communicated to them (as their job) by their person. They were acquired to be a watch dog, and by God, they are going to watch!

  5. Our best results will come from taking our observations, without interpretation, directly to the most reliable rubric. Don’t get fancy.

  6. If you can’t feel confident you can translate the behavior into a rubric, then don’t use it. You will only confuse yourself.

  7. Lastly, work your case with the physical symptoms first, then bring in the mental symptom to help you decide – just like Hahnemann did with the washer woman.


1 The Lesser Writings of Samuel Hahnemann, R. E. Dudgeon, MD, B. Jain publishers, New Delhi, page 769.

2 Ibid, page 770.

3 My italic emphasis.

4 Again my emphasis.

5 A person who induces others to break the law so that they can be convicted.

6 My emphasis.

7 What Freud Really Said, David Stafford-Clark, Schocken Books, New York, 1965, page 33.

8 My emphasis.

9 Ibid, page 34. My emphasis of italics. The word “affect” is used in the sense of meaning “emotion”, the word used more commonly at that time.

10 Stafford-Clark, page 37.

11 What Freud Really Said, David Stafford-Clark, Schocken Books, New York, 1965, page 20.

12 Stafford-Clark, page 21.

13 Strangers to Ourselves, Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious by Timothy D. Wilson, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002, page 23.

14 My emphasis. Freud is stating that the memory is not degraded and still has the same intensity of emotion as when it first occurred.

15 My emphasis. These traumatic memories responsible for neurosis are simply not available to us. They are completely non-detectable.

16 Stafford-Clark, page 35.

17 Want To Remember Everything You’ll Ever Learn? Gary Wolf in The Best American Science Writing 2009, page 243.

18 Three Case Histories, Sigmund Freud, Simon & Schuster, 1963, p 21.

19 And therefore the usefulness of dreams as a guide in prescribing.

20 The User Illusion, Tor Norretranders, Viking, translation Jonathan Sydenham, 1998, page 145.

21 Organon of the Medical Art, edited by Wenda O’Reilley, page 37: “The life force, that glorious power innate in the human being, was ordained to conduct life in the most perfect way during its health. The life force, which is equally present in all parts of the organism (in the sensible as well as the irritable fiber) is the untiring mainspring of all normal natural bodily functions.”

22 O’Reilley, page 37: “1. True medical art is that cogitative pursuit which devolves upon the higher human spirit, free deliberation, and the selecting intellect which decides according to well-founded reasons. 2. It does so in order to differently tune the instinctual (intellect-and awareness-lacking), automatic and energic life force when the life force has been mistuned, through disease, to abnormal activity.”

23 Norretranders, page 143.

24 Wilson, pages 101-102.

25 O’Reilley, in par. 9, it is stated: “In the healthy human state, the spirit-like life force (autocracy) that enlivens the material organism as dynamis, governs without restriction and keeps all parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation, as regards both feelings and functions, so that our indwelling, rational spirit can freely avail itself of this living, healthy instrument for the higher purposes of our existence.”


About the author

Richard H. Pitcairn

Dr. Richard Pitcairn graduated from veterinary school in 1965, from the University of California at Davis, California, and worked on a PhD degree emphasizing the study of viruses, immunology and biochemistry. Working in a mixed practice he saw a wide variety of health problems, but to his disappointment, did not see the results that he expected using the treatments learned in veterinary school. He became interested in alternative medicine, nutrition and homeopathy. He found homeopathy to be intellectually complete and satisfying, and after studying and using it for some 20 plus years, has had remarkable success. Since 1992 he has taught a yearly course, The Professional Course in Veterinary Homeopathy, to train animal doctors in homeopathy.
Dr. Pitcairn was a founding member of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy and also served as its president. With Susan Pitcairn he wrote two editions of Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, a classic in the field, which sold over 350,000 copies.


  • Thank you for a brilliant article. Very useful signposts to the dangers of mis-reading animal behaviour in the first place, compounded by using inappropriate (human) mental rubrics and/or ‘speculative’ mental symptoms. How easily the errors at each stage can snowball!

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