As I mentioned in an earlier post – Notes From the Conference on Complementary Animal Healing – I had the pleasure of attending a talk on homeopathy for animals by Shirley this past fall. She was a fantastic presenter and shared lots of great information and homeopathy tips. I immediately bought her book A Healer In Every Home: Dog & Cat Edition (read my review here) and have since bought several more as gifts to pet-owning friends.
In addition to being an animal homeopath, Shirley is the founder and owner of Save A Dog, a rescue organization in Sudbury, MA, which she has been running together with her husband and a group of volunteers since 1999. As you can imagine, she is incredibly busy, and I am so thrilled and thankful that she agreed to take time out of her schedule to do this interview.
Shirley, first of all, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview, I know you are a very busy person! How did you first discover homeopathy?
Thank you for having me as a guest. I love homeopathy and love spreading the word about this wonderful system of medicine. I discovered homeopathy after volunteering down in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I contracted a case of ringworm and suffered with it for five months using prescription creams until someone told me to try a homeopathic cream made from Thuja (the arborvitae bush). My ringworm went away in 3 days and never came back.
That’s pretty impressive. And what made you try it with animals?
I work with rescued dogs all day long and am responsible for their health and well being, so if one of our rescued dogs becomes ill I am the one to take the dog to the vet. I received a call one night about a puppy whose eyes were swollen shut from what appeared to be a reaction to a bug bite. By the time the pup arrived at my house with the foster mom, both her eyes were swollen shut and her face was blown up like a balloon. She was lethargic and having difficulty breathing. The plan was to take her to an emergency vet hospital but she was in such bad shape, I didn’t think there was time. So I called a holistic vet I had just met and she told me to give her a teaspoon of Apis.
The little pup then squirmed out of her foster mom’s arms, jumped down and drank a whole bowl of water and then proceeded to play. We were all so amazed and thankful – I mean tears of joy, absolute joy, and amazement. This remedy should be well known in every household, but I’d never heard of it before that night. Now I wouldn’t ever leave home without it. The wonderful thing about homeopathic remedies is that you can use them on animals as well as on humans. So go get yourself some Apis.
Cattie: That’s an amazing story! I love Apis; since I’m allergic to so many things, I always carry it with me and so far, it has worked every time.
It seems that every system has a slightly different way of looking at disease – what is the homeopathic view?
Dis-ease is a dis-harmony in the body, a mis-tunement of the vital force. Homeopaths don’t tend to put a label on a “disease” other than to use it as a talking point so that non-homeopaths can understand. The body is not the sum of its parts, but effecting a cure requires the harmony to be restored in the body on an energetic level. Homeopathy is individualized, focusing on the patient and not on the disease. When taking a case, we listen to the patient and a symptom picture will appear. With animals you have to observe as well as talk to the pet’s guardian. Does he seek warmth by the fire or is he panting lying on the cool tile. Is s/he thirsty or thirstless? Lies on right side or left side? What time of day are the symptoms worse? What color is the stool, what consistency, etc.
So it sounds like there is a lot to take into account when “prescribing” a homeopathic remedy – where do you start? What do you need to find out in order to figure out the correct remedy?
When prescribing a homeopathic remedy you need to take into account the patient’s Vital Force. Animals tend to have a stronger vital force than humans; infants tend to have a stronger vital force than adults and the elderly have a weaker vital force. Homeopathic remedies come in different potencies, a 6c being a low potency vs. a 1M being a high potency. In first aid situations we tend to give low potency remedies and we give it more often, such as every 10 minutes. With chronic disease, we give higher potency remedies and we give it less often.
It’s best to start with a couple of remedies such as arnica (made from Arnica Montana, the flower used for bumps and bruises). The first course I took in homeopathy was a first aid course and I learned enough in a short time to be helpful to my pets and my family.
Is prescribing a homeopathic remedy for an animal different from prescribing for a human?
It really isn’t much different, although I like to “plus” the remedy in water for animals. When giving a homeopathic remedy to yourself, you tap one or two of the dry homeopathic pellets directly in your mouth and dissolve under your tongue. With pets, a more effective way is to either put a couple of pellets inside the mouth flap, on the gum, or mix the dry pellets into purified or distilled water and to syringe it into their mouths, or to shake it up and squirt some into their water bowl.
Is it always only one remedy that is needed, or can it be a combination?
Classical homeopathy calls for a single remedy, but many homeopaths will send home a combination remedy to get the patient “in the ball park”. After some relief of symptoms, they will often come back and let you “take the case.” For a first aid situation, often we will alternate two remedies 10 or 15 minutes apart. For example, for the post-surgical spay operations, I will give staphysagria and then 15 minutes later, I will give arnica. I’ll alternate a couple times until the dog has received two doses of each.
Can you explain what “take the case” means?
Sure. When you “take a case” you sit down with the patient and you work up the totality of the symptoms and you weigh the symptoms in order of importance. Then you use the Homeopathic Repertory to come up with the appropriate remedies. There’s a whole process to properly taking a case and that is what you learn when you enroll in a school of homeopathy. Taking the case for animals is a bit different than taking the case of humans because animals can’t describe their symptoms like humans can. For example, if a cat has a bladder infection, he’s not going to be able to tell you if he has a burning sensation when urinating. So you observe, talk to the pet owner, and you can put together the symptom picture of the animal. One advantage is that animals are much simpler than humans. They don’t hide their feelings, for example. What you see is what you get.
Is it possible to make something worse by using the wrong homeopathic remedy? I have heard that there are over 100 homeopathic remedies that will treat any disease, but only one correct remedy for each patient.
It’s rare that you can make a condition worse, but that’s a huge topic of discussion amongst experienced homeopaths who are treating patients with chronic disease. I doubt your first aid prescriber would run into that situation.
Is it true that each individual (human and animal) have a specific homeopathic remedy that is the perfect one for him or her? (Shirley, I know there is a term for this but cannot for the life of me remember what it is)
Yes, it’s called the “constitutional remedy” and it’s based on the mental, general, and physical characteristics of the individual. You take into consideration the personality of the patient as well as their characteristics. Phosphorus is a sunny, outgoing personality, so it might be suited more to the Retriever types. The constitutional remedy is used especially in the treatment of chronic disease.
What does that Constitutional Remedy do for the person taking it?
It can have a profound effect on their ability to heal.
I see. How does that work? Does it help the body respond better to other remedies or does the constitutional remedy itself heal the patient?
The remedy itself stimulates the body to heal itself.
Do the remedies work the same way no matter what the species? Humans, cats, gerbils, birds, livestock, etc.?
They tend to work on all living beings. There are tried and true remedies that veterinarians have used for years so if you’re just starting out, it’s best to purchase a book like Don Hamilton’s Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs. He has a wealth of experience that is invaluable to the novice prescriber.
Are there any remedies that should be avoided with certain species?
None that I can think of.
“True” homeopathic remedies consist of a single, natural substance, is that right?
Yes, it’s usually made from Plant, animal, or mineral. There are also nosodes, which are made from diseased tissue, such as carcinosin, the cancer remedy made from breast cancer tissue.
With the risk of sounding immature: Eew. I don’t know that I would be comfortable putting that (the carcinosin nosode) in my body…
I know it sounds gross, but you have to remember that the remedies are diluted down so much that there is not one molecule of the actual substance in the remedy. When you think about what is put in vaccines, it is much scarier because they’re injecting actual substance into the recipient. A nosode is much safer than a vaccine in terms of what is being introduced into the body. With homeopathy, that which would kill you in its original state will cure you in its homeopathic state.
I read that these days, some of the remedies are derived from man-made substances – is that true?
Yes, for example there’s a DAPP remedy made from the DAPP (Distemper, Adenovirus, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus) vaccine.
How does that work?
It works differently than the DAPP vaccine. The goal of the vaccine is to create an antibody response in the body which is an indication of immunity. The DAPP nosode does not create an antibody response and hence its success is not measured in that way. It provides a gentle and safe “exposure” to a shadow of the disease and it produces immunity. It’s not measured by an antibody response, however.
A wonderful nosode that everyone should know about is the Leptospirosis nosode. The nosode is gentle and is widely known for its effectiveness.
A great success of this nosode was demonstrated during a lepto outbreak in Cuba 2007 after a hurricane swept through the country and they were in short supply of the lepto vaccine. Nosodes were instrumental in eliminating lepto. For more information, see Successful Use of Homeopathy in Over 2.5 Million People Reported From Cuba. It is a good article on the effectiveness of homeopathy versus traditional vaccination on more than 2.5 million people.
The lepto vaccine is one that causes the most adverse reactions, especially in small dogs, so the nosode is much safer and its proven to be effective.
Cattie: That is a very interesting case study. Everyone, go and read it now, and make sure to come back here on Friday for the rest of this interview, where you get lots of tips on great remedies to keep on hand (did you know homeopathy can help with Lyme disease?), how to give them to your animals, where to learn more about homeopathy, and two amazing case studies.
Remedies mentioned in this post: