By Will Falconer DVM
November 2012 Issue
Being in a homeopathic practice, I often get animals who have gone through allopathic treatment that has failed them. (I sometimes wonder if, in addition to the DVM behind my name, there is also DLR, Doctor of Last Resort!)
Quite often, the treatment histories I get tell me a great deal about the mindset of those practicing conventional medicine, and the growth in awareness that’s not yet taken place there.
How We Think Matters
Ultimately, we need to be thinking holistically in all our decisions about health. Thinking holistically is very different from reaching for some natural product instead of a drug. Whether we’re raising dogs for long healthy lives or we’re in the trenches of veterinary practice, it’s important to see what the body is up to on a much larger scale. When one appreciates that there is a profound, inherent intelligence shaping an animal’s response to the challenges of disease, we can both help that response and not get panicked about it.
Let’s face it: no one works well in a state of panic. I’ve learned that, in a state of stress, it’s actually been measured that there’s less blood flow to the cerebral cortex. That’s the region of the brain where we ponder, have our creative problem solving, and make good choices based on discernment.
In stress, we function from our “reptilian” brain stem, and it’s all about “fight or flight”. I submit that this type of functioning gets us into all sorts of trouble, not the least of which is poor health decisions for our dogs.
Remember paint by the numbers? You had certain colors available, and the paper had all these little spaces with numbers in them, and when you applied the right color to each of them, you ended up with a picture. Of sorts. It was both kind of neat and simultaneously, quite disappointing. You knew in your little heart of hearts that you hadn’t used an ounce of creativity to come up with that picture. You were just a technician.
Treating by the Numbers
Veterinarians often do a similar thing. It’s how we were trained, I guess, though it’s been so long since I’ve thought that way that I can only vaguely remember it. One example of this that I commonly hear from clients goes like this:
“He had a high white count, so we put him on antibiotics.”
Oh? A high white count. What does that mean was going on in that animal?
The Fight’s On!
It merely means this animal was seeing the need for a good fight against some invader (barring a more rare, complicated diagnosis like bone marrow cancer). It might be against a bacteria, maybe a virus, a fungus, maybe even a chronic parasitic infestation.
The white blood cells are an essential part of the immune system, a system in all of us that’s so complicated and finely tuned we can’t possibly know the whole picture of how it works. Truly one of nature’s wonders!
So, the fight is on! More white cells in circulation means the immune system is engaged, doing what it was designed to do, to take on the invaders and stop them from taking over the body and wreaking havoc.
Why would antibiotics be needed in this situation?
Was the assumption made that help was coming in the form of antibiotics? I’m guessing that’s the logic, but let’s get clear on what we are doing, because antibiotics do one thing and one thing only (aside from intoxication, which we’ll ignore for now):
Antibiotics kill bacteria. Indiscriminately.
Good bacteria, bad bacteria, any bacteria that are not resistant to the antibiotic chosen, die in its presence.
The good bacteria are those in the lower intestinal tract, a population thought to be ten times larger than the number of all of our own cells combined. These friendly bacteria (and fewer yeasts) are working for us and our animals, by producing vitamins, out-competing harmful bacteria, helping immunity, and even producing beneficial hormones.
It’s common knowledge that giving antibiotics kills these good species and leads to the overgrowth of yeasts in the body, the commonest being Candida species. This overgrowth can lead to a host of further problems.
What About Viruses et al?
Good question. What if that white blood count is high because the dog is fighting off a flu or a fungal infection? Antibiotics don’t kill viruses; that’s well known.
The conventional logic is, “we need to fight off secondary bacterial infections.”
I submit that more often than not, we are causing harm with short sighted thinking like this.
Treat a Fever, Starve a __ ?
I can never remember that one, but here again, we’re often jumping in heroically when we see numbers we don’t like on a thermometer, i.e., a fever. We quickly justify giving antibiotics, or anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin, all in the name of helping to “bring down the fever.”
But wait. Is a fever a mistake? Something that needs correcting?
Not at all. Fever is another part of a healthy immune response to invaders.
When a fever is mounted, the body’s temperature elevates, making reproduction of pathogens more difficult. Sounds useful, doesn’t it?
You bet your white blood cell count it is. And why would antibiotics help this battle, going on efficiently and concertedly, with the intelligence of countless years of evolution behind it?
That’s exactly what I ask, every time I hear this number crunching, reptilian logic.
Most of the time, we don’t need to step in and “treat a high white count” or “treat a fever.”
Most of the time (98% probably), the incredibly well tuned vital force, that innate intelligence part of all of us that keeps us well, is doing a great job, flexing the immune response “muscle,” killing invaders, walling them off, digesting their remains, and eliminating their toxic waste products.
And if that weren’t enough, it’s building an immune memory to be able to do that feat again, should the same invader ever show up later.
We just need to trust that, and let it happen. It’s hard to improve upon, but easy to cause lateral damage by jumping in with drugs.
The Need to Help
Oh, I admit, we do want to help. Animals who stop eating, feel hot, and quit playing just tug at your heart strings. You feel like doing something, anything, to just bring back that lively being who is ready to interact with you in that bright, vital, loving way once more.
Sure. I feel the same way.
If you want to be part of the solution, to help the immune response, don’t kill the good guys in the gut or turn down the internal thermostat.
Instead, add some well studied immune support. Maybe echinacea, goldenseal, vitamin C, or my favorite, transfer factor. That’s what I take, and I haven’t had a flu or cold in so long I can’t remember.
Or get out the homeopathic remedy kit. If this is an acute illness and not part of a chronic one that your homeopathic vet is working with, you can do a huge amount of good with the right remedy.
Aconitum is famous for helping someone who’s in the early stages of a good feverish fight, to do that better. Try a few doses of 30C an hour apart and see if you can help your dog’s battle be victorious.
Pulsatilla might be the next remedy in a dog who’s feverish, has a bland, creamy discharge somewhere, and has lost her thirst. She may also feel like being closer to you than usual.
A dose or two of Phosphorus may well help an animal who is suddenly sick, seemingly out of the blue, and may have started his illness with a vomit. He could be very thirsty, especially for icy drinks.
I recently had a family of cats and dogs who were seemingly engaged in an immune fight. Sulphur, prescribed on very little symptomatology, brought one cat immediately back to health. One of Sulphur’s keynotes that caught my eye was having a lack of appetite with a strong thirst.
Get out your homeopathy books and kit and see what you can do.
Get Professional Help
If you do a bit of first aid without success, and especially if you see your animal worsening in some way, get on the phone to your homeopathic veterinarian.
We who practice this gentle art will pull you into the circle of thinking holistically, by pressing you for details about how this animal looks different in sickness than what you are used to seeing in health.
Treat the Animal, Not the Numbers
In the end, paying attention to just how this animal is showing her disease, her sickness state, and treating that with an appropriately fitting remedy will get us a far better outcome than chasing after numbers on a page or a thermometer.
Sure, there’s a place for numbers. They can give an indication of organs affected, or trends in an animal’s status if tests are repeated at intervals. But be aware that your animal may be improving before the numbers come back to normal.
I was treating a cat long distance who was having chronic urinary troubles and had been blocked. It took a bit of remedy sorting before he was on his way. The owner was on the same page with me, but her mom brought the cat in for fluids one day, and the conventional vets terrified her with a high BUN, a blood value indicating renal waste products building up.
“He could die if we don’t get this number down right away! There could be permanent kidney damage!”
Luckily, mom deferred to daughter, who checked with me about Rajah. My first question was, “How’s he acting now?”
Kolleen told me how much more interested in life he was than earlier, how he’d started grooming, drinking on his own, and urinating with more volume over the past 12 hours.
We ignored his numbers and Rajah came bouncing back, fully well in another day or two. And he has been full of life in the month since. So, keep an eye on the big picture. You’ll never go wrong with that approach. Numbers are attached to a real, breathing animal. How is he?
Will Falconer devotes his entire veterinary practice to the homeopathic treatment of animals. His practice, Alternatives For Animal Health, islocated in Austin, Texas. For free homeopathic articles and more information about his practice, visit vitalanimal.com/