My Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (CKCS) keeps getting ear infections. What homeopathic remedy would you recommend, she is a very placid dog.

~ Jennifer

Dr Sara ChapmanDear Jennifer,

Thank you for asking this question. It helps me illustrate the difference between acute and chronic prescribing, and the way homeopaths determine what remedies are appropriate for chronic conditions.

First, chronic or recurrent ear infections are chronic conditions. Ear infections, like all skin infections, occur because the body is not able to maintain homeostasis, or balance, with the microorganisms normally present. This shows that the deeper vital functions of the body are unbalanced, or in homeopathic terms, dis-eased. Homeopathy works to restore this balance. Homeopaths choose the most appropriate remedy for an individual patient by evaluating all the signs of that patient – mental, physical, and emotional. The remedy which has been shown to produce the most similar set of signs in provings, or to cure the most similar set of signs in other patients, is the remedy chosen for this patient.

Remedy choice can be quick and simple for acute conditions. For instance, if a dog has an ear which suddenly becomes red, hot, and swollen, and we suspect a stinging insect was involved, I would confidently say that Apis or Ledum would be good choices, depending upon the nature of the animal. In this acute case, the animal doesn’t have an underlying weakness leading to the appearance of signs. The acute insult was strong enough that it created the imbalance, and remedies work very speedily in such cases.

In chronic conditions, we must support the overall health of the individual so that they are able to respond to the remedies. The basic principles for ear infections are the same as for any illness, as we have discussed previously:

  1. Ensure optimal nutrition, including supplements appropriate for your pet’s age and needs
  2. Provide a supportive and appropriate lifestyle and environment
  3. Evaluate internal health via lab tests (CBC, blood chemistries, thyroid level, urinalysis, stool) to ascertain if internal organ weakness is a complicating factor

Assuming that all these factors are addressed, we then come to the most time consuming and interesting aspect of homeopathic practice: case evaluation and analysis to determine the most appropriate constitutional, or whole body, remedy for a patient with chronic disease.

For chronic conditions, I take at least an hour and a half with the patient and client, performing a physical exam, and evaluating their history and current signs – mental, physical, emotional traits, and general conditions – in detail. Physical symptoms are not just examined, but the owner provides important information about when the problem is better or worse, and how it has changed. As much as possible I have the client describe what their pet does. For instance, a person may describe their pet as placid. What do they mean by that? Do they mean that the pet is not bothered by commotion? Or do they mean that the pet sleeps a lot? Do they mean that the pet lets other animals push him/her around? Or does it mean the pet is accepting of others but not outgoing? I don’t assume or suggest anything – I ask “How does he/she show that?” You can see how this will take a long time; I do not do remote phone or Skype consultations because I find cases are much clearer in person.

Once I have a complete picture of the patient, I analyze my notes, and I may contact the guardian if something is unclear, or I need more information. I am then ready to put all of this information into terms which can be found in the repertory, and that describe the patient well. A term like placid, used by the owner, could be “mildness”, or “quiet disposition”, or “laziness”, or “servile”. Many terms describe the different characteristics of a physical ailment as well. For instance an inflamed ear could be itchy or painful, it could ooze dark wax or yellow material, it could be better from cold or warm compresses. Again, the terms are chosen to describe that patient’s problem. This process of finding appropriate terms, or rubrics, and putting them into my computer program takes another hour or two. It took a good bit longer back when I was first learning, because our tutors in the UK required students to do this by hand initially, so that we would learn the repertory better.

The computer generates a list of likely remedies, based upon the rubrics I have chosen. Now I evaluate each remedy, compare it to the patient, and choose the remedy whose materia medica picture most closely matches all aspects of this patient. This again, takes time, and understanding of the patient to produce the best results for each individual. You can see that it would be wrong to suggest a remedy for a chronic condition based on incomplete knowledge of a patient.

Sometimes you may hear people with knowledge of homeopathy generalize about what remedies are suited to particular animal breeds. This is an interesting and amusing pastime, but I certainly would not rely upon it to prescribe for chronic conditions! For instance, many Labs fit the Cal carb picture of big-boned, good-natured, overweight and flabby; many CKCS show the Pulsatilla traits of softness, timidity, neediness, and difficulty with rich foods; and most greyhounds are delicate, sensitive, and chilly. In my practice, I have seen individuals of these breeds who needed these remedies, but I have seen even more who have needed other remedies. Homeopaths may use remedy pictures to help remember certain aspects of remedies, but we always bear in mind that individuals are… individuals!


S.F. Chapman DVM, MRCVS, VetMFHom

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