Alternative Medicine


Herbal is Not Homeopathic

Q: I've been reading your information on cats and arthritis and treatments; my 14 year old cat has been diagnosed thru xrays with arthritis in hind quarters; her back left leg limps badly and she just sits on the sofa all day long; her spirits aren't bad, but i'm concerned that she gets absolutely no exercise now. she is eating alright, but not great. she is finishing up a short term course of prednisone. my question is do you have any evidence, anecdotal or scientific, that homeopathic remedies have been help with this malady? the net search listed something called cats claw. thanks. A: I try to be open minded about alternative treatments but I simply can not accept the rationale behind homeopathic cat remedies. There have been a number of studies done on homeopathic medicine and despite proponent's claims that there are scientifically valid studies supporting the use of these treatments I have not been able to locate them, despite some effort. Homeopathy is based on a theory that you can protect an animal from disease by giving it extraordinarily dilute solutions of something that causes similar symptoms. Many of these preparations are so dilute that they are 1:1,000,000,000,000 or less dilutions. It is very unlikely that they have any of the original substance in them at all. This is explained away by a belief that the "essence" of the substance grows stronger with dilution. I just can't bring myself to give this much credibility. "Cat's claw" or Una de Gato, is a herb, I think. Herbal remedies is different than homeopathy. Herbs obviously can -- and often do --- have medicinal benefits. If the active ingredients are known I think it is much safer to give them in a form in which the dose is controlled. The amount of active ingredient in an herb varies a lot with variety and the growing conditions in which it was grown. An example of this was very clear when it was shown that cigarette manufacturers mixed lots of tobacco so carefully -- they wanted a consistent dosage of nicotine. If the active ingredients are not known or if it appears that a mixture of ingredients may be necessary then using the appropriate herb probably makes sense. It would be best to seek the help of a veterinarian versed in herbal medicine to help you make the right choices in treatment, though. Hope that helps. Mike Richards, DVM

Homeopathic Medicine - Differing Opinion

Q: Dr. Mike, You should talk to Stephen Tobin, DVM ( well known homeopathic veterinarian) They ARE effective, and I know you were not trained in any treatment but alopathic medicine. But there is a place for both, alternative and alopathic. It is obvious by your answer regarding herbs and homeopathic treatment that you are not educated in those areas, therefore I believe you should not put down something you know nothing about. I have worked in the veterinary field for 15 years and my husband is a physician of chiropractic, an herbalist and holistic healer, using many alternative methods of treatment. I have seen both sides to medicine in both the vet field and human field. I have seen homeopathic remedies work in animals, where as the traditional one did not, example: Lyme Disease. Do some research, I think you will be amazed. We need to work together for the health of the pet or the patient. Sincerely, Sharon H A: Sharon- You are assuming that I have not researched homeopathic medications. This is an incorrect assumption. I own at least four books written by homeopathic practitioners or supporters and have read them all. I have read at least two other books which I declined to purchase, including Dr. Pitcairn's book, which fueled much of the interest in this treatment modality among pet owners. I have spent hours attempting to find scientifically valid reports using three different on-line databases and I have read lots of reports from journals such as The Lancet, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine and Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift (in abstracted form). I remain unconvinced of the efficacy of these therapies. I don't use conventional pharmaceutical agents in the absence of reasonable studies supporting their efficacy, and I see no reason to do so for alternative medications. I do not discourage my clients from using homeopathic, nutriceutical or herbal medications unless they are ignoring safe conventional pharmaceuticals or therapy in a situation which demands an efficacious medication or in the few instances in which I think they may be harming their pet through inappropriate use of an herbal remedy. I just don't practice these forms of medicine personally, other than occasionally purchasing these products through distributors at the request of a client. If you can prove that homeopathic medications are effective you should do so. That would be a big step in validating this treatment methodology. Until someone does that there will always be a gulf between practitioners who believe in scientifically based medicine and practitioners of homeopathic medicine, whose manufacturers and practitioners are specifically exempted in the United States from having to prove the worth of their medications. This was and is a major stumbling block in the acceptance of homeopathic medications by veterinarians and physicians. While I personally do not believe that these medications will hold up under scrutiny in double-blind studies with good control standards you may believe they will. If so, prove it. There are a handful of studies dealing with homeopathic treatment of allergies that are suggestive of a positive effect although the margins of success are slim compared to the controls. To me, these studies seem to point out that doing nothing for allergies may be better than trying to treat them with antihistamines. This is a treatment modality that I do frequently employ -- doing nothing. Most of the time it works, given enough time. Anything I did that didn't cause harm would also work in that situation. I think it is best to do nothing when I want to do nothing, though. I do not buy the argument that scientific studies of homeopathy are too costly to undertake. I think that doing a limited study is well within reason for a private practitioner to fund and I am willing to bet that there are universities interested enough to provide help in design of the studies to ensure an objective viewpoint. I don't think that Lyme disease is a good example of a disease to study the treatment effect on. Primarily because I do not believe that it is possible to confirm Lyme disease with enough certainty to ensure scientific validity of a study on treating it. Mike Richards, DVM Last edited 12/31/07


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...