How many pet owners have said “My cat (dog) keeps waking me up all through the night? I can’t get any sleep! I am exhausted!“
Shakespeare says this about sleep in the play Macbeth:
Methought I heard a voice cry.. Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep; the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course.
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.
Our bodies heal the most in our sleep. When our sleep is interrupted it can lead to all sorts of health problems. So it will be understandable when a pet owner comes to you in complete desperation in order to rectify their animal’s sleep problem.
But how does one go about choosing a remedy for an animal who’s keeping everyone awake at night. It is difficult because we cannot ask an animal.. What’s your problem? Can you tell me what you are feeling? Where does it hurt? The first thing I always suggest to pet owners is to take their animal to a veterinarian to rule out any life threatening problems. Sometimes with older animals it can be a more serious condition but most pet owners want their pet to have homeopathic care to ease their pain and discomfort as they are growing old. The next step is to ask the proper questions from the pet owner and gather information about the animal. Some of these questions can be…How old is the animal? When did the problem start? Was there something going on in the family unit or household when the problem started? What is the family history of the animal? How did you obtain your pet? Was the animal a stray found on the street? Were they a victim of abuse? Were they abandoned by their mother or the previous household? Were they the runt of the litter?“ All of these are important questions to help lead to a proper remedy. Next we have to observe the animal in the household or in the field. It is important to observe the animal in their everyday life and see how they interact with others in their family pack. This might not be the case though when you are trying to help an older animal suffering from severe arthritis or things that an elderly animal suffers from. You will have to observe them strictly and they may not be able to reveal too much about their normal constitutional traits. Their pain and discomfort may dominate over all else. In these particular situations, we should strictly adhere to exactly what we are observing. This is when the intuitiveness of a homeopath needs to come into play. Every situation will be different, therefore every mode of action as a homeopath will need to be different to fit the situation.
As we ask our questions, complete our observations, we have to come away with what is normal behavior for the animal and what is not normal. For example, cats by nature are nocturnal. They will be more active at night. One must consider this before accepting a cat into the home. Measures can be made to keep the cat out of the pet owner’s bedroom or to keep them limited to certain rooms in the house where their nocturnal activity won’t interfere with someone’s sleep. Playing, running around, exploring and hunting are all normal activities for a nocturnal animal. It is when a cat or a dog is excessively crying out at night, or nudging the pet owner awake, looking to go outside frequently or to be fed or given water in excessive amounts that we know there is a problem.
Older animals who begin to suffer from arthritic pain, blindness, deafness or senility may cry out in pain and fear. It is in cases like these, that I look at the animal’s constitutional remedy to see if I have a good match for the animal overall. Some remedies to look at for the older animal are Calcarea Carb. (when the animal is big boned and having trouble picking up their hind quarters), Baryta Carbonica (when the animal is incontinent and starting to show signs of senility), Alumina (for extreme constipations and signs of overall slowing down), Phosphorus ( for digestive problems such as vomiting right after eating, loose stools) Arsenicum (restlessness midnight and after and a dull coat) Sulphur and Lycopodium to name just a few. These are just some examples but they can help the older animal when we have a proper remedy match. Also, consider changing the timing of the dose. For example, say you have chosen Sulphur and believe it is a constitutional remedy but you notice the animal is sleeping soundly all day and is awake all night, then switch the timing of the dose from morning to night or from the night to the morning and see if you get better results before changing the remedy. Remedies that are usually better dosed in the morning are: Ignatia, Phosphorus, Bellis perennis, Nux Vomica. This is because if they are dosed at night, the timing of the energy of the dose may keep the animal awake at night. Also consider cutting back the frequency of the dose if you begin with a remedy and there is a heightening of the sleep symptom.
For animals that are younger, we may need to look at the family history to help give us some clues. For example, if animals are crying out through the night and they originally were abandoned by their mother, found in the street as a stray at a young age, have been removed from a previous home or have lost a friend, Ignatia Amara is a great remedy to consider. Ignatia Amara can make a homeopath a hero in a household that has not slept for weeks. Another example is Staphysagria for an animal showing a lot of fear, restlessness and agitation if the animal comes from an abusive background. The best place to always start though is in your questions and your observations. Once you can hone in on the physical description of what the animal is doing during those sleep hours then you can more specifically find the rubric in the sleep section in the repertory. Some rubrics to look at and familiarize yourself with the remedies in them are Sleep, Restless; Sleep, Disturbed; Sleep, Sleeplessness. It has always helped me to get a feeling for those remedies that score strongly and are in these rubrics when trying to help an animal get a sound night‘s sleep.
Every night is not going to be perfect. Not for us, not for animals. Animals will occasionally cry out or howl from a dream. How many of us have seen our pets move their paws in their sleep as if they were running or growling at another animal? It is when it becomes an excessive, consistent behavior that we must recognize there is a problem. We can address this by recognizing what is normal behavior for the animal and what isn’t normal. Once we can identify that, we can go to our books and identify what remedy most similarly matches that which is going wrong with the animal. Once we have that remedy match, we can gently administer doses to bring the animal back into balance so….“all through the house, not a creature was stirring. Not even a mouse!“ And all can get a peaceful night‘s sleep thanks to homeopathy!