Vet Holly Mash gives you advice on how to keep your pets healthy with homeopathy
Animals are brought into the small city practice where I work for all sorts of reasons, ranging from the minor torn nail, to the true emergency. It is this variety of work that makes the job so interesting; you never know what may come through the door next! In this article I have described the ‘top 5’ reasons that people bring their pets into my clinic, alongside suggestions for supportive homeopathic remedies for each condition. With an ever-expanding medicine chest of homeopathic remedies, there is not room here to explain how each one may be used; only the most commonly indicated ones are illustrated. This ‘top-5’ should give you a glimpse of the great scope for using homeopathy as part of an integrated approach to your pet’s health care.
1. Allergies and skin conditions
The most common symptoms of allergies in pets are skin conditions characterised by itching and scratching. These allergic animals are especially affected during the summer months, and can make themselves red, sore and sometimes even partly bald by licking, chewing and scratching at themselves. Sensitivity to flea bites, components of their diet, or even house dust mites are the most commonly cited causes of allergy. However skin diseases can also be due to parasites, such as mites and fungal infections, (ringworm). This is why veterinary diagnosis of the complaint is important, so that the correct treatment can be used. To get a lasting cure in cases of allergy it will be necessary to seek the advice of a veterinary homeopath so that they can prescribe a constitutional remedy for your pet.
However, for first line treatment and in mild cases of skin conditions the following remedies may be helpful.
Natrum muriaticum Often indicated for flea allergic dermatitis in cats. The coat will be greasy and matted, and areas of fur loss symmetrical. The skin will be dry and flaky. The patient may have a history of grief (a rescue cat for example).
Rhus toxicodendron For a rash where the skin is bumpy and red, and where there is intense itching, especially in bed at night. The symptoms are worse in damp weather. Prolonged scratching causes the skin to become thickened and discoloured.
Sulphur Our most important ‘skin’ medicine. Particularly indicated for “hot”, “itchy”, “smelly” patients. The skin will feel warm to the touch and have an offensive smell. The coat will be unkempt and dirty looking, the skin unhealthy. Bathing, and heat will aggravate the symptoms.
Dogs and cats can suffer from coughs as a result of upper respiratory tract infections, heart conditions, and physical obstructive causes, as well as for a range of other factors. The severity, nature and any other symptoms that the animal is showing will help the vet diagnose the cause of the cough, and hence the appropriate treatment. One of the most common conditions in dogs is ‘kennel cough’. This is an infectious tracheitis (inflammation of the throat) that is characterised by a hacking, retching cough, in an otherwise healthy dog.
The following are homeopathic medicines that may be useful for cats or dogs suffering with mild respiratory symptoms. You will notice that it is important to pay attention to exact nature of the symptoms that your animal is showing in order to be able to pick the medicine that best matches them.
Antimonium tartaricum For a rattley, chesty cough, that although sounds wet, is non-productive, (as the mucus is so hard to expel). With retching and salivation, and weakness.
Arsenicum album Often useful for asthma in cats. For a wheezy, dry cough. The discharges from nose or eyes will be watery and burning to the skin. The patient will be restless, anxious and thirsty, (for frequent small sips of water), and will seek the warmth. The symptoms are worse at night.
Drosera Often indicated for Kennel cough. Used for harsh, forceful, hacking coughs where there is retching. Worse lying down at night, and better when out in the open air.
Spongia tosta For croupy, barking coughs, often likened to the sound of a saw going through wood. Drinking warm water will relieve the cough. The patient may be fearful and anxious. It is often used for coughs associated with heart disease
3. Sprains and strains
Whether it is just a mild sprain after an injury, or chronic arthritis in an elderly animal, homeopathic medicines are an excellent choice of supportive treatment for musculoskeletal conditions. They can help ease the aches and pains, as well as promote recovery from an injury. In many cases they will help ease the symptoms and help restore function. Using the guidelines below to match your animal’s symptoms, you can see how there are several homeopathic medicines that are beneficial to gently support your pet.
Arnica The first choice medicine for injuries to muscles and joints. The patient will be restless and not want to be fussed over or touched. May find it difficult to get comfortable in bed.
Bryonia alba Complaints are worse for any movement, so the patient will want to stay still. They feel better lying down on the painful area to provide a firm pressure and hence prevent any movement. Will be worse in warm weather and better in wet weather. (This is opposite to the indications for Rhus tox).
Rhus toxicodendron An important medicine for arthritic pains. Where joints are stiff after exertion and on first getting up after rest, but much better after continued motion. They will also be noticeably worse after a long walk. Much worse in cold, damp weather.
Ruta graveolens Used for joint pains after injury. Also for tendonitis and ligament strains and sprains. The patient will be better after initial movement and worse in the cold and damp.
4. Vomiting and diarrhoea
The common causes of digestive upset in pets range from the effects of scavenging rotten foods, to viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, to the Labrador puppy that has eaten your socks! Hence the symptoms can be equally varied depending on the nature and severity of the problem. It may just be the occasional retching of a fur ball (in cats), to the serious, profuse vomiting and diarrhoea associated with some viral infections. Therefore it is clear that if the symptoms are serious or prolonged then your pet will need checking by the vet. For those animals with mild symptoms the following homeopathic medicines can prove useful. It is also common to rest the animals gastro- intestinal system by withholding food for 24 hours, (water only), followed by the re-introduction of a bland diet. (It is not recommended to withhold food from puppies or elderly dogs).
Arsenicum album Watery diarrhoea passed after ingestion of rotten food, or fruit. Typically passed with much straining, and it may contain blood. Vomiting and diarrhoea may occur at the same time. Patient will be restless, anxious and thirsty for small sips, with a desire to be warm.
Nux vomica Indigestion and digestive complaints after over-eating or rich foods. The patient is often nervous and bad tempered. Feel better when warm, and will feel worse in the mornings. There is bloating and flatulence. Diarrhoea may alternate with consti- pation, with much straining in either case. There may also be vomiting.
Phosphorus Sudden onset complaints. A great thirst for cold water. Water and food may be regurgitated back within minutes of drinking or eating. Stools and vomit may contain blood. Diarrhoea will be pale and watery and there will be abdominal pain.
Podophyllum For gushing, profuse, watery diarrhoea that is offensive smelling and may be greenish in colour and contain mucus. The diarrhoea may occur in the morning, and the stools firm up by the evening.
Cystitis is the inflammation of the bladder that causes pain on urination. In cats and dogs with cystitis the symptoms include straining to urinate and more frequent attempts to urinate. There may also be blood in the urine. The causes of cystitis in cats and dogs are often different. In the dog it is commonly due to a bacterial infection. Whilst in cat’s cystitis is frequently part of a complex and multifactorial condition called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Although in most cases the cause remains unknown, it is widely understood as being related to factors such as stress, anxiety, obesity, neutering and diet. The most serious problem associated with cystitis in cats and dogs is when there is a blockage to the urethra, so that they are unable to pass any urine at all. This is an emergency where life-saving veterinary treatment is required. Therefore veterinary attention is advised if your pet is showing any signs of cystitis, however mild. Homeopathic treatment for cystitis is another excellent example of where remedies can complement conventional care.
Aconite Used early on, where the only symptoms may be an increased frequency in attempts to urinate. The animal may be fearful and restless.
Cantharis Commonly indicated for acute cystitis, where there is much straining to urinate. Urine is passed drop by drop, sometimes tinged with blood. The patient may cry when urinating.
Equisetum Used for frequent urination, but with little straining. The passage of urine does not relieve the symptoms of discomfort. The pain may extend down the right flank.
Sarsaparilla For pain and straining that is worst at the end of urination. The patient may prefer to stand (rather than squat) when attempting to urinate.
Each of these medicines can be used in animals at a potency of 12 or 30c, at a dose rate that will vary to match the speed of onset of the condition. For chronic, ongoing conditions (such as arthritis in the elderly) dosing twice daily for several weeks at a time may be appropriate. For acute conditions, such as a sudden onset skin rash or in cystitis, dosing every few hours for 3 or 4 doses is more appropriate.
It is important that you take your pet to the vets if they are unwell. The advice offered here does not replace veterinary care.
It is clear that pets suffering from the most common complaints that I see in practice could often benefit from homeopathic treatment to help resolve their symptoms. Two other important points about homeopathic treatment have also been illustrated in this article. The first is that the mental and emotional aspects, rather than simply the physical symptoms of the patient, are taken into account when choosing the right medicine for them. For example the animal that may benefit from a dose of Nux vomica to clear up their digestive complaint is likely to be touchy and irritable. Whereas the animal that needs Arsenicum Album will be restless and anxious. This is the essence of ‘holistic’ treatment, considering the mind and the body as parts of a whole. The second point is that the same remedy may have been listed as the treatment for more than one condition.
For example Arsenicum album under respiratory as well as gastrointestinal complaints. This illustrates the other important feature of homeopathy; treat- ment of the patient and not the disease. Therefore the ‘Arsenicum Album’ patient, whether they have a cough or an upset tummy, will be restless, anxious, and chilly, with symptoms that are worse at night. According to Hahnemann using homeopathic medicines to treat the every-day ills as outlined here, will help to prevent the occurrence of long term, chronic conditions. Using homeopathy in animals is a gentle, natural way of stimulating their own self-healing mechanisms to restore health and vitality.
Holly Mash BVSc VetMFHom certIVAS MRCVS, is a fully qualified veterinary surgeon who specialises in homeopathy and acupuncture. She runs complementary medicine clinics in Bristol and London (www.hollymashvet.com). Holly is also a tutor on the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital’s professional training course.