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Back Since 1993 I have been practicing more “Complementary Medicine” which is combining a little of one of the many “alternative medicines” with what I feel is the best of normal vet medicine. In a few minutes, I’ll get down to the day to day facts about Homeopathy remedies but first I want to discuss the different systems of medicine. In many ways the art of medicine is like the art of cooking with the doctor being the chef. While we are used to “American food”, how often do we look to other cultures for a change that we feel might be better for a certain meal? Pizza, tacos, pasta, sushi (well maybe not sushi) are all choices to consider replacing a steak and baked potato. What is a common food in one country might be considered exotic somewhere else and it is the same with medicine.
My training at U.C. Davis in the late Sixty’s was good old steak and potato western medicine. In the early Seventies, as relations with China improved, the medical system of Acupuncture was introduced to the U.S. Acupuncture has been in use for 3,500 years in China and to a few hundred million Chinese, it is “normal” medicine. I once asked an acupuncture veterinarian to work on a llama and she did an excellent job solving a problem my western medicine didn’t help at all. At this point (pun intended), I don’t understand how it works but I know that it does.
Herbal therapy is folk medicine in every culture and there are more South American llamas and alpacas getting this kind of care than the much more expensive North American medicine that we are used to here. Many modern pharmaceutical drugs trace their roots back to the active principle chemical in herbs.
While many physicians don’t believe in chiropractic treatment, my family can only function because of it. Chiropractors adjust (manipulate) the spine and joints to reduce subluxations and return normal alignment. Animals appear to have less need than humans for reasons like walking on four legs with a better built spine, fewer whip-lash neck injuries in car accidents and not over using snow shovels or lifting 100 pound crias. Over the years I have had different understanding chiropractors help me with several dogs and once a damaged fawn. While, I’ve had our family chiropractor look at X-rays of cria spines, so far they haven’t needed to be adjusted.
In 1993 I wasn’t really looking for another system of medicine but there were several things about modern western medicine I wasn’t happy about. First was the cost because every year there are newer, better (read more expensive) drugs produced by major pharmaceutical companies. I can hold 3 bottles (150 ml) of llama medicine in one hand that cost me over $500. While this might last an llama most of a week, I’ve had my own llama at U.C.D. Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital where $500 was used up daily for a week. The next problem was the side effects where the treatment can be worse than the medical problem being helped. Some of the largest medical books I have spend thousands of pages on the warnings and cautions when drugs are used in people and of course there is no real data on use in llamas and alpacas. Another uncertainty I have about many of the modern western medicines is that they don’t solve or cure the animal’s health problem but only cover it up for awhile. In many cases, it is like having an oil warning light on in the dash of the car and just turning it off instead of adding oil to the engine.
All this was on my mind when my wife and I read an article in the Spring ’92 issue of Alpaca on Homeopathic Medicine by Dr. Edger Sheaffer. Middle age veterinarians are notorious for not wanting to change anything but my wife pointed out that we had been treating a yearling llama for diarrhea for over a month with no improvement. We has used up close to $200 worth of medicine and only had a lot of negative test results to give the owner. Dr. Sheaffer’s article listed a few remedies used for labor and delivery but my wife was interested enough to phone back to Pennsylvania. After his wife suggested to my wife that we try Pulsatilla, we obtained some at a local health food store. At this point I was very skeptical that a few dollars worth of a very dilute solution of some flower could have any effect when my strongest, newest and best medicine from one of the largest pharmaceutical companies had failed. I tried to hide my smirk as we drenched the first of the 3 daily doses while trying not to step in the “green pea soup” diarrhea. The next day we avoided stepping in “cow plops” and the day after, in soft clumpy pellets. By day 5, the pellets could have come from any normal llama and while this was a great improvement, the real test would be when we stopped the drenching. From three times to twice daily – still normal pellets- then once daily and then no treatment. After looking at normal pellets the next day, I was on the phone ordering both human and veterinary Homeopathic books.
It appears that about 200 years ago, a well respected German physician, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, had the same problems I did. A lot of medicine in those days didn’t work and many were dangerous to the patient. Dr. Hahnemann found some natural products, when given in small amounts, would cure a problem but when given in large amounts to healthy people, would cause the same symptoms as the disease cured by small amounts. This “Law of Similars” became the basis of Homeopathy were “let like be cured by likes” applies to a large number of medical problems. Now there are over 2000 Homeopathic remedies which are very dilute amounts of animals, plants or minerals put into small tablets that dissolve quickly when put under a person’s tongue or in a few drops of water that we squirt into an animal’s mouth.
The first problem I had with Homeopathic remedies was the strength or “potencies”. With western medicine, the more of a certain medicine used, not only was it more expensive but it greatly increased the side-effects. In Homeopathy, remedies are measured by the number of 1 to 10 dilutions and listed by the “X” scale like 6X, 30X, etc. which is the number of times the original solution had been diluted. According to the books, the more the dilution (i.e., the less of the item) the more effective it was on the body. In my case I started with 30X Pulsatilla which was the middle of the road strength and have used that strength in all the other remedies where I had to make a choice. If someone said they used 6X of something or 100X of the same thing and it worked, fine because which remedy is selected appears much more important than the exact strength used. Another minor problem is all the single remedies are listed by their latin name which is like learning foreign words. It’s not as bad as reading Chinese but still a problem for me. I say “single” remedies because I will talk about “combination” remedies in a few minutes.
Before I started my reading, I was wondering if this was some sort of “New Age” medicine fad because it sure wasn’t discussed in vet school or in any of the regular vet medical journals. In a chat with Dr. Fowler, he reported that 50% of the vets in Europe, many in Africa and most in India use the Homeopathic system. Next I wondered if it was so good, why wasn’t it more common in the U.S. After more reading and talking to people using homeopathy, it became clear that first there was very little profit to be made in the dilution of common chemicals found in everyday plants, animals and minerals that sell for a penny or two per pill. Second, to be really good at Homeopathy took years of study and the ability to spend hours getting a real good history from each human patient. Details such as emotions and feelings, what was felt at different times of the day, difference between hot or cold food or drinks, details that went on and on made a difference to a well trained Homeopathic doctor. In general, it was a system of medicine that didn’t fit with the regular six patient per hour M.D.’s time frame.
The next remedy Suzi and I tried was Arnica Montana which is indicated for bruising and soreness and we used it on the mother after delivering a cria. We didn’t need much history here – 20 to 30 lbs. out what had been a two inch hole sounded to me like she could be a little sore and make her a mite touchy. Three or four Arnica tablets would be dropped into a 3cc syringe, 1cc of water sucked up and another cc of air added to provide shaking room. A few flips of the wrist and the solution was drenched into the side of the mother’s mouth. While it is very subjective judging, we feel mothers treated with Arnica hooked the cria up quicker and had a better attitude then untreated mothers. Many factors effect this so no exact measurement is possible but if a new mom has a real tough delivery, we are likely to repeat the Arnica every few hours for 3 or 4 treatments.
Next was a cria with a runny nose, not snotty, just runny. The books suggests to try Pulsatilla which is what we had already used for diarrhea and I said “Ah Ha, they really don’t know their stuff if they are trying to use the same thing for different reasons”. My wife pointed out that in western medicine I use the same cortisone pills to help hay fever in one case, a flea itch in the next and arthritis in a third case all in the same hour. Homeopathic remedies can help different problems at the same time and with this remedy we were trying to help “runny” problems but at different ends of the body.
The next new remedy we tried which has become a favorite is Nux vomica for upset stomachs in people or colic signs in llamas and alpacas. Many times an animal will show signs of some type of abdominal discomfort. Is it just indigestion, a uterine torsion or the start of a major blockage? In the old days, 4 years ago, a blast of Banamine would make the animal look fine. If twelve hours later they were fine, then it was only gas or indigestion but if in twelve hours they were worse then it was something real serious except now it was the middle of the night. One of the many things I like about homeopathic medicine is that it doesn’t cover up the signs of a real serious problem. If an animals still has colic after one or two hours and a couple doses, I know to keep looking for a much bigger problem than gas or indigestion.
About this time, I saw a young cria with diarrhea. With my handy bottle of Pulsatilla, I was sure it would be back to normal pellets within a day or so. Four days later my smile was replaced with a frown and there was no change in the cria. Back to the homeopathic books where they listed 10 to 12 different remedies for different kinds of diarrhea. Cramps?, Mucus?, Blood?, Explosive?, Soft?, Liquid? or a mixture? This Homeopathic medicine wasn’t as easy as I thought and I can see why it took years of study for Homeopathic doctors to learn to match the right remedies to the right symptoms quickly.
I guess I wasn’t the first person to have this dilemma because many of the larger Homeopathic supply companies have produced exactly what you and I need in the form of “combination” remedies. In western medicine it would be real poor to use four or five drugs at the same time trying to do the same thing. In fact I would say it would be dangerous. In Homeopathic medicine, if the wrong remedy is selected, there is no effect, no toxicity, no penalty. Now, for diarrhea, instead of trying single remedies one at a time until one worked, I use a Diarrhea Combination tablet with 5 or 6 different single remedies blended together. Probably 3 or 4 don’t work at all but I’m only interested in the fact that one or two do work and the animal improves quickly. There are Combination remedies for most of the common problems all the way from Asthma to the Urinary Tract.
Another thing I like about Homeopathic medicine is that the owner can easily learn to drench in the dose 3 or 4 times a day as opposed to the owner or myself giving injections. I try to give every injection to alpacas and llamas as gently as possible but many drugs sting and I’ve found these speechless brothers have a long memory. Especially when the injections are twice a day for a week, they never forget.
I still consider myself a beginner since I have been only dabbling in this for 4 years compared to 26 years of western medicine. I now have about 8 different combination remedies and about 10 single remedies on hand but I find I am using them more and more. I like the fact that there are no side effects, signs of problems are not hidden, the cost is very reasonable and in many cases it works. Don’t get me wrong, I still have all those expensive, dangerous western drugs and I would be real nervous if I didn’t have them along but now I have a choice.