Many medical practices, such as Ayurveda and Unani medicine, have existed in India since time immemorial. Homoeopathy is the use of a drug to cure an illness with the understanding that the same chemical generates the symptoms that the patient experiences.
The word “homoeopathy” was coined in 1807 by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann. Homoeopathy is based on rehabilitative components of healthcare and is not only curative but also preventative, prophylactic, and therapeutic. Patients are given the most concentrated form of homoeopathic medication created from source material.
Second, homoeopathic drugs are made from a range of natural or artificial sources, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and plant parasites. Some of these source components represent possible safety concerns even at high dilutions. In the realm of veterinary medicine, a diverse array of treatment modalities exists to address the health needs of our beloved animal patients.
Among these, homeopathy stands out as a distinctive and often debated practice. Homoeopathy, with its roots in holistic healing, has gained popularity as an alternative or complementary approach to conventional veterinary care.
Advocates praise its gentle yet potentially effective nature, while sceptics question its scientific basis and efficacy. Several veterinary specialists, including me, in India employ homoeopathy to treat animals for different medical conditions. Because the use of antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents in agriculture is raising significant concern, there is an increased interest in veterinary homoeopathy therapies.
Antimicrobial resistance has also made it more challenging to treat disorders such as mastitis, TB, pneumonia, and Salmonella infections. As a result, a rising number of organic farmers are adopting homoeopathic remedies for their livestock. In this piece, we delve into the world of veterinary homeopathy, examining its principles, applications, controversies, and potential benefits for animal patients.
Understanding veterinary homeopathy
Baron Van Boenninghausen was the first person to practice homoeopathy on animals. Van Boenninghausen pioneered veterinary homoeopathy and treated a wide range of animal species. According to certain people, homoeopathy is the world’s second-most popular medical system. Homeopathy operates on the principle of “like cures like” and the notion of minimum dose.
This means that substances that produce symptoms similar to those of a disease in healthy individuals are diluted to ultra-low concentrations and administered to patients to stimulate the body’s innate healing mechanisms. Additionally, homeopathy emphasises individualization of treatment, taking into account the patient’s unique symptoms, temperament, and overall constitution.
Applications in Veterinary Medicine
Practitioners of veterinary homeopathy apply its principles to a wide range of health conditions in animals, including chronic diseases, behavioural issues, skin disorders, musculoskeletal problems, and even acute ailments. From arthritis and allergies to anxiety and digestive disturbances, homeopathic remedies are purported to offer relief and support without the side effects often associated with conventional medications.
Supporters of veterinary homeopathy often cite anecdotal evidence and case studies to demonstrate its efficacy. Tales of remarkable recoveries and improvements in animal health are not uncommon within the homeopathic community.
While these stories may lack the rigor of scientific validation, they nevertheless underscore the potential of homeopathy to contribute positively to the well-being of veterinary patients. In India, various environmental factors, like a hot and humid climate, together with poor animal husbandry practices vis-à-vis milking techniques by the farmers predispose the milking animals to mastitis.
Bovine mastitis is a mammary gland infection in dairy animals that poses a serious threat to the farmer’s economic security. The therapeutic approach for mastitis involves a combination of long-term antibiotics and internal teat sealers (antibiotics drying off). Indiscriminate use of antibiotics for the treatment of mastitis is increasingly critical because of the continuous rise in antimicrobial resistance that can adversely affect human health.
Because of antimicrobial resistance, superbugs (resistant strains) are growing at an alarming rate, claiming the lives of patients each year, and it is anticipated that by 2050, they will be a grandiose killer than cancer. So, we can say it is a ticking time bomb that needs to be neutralised before its explosion.
Antibiotic usage is prohibited in organic and biodynamic farming due to legislative regulations; hence, the use of alternative medicine, such as homoeopathy, is encouraged. There is also a significant challenge to veterinary specialists in treating a fibrosed mammary gland of the cow with allopathic drugs; hence, cost-effective therapies like homeopathy for the management of mastitis are being practiced throughout the world.
Recently, promising results with a homeopathic combination remedy in the management of udder affections have been reported in dairy cows. So we can say that the combination of herd health management and environmental improvement measures with the use of homeopathic remedies might be a successful strategy to reduce the use of antibiotics.
Homoeopathic combination medicines have also demonstrated promising results in the treatment of canine viral gastroenteritis, post-partum anestrus in dairy animals, and non-specific diarrhoea in calves, according to a number of Indian studies.
Veterinary homeopathy through my lens
For the sake of education and the advancement of the veterinary profession, I am sharing briefly my personal homeopathic practice with all veterinary specialists who are interested in incorporating it into their clinical practice. Based on my own experience, the following is a list of drugs that you can use: Arsenicum album for gastroenteritis (including Parvo virus diarrhoea) and canine renal failure; Glonoinum for heat stroke; Apis mellifica for patients bitten by insects; and others Conium maculatum for paralysis, Ipecac for hemolytic anaemia, Colocynthis for horse colic, Cicuta virosa for canine epilepsy and distemper, and phytolacca and Calcarea for ailments of the cow mammary glands.
These drugs are available as pills or drops, but the most important thing to remember is that homoeopathic medicine must be used at the proper potency in order to produce the desired effects. I invite all veterinary clinicians to get in touch with me via email if they would like any further information on veterinary homoeopathy.
Controversies and Criticisms
Despite its popularity among some animal owners and practitioners, veterinary homeopathy remains a subject of controversy within the broader veterinary community. Critics argue that the principles of homeopathy are at odds with established scientific knowledge and the principles of evidence-based medicine.
Sceptics also raise concerns about the lack of rigorous clinical trials supporting the efficacy of homeopathic treatments in animals and the potential for delays in seeking appropriate conventional care. According to my personal experience, there isn’t a specific homeopathic drug that may be prescribed for bovine mastitis.
The homoeopathic treatments Belladona, Bryonia, Lachesis, and Phytolacca were most often utilised in the majority of the studies. By virtue of their homoeopathic medication profiles, all four of these treatments alluded to mastitis.
As a result, homeopathic treatments have to be used in accordance with the indications and unique symptoms of each cow. This outcome validated Hahnemann’s advice to “choose a remedy that can cause a similar disease, as it should heal in every case of illness.”
Integrative Approaches and Collaboration
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the value of integrative veterinary medicine, which combines conventional therapies with complementary and alternative modalities such as homeopathy, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and chiropractic care. Many veterinary clinics now offer integrative services, providing pet owners with a range of treatment options tailored to their preferences and their pet’s needs.
The practice of veterinary homeopathy occupies a unique niche within the spectrum of animal healthcare. While opinions on its efficacy and legitimacy vary widely, it continues to attract interest and intrigue from pet owners, veterinarians, and researchers alike.
As with any therapeutic approach, it is essential for pet owners to engage in informed discussions with their veterinarians, weigh the available evidence, and make decisions that align with the best interests of their animal companions. In the end, whether one embraces homeopathy as a cornerstone of their pet’s care or approaches it with scepticism, the ultimate goal remains the same: promoting the health and well-being of our cherished animal friends.
Dr. Abrar Ul Haq Wani, Assistant Professor cum Scientist, Dept. of Medicine, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Ludhiana, Punjab.