Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Sixth One: Raindrops keep falling on my vet

Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Oh flip. Turns out I may have to do a presentation of my research project on Friday as part of the registrar teaching. The doctor supervising me said that if someone pulled out of presenting the Grand Round then she would also volunteer me to fill in. I suppose this is good for me and it’s nice that she has faith in my project and its findings but that doesn’t help me in the short run. Oh flip, I have to do a presentation.

My project broadly involves retrospectively validating a risk stratification system for use in the emergency department. The idea is that patients presenting with certain symptoms can get classified as high or low risk and treated accordingly. Without boring you further I only mention it because it hints at scientific process involved in how patients are managed. Evidence is collected concerning a hypothesis or a model, examined to determine the accuracy of that hypothesis or model and the implications of how accurate the hypothesis or model is filters to patient care. This is obviously a very crude and as a result inaccurate description of the process of evidence-based medicine but I thought I should at least try to mention it before I start to ramble on the next subject.

I was in the library putting together my presentation when I looked up and saw the book
Homeopathic Care.... for Cats and Dogs: Small Doses for small animals!
(The dots and the exclamation mark are my emphasis.) I blinked and rubbed my eyes like a cartoon but the book was still there. If I had been a tramp in a 1980’s film I would have looked with disbelief at what I was drinking and thrown it away. It’s definitely real,

You can buy it on Amazon if you’ve run out of ways of wasting your money. If this really is the case perhaps you would like to invest in my latest invention. Powdered water for desert travel. Light to carry, just add water to activate. Genius or what? What?

This is may be of relevance in New Zealand as anecdotally I have heard that the New Zealand population are comparatively more likely to use alternative medicines such as homeopathy. I’m not sure about this however as I can’t find any evidence to support this online and in my experience it doesn’t appear to be the case. I haven’t asked any pets.
I didn’t read all of this book for same reason I don’t periodically open my own skull and pour a potent mixture of acid and Wiltshire cheddar onto my brain, but I thought a few quotes would at least have entertainment value.

(Incidentally I am aware of how a few quotes from a book can easily misrepresent the entire book, I promise that the quotes I have chosen do not do this and are fairly representative of the rest of its content. The content that I read anyway)

1. We choose medicines based on the law of similar – the medicine that can create a transient set of symptoms that closely matches the symptoms of illness is the one that stimulates a cure.

The “we” in this picture refers to those practicing homeopathy on cats and dogs. No I don’t know why just cats and dogs and not other pets. Perhaps hamsters are too sceptical. I also have to say that an investigation of homeopathy in animals may be genuinely interesting. Presumably the only reason that homeopathy in humans can be said to have any effect is that it is nice to be able to explain your problems to someone who is listening and the placebo effect. Is there a version of the placebo effect in cats and dogs? Probably not, without the cultural awareness of medicine, attempts to cure or help them. So if anything homeopathy should have even less of an effect on animals making this book even more ridiculous. Someone should check.

Anyway the quote is setting out one of the homeopathic principles in that if you want to cure something you have to use something that induces the same symptoms as that disease. i.e. if you want to cure a cat’s kidney failure you have to give it something that causes the same symptoms as kidney failure. The cat’s body then goes “Oh right, THOSE symptoms. I was ignoring them when my kidneys were failing. Now you’ve given me a double dose of them I had best get on and cure the kidney failure. Naughty kidney failure. What do you mean there’s nothing actually in the formula you’ve given me? Oh, you’re going to deal with that with the next quote. Well in any case, it’s a good job there’s nothing in this stuff you’ve given me as my failing kidneys probably couldn’t filter it out and it would be toxic.”

N.B The book does advise a homeopathic remedy for acute and chronic renal failure.

2. Homeopathic medicines are prepared through potentization – dilution and succession. The more dilute the potencies, the stronger the medicine becomes, this is due to succusion – vigorous shaking after each dilution.

You make homeopathic remedies by adding the substance that causes the same symptoms as the disease you are trying to cure and then dilute it out of the water until there’s none left it in. The water then “remembers” the substance and the symptoms it causes and when taken acts as a cure in the manner described above. It may then stand to reason that there can be no homeopathic cure for amnesia! So the more dilute something is, the stronger it becomes. That explains why on homeopathic remedies for headaches it says for mild pain, one drop, for severe pain two drops then! If this were true then it would be amazing news for physics. The fact that you can do it my shaking your mixture is even better. Remember that next time you have a vodka and orange. The smallest drop of vodka you can find, but shake the orange juice when you added. It’ll be drunk city, population you in no time. Explains James Bond’s choice of drink anyway.

3. Natrum Muriaticum- this remedy made from table salt is another good remedy for animals with kidney failure. Eating salt makes one very thirsty, so by the “likes-cures-like” principle, natrum mur is very useful for thirsty animals such as those with kidney failure.

Told you. “Hang on; it’s me, the cat’s body again. The last thing I want is salt! I’ve got kidney failure. Oh no hang on, you’re not actually giving me salt. You’re giving me water. Shaken water. I don’t suppose it’s possible for me to see an actual vet is it?”

4. Although liver problems should be treated by a veterinarian, I will give a few suggestions as to supplements and possible helpful remedies.

Yes cat’s body, you can see a vet, because all through the book the author states that for all an animal’s medical problems you should seek treatment for a conventional vet. This is sensible advice. It’s also interesting that there isn’t enough faith in the homeopathy for it to be more than an additional application to the authentic treatment. This is probably a good thing.

5. Silver nitrate – this is the same chemical that has historically been placed into the eyes of newborn children to prevent eye infections, especially those due to syphilis. This homeopathic remedy also has great affinity for the eyes. Many of the other symptoms of this remedy are similar to syphilis as well: there may be erosions or ulcers on the genitalia, ulcers and inflammation in the mouth and throat and severe nervous system impairment similar to that seen in chronic syphilis.

Burn your pet’s eyes. BURN THEM! Actually this is slightly more complicated as silver nitrate can be used to burn off warts and stuff. But you’re still burning it off and you’re not meant to get it on unaffected skin. IT BURNS! Also they did used to use it to prevent syphilis in children’s eyes and it was in a diluted dose. But this was to make it less powerful (obviously no shaking) The incorrect does and you would irreversibly damage your child’s eyes and cause blindness. Antibiotics seem like a good idea. Also I guess there isn’t any actual silver nitrate in whatever they are advising you put in your pet’s eyes.

So there you have it. Small doses of sense, for small animals.


  1. I've heard that there are several alternative 'medicine' groups and organisations that seem to congregate in New Zealand, and they have many conventions and such like there. This obviously doesn't mean the general populace is more believing of such things, it might just be that it's far enough away from all the other proper scientific bodies who ask for all that annoying evidence stuff.

  2. The principle doesn't work with Tesco's own brand strawberry cordial. It certainly mustn't work with Robinson's otherwise it would come in much smaller bottles that I don't break my back carrying around the supermarket. Saying that, maybe homeopathic juice is a niche in the market...