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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A Homeopathic Case

At this point I will present a contemporary homeopathic case to give some idea of the responses we see with homeopathic treatment. No, this is not the one case that improved this year. These are the responses we veterinarians that use homeopathy see in many of our cases and why we have continued interest in the use of homeopathy in our practices.

This case is of a large dog that became suddenly paralyzed, could not use the legs, have a bowel movement or pass urine. It was a sudden occurrence with no  obvious cause. The emergency veterinary hospital had given two drugs without any response. The dog’s people were caring for the dog as a hospice situation. Five days into this they consulted with Dr. Matthews who gave homeopathic treatment.


Homeopathic Cure of Paralysis with the Remedy Lachesis

 Julie Matthews, DVM, CVA (Acupuncture), CVH (Homeopathy)

Kodiak became suddenly paralyzed in all four limbs on January 24, 2014.  Physical exam revealed paralysis of all four limbs.  Deep pain with inability to withdraw the limbs was evident.  Cranial nerves and swallowing were not visibly affected although his owners reported that Kodiak’s bark had changed. Megaesophagus was absent on lateral thoracic radiographs and neither regurgitation nor vomiting of food was present.  Inability to urinate with retention of urine was noted.  Spinal hyperesthesia (pain) was absent.

Physical signs were most consistent with lower motor neuron disease.  Most likely differentials included idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis, coonhound paralysis, tick paralysis,  botulism, and acute (fulminant) myasthenia gravis.  Of these, idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis was deemed most likely, given the lack of exposure to ticks (snowy winter in Maine) and raccoons.   Acute myasthenia and botulism were ruled out based on normal cranial nerve function as well as the absence of megaesophagus.

Kodiak presented to my hospital for a second opinion on the fifth day of paralysis.  The owners had been providing hospice care, turning him from side to side regularly, massaging the limbs, and manually expressing the bladder as well as removing feces from the rectum.  The emergency hospital at which Kodiak first presented five days earlier had prescribed Doxycycline(1) and Carprofen(2) and recommended referral to a neurologist.

Recent history revealed the presence of a new dog in the house for the past 5 months.  Prior to that time Kodiak had been an “only child” enjoying the attention of both owners exclusively.  Of particular interest was the activity in the past month whereby the male owner had taken to running daily with the new dog, leaving Kodiak at home.(3) His owners’  mentioned  that Kodiak was weakest in the morning on waking, typical of snake remedies.  Homeopathic repertorization suggested Lachesis(4) based on physical symptoms.   In light of the case history and the prominent mind symptom of jealousy with this remedy, Lachesis fit the case well.

Treatment was started with a 30C potency of Lachesis on the day of presentation.  As the following video shows, the response to the remedy was immediate and progressive.  Increases in potency (200C, 1M) were administered when improvement stalled or failed to progress.  At no time during treatment did Kodiak ever relapse or regress, walking with assistance within a few days and recovering fully in 3 weeks time.

Footnotes:
(1) Doxycycline is an antibiotic that is used in the treatment of a number of types of infections caused by bacteria and protozoa. It is useful for bacterial pneumonia, acne, chlamydia infections, early Lyme disease, cholera and syphilis. It is also useful for the treatment of malaria when used with quinine and for the prevention of malaria.

(2) Carprofen, marketed under many brand names worldwide,[1] is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that veterinarians prescribe as a supportive treatment for various conditions in animals.[2] It provides day-to-day treatment for pain and inflammation from various kinds of joint pain as well as post-operative pain.[2]

(3) In homeopathic case workups we include possible emotional factors as in homeopathy the whole patient is looked at, not just the physical part. Dr. Matthews is including this as a possible factor, not necessarily the complete cause of the problem, but possibly the emotional stress (which we are translating to jealousy for sake of a better word) might have made Kodiak not as strong and more susceptible to whatever brought this on.

(4) Lachesis is a homeopathic remedy made from the venom of a South America snake. It is used because the symptoms of poisoning are similar to what this dog is manifesting, thus a similar medicine in homeopathic terms. So to assure you, the venom is prepared in a homeopathic pharmacy by sterilizing, and diluting it, so that there is no actual venom in the remedy given. The process releases the energetic aspect of the substance and this is what affects the patient (I know, already critiques of this statement are forming).


The thing to note in this case is that the paralysis had persisted, unchanged, for five days even though conventional use of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories had been used. In contrast as soon as homeopathic treatment was started the dog began to respond.

Referring back to the last post about the letter from the professor criticizing homeopathy  a case like this would be attributed to imagination. The clients, presumably having such faith in homeopathy (actually I think they were completely new to it)  imagined that their dog got up and started walking. To make the case of homeopathy to be ineffective, we have to instead bring to our minds the scenario of this poor dog remaining paralyzed with full bladder and rectum while the clients imagined their dog was better, that while doing this imagining they were out walking with an empty leash thinking the dog was with them. Amazing, isn’t it?

The video of this case, from 2014, has been on Youtube and there are a couple of critical comments to the video there that might be interesting to look at.

Comment 1: “Recovery was either due to antibiotics prescribed a few days earlier or natural clearance of infection. But very concerning that the owners failed to take medical advice and visited a homeopath rather than a neurologist. They got lucky it wasn’t more serious.”

Do you see how the prejudice is leaking out in this criticism? The dog had been on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories  for five days with no response. The drugs were stopped and instead a  homeopathic remedy used. Nonetheless, the improvement on day 6 was still due to the stopped antibiotics. Only the prejudiced mind can make such a stretch. How many cases of infection do we think get better after we stop giving the antibiotics?
Then even more odd is the statement that it was “very concerning” that the people turned to homeopathic treatment, that it wasn’t “more serious.” Are you kidding. Imagine it was you, you can’t use your arms or legs, can’t pee or poo, and you say it is “not serious”? Whew!

Comment 2: “Classic “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy.”

The latin phrase here translates to that it is not logical to think that what was done before, is responsible for what happened after. In other words, it is not logical to assume that the homeopathic remedy given was related to the effect of the dog improving.
Again we see the prejudice looking at us over the hedge (though pretending to look wise). Is it a reasonable question for me to ask to consider that if this case and video were about a paralyzed dog that was treated with antibiotics there would not be such a comment? But why can’t it swing both ways? If one can question cause (which can be a smart thing to do) why would we not also question cause if a drug was being  used?

Conclusion:
Do you see in these comments how obvious it is that people that respond like this are coming from preformed judgments? The unexpressed assumption is that homeopathy cannot work. That assumed, all else follows. But should we not look at how such an assumption was acquired in the first place?
(to be continued)

 

The Prejudice Against Homeopathy

In the last few years there has been an increasing criticism of the use of homeopathy as a medical treatment system. My suspicion is that this is happening because more and more people are using it and the other medical practitioners and the pharmaceutical companies are starting to feel it in their pocket books. In any case this is happening and it is increasingly annoying.

I want to give you a recent example of this and show how it is an example of prejudice, not the comments of a neutral observer. In the July 1, 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association is a letter to the editor by a professor of pharmacology at the veterinary school in Virginia. Right away we can be suspicious in that it is written by a professor of pharmacology as such a  person is obviously focused on, and committed, to the use of drugs in treatment. If a system like homeopathy comes along and says these drugs are not necessary and even that not using them and instead turning to homeopathy will be more effective, this is a threat to such a person.

I won’t put up the whole letter but rather focus on the part that is criticizing homeopathy. Here is the excerpt:


Botanical medicine, homeopathy, and the placebo effect
The AVMA is currently exploring two aspects of complementary and alternative medicine: a petition before the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties for recognition of the American College of Veterinary Botanical Medicine and a recent news report on the role of homeopathy in the veterinary profession.

As explained in the recent JAVMA News report homeopathy is an 18th-century notion that rests on two basic principles: “the idea that a substance capable of causing particular symptoms in a healthy individual will cure similar symptoms in a person with disease” (the so-called “law of similars”) and the idea that these substances retain their medicinal properties when highly diluted (so-called “potentization”). Large scale studies have shown that homeopathic preparations are not effective and that their reported positive actions are nothing more than a result of placebo effects. In veterinary medicine, some species—especially dogs. cats, and horses—may seem to react positively to placebos, but this generally is a result of conditioned responses to human-animal interactions, such as touch, voice, and visual cues. In addition, a phenomenon known as placebo-by-proxy has been described. by which an optimistic animal owner (or even the veterinarian) may imagine improvements in a sick patient when no true benefit has occurred.

As for homeopathy there seems little justification for recognizing a modality that has not been shown to be effective. The AVMA’s position is clear: “all aspects of veterinary medicine should be held to the same standards, including complementary, alternative and integrative veterinary medicine, non-traditional or other novel approaches.” When we ignore this basic principle, we undermine our credibility as a science based profession.


Commentary
Notice the use of this language “homeopathy is an 18th-century notion.” I think I can say with some confidence that when this professor talks about the idea of using drugs in amounts enough to influence the body he does not introduce it by saying “use of drugs is a 6th century notion.” (I don’t know if 6th century is accurate, just picking it for effect.) To say “18th century” is to make is sound old and antiquated. Then to use the word “notion” it is a judgment. It is not a principle or a hypothesis, it is a notion. The dictionary defines “notion” as “a belief about something” or “a desire or impulse.” Obviously this denigrates the principle of homeopathic work, the great discovery made by Dr. Hahnemann that medicines could act in this way. It is an indication of pre-judgment, of prejudice.

The next thing to note is the statement “Large scale studies have shown that homeopathic preparations are not effective and that their reported positive actions are nothing more than a result of placebo effects.” What does large scale studies mean? A large number of test subjects? isn’t the critical factor in a study the decision if it is statistically significant or not? We don’t base the evaluation of something because a large number were involved. It depends on how it was set up and if properly controlled. By this standard there are many double-blind, controlled studies of homeopathic treatment that show greater effectiveness than the conventional use of drugs. Why is this ignored?

Then the most outrageous statement of them all is that any perceived effectiveness of homeopathy is due to “placebo.” When the word placebo is used this way it is dismissive, in other words, it is imagination, not real. The professor of veterinary medicine is actually saying that even though there are case reports of animals improving with homeopathic treatment it is all imaginary. In case it is too much a stretch to think that placebos act on animals (because they do not know what they are receiving), we will instead say the client has brought about imaginary improvement because of the way they interact with and touch their animal during the treatment. Is this a stretch or what? I can say, after 50 years of being a veterinarian, that I have not seen this correlation. Sure, it is important how the client thinks and acts towards their animal but this does not show up clearly as the factor that determines if the animal is better or not. Isn’t it incredible that instead of allowing the possibility that homeopathy may be an effective modality this person, ignorant of homeopathy, would make the statement that the clients of homeopathic practitioners are imagining improvements in their animals?

For one thing, there are many clients that come to us that use homeopathy and they are doubtful or skeptical about using this method yet will report improvements. But this ridiculous statement becomes more clearly so if we turn it around. Let us say that “placebo-by-proxy” is a significant happening in medicine. If so, does this not also apply to clients who report their animals are better with allopathic treatment? Or is the author of this letter saying this happens only with homeopathy?

Do you see the lack of intelligence in a letter like this? First of all it is coming from prejudice, a pre-formed conclusion, one made without any personal experience or study. It basically is what this professor was told by someone else. Then to ignore double-blind studies that have shown effectiveness of homeopathic treatment is to act with blinders. The final evidence is making the statement that when improvement with homeopathy is reported it is only imaginations of the client. This is not the action of intelligence, it is simply a closed mind expressing its limitations.

Unfortunately this is commonly the sort of criticisms being put out these days. It is blind, emotional, and ignorant and eventually will have to end. In the meantime those of us that use homeopathy in treatment (in my case now almost 40 years) continue to do so and see wonderful outcomes.

Citation
July 1, 2017, Vol. 251, No. 1, Pages 29-31

Feeding grains to dogs and cats.

Since the 3rd edition of our book was published in 2005 there was a strong movement towards feeding dogs and cats primarily meat and bones. This was called a “raw food diet.” The strange idea was put forth that grains are harmful or poisonous. Likely this is an exaggeration of the concept that grains in large amounts are not the optimal diet. The situation is more complex, however, than most realize.

The first question is if grains are not good for animals. The short answer is that grains are well accepted by animals if they are properly prepared. By this, I mean that the animal digestive tract is shorter than the human so the grains must be well cooked to be digestible.

Well, then, are they are in some way harmful? They are not if the quality is good. By “quality” we are meaning that the grains are complete, not just “leftovers” from milling. Also they need to be fresh, not rancid or spoiled. One would assume this is obvious but the fact is that commercial pet foods can use the leftovers and rejects from the production of human foods — the spoiled, contaminated, nutritionally inadequate floor sweepings — as their source of grains. Much of the concern about the harmful effect of grains in food for animals is because of the poor quality grain used in many commercial pet foods. The formula is like this:

Poor quality grain in commercial food = diminished health in animals = avoidance of grain based commercial foods = all grains are bad.

You can see that the first 3 steps make sense but the last conclusion does not as it is not taking into account that the health problems seen in animals has to do with the quality of the ingredient rather than the nature of it, e.g. that it is from grains.

Research into animal nutrition as cited in “Nutrient Requirements for Dogs” and “Nutrient Requirements for Cats” published by the Subcommittee on Dog Nutrition and Cat Nutrition by the National Research Council (about as reliable as one is going to find outside of the industry) reports that growing dogs fed a diet of up to 62% starch (which is an unusually simple carbohydrate, grains being much more complete) were able to digest 84% of the starch and use it for growth and energy. Even more significant these puppies had no apparent health effects from such a diet, growing the same as the group fed no carbohydrates. Cats have been shown to be able to digest over 96% of starch fed to them.

Another factor to bring in is that whole organic grains are very nutritious and compared to meat or other animal products have a fraction of the environmental toxins found in the tissues of animals. The animals that eat plants, drink the water available, and accumulate huge amounts of toxic substances, many hundreds of chemicals, that build up in their bodies. It is not so much that plants are completely free of these because our environment is so contaminated, but the amount in plants is like 1-2% of what is in animal tissue. The animals eating these plants day after day (or GMO soy or corn) accumulate this in their bodies. Then when their bodies are eaten by others, those that eat them again accumulate thousands of greater quantities of these chemicals in their tissues. This build up each step of the food chain is called bioaccumulation.

We discuss this in detail in the 4th edition of our book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide To Natural Health For Dogs and Cats, published by Rodale Press. It is now available from booksellers.