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The Case of the Hopeless Cat

Here is another contemporary example of homeopathic treatment. It is an interesting story and you can see from it why we veterinarians will continue to  use homeopathy. Who wants to give up on a suffering patient? We try our best and consider every avenue open to our minds. When we find something like homeopathy that can have such results, why would we not use it? If it were a drug that brought out this improvement, would we not hold it to our chest with gratitude?

This is a case of Dr. Vani Guttikonda of Los Alamitos, California. Her client, Jennifer Parker, graciously offered to share her cat’s story with us.

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Ellie, the Hopeless Cat

Dr. Vani Guttikonda reached out and asked me to share my experiences of having my cat Ellie treated by her with homeopathy.
I adopted Ellie last year from a rescue organization here in LA.  She is maybe 7 years old, is congenitally deaf, and has had a very stressful life.  She has been in high kill shelters twice, having been rescued from the first one by a hoarder who had 70 cats.  When I met her, she had been in a foster situation for 2 years, during which time, no one had expressed an interest in adopting her.  She seemed crazy, feral or both.  But I was looking for a couple of animals that needed extra patience and care, so I decided to try to help her.
She came to me with a chronic upper respiratory infection that the vets said couldn’t be cured.  She also had an ear infection, dental problems and tested a very high positive for Bartonella.  During the first 9 months I had her, she was subjected to more and more rounds of antibiotics, trying to cure her various health issues.  But trying to cure her health issues was like playing whack-a-mole — when one disappeared, another would pop up.
She was always very grouchy and had a terrible disposition, but she eventually started hiding for most of the day.  She would only come out to eat and use her litter box.  Then she started screeching like she was in acute pain, pawing at her mouth, and running away.  It was actually terrifying to watch.  I thought she was having dental pain and brought her to two different vets to figure out what was going on.  But all the tests were clear, and they couldn’t figure it out — she was quiet and sedate at the vet’s, not exhibiting any of the behaviors I experienced at home, making it impossible to diagnose.  Once they had exhausted their resources, the more holistic of the two vets suggested that I take Ellie to see Dr. Vani.
We made the hour+ journey to Orange County for her two-hour consultation with Dr. Vani who, after a thorough exam and observation, suspected seizures.  This was the first time a vet had suggested that as a diagnosis and, sure enough, Ellie had her first grand mal seizure in the car on the way home.  Within 24 hours, Dr. Vani had decided on the first step in Ellie’s course of homeopathic treatment.  She was now having up to six seizures per day and was terrified all the time.  I had begun to think that, if Dr. Vani couldn’t help her, I might have to think about having her euthanized as the kindest course of action.  I would have been devastated, but I couldn’t subject an animal to a life lived in terror.  It was a desperate situation.
However, after her very first dose, we saw marked improvement within 48 hours.  Over the next couple months, I would carefully document Ellie’s behavior and symptoms, and Dr. Vani would determine continued treatments via phone consultations.  What struck me most was how seemingly unrelated behaviors that had cropped up would be the key to finding the next remedy.  Dr. Vani would say, I think X is going to be the next remedy we use, but it would be so helpful if she were favoring her right paw (for example), as this would confirm it.  And I would say, I just noticed today that she was doing that all of a sudden.  It was remarkable how the pieces of the puzzle would all fit together.
After only about two months of treatments, during which time Ellie never had to make another stressful visit to the vet, I was able to treat her inexpensively and effectively according to Dr. Vani’s instructions.  She has not had a seizure in over 6 months and all her other ailments and infections have cleared up as well.  She is now a wonderful pet, with a sweet disposition, and is very happy and grateful for having been cured.  She’s like a different animal.
Ellie -edit
All told, I spent about $90 on medicine for her homeopathic treatments — reason enough for the veterinary/pharmaceutical industrial complex to work hard at proving homeopathy as a hoax.  There is a lot of money to be lost for them if people realized how effective these inexpensive natural treatments are.  How can this be a placebo effect if the animal doesn’t even know that it’s being treated?  The argument doesn’t make sense at the most basic level.
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Considering possible criticisms

   I asked Jennifer if I could run possible criticisms by her before we posted this case. Realizing how easy it is for people to dismiss this by picking on some detail in the case I tried to anticipate what questions might be asked in that way and sent her this request:
   “Could I dialogue with you first about it? The focus of what I have posted is to meet the criticisms of homeopathic treatment and the most common criticism is that homeopathy does not really have any effect, that any change we see are ones we have imagined or projected via our expectations.”
Jennifer kindly responded and these are the questions and her comments:

You had her for 9 months before using Dr. Vani. During this time she had a number of treatments. Some people will say it was these prior treatments that eventually “kicked in.” Do you think this possible?
Definitely not.  She did not improve, but continued to deteriorate. In the last month before I took her to Dr. Vani, they were throwing antibiotics and pain killers at her, but realized that they were doing absolutely nothing. The initial antibiotic treatments 9 months prior had helped temporarily with the respiratory and ear infections, but they always came back. The last ones, the vets admitted that they were doing nothing for her and, moreover, hadn’t expected them to anyway. They just didn’t know what else to do.

You describe the veterinarians “exhausting their resources.” Did they do many things? Did they really do all they could think of?
They ran every possible test. The discussion I had with the vet who sent me to Dr. Vani was “look, I’ve run out of things to try. We’ve done everything. I can either send you to a special diagnostician who will cost you many thousands of dollars and likely will not be able to help, or I can send you to a homeopathic vet in Orange County.” I suspect the implication was, your animal is sick and nothing is going to help.  Choose whichever course of action that is going to make you feel less helpless as your cat’s health continues to deteriorate.

On reading this one could object that since Ellie had her first seizure after seeing Dr. Vani and having the idea of seizures being the problem that you now interpreted her condition as a seizure when it was not really changed at all.
It was her first grand mal seizure, but she’d been having smaller ones for some time. But she’d never done it in front of a vet, even when I’d left her there for observation. She seemed to be able to control them in stressful environments, but would start them again immediately after. Because they were smaller, I didn’t recognize them as seizures. And Dr. Vani was very careful to stress that although she thought that’s what was going on, we needed to be open to the idea that it could be something else. But the grand mal seizure was very recognizable as such. And it was not at all surpising that she would have it when she did. Even 5 minutes in the car is almost too much for her, she struggles and fights and is horribly upset. She had spent an hour and a half in the car on the way down fighting so hard to get out, she rubbed all the skin off the end of her nose trying to push through the mesh. Then she was in a veterinary office for 2 hours. We were only a mile away from Dr. Vani’s office when she had the grand mal seziure, because she’d just been through 3 1/2 hours of trauma. Having said that, at the end of the day, even if the diagnosis of the seizures was incorrect (I don’t believe that it was), but her overall health was elevated to normal levels, does it matter what we call it? I know no one will agree with that, but I’m not a vet, so I can’t state with certainty that the diagnosis is correct.  Based on what I read after the diagnosis was suggested, the acute symptoms fit. But I would stress that her entire system has improved — not only have the seizures stopped, but the chronic infections have never come back, she doesn’t hide, her overall vitality and temper are vastly improved. I think it’s difficult for us laypeople to understand it, but you’re not treating a symptom, you’re treating the underlying system so that it can reach a level of vitality so that the symptoms disappear. Or, at least that’s how I understand it.

When you say you saw “marked improvement” within 48 hours. Were you much expecting this? Did you have a lot of confidence in homeopathy and perhaps imagined or misinterpreted her change as improvement when it was really about the same?
I didn’t know Dr. Vani, and this is as much an art as a science, so I had no proof yet that she knew what she was doing. I was putting my trust in her, but with a healthy dose of skepticism. I honestly didn’t think anything would help Ellie — this was honestly a Hail Mary pass. To illustrate how marked a change it was, when I first took Ellie to Dr. Vani, I was only leaving the house when absolutely necessary so I could keep an eye on her for as much of the day as possible. I had arranged to work from home because she was so sick, I didn’t think she could be left on her own during the day. After 10 days of treatment, she was well enough that I could go home to see my family for 5 days over Christmas.

When Dr. Vani predicted some symptoms that might appear and then you saw them, do you think you were projecting this on to your cat? That it was Dr. Vani’s influence on your mind that brought you to see it this way?
No, because I frequently would have mentioned to someone previously, gosh, she’s doing this weird thing all of a sudden. And then Dr. Vani would say, it sure would be helpful if she was doing this weird thing, as it would confirm that we’re doing the right thing, and I would say, but she is! I was just talking about it with someone! Again, because I am a scholar who likes evidence, I’m always on the lookput for bias, because you can’t prove your thesis if the evidence is imaginary.

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