Does Homeopathy Work in Pets (or is it a con)?
Many people in online forums will advise you to give your pet a homeopathic remedy and consult a holistic veterinarian rather than rely on conventional medicine. This raises the key questions what is homeopathy, does homeopathy work in pets and what are the side effects of homeopathy?
Many organisations and countries are starting to strongly advise against the use of homeopathy in humans and animals. In those countries with healthcare systems, many are also starting to stop the funding of homeopathic treatments completely. Why is this? Is this a case of corruption and big pharma beating the small guy or is this a justified evaluation of the scientific evidence available.
What do you think? Does homeopathy work in dogs and cats?
To consider if homeopathy works or not we need to know what homeopathy is. This treatment is around 200 years old and it is based on 2 main principles: like cures like and dilution makes a medication more potent. A substance that is incorporated into a homeopathic remedy is based on either the substance that causes the disease or a substance that causes the same symptoms of the disease being treated.
1 part of this substance is dissolved in 99 parts water, shaken to create a memory in the water molecules, diluted again 1 part to 99 parts water, shaken, diluted + shaken until the required concentration is reached. A standard concentration would be 30C which means the remedy has gone through a series of 30 dilutions. The more dilutions, the more potent the remedy is felt to be. Interestingly, after 13C, that's 13 dilutions, there is statistically no part of the original substance left in the homeopathic remedy.
Regardless of whether this sounds plausible to you, lets now go through some of the statements and positions that various organisations have released starting with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. The RCVS position statement on complementary medicine includes "we expect that treatments offered by veterinary surgeons are underpinned by a recognized evidence base or sound scientific principles. Veterinary surgeons should not make unproven claims about any treatments"
It then goes on to say: "Homeopathy exists without a recognised body of evidence for its use. Furthermore, it is not based on sound scientific principles. In order to protect animal welfare, we regard such treatments as being complementary rather than alternative to treatments for which there is a recognised evidence base or which are based in sound scientific principles."
A survey of UK vets also came out with the results that 83% of veterinary surgeons opposed homeopathy, with 78% of them believing that it should actually not be offered by registered vets. Of course, this survey doesn't prove that homeopathy doesn't works, it simply gives the general feeling of the veterinary profession in the UK.
To counter this, the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons response claims there is quality evidence supporting the efficacy of homeopathy, in direct contradiction to the RCVS's findings as well as many and various bodies and studies that have concluded the reverse. It also makes the usual claims of corruption, exploitation and double standards. If you've not seen it, this is a flag to watch for in my article about how to trust what you read on the internet!
The other big organizations that have looked into homeopathy include:
- The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in 2010 determined that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are "scientifically implausible"
- The National Health Service in the UK has stopped funding all homeopathic treatment
- The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the country’s highest medical research body, conducted an extensive assessment of scientific evidence on the use of homeopathy in 2015 and determined that homeopathy is not an effective treatment for any health condition. It went on to warn that “people who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence.”
- In September this year, 2017, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), an organisation representing the 29 national academies in Europe. issued a statement that: "homeopathy is implausible" elaborating that "there is no rigorous evidence to substantiate the use of homeopathy in veterinary medicine."
So that's all well and good, but a big question to then answer is: are all of these these organisations, vets, doctors and scientists just slaves to the big pharmaceutical companies, are they all either naive or corrupt? Clearly the answer to this is no. If you believe they are, then I imagine no amount of discussion will convince you otherwise.
Of course too, there has been a lot of reaction to these statements among the homeopathic community. Most will simply disagree with the conclusions and state that the evidence actually supports the use of homeopathy as an effective treatment. In other words, yes, homeopathy does work in pets.
As to the plausibility of the treatment the British Homeopathic Association writes: "The aspect of homeopathy that is implausible for many people is that the medicines are often – though by no means always – diluted to the point where there may be no molecules of original substance left. One of the leading current proposals for how such ‘ultramolecular’ dilutions work is that water is capable of storing information relating to substances with which it has previously been in contact."
If your mind is not made up one way or the other, you might then ask what are the side effects of homeopathy in my pet? What harm is there in trying homeopathy in my dog or cat?
Well, in one way there are no side effects as you are effectively giving water or a sugar pill. In another though, homeopathy can be very dangerous. This is because the use of homeopathy can delay the investigation of an illness or delay the starting of a treatment that has either a recognized evidence base or is underpinned with sound scientific principles. In some cases, the delay due to homeopathy can be fatal.
Clearly, I feel that the use of homeopathy should not play a role in the treatment of our pets. I believe that homeopathy doesn't work in dogs and cats and not just that, it can have detrimental consequences. This is quite aside from the fact that there is a cost involved in consulting with a homeopath and buying any remedy prescribed. I believe this money could be used in a much better way.
What are your thoughts on homeopathy in animals? Are vets just slaves to big pharma? I'd love to read your comments below. Remember to sign up to my newsletter for your free weight and diet calculator and to help keep your pet happy and healthy.
Our Pets Health: because they're family.