Jeff Feinman VMD, CVH — Weston, Connecticut — Call: 203.222.7979
The following is an excerpt from the book, Raising Cats Naturally: How to care for your cat the way nature intended
Homeopathy is a wonderful healing art that was discovered by Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843) in the late 1700s while he was working as a translator. Hahnemann was a medical doctor and a chemist. Disenchanted by medicine at the time, he stopped practicing medicine and was translating medical texts to support himself and his family. While translating a book by a physiologist named William Cullen, Hahnemann disputed the author's explanation of how Peruvian bark (cinchona) cured malaria. He did something that was unheard of in his time — he took several doses of Peruvian bark that caused him to develop fever, chills and other symptoms similar to malaria.
Similia Similibus Curentur — "Like Cures Like." Any substance which can produce a totality of symptoms in a healthy human being can cure that totality of symptoms in a sick human being.
Hahnemann spent the rest of his life developing the healing art he coined "homeopathy" from the Greek words homoios meaning similar and pathos meaning suffering. Homeopathy recognizes the symptoms evidenced by any living being as evidence of the disease and it is these symptoms taken in their totality that will guide the physician to the correct medicine to cure the patient, not just the disease. The totality of the symptoms is an expression of the essence of the disease.
Homeopathy works on a dynamic or energetic level. Hahnemann used the term "vital force" to describe the spirit–like energy force that maintains the life of the individual. Without the vital force, the body dies. When the vital force is in a state of balance, health exists. A cat (or any living creature) with a strong vital force (not to be confused with immune system because they are two different things) will be able to withstand exposure to certain disease stimulants with little disruption. One with a weak vital force, however, will be pushed to a state of imbalance with the slightest provocation.
This may be a difficult concept to understand, but a cat with a strong vital force will express a lot of symptoms when ill (or in a state of imbalance). For example, he may have a high fever and lots of discharge if sick with an upper respiratory infection. A cat with a weak vital force will express few symptoms and they will often be very weak, like a chronic low–grade fever. Obviously, it is much easier treating a cat with a strong vital force because there are often a lot of symptoms to go by. A properly prescribed homeopathic remedy will work with the cat's vital force to remove the disease state. Treating a cat in this manner works to improve the vital force and because the symptoms are not suppressed the cat's overall immune system is strengthened as well.
The immune system is an internal force consisting of various components like the skin, nose, mouth, thymus, spleen and lymph system, designed to keep infections organisms out and destroying the ones that get in. If your cat has a competent immune system, he will be able to deal with infectious organisms without needing medicine of any kind. A kitten is born with a weak or undeveloped immune system. As the kitten matures and his immune system is challenged, preferably in a natural manner instead of by using vaccines, he develops natural immunity.
Conventional medicine views symptoms as something that must be crushed, wiped out, and stopped. If a cat has a runny nose or runny eyes, an antihistamine or antibiotic is prescribed; if diarrhea or vomiting is the symptom, anti–diarrhea or anti–vomiting medicine is given; for any inflammation or suspected inflammation occurs, steroids (an anti–inflammatory) are used. With conventional medicine, each symptom is treated using an opposing (or anti) medicine and the symptoms are suppressed, which does not cure the disease and may cause harm to the cat.
Conventional doctors blame disease on pathogens like germs, bacteria or a virus. They do blood tests, cultures or stool tests to find the culprit then they give the disease a name. Homeopathy does not name diseases, the practitioner makes note of symptoms no matter how minor or unusual and it is the symptoms that lead to a cure. People will often ask me what remedy is good for this disease or that disease? There is never one particular remedy for a disease condition. For example, a cat with inflammatory bowel disease would receive a remedy based on the symptoms the cat was expressing, not the inflammatory bowel disease. There are many different remedies for a disease like inflammatory bowel disease — it all depends on the symptoms.
A breeder taking a litter of kittens suffering from an upper respiratory infection into a conventional veterinarian's office would probably receive the same drug or drugs for all of the kittens. Even if one of the kittens in the litter were not showing symptoms, that kitten would probably receive the same medicine as the sick kittens, "just in case."
The same kittens taken to see a homeopath would quite possibly receive a different remedy, based on that kitten's totality of symptoms or symptom picture. The homeopathic remedy prescribed to each individual kitten would take into account the kitten's particular personality, temperature preference, and food preference as well as the symptoms attributed to the upper respiratory infection. If one of the kittens had soft stool, passed gas or had a cough in addition to the eye and nose symptoms that would be taken into account. Nothing about that kitten would be ignored or thought of as not part of the symptom picture or disturbance. The whole kitten is treated — not just the disease. If there was a kitten in the litter that was not showing symptoms, he would not receive a remedy, "just in case."
A conventional veterinarian seeing a kitten with upper respiratory symptoms and runny stool would probably culture the kitten's mucus and stool to define what organism or organisms caused the illness. The upper respiratory symptoms would be treated with one drug and the runny stool with another. Both drugs would be prescribed in an effort to stop the symptoms. Both drugs would probably have their residual side effects as well. The antibiotic would destroy the healthy bacteria in the kitten's system and if the kitten had runny stool because of some toxin in the kitten's food, the toxin would not be expelled from the kitten's body as quickly as it should because the anti–diarrhea medicine would prevent diarrhea.
"The physician's highest calling, his only calling, is to make sick people healthy — to heal, as it is termed."
— Samuel Hahnemann
The above paragraph contained in Hahnemann's Organon of Medicine is the first "rule" of homeopathy. Stop and think here. With the exception of some surgeries, emergency medicine, and antibiotics in the case of some life–threatening bacterial infections, does conventional veterinary medicine ever make sick animals healthy? Or does it merely suppress the symptoms (usually temporarily) or manage the disease?
Does conventional veterinary medicine even know what healthy is? Conventional veterinarians are taught what disease is and how to try to cure it with drugs. If an animal may be exposed to a virus (or even if they may not be exposed), you vaccinate to prevent the animal from getting the virus, or you treat the virus with a drug that will make the symptoms go away. If some part of the animal is causing a problem, like for example impacted anal glands, you remove the offending anal glands. If there is inflammation, you make it go away with steroids. A conventional veterinarian rarely gets to the root of the problem or tries to figure out why the problem is occurring. He looks at the symptoms and prescribes a drug or therapy that will stop the symptoms. On the other side of the coin, does conventional veterinary medicine really know what a sick cat is? Is the cat that runs under the bed whenever company arrives or is licking himself raw sick? The cat with tissue damage is surely sick, but what about the one that bites if he is petted for too long? What most conventional veterinarians do not understand is the cat that is sucking its tail or licking herself raw is sick and tissue damage is on its way. If they could find a way to treat the cat now with something that is not going to suppress the symptoms before the tissue damage occurs, they would be ahead of the game.
Getting to the root of the problem would never happen during a 15–minute office visit. A typical initial appointment with a homeopath may take as long as an hour or two. Do not be scared away by the initial consultation fee for a homeopath. Multiply a conventional veterinarian's office visit fee by four and see what it comes to. The appointment with a homeopath does not end with the consultation. After it is over, the homeopath begins research to find the right remedy for your cat.
In several places throughout this book I say that I believe commercial cat food causes various feline ailments such as feline urinary tract disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and several others, but that is not quite true. Some cats live their entire lives on cheap store brand dry cat food without ever showing symptoms of disease. They die in their sleep at a ripe old age. There are some people who work at extremely stressful jobs, eat fast food almost every day, get little sleep, smoke and drink and never get sick. These scenarios are not terribly common anymore. That cat that lived to a ripe old age on cheap food probably lived outside, hunted to supplement the dry food and may not have been vaccinated on an annual basis. Cats do not live that way these days. They are indoor couch potatoes who are taken to the veterinarian for medicine for every sneeze or runny eye, vaccinated every year, and fed processed food.
It is the underlying susceptibility or sensitivity to a particular disease process that allows the cat to get sick. Susceptibility to particular diseases passes through the generations. No matter what conventional veterinary reports say, cats are not getting healthier. They are succumbing to serious chronic disease and dying at young ages. Even if they live to old age, what is the quality of their life if they have a chronic disease and receive daily medicine, fluids, and eat a prescription diet? I am not concerned with a 16–year–old cat with failing kidneys. Organs fail with old age — that is normal. I am concerned with an 8–year–old cat that dies from chronic renal failure. There is something wrong with that picture.
"My barn having burned to the ground,
I can now see the moon."
— Zen haiku
Every single symptom your cat exhibits is there for a reason — it is an express of the disease state your cat is suffering from. It is only by careful observation of these symptoms that you can successfully cure your cat. Sneezing, runny eyes, coughing and fever are good signs of immune response on the part of your cat — especially if it is an acute illness like an upper respiratory infection. A cat that spends weeks or months with a little bit of discharge and a low–grade fever is not showing a strong immune response. Diarrhea and vomiting are an attempt to move the toxin quickly through the system to prevent damage to the vital organs. The body heals through excretions – do not stop this normal process. Stopping these symptoms is done to the detriment of the cat.
Of course you should contact a veterinarian, preferably a holistic veterinarian, if any symptom, especially a high fever, vomiting or diarrhea, persists for longer that a few days.
"Miasm" was a term coined by Samuel Hahnemann to explain an underlying tendency to get sick. In lay terms, a miasm is a weakness or susceptibility that leads to disease or illness, often passing through the generations, although not all miasms are inherited. Some are created by drug toxicity or faulty treatment (such as use of steroids) and those caused by infectious miasms (natural diseases). These "created" miasms can also pass through generations.
Today, manmade toxins, such as those contained in the environment and even in commercial pet food need to be included into causes of disease as well as vaccine miasms that are becoming increasingly common in cats. Chronic illnesses that include several factors of causation, stress, natural diseases (infections), drugs, toxins and vaccines, are extremely difficult to cure, even with homeopathy. It needs to be done by an experienced homeopath and it takes a great deal of patience and observation skills on the part of the caregiver.
What you need to remember is disease or illness does not necessarily come from viruses or bacteria, it comes from within the cat. It is an underlying susceptibility to that particular influence. Bacteria and viruses are opportunistic; they go for unhealthy or susceptible creatures.
The disease and the creature are linked on an energy level. A miasm is a weakness in the creature's vital force that allows an opening to form, letting in the disease.
In health, your cat goes about his business and everything is great — he is in a state of equilibrium. Then one day, something, whether it is a virus, bacteria, trauma, or toxin, attempts to push your cat's vital force off balance. Your cat will start to show symptoms of disease — his vital force needs help righting itself. The vital force is unable to cure itself — it needs help. You can do one of two things — you can take your cat to a conventional veterinarian who will examine your cat, maybe perform laboratory tests and give your cat something that is going to make the symptoms go away; or you can take the cat to your homeopath, tell him the symptoms your cat is exhibiting and the homeopath will prescribe a homeopathic remedy that can cause symptoms very similar to those your sick cat is exhibiting.
Remember, the homeopathic remedy you give your cat is working on an energy level, just like the vital force is. You cannot see the vital force working — you can only see the symptoms. The energy of the homeopathic remedy (think of it as an artificial disease) is going to be very similar in action to the energy (or the natural disease) that caused the disturbance in your cat, but it is somewhat stronger. The artificial disease replaces the natural disease and then fades and the vital force takes over again. The difference between treating a cat with homeopathy compared to conventional treatment is with homeopathy the disease state is removed, not the symptoms. When the disease state is removed, the symptoms go along with it.
Sometimes a homeopathic remedy will work quickly. Usually this occurs in an acute case — something that comes on suddenly, often violently, like a sudden fever, vomiting or diarrhea. An acute disease or disorder should resolve quickly with a properly chosen homeopathic remedy. If in an acute disease a remedy does not work rapidly, you have the option of trying a different remedy. With a chronic condition, something that comes on slowly, homeopathy is probably not going work as quickly as conventional medicine. This is where so many people leave homeopathy and go back to conventional medicine. They do not want to wait for a cure. Patience is probably the hardest thing to learn about homeopathy. Caregivers do not want to sit around and watch their cat scratch, ooze mucus or have diarrhea.
"When clouds form in the skies we know that rain will follow but we must not wait for it. Nothing will be achieved by attempting to interfere with the future before the time is ripe. Patience is needed."
— I Ching
Choosing a competent homeopath is very important. It takes many years of study and practice to become good at prescribing. Improper homeopathic treatment of a case can sometimes cause more damage than conventional medicine because homeopathy works on a deeper (energetic) level than conventional medicine.
I have seen some miraculous cures in my cats by using homeopathy, but rarely does it happen overnight. I see some parallels between Buddhism and homeopathy. In Buddhism suffering is thought of as opportunity. If you can get through the suffering and be aware throughout the process you grow. Everything changes and even if it seems like your cat has suffered for months during homeopathic treatment, it will change, I promise you that. In homeopathy, sometimes the cat will have to suffer a bit longer before a remedy works. It may take several remedies before you see a cure. Covering up the suffering as conventional medicine does with its antibiotics and steroids is not curing the condition. It is sweeping it under the rug. Ultimately, the symptoms will come back, sometimes worse than they were to begin with. There are no quick fixes or magic bullets in life.
When I first discovered homeopathy I wanted to cure the World with this wonderful medicine. I started fostering cats, bringing in more than I could handle at the time. Almost as soon as I acquired a cat I would schedule a homeopathic consultation. While I do not think I ever caused harm to a cat, I probably wasted a lot of money in homeopathic treatment. Usually, the cats that were treated were not exhibiting clear symptoms. You cannot really learn about a cat when you have only known her for a month or two. Without a clear–cut symptom picture, it is difficult to find the right remedy. Again, patience is the key. While you can learn about the cat's temperament and preferences on a day–to–day basis, often you need to wait for something to cause the cat's vital force to act. Then you have symptoms to work with. A properly chosen homeopathic remedy used during an acute disease will often cause the animal to exhibit new symptoms that will lead you to a long-term remedy. This is known as the cat's "constitutional remedy." The acute disease will help you to discover where the cat's sensitivities lie, what underlying susceptibilities he has. Wait and watch.
"You can do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm"
Because I use homeopathy to treat illnesses in my cats, I have to be extremely diligent and observant in their care. I have to keep my numbers down. There is no way I can care for or treat a large number of cats using these methods. When I had more cats than could comfortably live in the environment I provided, they got sick more often. Cats do not deal well with overcrowding or stress. They seem to be more sensitive to stress than other animals. Cats are highly spiritual creatures and homeopathy works really well with them, but I have to walk a fine line with their care. There are obstacles to cure: poor quality diet, bad hygiene, stress and vaccination. I do not think I would be as successful using homeopathy if they were fed a commercial diet, vaccinated every year and lived in cages or overcrowded conditions. Homeopathy is probably not going to help a person that gets sick after working 60 hours a week at a high stress job, eating a steady diet of fast food and sleeping four hours a night. A cat living in crowded conditions without exposure to sun and fresh air, eating meat flavored cereal and that is vaccinated every year is probably not going to respond to homeopathy either.
Research on the action of homeopathic remedies, called "provings," are conducted using healthy humans and in some instances by studying accidental poisonings. The term "proving" comes from the German word, prüfen meaning to test. Homeopathic remedies are tested on healthy humans. If there is no other reason to use homeopathy, use it because the medicine is not tested on animals. No laboratory animals suffer through horrible experiments to test homeopathic remedies before they are used on humans. Each subject involved in a proving is asked to keep detailed notes throughout the process. The information obtained from a proving is compiled in the Materia Medica then the information from the Materia Medica is indexed in the Repertory.
Homeopathic remedies are not given in their crude form. That is why very dangerous substances like deadly nightshade, arsenic and snake poisons can be used safety. Use of remedies in their crude form, even if given in very minute amounts or diluted caused illness or aggravations in Hahnemann's early patients. He wanted to be able to use the more poisonous materials like arsenic or mercury, but he was afraid to test such dangerous substances in order to discover their curative ability. Hahnemann experimented by diluting the substance many thousands of times. Much to his amazement, he discovered the more diluted the remedy, the more powerful and long acting it became. Homeopathic remedies are not simply diluted. Each dilution is vigorously shaken throughout the process (called "succussion"). This dilution and shaking makes the remedy stronger. Conventional potencies are so diluted that there are no detectable molecules of the original substances left. All that is left is the energy or essence of the substance. Homeopathy is an energy healing modality.
A 30c potency is a serial dilution of 1 to 100 made thirty times (1060). A 30c potency is a relatively low potency, with 1M (102,000), 10M (1020,000) and 50M (10100,000) potencies being used in practice today. A 1M potency is far more powerful and long acting than the 30c potency. That is what those numbers (6c, 30c, 200c, 1M) mean on the side of a homeopathic remedy vial. Do not let anyone tell you it is necessary for an aggravation to occur before your cat is cured. Aggravations are not necessary and should be avoided at all costs. A single homeopathic remedy should be given in the lowest potency necessary to cure the patient.
Back when I started using homeopathy with my cats the problem with using a homeopathic vet was finding one. There were not too many practicing homeopathic vets.
Today, it seems that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. I am not surprised. It happened with raw diet and natural medicine (herbs and supplements). Do an Internet search for raw diet, BARF (an acronym for "bones and raw food" or "biologically appropriate food"), or natural health for animals and you will find web page after web page selling products. All these combinations and concoctions, all to help your dog or cat get over whatever ails them. Many of them are nothing more than empty promises of quick fixes — and are no better than conventional medicine.
If you go looking for a natural remedy for a skin condition, you will find hundreds. Remedies, even if they are natural, can suppress just like conventional medicine.
There are seminars available for veterinarians to learn homeopathy. A conventionally trained veterinarian cannot become a homeopathic veterinarian after taking a few seminars on veterinary homeopathy. It does not happen that quickly. They have to change their whole manner of thinking to become good homeopaths. This process takes many years of careful study. When looking for a homeopathic veterinarian, keep a few things in mind and ask questions. Interview the homeopathic veterinarian before you put your money down.
Look for a homeopathic veterinarian that practices 75–100 percent homeopathy. Nothing less will do. If the homeopathic veterinarian practices Chinese medicine, acupuncture and homeopathy, he is not specialized enough. He needs to focus close to 100 percent on homeopathy. A good place to start is on–line at The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy or by telephone at 866–652–1590.
It is usually not a good idea to mix healing modalities. You probably should not use acupuncture and homeopathy at the same time. They both use energy to heal and may counteract each other. If you are using herbs and homeopathy and your cat improves, you will not know what actually worked, the homeopathy or the herbs. It is best to keep it simple and use one type of healing at a time. This does not mean you cannot make an herbal tea to bathe your cat's eyes and nose if he has a cold. Use of herbs on the surface is usually not going to confuse things. You should avoid giving herbs or even extra nutritional supplements orally while using homeopathy. It could confuse the symptom picture.
You do not have to go to the vet. If you can find one that meets the qualifications I have laid out below in your own state, great! You may not be able to. Many homeopathic veterinarians do telephone consultations. Some states may have legislation pending preventing telephone consultations with out of state veterinarians. You may need to check into this. Prior to a telephone consultation, you can have your animal's records sent to the homeopathic vet. You should send a picture of your cat as well.
Find a homeopathic veterinarian that has been in practice for more than a few years and one that has taken human courses. For example the Devon School for Homeopathy offers a wonderful correspondence course. Many good homeopathic veterinarians have studied with human homeopaths. Homeopathy works the same for humans as it does for animals. It's the principles of homeopathy that are important, not what you are healing.
You will want to ask the homeopathic veterinarian if he or she believes aggravations are necessary. Although they may occur and should be very mild, aggravations are not necessary to heal. Ask the veterinarian if he has read the Organon and what edition he practices by (it should be the 5th or 6th edition). If the veterinarian has not read or does not know what the Organon is, he is not a homeopathic vet. Ask the veterinarian when he last read the entire Organon. The Organon, written by Samuel Hahnemann, is considered the "bible" of homeopathy. The Organon explains exactly how homeopathy should be practiced. A good practitioner reads the entire Organon at least once a year.
Keep in mind you will probably have to wait to get an appointment with a good homeopathic veterinarian. If you are thinking of using one, find one now and make the appointment so the veterinarian will have a record of you so that if you really need him in a crisis, he'll be available.
Finally, read up on homeopathy. Have some idea of how it works. If you question something, then ask the vet. Communication and observation are imperative when you are using homeopathy. You need to watch and make note of everything, no matter how minor. Keeping a journal is an excellent idea.
The most important thing you need to know is homeopathy is not going to act immediately, or at least it shouldn't unless you are working with an acute case. It should work slowly. Slower the better — patience is the key.
You can buy homeopathic remedies individually at most health food stores. That can run into a lot of money if you are going to be using homeopathy on a regular basis. I have the Washington 30c kit that is a set of 50 remedies in 30c potency that costs about $80.00. This kit is worth its weight in gold. You can purchase this kit directly from Washington Homeopathy or by calling (800) 336-1695. You can also purchase it from Homeopathy Overnight or by calling 1-800-276-4223. Both Washington and Homeopathy Overnight carry single remedies. Natural Health Supply or by telephone (888) 689-1608, carries LM remedies, amber bottles and vials suitable for preparing LM homeopathic remedies, as well as single remedies and kits. For more obscure remedies or nosodes, Hahnemann Pharmacy (888) 427-6422 With whatever remedy you purchase, ask for the #20 pellets. The small #20 pellets are easier to administer to cats because it is more difficult for them to spit out the tiny pellets. If you have to use the larger pellets, it is usually best to crush them between two clean spoons and then administer the powder.
I almost always use the 30c potency in my cats. It seems to be the potency that works without causing aggravations. With the 30c, especially in an acute illness or disturbance, I can switch remedies after 12 to 24 hours if it does not work. It's always best to err on the side of caution and use low potencies. Try to not to give remedies too frequently, give the remedy time to work. Patience and understanding of the principles of homeopathy are paramount.
I love using homeopathy on my cats because it is so easy to administer remedies. I have a few cats that are notoriously difficult to pill. I could not imagine having to administer medicine once or twice a day to these cats! I am so glad I discovered homeopathy!
Homeopathic remedies should not be given within 30 minutes of your cat having food in his mouth. You should not mix homeopathic remedies with any food except milk or cream. If your cat likes milk or cream, you can dissolve a few pellets in a clean glass saucer of milk or cream. Let your cat drink the milk or cream. He does not drink all of it in order for the remedy to work.
If your cat will not drink milk or cream, pour a few pellets, no more than three or four, into the cap of the remedy vial. Do not touch the pellets, the oils in your skin can contaminate a remedy. Gently open the cat's mouth and toss the pellets in. If you are using a remedy that is in the larger pellets, you may need to crush them into a powder between two clean spoons. I have found cats spit out the larger pellets. If it is in a powder or the tiny pellets, they usually cannot spit them all out. Even if only one pellet got in the cat's mouth, that is all you need. If any drop on the floor, throw them away.
The same potency usually should not be administered more than once. If you need to give the remedy again, you should use the liquid method of dosing which changes the potency of the remedy ever so slightly. Dissolve one 30c pellet in a sterilized glass jar, or better yet, an amber vial (see resources) containing four ounces of spring water or distilled water. Put the cover on the jar strike it against the palm of your hand (brace your arm against your waist) five times. You can also put a towel on a countertop as a pad and strike the jar against the countertop. Draw off one spoonful of the water from the jar and stir it into a clean glass containing another four ounces of spring or distilled water. Stir the water in the second glass about ten times. Then give your cat a spoonful of the liquid from the second glass. You can use a glass eyedropper or stir the liquid into a bit of cream or milk. The liquid method of dosing is very gentle and often works better the dry dosing in sensitive subjects. Now comes the hard part. You wait for the remedy to work and watch for new symptoms.
The above is an excerpt from the book, Raising Cats Naturally: How to care for your cat the way nature intended
©2003-Michelle T. Bernard, all rights reserved
Holistic (or Integrative) Veterinary Medicine is the examination and diagnosis of an animal, considering all aspects of the animal's life and employing all of the practitioner's senses, as well as the combination of conventional and alternative (or complementary) modalities of treatment. When a holistic veterinarian sees a pet, besides giving it a comprehensive physical examination, he/she wants to find out all about its behaviors, distant medical and dietary history, and its environment including diet, emotional stresses, and other factors.
Holistic medicine, by its very nature, is humane to the core. The wholeness of its scope will set up a lifestyle for the animal that is most appropriate. The techniques used in holistic medicine are gentle, minimally invasive, and incorporate patient well-being and stress reduction. Holistic thinking is centered on love, empathy and respect.
This mixture of healing arts and skills is as natural as life itself. At the core of this issue lies the very essence of the word "(w)holistic". It means taking in the whole picture of the patient—the environment, the disease pattern, the relationship of pet with owner—and developing a treatment protocol using a wide range of therapies for healing the patient.
Environmental toxins. Processed food. Vaccinations. Longer lifespan.
Veterinarians have many theories about why so many cats and dogs today suffer from chronic kidney disease and renal failure. Some implicate life in the modern world with its commercial foods, vaccinations, pollution, and sedentary lifestyle, while others attribute advances in nutritional science and vaccinations to longer life spans in pets, and say diseases like kidney failure and cancer happen naturally in older animals.
The truth is, no validated research proves that any environmental factors cause kidney disease, but many holistic veterinarians feel strongly—based on what they see in their practices--that pets develop kidney disease when they stray too far from the life they were designed to live. In other words, a holistic perspective suggests that a pet’s lifestyle could contribute to kidney disease, and lifestyle alterations, even in the advanced stages of renal failure, might help pets feel better, live longer, and enjoy a higher quality of life.
Of course, chronic disease is a problem for a veterinarian to address. Pet owners and retailers must take their lead from a qualified veterinarian’s guidance. “When you are dealing with a serious illness like chronic renal failure, you need to be working with a veterinarian,” said Dr. Jeff Feinman, VMD, CVH, a certified veterinary homeopath, president of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (www.theavh.org), and practicing holistic veterinarian in Weston, Connecticut, who also offers consultations through his HomeVet website (www.homevet.com/). “A homeopathic vet can provide remedies to individual cases. But pet owners can support this work with supplements, diet, and lifestyle changes.”
Pet stores can also support these efforts by providing healthy food choices, the right supplements, lifestyle advice, and books on holistic health care that can help give pet owners direction when they face health issues in their pets. Here’s what you should know.
All About the Food
One of the first things any veterinarian—conventional or holistic—will advise for pets with kidney disease is a change in diet. Some vets recommend prescription diets, while others recommend home-cooked or raw diets, but a holistic approach involves stepping back and looking at how a pet eats and lives.
“Pets need exercise, fresh air, sunshine, and food they are genetically adapted to eat,” said V. Smitha, DVM, Ph.D., Research Scientist for Wysong Corporation in Midland, Michigan. “When people and animals live lives and eat foods for which they are not genetically adapted, it is a bane to health. For example, pets may do fine on heat-processed foods for a time, but when the animal’s adaptive reserves are exhausted, degenerative conditions such as chronic renal disease can set in.”
While some pets do well on a prescription food (and some holistically oriented pet food companies also make prescription foods), not every pet will eat the prescription food the vet recommends.
“The prescription diet for pets willing to eat them are just fine, but many times, the pets refuse to eat them after a couple of days and the owner starts giving them anything at all, no matter how high-fat and unhealthy, just to get them to eat,” said pet nutritionist Susan Davis, CCN, of Dana Point, California, who works with a holistic vet to design nutritionally sound diets for pets and advises people about managing chronic renal failure and other diseases holistically through her website Ask Ariel (www.askariel.com).
Dr. Feinman suggests pet owners include fresh, human-quality foods for pets like chicken, beef, and fish. “Raw food is great because of the natural enzymes but it isn’t as palatable as lightly cooked meat, which might appeal more to a very ill pet,” said Dr. Feinman. Books on feeding pets home-cooked diets can help pet owners formulate the right combination of nutrients. Pet owners might also try commercial frozen raw diets, which are pre-formulated to be complete and balanced. “There are many levels of quality in food for pets, from starvation all the way up to fresh hunted prey. If you can move your pet’s diet quality up on the scale, you will be helping your pet to handle the disease better,” said Dr. Feinman.
Dr. Smitha believes that chronic renal failure is largely a result of feeding pets as we would never feed ourselves. “A total revision in pet feeding is in order for dealing with chronic renal disease and like conditions, or they will continue or increase,” said Dr. Smitha. “The manufacturer can help educate the retailer about how to feed pets in the best way.”
While pet owners should consult a homeopathic or other qualified holistic veterinarian if they are interested in individually formulated homeopathic or herbal remedies, a few companies make kidney-care and urinary-support herbal, nutraceutical, or homeopathic formulas pet owners can give to their pets at home. These formulas can help when pets show early signs of kidney problems such as frequent urinary tract problems, and may also support the body in later stages of kidney disease.
Dr. Smitha recommends enzyme supplements, probiotics, and essential fatty acids, as well as taurine, which the kidneys contain and which plays an important role in kidney health. Herbal formulas may help maximize kidney function, including those containing diuretics like carrot, dandelion, and sesame seed; antioxidants like blueberries and lactoferrin; anti-inflammatories like rosemary and sage extracts, wheat grass, and barley grass; anti-microbials like garlic and uva ursi to help prevent secondary bacterial complications; desiccated sea plankton with electrolytes to help kidneys function better; and chlorella which could speed healing of damaged kidney tissue.
“The solution, however, is not include or exclude a specific ingredient or product,” emphasized Dr. Smitha. “Buzzwords and nutritional lore pervade the pet food and supplement industry. For any product you offer, examine each company’s credentials and educate yourselves about what the food or supplement contains. The pet store owner is in the perfect position to cut through the hype,” said Dr. Smitha. “With knowledge, you can help restore sanity to the market, and genuine health to pets.”
“As a holistic vet, I always have to emphasize that the very best way to treat kidney disease is to prevent it,” said Dr. Feinman. While pet owners can’t always tell the future or prevent diseases to which pets are genetically predisposed, certain basic practices and healthy habits might help ward of kidney problems in the future.
“Kidney problems are a sign of a serious, chronic imbalance and typically this has been a low-grade imbalance in the pet for years before the pet owner notices something is really wrong,” said Dr. Feinman. “There is good evidence that pets with lower urinary tract infections and other urinary problems might be predisposed to this kind of imbalance, and pet owners can take steps to correct the imbalance before it ever develops into full-blown kidney disease.”
Cats and dogs with any sign of kidney issues may benefit from a better food, targeted supplements, moderate exercise, and a low-stress lifestyle before kidney disease ever develops. Dr. Smitha urges retailers to educate themselves about the foods, supplements, and lifestyle issues that can really make a difference both in preventing and in managing chronic renal disease. “Education is the key,” said Dr. Smitha. “People don’t always know what is best for their pets, and store owners have a responsibility when people come to them for guidance. We believe ‘business as usual’ caused this disease in the first place, but the retailer with the right knowledge and information for customers can help turn that around by providing an array of scientifically-based natural foods, well-researched supplements, resources, and understanding.”
“We used to think kidney disease was a cause for euthanasia, but now we know that pets with kidney disease can live happily, feeling good, sometimes for years with the right management,” said Davis. When pet stores can contribute to that management by providing helpful products, services, and information, clients will feel supported in a meaningful way.
This allows these cells to escape the normal regulatory signals leading to uncontrolled cell growth. While most auto-immune diseases represent a failure of the healing system from an over-active immune system, cancer represents the extreme opposite, whereby the immune system is hypoactive (at least in regard to the tumor). On the other hand, both chronic immune diseases and cancer probably represent outcomes from the failure of the healing system brought about by living within a polluted environment, coupled with the genetic make-up of the dog.
While we are beginning to unravel the complex biochemistry of cancer development and have begun to understand how DNA is damaged and repaired, we still have a long way to go before the cure for cancer will be found. Spontaneous healing of cancer has been documented many times in human beings and animals, suggesting that a cure is possible. On the other hand, there is a great deal of information about the potential for preventing many forms of cancer. Most of these techniques involve the use of diet and dietary supplements. We can not control the air we breath, unless we do this as a whole. Using alternative means of transportation, car-pooling and clean energy production are good for the environment and for those living in it. It does pay to fool Mother Nature, she will get even in the end. We can, however, control the food our pets eat and the water they drink; thereby, reducing their pollution load. We can provide our pets with anti-oxidants and bioflavonoids, compounds which help protect DNA and the healing system. We can give them sufficient fiber in there diets to support digestion and protect the gi tract from cellular damage.
Treatment of cancer with traditional Western medicine involves surgery (to remove or de-bulk the tumor mass), ionizing radiation (to expose the tumor to lethal doses radiation, minimizing radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue), and chemotherapy (to poison the rapidly growing cancer cells without poisoning the rest of the body). One or all of these methods may be employed in a given patient in an attempt to delay or prevent further cancer growth. On average, the success of Western approaches to cancer provides 1 to 18 months of relief from the cancer. While longer survival times are seen with certain forms of cancer, the long term prognosis for even the best forms of "systemic" cancer is poor to grave. The best chance for a good prognosis is for localized cancer (particularly benign lesions) which can be removed completely with surgery. When surgical removal of the cancer is not possible, or when the cancer has already spread to other organs (metastasized), control of the tumor may not be possible by conventional means and the owner must make difficult choices about the continued care of their pet. Some of these choices are very expensive. Traditional Western diagnostic methods have advanced dramatically in the last few years and provide the best chance to discover the natural of the tumor and to predict its clinical course. Advanced imaging techniques like diagnostic ultrasound, computer-assisted tomography (CAT scans) and magnetic resonance image (MRI scans) have vastly improve tumor diagnosis. Fine-needle aspirates or "true-cut" biopsies of tumors (sometimes performed in conjunction with an imaging technique) can provide cytological confirmation or histological diagnosis of the tumor type, leading to better therapeutic recommendations.
I am writing this at five in the morning. For years, this has been the hour I get into my office and begin my work. I am armed with my computers, phone, fax, files and several walls of books, old and new, which I have painstakingly collected over the years. I generally put in long hours in this office learning as much as I can about cancer treatment. Some people consider me a bit obsessed with the topic. But I want to be able to share accurate information with cancer patients and their families...and that takes study.
My work has often taken me away from my home and family, as I travel frequently to investigate new treatments around the United States, Europe, Mexico and elsewhere. I have visited dozens of physicians, clinics, hospitals and labs to meet innovative doctors and to interview their patients. I evaluate their data firsthand. I also try to make time every work day to do a phone consultation with a cancer patient and his or her family about their own individual circumstances.
What motivates me to keep up such a rigorous schedule after thirty years in the field? What keeps me charged up and vitally engaged with my work? Simply put, it's hope. There are no 'magic bullets' for cancer. But I have seen dramatic improvement in the lives of some my clients and subscribers. This certainly keeps me very hopeful and determined to make an even greater contribution to the cancer research world. I hope to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families as they deal with the many difficulties presented by this disease, including some insensitive doctors and intrusive insurance companies.
What exactly is cancer? What is its relationship to normal biological functions? These questions fascinate me. The last time I saw Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, he said that what kept him going was reading the top scientific journals and keeping up with the latest findings. And he was past 90 at the time. I understand that passion.
NB: As readers of my site and clients already know, I advise exploring all treatment options. Especially in cases of serious and potentially fatal sickness. Dr. Moss provides a wonderful service. Please peruse his site or call him for a personalized consultation.--Dr. Jeff
Please note: The information provided here is meant to supplement that provided by your veterinarian. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of information at this site. Nothing can replace a complete history and physical examination performed by your veterinarian. -Dr. Jeff
You have improved the diet and still your animal is not as healthy as you would like. You are ready to find some approaches different from the conventional ones used so far. As in the field of human health, there are many different approaches for healing. Conventional medicine predominates in the Western world and is taught in most of the veterinary and medical schools. More than 50% of people are now seeking holistic treatment options for themselves and now for themselves as well.
A Longer Excerpt From The Journal (which you can buy directly from Dr. Chambreau by e-mailing her at the above link):