Ask The Vet Archives

When using homeopathic formulas, is it common that it gets worse before it gets better? I’m using a calming formula with my fear aggressive dog, and I noticed that she is more vigilant now than before I started. It could be something else, but the only thing different is that I’ve been adding the formula, and wanted to know if that could be a possibility.

~ Alexo

Dr Jeff FeinmanHi Alexo,

Yes, Symptoms can briefly aggravate after administration of a homeopathically chosen remedy. In such a situation, the best action is to stop dosing. Similar medicinal aggravations should then resolve.

As you probably know, homeopathic medicines are chosen based on the natural law of “likes cure likes”. Whenever we administer a medicine chosen according to symptom similarity there is a chance that we will see a temporary worsening of the symptom. Similar to the symptom of squinting when looking into a light. If I shine an even brighter light in your eyes (in this case, the light is a similar), you will probably squint even more but stop when I turn off the bright light. During homeopathic treatment, initial worsening of symptoms is a “good” sign of a remedy which has been well-chosen.

However, too much of an aggravation is not beneficial and can cause unnecessary suffering. Excessive aggravation can also slow down the bodies ability to heal itself.  Fortunately, medicinal aggravations can be minimized and often even eliminated altogether. Also, worsening of your pup’s hyper-vigilance may not be related to the homeopathic formula at all. Her anxiety and aggression may just be progressing naturally associated with the use of the formula. It’s also very possible that you are not even using a homeopathically chosen medicine. Formulas are usually mixtures of homeopathically-prepared remedies. These combinations often have names like “Aggression Relief”, “Incontinence Aid”, etc. Combination remedies of this sort are often not homeopathic to the patient. Rather, they are chosen based on the chief complaint only. Not the totality of the patient’s signs and symptoms as needed for a truly homeopathic prescription.

There are three main ways to maximize effectiveness and prevent aggravations when using homeopathy. The first is to use the medicine which has been determined by a close and thorough examination of the patient to be the most similar to the energetic imbalance which is causing the symptoms. The second is to use a properly individualized potency of the remedy. Third is to avoid overly large doses. Unfortunately, there is some confusion between dose and potency in homeopathy. The potency is the degree of dynamization of the medicine. For example, 30c, 200c, etc. The dose is the amount of the medicine given such as 1 drop, 1 pellet, 1 teaspoon, etc..

Many of the combination remedies contain multiple potencies all mixed up to together in the hopes that one of them will work well. Also, the doses used may be too strong for the individual patient and condition. The bottle directions do not explain how to properly individualize the dose. This article will give you many other details about the differences between potency and dose in homeopathy and how to minimize aggravations:

Holistic management and gentle behavior modification are also indicated for your dog with fear based aggression. It is very useful, when possible, to determine which situations trigger your dogs’ aggression. Common triggers include loud noises, specific situations, certain people, etc. Try to associate these situations with something good, e.g. give her a favorite toy to hold in her mouth when meeting new people, or a stuffed Kong to lick on when you are in the car. Clicker training and further positive reinforcement with the help of a dog trainer can be very useful Above all else, avoid negative reinforcement as this can worsen the fear and resultant aggression.

As with optimal care of many disorders, diet can also play a role. A fresh food diet is best. Avoid processed foods that often have artificial colors and preservatives. These have been associated with both emotional, mental and physical problems. Ideally you’d feed a meat-based diet. In addition to the other health benefits of this diet upgrade, your pup will have an improved sense of overall happiness and satiety. Meaty (raw) bones can be a real boon. Dr. Tom Lonsdale has done lots of great work on this.

Holistic calming products can also be very helpful. Different products and combinations of products may be useful depending on the specific trigers. Collars and diffusers with dog appeasing pheromone (“DAP”) may calm her down in stressful situations. Melatonin, Rescue Remedy, L-Theanine, Harmonease, a ThunderShirt, etc. are useful natural and holistic products.

Most of these patients benefit most when training and calming products are combined with careful classical homeopathic prescribing by a trained vet homeopath.

Good luck!
Dr. Jeff

Hi, just a question for Dr. Chapman about her response regarding the broken molar.

If there is a crack, is it best to no longer allow them to chew on anything? My dog has a mild crack on the right and a molar removed on the left due to a severe fracture.

~ Lori

Dr Sara ChapmanDear Lori,

It really depends upon the type of crack that is present in the tooth.  If a dog has chipped a small tip off the tooth, it is usually safe for them to continue to chew on hard things.  Dogs can have microfractures of the teeth if the injury is due to trauma, so caution is still advised!  A dog with a slab fracture can easily damage the tooth further by energetic chewing on large bones.  Small soft bones, such as uncooked chicken wings, backs or necks should not be a problem.

S.F. Chapman DVM, MRCVS, VetMFHom

Hello, my name is Karen, my beloved 14 yr old black lab is Annie and for four years she has struggled with a systemic yeast fungal condition and has the following symptoms:

Loss of fur on most of her body now including tail , weak hind legs, body smell, eczema all over her body including belly and upper chest, very moist and elephant grey/black skin from her waist down, tires quickly, round, domelike warts/growths along spine and backs of legs with a large one on top of one hind foot and on side of other, they are mostly black in color, scratches her skin all over body frequently with no fleas, very thin cannot gain weight, eczema areas are hot to the touch whereas other body areas are cooler to touch, hind legs are so shaky yet she walks spritely sometimes on the beach, can hardly jump onto seat of car at times, has ravenous hunger, drinks water normally, etc!

Four vets over four years have seen her all agree it is yeast and only thing that has worked but stopped working when medication discontinued was an antibiotic with prednisone. She regained all her fur and hind limbs much better but when discontinued, all came back. Chinese herbs helped some but on my small disability income, cannot afford any longer.  Pharmaceuticals are toxic to her liver, so I want to stick to homeopathic remedies. There is a fungal yeast condition called Cryptococcus gatti came into northwest part of USA and Canada in 1999, affects people, dogs and other animals.  Articles say sometimes affects joints, skin , lymph nodes etc and all of this is painful in her now and for four years.  There is a Cryptococcus neoformans remedy I have heard of, would that help her?  Antifungals such as fluconazole or ketaconazole may work but very toxic to her liver, a neighbors dog who did well on ketaconazole, with prednisone and an antibiotic, but then after two months of that suddenly died from this regimen.  I love my dog with all of my heart and soul, please can anyone help me save her?  Thank you so very much,

~ Karen from Oregon.

Our Irish Setter has been suffering with red, blotchy crusty and itchy spots especially on his belly.  My research on the internet is pulling me towards him having a yeast overgrowth.  Are there any supplements available to help him.  His immune system is weak and he was recently diagnosed with hypo-thyroidism.  He is currently taking Armor Thyroid for this.

~ Birute

What are some natural things to try to help dogs who have yeasty issues. We’ve changed to a grain free diet and she still has issues with yeasty paws and ears as well almost constantly full anal glands. I hate to simply try random treatments I read on the internet without a vet’s advice. So, natural yeast treatments that are safe for dogs?

~ Lindsey

Dr Sara ChapmanDear Karen, Birute, and Lindsey,

Chronic skin disorders are challenging and frustrating cases to treat.  The skin is the largest organ of the body, and problems here often reflect a weakness in other internal organs.  When skin problems are treated by the use of immune suppressants and antibiotics, the underlying organ weaknesses can worsen.  A holistic approach to chronic skin disease works to strengthen the entire body so that skin problems can truly heal from within.  This can be a time consuming process, especially with patients that have a long history of conventional treatment aimed at suppressing the skin symptoms.  As a rule of thumb, a skin problem that has never been suppressed will take at least one tenth of the time it has been present for it to resolve with holistic treatment.  Suppressed cases, especially those with years of long term suppression, may never resolve completely because of the underlying immune system damage.

What do we actually mean when we say that a dog has a yeast infection?  The organism which we refer to as a yeast is Malassezia, a fungus whose spores look like a budding yeast.  Malassezia is a normal inhabitant of dog skin, ears, and anal sacs.  A dog’s healthy immune system prevents overgrowth of any of the normal inhabitants of the skin, as well as preventing invasion by pathogenic (disease associated) organisms.  If the immune system is weak because of poor overall health, or immune overstimulation due to excessive vaccination, the animal may not be able to keep these skin organisms in check and overgrowth can result.  If the skin is damaged, or producing excess oils because of itching from allergies, this sets up a situation where the organisms can reproduce and invade more easily.  Conventional treatment relies on antibiotics / antifungals and immune suppressants.  Antibiotics / antifungals decrease the numbers of skin organisms, but over time, this increases the number of drug resistant organisms.  Immune suppressants, such as steroids, decrease itch, but they weaken the immune system further.

What, then, can we do to help these poor itchy dogs?

1 – It is very important in treating the skin to remember its function as an indicator of internal health.  We want to evaluate the patient for organ weaknesses or parasite infestations.  This may require lab analysis of blood, urine, stool, or skin scrapings.

2 – Conventional treatment for yeast infections can include keratolytic (decrease grease) and / or antiseptic shampoos.  These shampoos can be helpful in treating severely affected dogs while we strengthen the immune system.  These shampoos remove the grease and debris in which the skin organisms flourish.

3 – A healthy diet is key to internal health; this must be chosen based on your pet’s needs.  Often a raw diet is ideal, but some pets may digest lightly cooked or canned food better.

4 – There are many supplements which can decrease inflammation and strengthen the immune system, among them: Omega 3 fatty acids (decrease inflammation and itchiness), Vitamin E (antioxidant, decreases inflammation), Flavonoids (decrease inflammation, improve immune response), colostrum (strengthen immune response), probiotics (replenish normal bacterial flora in the intestines), and mushroom polysaccharides (enhance immunity).  These should be chosen with the help of your holistic veterinarian.

5 – There are some topical treatments which help relieve itchiness without suppressing the immune system.

Colloidal oatmeal soaks, available in human pharmacies, can be mixed up as a bath and then the pet can soak in it, or, alternatively, mix up a third of a package in a quart to a gallon of water and pour it over the pet, wetting the affected areas thoroughly.  Don’t rinse afterwards, just blot the furry parts dry and let the skin air dry.  You can also put the solution in a spray bottle and spray it as often as desired through the day to help soothe the itchy skin.

For spot treatment on itchy areas you can use non-alcohol containing formulations such as:

Aloe vera gel is very soothing when applied to inflamed areas.

Calendula spray or cream soothes the skin and prevents infection.

Hypericum/Calendula creams are excellent on painful sores to soothe and prevent infection.

Urtica cream and Chickweed cream both decrease itchiness.

Witch hazel ointment (NOT the distilled alcohol based liquid) is useful for inflamed areas.

Keys® Redi Care is an herbal spray which is both soothing to skin and promotes healing.

Cooled plain black tea is an excellent cleanser and astringent, although it will stain light coats.

6 – Herbal treatments (Chinese or Western formulas) can help many dogs.  They are chosen based on the individual’s signs.

7 – Homeopathic remedies are a major part of a holistic approach to chronic skin disease.  Homeopathy strengthens the immune system to allow the individual to maintain healthy skin as part of a healthy body.  Homeopathic remedies are chosen by matching the patient’s symptoms to the remedy.  Patients who have been receiving suppressive therapy no longer have the true symptoms of their disease, so it is more difficult to interpret their cases.  This means that we must ‘hasten slowly’ in striving for better health.  Often the first remedies prescribed are intended to support and strengthen the pet in a general way.  Later, symptomatic remedies and constitutional remedies will be added after the pet’s condition allows us to see the real aspects of the case.

Karen asked about using a remedy made from a disease organism in treating her girl, Annie.  It would be unlikely that a remedy made from Cryptococcus would provide lasting relief.  Fortunately, there are good veterinary homeopaths in Oregon, and homeopathy, coupled with thoughtful supportive care, is an ideal, gentle path to healing for this dear old Lab.

Birute, you mention that your dog is on Armour thyroid.  Do please have your setter’s thyroid levels checked to be sure that they are up into the normal levels.  The dose may need to be adjusted, as low thyroid hormone levels are associated with increased susceptibility to both bacterial and fungal overgrowth.

S.F. Chapman DVM, MRCVS, VetMFHom

What is the best thing to use for a dog who has diarrhea for the past few days?  I have been feeding little meals of boiled brown rice and boiled ground beef for 2 full days and as yet his bowel movements are still watery.

~ Shirley

Dr Jennifer RamelmeierDear Shirley

My favorite product for diarrhea is called diarrhea stop by renew life. Give 1 three times daily until the stool is firm.  Also start a good probiotic like jardopholus or PB8.  If the diarrhea persists past a few days with this regime then I recommend you get a check up at the local Vet to rule out something more serious.  Also if this is a chronic occurrence I recommend you start a relationship with a homeopathic veterinarian to deal with the underlying disease that could be causing the diarrhea.

Sincerely yours,
Dr Ramelmeier DVM CVH

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