The idea of using homeopathy in the treatment of animals is an interesting one and brings in a different angle of consideration of homeopathic practice. Some questions that may come up for you at first, as they do for any veterinarian starting this work, are these:
- Can homeopathy be used in animals at all?
- If it can be used, can the provings of remedies in people be applied to animals or is the information needed very different?
- What symptoms of animals are useful in making prescriptions?
- Can all animals be treated successfully or is homeopathic treatment applicable to only a few specific few species?
- How much can we use mental and emotional changes seen in animals as a basis for prescription?
As we go through this talk, I will try to address these questions to your satisfaction, giving you my experience and a few example cases from the literature and from my experience. I have practiced strictly homeopathy in my veterinary practice for the last 26 years. During this time I have had the opportunity to prescribe for a wide range of problems, from emergency situations to the most advanced chronic disease conditions imaginable.
It is interesting that the idea of veterinary homeopathy started with Dr. Hahnemann when he suggested that homeopathy could be applied to animals just as well as to peopleâ€”perhaps even more effectively since he considered that veterinarians were more observant of their patients than most doctors. This idea was picked up by Von Boenninghausen who wrote of a number of cases of animal treatment. He thought these cases answered the objection that the positive effects with treatment were due to suggestion only. In “Cures of Animals with High Potencies”, he says:
In order that such experience and such experiments may utter nothing more and nothing less than the truth and may give the perfectly pure and indubitable, excluding every kind of skeptical interpretation, and may nowhere offer an excuse for ascribing the results to the other, perhaps foreign influences, the cures on animals seem of all to be the most appropriate and reliable. The possible influences of imagination and of diet, which are so often objected to, are in such cases especially lacking, and in this respect they much surpass the cures of little children…
When I first began twenty years ago (in 1843) my experiments with the 200 potency, I limited these experiments both for these reasons (and also for others) exclusively to animals, but by the most surprising success I soon gained the courage to transfer them also to men.
Here are some of his cases, as examples.
Case 1: Retained afterbirth
Jan 9, 1863 – Laumann’s cow had a calf a week ago and the afterbirth had remained behind : Sabina, Secale cor. every 24 hrs. Cured.
Case 2: Excessive sexual desire
Jan 12, 1863 – Sieveneck’s mare, restless from desire for the horse: Platina. Cured.
Case 3: Throat inflammation
Jan 15, 1863 – Mennemann’s horse (it had received, on Dec 11 last, an account of glanders, with sore throat, which had lasted 8 months, and was worse in evening, Belladonna), was now considerably improved, only in the evening there was still some cough : Hepar sulph. Cured.
Case 4: Swollen coronet
Jan 31, 1863 – Bruening’s mare has been lame for the 2 weeks, from a swelling of the coronet: Lachesis. Cured.
So we see an interest in treatment of animals from the very beginning of homeopathic practice. This continued with other practitioners and here are a few other example cases, taken from Erastus Case’s book, Clinical Experiences, published in 1916:
Case 5: Ophthalmia
Jack, a brown driving horse, has been under the treatment of a veterinary surgeon (old school) six weeks, for ophthalmia.
Prognosis: Blindness. There is a steady flow of thick mucus from the eyes obscuring the sight. When attempting to see an object the horse will wink in order to remove the mucus from the field of vision.
Sept.10, 1895. Four powders Euphrasia 1M B. & T., one powder every four hours.
Oct. 9. The horse had an attack of influenza after the remedy, now past without other treatment. Eyes improved until recently. One powder Euphrasia 45M, Fincke. The eyes were soon well and have remained so for four years.
Case 6: Mastitis
A cow, with calf ten days old, has no milk from the left udder, which is very large and hot. Dung hard, dry, dark. Urine dark, looking like the dregs from a cider barrel.
One powder Nitric acid 1M B. & T., soon removed all abnormal conditions.
We see from the type of cases listed here that it was primarily farm animals being treated. These days, it is more frequently dogs and cats and other pets, though farm animals and poultry are still patients of homeopathic practitioners. Notice, in these cases, how often it is an outstanding characteristic symptom or modality that the practitioner uses in making the prescription. We will see this demonstrated again in the next group of cases. Watch for it.
Other Case Examples From The Older Literature
Here are a couple of older cases of other animals being treated:
Case 7: Mange
Malcolm, a pug dog, has mange. His back is covered with a thick, dry crust. The itching is made worse by heat and bathing. He has such a dislike for a bath that he will growl and bite whenever placed in the bathtub, which had previously given the greatest delight.
Oct. 8. Four powders Sulphur 1M B. & T., one powder every four hours.
Dec. 23. The back is quite clear of crust, but the hair is falling off. His ears are scurfy inside and itching. Hearing dull. One powder Graphites CM Fincke.
This soon removed all vestiges of the disease.
Case 8: Colic
Pocahontas, a bird dog, has frequent attacks of whining, at the same time she will double herself up as far as possible; manifesting severe pain.
A powder of Colocynthis 9M Fincke, would quickly relieve her, and a few repetitions of it put an end to the trouble.
Interpretation of Animal Cases
We can learn some very interesting things from these cases. First of all, it is notable that a variety of potencies were used in animals, up to CM, and, especially in these last cases, very high potencies administered with success. So we can conclude that the higher potencies act in animals as much as they do in people. My experience confirms this and I can say further that I have not been able to see any difference whatsoever in how animals respond to remedies as compared to people.
Secondly, we can see that the indications for the remedies were straight forward use of characteristic symptoms. The cases were not complicated ones that would fool the practitioner into making the wrong prescription. The characteristic symptom outstanding in the case did indeed correspond to the characteristics of the remedy as reported in human provings.
For example, in Case 1 of Von Boenninghausen, the retained afterbirth is a characteristic of Secale. Case 5, in which the horse has to wink to remove the mucus from the eyes reveals the characteristic symptom of Euphrasiaâ€”from Hering’s Guiding Symptoms, “Sudden and momentary obscuration of vision, amel. by winking, caused by presence of opaque mucus upon surface of cornea”.
Case 8, the dog with colic, shows the characteristic symptom for Colocynthis of doubling over to relieve the pain. Notice that we have to make the assumption that the doubling over is for relief. We won’t go far wrong to assume that animals will behave in such a way that gives them the most relief. They are not duplicitous.
In all the cases listed, except perhaps for Case 4, the horse with the swollen coronet, the prescription really looks straight forward, guided by a general condition or a characteristic symptom that identifies the obvious remedy. Case 4 is less obvious at first, but only increases one’s admiration for Von Boenninghausen’s mastery of both materia medica. Anatomically, the foot of the horse corresponds to your fingernail. That is, the horse is standing on the tip of one finger. The coronet is then the edge of the nail, the transition area between the nail and the rest of the finger. So why did Von Boenninghausen use this remedy? If we look in Hering’s, we see some possible applications:
Rheumatic swelling of index finger and wrist joint,
Swelling of hands.
Finger much swollen, looks bluish….
In the Boenninghausen repertory we find that Lachesis is listed in the rubric for “Swelling of the hand” as a grade 4 remedy (highest grade) and in “Swelling of the finger”, grade 3. So I am thinking that Von Boenninghausen interpreted this symptom as a swelling of the “hand”. Why he did not use one of the other remedies for this, I do not know. It is likely there were other symptoms in the horse that eliminated remedies such as Belladonna and Bryonia, also high grade in the rubric.
It makes sense if we think about it like this: At first, it would seem that the symptom is swelling at the base of the nail, perhaps a felon forming. But considering horse anatomy we realize that the hoof of the foot, which is basically like a large fingernail, completely encases the foot so that any inflammation and therefore swelling, cannot result in the hoof itself swelling (it is too rigid) but rather swelling appearing at the “top”, at the coronet. So, the interpretation of the symptom is “swelling of the foot” or “swelling of the finger”. Thus we begin to have some idea of Von Boenninghausen’s thinking.
Interpretation of Animal Symptoms
You can see that we have entered into an important topic for working with animalsâ€”the interpretation of symptoms. This, by necessity, requires us to have both some working knowledge of animal anatomy and of what is normal behavior for animals.
As an example, it is normal behavior for dogs to eat what is usually called “stool” or fecal material. They seem to relish it, and we know from observation of wolves that they routinely eat the droppings from caribou or other animals they feed on as they follow the herd. However, if this was a person doing this, it is likely to be an expression of insanity. In fact, the relevant rubric in Kent is:
Mind; FECES; licks up cow-dung, mud, saliva (1): merc.
Which is in the “Mind” section of the repertory, rather than under “Stomach, cravings”. So we see that for a dog this is not really a symptom, yet for a human being, a very important one. Now here is a further interesting observationâ€”though it is normal for dogs to do this, it can be become excessive behavior in some. It will become a craving, such that if they cannot eat the stool of other animals they will eat their own upon deliveryâ€”what we sometimes refer to as “easy keepers”. In this case, the remedy Mercurius, is often the one needed for treatment.
This is an example of the understanding of many of the mental symptoms (we would say “behavioral” rather than mental) as seen in animals. Almost all the descriptions in the repertory can be applied to animals but with the first necessary interpretation of normal behavior for that species. Another example is “fastidiousness” which can be a symptom in a person yet is normal for cats.
Therefore, the challenge to us as veterinarians is to identify, for each species, what is normal behavior (thus not a symptom to be used in prescribing) and what is abnormal (even though that might not be seen as a symptom for a person). Often this is a factor of degree or intensity. If we consider the many mental symptoms described in the materia medica, we can realize that most, if not all, are “normal” within certain contexts. As the saying goes, “You are not paranoid if someone is after you.”
How Do We Interpret Animal Behavior?
If we move to contemporary times, we begin to see the challenge to veterinarians in recognizing a remedyâ€”and some of the questions we have to settle. In many ways, animals are like us, having emotions, desires, aversions, cravings.
They have a mental life, don’t they? But what is this mental life like? (1-2)
Don’t they have relationships like we do? (3-6)
And corresponding conflict at times. (7)
What of emotions? Can they be irritable? (8) Feel grief? (9)
Do they have a sexual life? (10)
What of cravings? (11-13)
Still, we must realize the difference in perception for animals. (14)
Physically, we are much more alike. We encounter obese animals, just as you encounter obese human beings. (15-16)
In fact, the physical symptoms and conditions are the most reliable of all.
The Challenge of Chronic Disease
The greatest challenge to veterinarians today is the great bulk of chronic diseases that we see. Almost every case seen in our daily practice is of this type. Partly this is because we veterinarians offering homeopathy often function as the “last resort” after an animal has been ill for some time and extensively treated by allopathic medicine. But also, we see much more chronic disease now than 20 or 30 years ago. As examples of these chronic conditions, consider the almost universal diagnosis of “hypothryoidism” in dogs, of cystitis and urinary problems in cats, the common allergies, diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and even cancer which has reached alarming proportions in domestic animals. There are the emergencies and accidents of course, but even the “emergencies” are often expressions of chronic illness flaring up from its miasmatic base.
What is behind this high incidence of chronic disease? I consider the most important factors to be 1) feeding commercially produced foods, 2) excessive use of vaccinations, and 3) the use of allopathic medicine to suppress and palliate symptoms. As Dr. Hahnemann described in his writings 200 years ago, allopathic treatment, more than any other factor, is responsible for the extensive development of the chronic miasms in populations.
It is not unusual for me to be presented with a case of active, internal psora complicated by sycosis or the syphilitic miasm, with several organ systems involved and a complete lack of characteristic symptoms to guide me. Any useful symptoms that existed before are long gone after extensive drug use.
Let’s look at three example cases from my practice. We will start with a relatively simple one, showing more straight forward prescribing. It will serve to indicate the thinking behind the prescription and some of the difficulty in coming down to the similimum.
Case 9: The Cat With Homesickness.
Vegas, a young mature cat, from the time of adoption is aggressive. Though the client can handle the cat (with caution), at times it is impossible. Vegas will hunch up, hiss and growl, even approaching strangers with obvious intent to do harm. If client moves her hand, it is seen as a threat and attacked. A stranger is obviously an enemy.
I watched her behavior one day and saw her slowly approach a person sitting on the couch. She moved up to the arm of the couch (e.g., seeking conflict) and took a position of imminent attack. To avert this from happening, I distracted her, but I think without this, it would have been a messy scene.
The immediate problem was that my client had recently moved from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, a couple of months ago. Since that move, the cat would hide almost all the time, not eating or drinking or eliminating. When seen, she acted fearful with dilated pupils and “freaked out” according to reports. I tried to examine her physically but this resulted in her attacking my client.
What to do? I first prescribed Belladonna 30c (fear, dilated pupils, striking out, biting, etc.) with some partial effect. Thinking, perhaps, that since Belladonna seemed to have some partial action, then Calcarea would follow well. We tried that in 30c potency.
Calcarea in Hering’s: Great anxiety, restlessness and palpitation; Great anxiety, in evening, for which no reason could be assigned; Easily startled; Fear, that something sad or terrible will happen.
Result: Nothing. So, we re-assess. Behavior, prior to move, is as described, but now, since the move, is very much worse. Before she would eat and could be treated normally at times. Now, she is like a wild animal in the fear and suspiciousness displayed. Even though it has been 2 months since the move, she has not adapted to it. A thought comes to me that she looks very sad and perhaps she is unwilling to adjust to her new home. You would think hunger, thirst and the need to eliminate would finally force her to come around, but it has not.
I ask my client “Do you think she could be homesick?”
My client “Yes, I think she is. It really started with the move and she had never known any other place to live before this.”
Rx Ignatia 30c. In 10 minutes, came out to eat and began to act normally. Now months later, she continues well, even calmer and more affectionate than ever in her life before.
We see from a case like this that, in hindsight, the emotional state was the prominent condition. Yet, since we could not examine the cat or communicate with her, several other possibilities were considered. I thought there might be an intestinal obstruction (happens in cats), or an internal problem like inflammatory bowel syndromeâ€”which could have looked like this. Do you see the difficulty? Nonetheless, this case is a good example of an emotional problem being the primary disturbance.
Here is another case.
Case 10: Daisy, The Cat With A Toothache
Daisy is an 18 year old cat, which is considered old for a cat. Many do not live longer than 14 or so. She has, in her older years, tendency to constipation, sometimes diarrhea and vomiting (rather common symptoms in cats) and early signs of kidney failure. A continued problem, as well, is chronic inflammation of the mouth and gums, the latter becoming red and sore, retracting from the teeth, and the saliva becoming “sticky”.
In November of 2005, Daisy developed a swelling on the side of the face, under the left eye area which caused the eye to be partially closed. We knew from the prior history that her mouth was a problem and cats with this condition often have decayed teeth, teeth becoming loose and falling out, or tooth root abscesses. My client, a long-term and experienced one, on her own gave Mercurius 30c on the basis that I had often prescribed this remedy for other cats with similar problems.
My thought was, when I was told about it, that this was likely due to an abscessed tooth, with associated swelling. Mercurius a likely remedy so we waited for a couple of days to see if there were signs of response. Typically, if I understand the problem correctly and the remedy is correct, we expect a response rather quickly. We waited 2 days and there was no change. So, I changed the prescription to Sepia 30c. I will reproduce my notes subsequent to this prescription so we can see more detail on what happens with the response in an animal.
November 17, 2005
Within 30 minutes of the remedy, she started purring. Pawed at cheek gently a couple of times. Then slept. In the night, had trouble with BM (OS) and now eating OK, but not purring. Swelling seems less.
Later (same day): Has started purring. Swelling is smaller, less swollen. Then when client touched the area, the fur came off as a chunk and pink underneath. Not esp. painful.
November 18, 2005
Abscess broke through and drained large amount of bloody fluid. Swelling has gone down very much. Ate normally. Client has cleaned it and there is not discomfort. (Her local veterinarian) says “We can’t leave an abscess in the mouthâ€”has to come out”. 18 yr. old cat to undergo surgery for a healing abscess? I advise no.
November 22, 2005
Abscess has healed very quickly. The next day, client put mild pressure over area but no drainage. Face normal, eating, no problems. Scab was hanging loose last night, lifted off. Healed tissue underneath. Drinking water, even more before remedy, but now intake has leveled off since the abscess broke.
December 1, 2005
“Doing beautifully.” Normal.
Hair grew in over the drainage area by Jan. 3. There have been no problems or symptoms at all since that time.
We can see in this case a clear demonstration of a response to a remedy. First we contrast the difference between Mercurius and Sepia. With the former, no change observed for 48 hours post-treatment. With Sepia, we see these significant events (and italicized in the case above):
- Within 30 minutes, she purrs (feels better).
- In same time interval, increased sensation in the affected area (gently pawing at it).
- Then relaxation (sleep).
- A few hours later, the dead tissue over the abscess falls off. Renewed purring.
- Next day, pus drains out, reduced pain.
- Rapid healing of lesion with complications or sequelae.
- Decreased thirst (a concomitant, related to the kidney condition).
- Continued good health for months.
We see from this case that a 30c potency was entirely adequate, and a single dose sufficient for cure. This is typical for my cases in which the great majority (99%) are adequately treated with a single dose.
Why Sepia you may ask? A characteristic of this remedy is swelling of the side of the face from a decayed tooth. As in Hering’s Guiding Symptoms, Sepia, Upper Face:
â€¢ Inflammation and swelling on one side of face, from root of a decayed tooth.
We also see Sepia in an appropriate rubric, as in Boenninghausen’s Repertory:
Face; SWELLING; toothache (19) : all-c., ant-c., calc., calc-s., Chamomilla, colch., euph., hep., kali-c., Lachesis, mag-c., Mercurius, nux-v., samb., Sepia, Silicea, spig., stront-c., verat.
You might ask, “Why not consider one of the other remedies?” and of course I would if this prescription was not effective. My choice, however, comes from experience. As Hahnemann has advised us in his Chronic Diseases, the remedies we need for these cases of corresponding chronic diseases are the antipsorics and perhaps the other anti-miasmatics such as Thuya and Mercurius. So if we limit our consideration of remedies accordingly, it will look like this:
And we are down to 10 remedies (instead of 19). We have already tried Mercurius without result, so we actually have 9 to consider.
I can make Sepia come up by using certain rubrics, as in this analysis:
But I can just as easily use other rubrics and Sepia not appear at all. Basically, I know from experience what remedies are most likely for the different animals, and Sepia is more commonly needed than some of the others listed. I also see the lack of other remedy characteristics in the case, for example, the sensitivity and anger of Hepar Sulph, the craving for indigestibles of Calcarea, the sticky mucus on the cornea of Euphrasia, and so on.
Here is one more, and last case that demonstrates the common challenge given to us as homeopathic veterinarians. It is an animal with advanced pathology and a long history of illness. Therefore the case is complex, with symptoms that seem contradictory at times.
Case 11: Chloe, A Geriatric Case
Out patient is an 18 year old small dog that has chronic symptoms for much of her long life. Eighteen years is very old for a dog and much of the credit for her reaching this age is the extraordinary care my client has given to her. She uses a natural, home-prepared and vegetarian diet, avoids drugs and vaccinations, and uses gentle therapies (such as essential oils) in lieu of more suppressive measures. As a result, we have a patient that has not been suppressed repeatedly by allopathic treatment (which is the norm).
Basically, her chief problems are inflamed ears and severe back pain. I am making this complex case simple by putting it this way but you can understand the focus of the problem by describing it this way. The ear discomfort and the back pain prevent sleep, causing her to cry and whine and be awake for long periods, of necessity preventing my client from having rest as well (in fact losing a roommate as a result).
Previous veterinary evaluation and X-rays have shown a degenerated disk at L7 and S1, and evidence of spondylosis in that area (thus the source of the back pain).
Here is a typical description of her discomfort, in my client’s words:
Suddenly last Sunday, she had this breakdown with strange panting, shortness of breath and not being able to stand up straight and crying out in pain when being picked up. She arches her back and her head hangs low. Since then, most of the time she has been sleeping comfortably. She would have some outbursts of pain with being picked up, but not too often. Her stools became quite hard, which had not been the case much at all.
She seems to be comforted by my touch and closeness. Sometimes I put her on the bed with me and she seems to like that. With her pain, she does not like to be handled too much, but she has typically been that way, even under normal circumstances.
Last night she woke up screaming in pain. I was able to massage her a bit and put some Frankincense oil on her and she was able to go back to sleep for the rest of the night. This morning she seems uncomfortable with twitches, but is quite and resting. Her ears are very crusty with a yellowish color on the inside flap. She has a fair amount of light brown wax coming out, which is typical for her. Her breath smells quite strong. She has unusual breathing patterns that come and go. She was wheezing a lot last night after her attack of pain.
We used several remedies (I won’t bore you with the detail as they were not dramatic) and she did “all right”. Then this development came up:
When we got to my friend’s house, she started pacing quite quickly around the room and kept that up for hours. I couldn’t get her to stop. She literally continued that for hours and finally laid down and fell into a deep sleep. I don’t know how to interpret that behavior….
This is very odd behavior, yet one that I have seen in quite a few dogs, especially older ones. Over the years I have tried to solve it with many, many remedies but never feeling satisfied with the results which were partial at best. Eventually I was able to connect it with symptoms of Rabiesâ€”the extreme restlessness and agitation, the driven pacing even in old and exhausted animals. This is what is typical of this syndrome, the relentless pacing in the night that goes on for hours (no, Arsenicum does not solve it). What I have found of most usefulness is Lyssin, which we gave at this point in a 30c potency.
We were fortunate to have a very good response to this, my client being able to report in 2-3 days:
She continues to show substantial improvement. Homeopathy is so amazing. I am so grateful for your prescription.
She was not “cured” but greatly helped by this Rx (as are many dogs showing this pattern of behavior). After this remedy, and with more time, we had increased skin itching (externalization, a good sign), continued trouble with the ears, back pain, stiffness, etc. Many symptoms, much detail (for which I am sparing you), with the case eventually coming to focus on the mouthâ€”decayed or loose teeth and gum inflammation, which became the primary problem. That is, the case matured, became more focused and came to look like Mercurius.
Suffice it to say that we saw significant improvement when Mercurius 30c was administered, with considerable and ongoing improvement with all symptoms, including the back pain. At this point she is very much more comfortable, not having the intense back pain experience, the mouth much improved, energy overall better, even the ears improved.
Though Chloe is not a cured case, and may never be considering her advanced age, it is gratifying to see how much improvement there has been. This is like treating a 90 year old woman with arthritis, skin disease, ear catarrh, and decayed teeth. How much can we really expect in such an advanced case? Chloe gives us some good testimony and hope for relieving the discomforts even at the end of life.
Figure 1: Chloe outside
Figure 2: Chloe with her best friend, Malaika
Hopefully this gives you an idea of what veterinary homeopathy is about. You can see that the approach is basically the same as that in treating people, most closely aligned with the work done with small non-verbal children (in a sense we are interviewing the “mother” or “father” in these animal cases).
I find that homeopathy is practiced the same way as with people, the same polychrest remedies coming up frequently, the same type of responses (counter-actions) seen after a curative remedy, and the same pattern of improvement you would see with the human patient.
We can use the same booksâ€”both repertories and materia medicaâ€”as with “human” practice. This in itself is quite amazing and is an interesting twist on the usual practice of using “animal models for human disease” in that we are using human provings for treatment of animal illness. It is something that remains to be appreciated by those that oppose using animals in researchâ€”that homeopathy makes such research unnecessary.
What is different is the interpretation of symptoms and here the veterinarian has the advantage. We can recognize what are symptoms and what is normal for that species (or breed). Especially with behavior, we can (and must) differentiate between what are normal personality traits and what are changed or disturbed behaviors. This can come only with knowledge and experience with these particular animals. Though most of my experience has been with dogs and cats, I have treated a range of other animalsâ€”horses, mules, cows, sheep, pigs, rodents, birds, wild animals, etc. I don’t see a difference between them and the treatment of people except for the prominence of certain antipsoric remedies for the different species. When I am faced with treating an animal I am not familiar with, a common question for me, as we go through the case, is “Is this normal behavior for this species?”
A final note about the treatment of animals. I often say, like Von Boenninghausen, that treating animals has a unique significance. It is difficult to say that the effects of homeopathic treatment in animals is due to suggestion or is the effect of placebo (though some people still maintain that). So we can demonstrate homeopathy in a rather effective way I think.
Further, we are able to treat some very severe physical (pathological) conditions that are not likely to be allowed with human patients. Such conditions as life-threatening infections, cancer, snake bites and so on, can be done using only homeopathic remedies in animals, thus showing effectiveness in the most severe of conditions. I think this is one of the most unique contributions that the homeopathic veterinary profession can make to the noble work of the homeopathic community.