Homeopathy, a form of practice initiated in the late 18th century by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann, refers to treatment of disease with sometimes extreme dilutions of substances that in undiluted form might cause symptoms of that same disease; these substances supposedly promote healing. The substances are said to possess vital healing energies that are unchanged, or even strengthened, through the dilution process. Homeopathic remedies usually consist of lactose pills or liquids.
No known, or even credible, mechanism of action exists by which extremely dilute homeopathic preparations might have a therapeutic effect. Indeed, no study has been able to distinguish homeopathic remedies from control solutions, by any method of analysis. As a result, most authorities consider that any clinical effects obtained from homeopathic remedies are actually placebo effects.
Indications for Homeopathy in Veterinary Patients
Although largely unsupported by research, homeopaths typically feel that their remedies can be prescribed for most medical conditions, including cancer. Reported veterinary uses have included inappropriate urination in cats; babesiosis Babesiosis in Animals Babesia spp blood parasites are transmitted by ixodid ticks. Babesiosis is typically characterized by fever and intravascular hemolysis leading to progressive anemia, hemoglobinuria,... read more , atopic dermatitis Atopic Dermatitis in Animals Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a genetically predisposed inflammatory and pruritic allergic skin disease with characteristic clinical features. It is most commonly associated with IgE antibodies... read more , idiopathic epilepsy, and paroxysmal tachycardia in dogs; fattening of, stillbirths, and diarrhea in pigs; postpartum fertility, mastitis, anestrus, and control of ticks in cattle; diarrhea in calves; salmonellosis Salmonelloses in Poultry Salmonella infections are classified as nonmotile serotypes ( S enterica Pullorum and S enterica Gallinarum) and the many motile paratyphoidSalmonella. These Salmonella... read more in broiler chickens; and helminth parasitism in sheep. That said, ethical questions arise when veterinarians prescribe unapproved, untested homeopathic remedies for animals that are clearly ill, with signs of infection, pain or both. This becomes especially troubling when the effects of these recommended substances cannot be distinguished from those of placebo in rigorous clinical trials.
Contraindications for Homeopathy in Veterinary Patients
Conditions for which regular medical treatment would provide a more meaningful diagnosis and effective treatment, and for which delay of proper care could prove injurious, should not be treated by homeopathy. Adjunctive homeopathic remedies, which may be prescribed as “complementary” treatments to more conventional therapies, have been shown to be no different from placebo in improving the quality of life of children with mild to moderate asthma when prescribed in addition to conventional treatment in primary care.
Adverse Effects of Homeopathy in Veterinary Patients
Chances of homeopathic remedies causing direct toxicities are slight, given their extreme dilution. Homeopathic literature does describe a situation involving a transient worsening of signs called a symptom aggravation or healing “crisis.” Homeopaths may regard this as a treatment breakthrough and sign of impending improvement.
Some practitioners advocate giving homeopathic “vaccines” or nosodes instead of conventional vaccines to avoid perceived health risks of standard vaccines. However, homeopathic vaccines have consistently failed to provide reliable protection against infectious agents in scientific studies of both people and animals.
Controversies of Homeopathy in Veterinary Patients
A preponderance of evidence indicates that effects of homeopathy cannot be distinguished from placebo. Therefore, the question remains whether it is ethical or misleading to offer an ineffective treatment to patients and their caregivers. The unscientific premise of homeopathy calls into question its legitimacy as a medical treatment.
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