What is veterinary homeopathy?

August 1, 2012

Healing, Health, Homeopathy, Pets

“Wait,” you say. “My dog has symptoms and is just getting worse!” Yes, this is a common experience and precisely why we are susceptible to the erroneous conclusion that the symptoms are the disease.

by Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn — 

About 30 years ago, I became interested in homeopathic medicine. You might ask how, considering it was a topic never discussed in veterinary school and, indeed, a term I never heard until a full decade after graduating.

In brief, I had practiced in Southern California on a variety of animals and then, later, as part of the university faculty at Washington State University. I was — shall we say — disappointed in the results of treatment from traditional veterinary medicine. This was most apparent with the chronic disease conditions. It was not that symptoms could not be relieved — they often could — but I did not find, in all honesty, that the patient’s state of health was improved significantly.

This started me on a long search for other ways to treat animals. After considering Chinese medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicine and a variety of “energetic” modalities, I came across homeopathy and was immediately drawn to it. Perhaps it was similar enough to conventional allopathic treatment (the giving of pills) that made me comfortable with it. But more accurately, I think the ideas behind homeopathic philosophy made a great deal of sense to me.

What are these ideas? First and foremost, they involve understanding the symptoms of disease. Whereas I had been taught that symptoms were the disease itself — what we were to “get rid of” — the homeopathic understanding is that the symptoms are expressions of the healing process and necessary if health is to be restored.

For example, if you are injured, say with a cut on the arm, what follows is an inflammatory state, as shown by swelling, redness, warmth and pain. With time, this will result in the cut closing, scabbing over and eventually completely healing with the reappearance of normal skin. This is an entirely natural process — if these changes did not occur, the tissues would not heal.

It is like this: If you want to go to the market, you must prepare your shopping list, grab your purse or wallet, get in the car (or walk there) and enter the market. If you don’t do these things, you won’t get your groceries.

In the same way, if your body did not go through the steps of inflammation, it would never heal. This is the body’s method of working, and there are no shortcuts. It is simply amazing how perspectives about symptoms can vary so much. Veterinary school teaches that symptoms are to be suppressed and eliminated as much as possible, but homeopathy takes the completely opposite view — that symptoms are necessary and beneficial.

“Wait,” you say. “My dog has symptoms and is just getting worse!” Yes, this is a common experience and precisely why we are susceptible to the erroneous conclusion that the symptoms are the disease.

How else can we understand this? Simply put, the symptoms persist because the healing has not yet occurred. It is like you continue to drive to the market because you haven’t yet reached the grocery store.

So what is one to do when their dog is suffering and not getting well? This will bring you to a crossroads. One way to go is to use drugs that reduce the symptoms or make them go away. The other choice is the homeopathic one — to use a medicine that actually enhances the symptom process so the healing is accomplished.

Now we arrive at the second concept. Healing is possible, but because of obstacles it may not be accomplished. It is at this point that we can use medicines to enhance the process so that it is completed. This is the homeopathic method.

How do we do this? The basic discovery in homeopathy was that the natural progression of healing in the body can be enhanced if you use a medicine that will produce the same sort of symptoms that are already present.

Here is an example: Let’s say your dog has an allergy to chicken. When she eats it, she breaks out in red, swollen, itchy bumps. There are many homeopathic medicines derived from plants, minerals and animal products. One of these is the venom from the honey bee. The effect of a bee sting is very similar to my description of the allergic condition in the dog. With the homeopathic treatment, we give some honeybee venom to the dog with the itchy red bumps and, mirabile dictu, the bumps go away.

“But I do not want to give my dog any nasty bee venom,” you say. “That would be worse than what she has now.” Ah, but wait. The bee venom is extremely diluted so that only a tiny dose is administered to the dog by mouth. It is so small a dose that if you were to take some yourself, you would not taste anything or have an effect from it. But when your dog has these allergic bumps, the homeopathic preparation of bee venom (called Apis mellifica) has a positive effect.

So here we see demonstrated a method of homeopathic treatment wherein we use a substance that produces very similar symptoms but in a very small dose. This has the effect of enhancing the recovery process already in progress. Sometimes it is referred to as “like cures like.” Another simple way of expressing this idea is: a similar medicine acts to cure a disease with similar symptoms.

This method of homeopathic treatment is what I have used with my animal patients over the last 30 years. In the next issue, we will look at some examples of how homeopathy has made a significant difference in the lives of animals.


Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D., is a doctor of veterinary medicine with a graduate degree in immunology. He had a practice in Eugene, Ore., for 20 years utilizing homeopathy and nutrition in treatment. Since 1985, he has trained other veterinarians in the use of homeopathy and teaches at American Medical College of Homeopathy. He and his wife, Susan, are authors of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. richard@drpitcairn.com or drpitcairn.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 2, April/May 2008.

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