MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, gave a lecture on the subject of veterinary homeopathy in the mid-1810s. Ever since, homeopathy has been used for treating animals. Von Boennighausen, a Dutch lawyer and early convert to homeopathy, was one of the first influential proponents of veterinary homeopathy.

However, veterinary medical schools tended to take a very dim view of homoeopathy, and the number of veterinary homeopaths initially remained small. In the 1920ies, veterinary homoeopathy was revived in Germany. Members of the “Studiengemeinschaft für tierärztliche Homöopathie” (Study Group for Veterinary Homoeopathy), which was founded in 1936 and had Nazi support, started to investigate this approach.

Today, veterinary homeopathy is popular, not least because of the general boom in alternative medicine. Prince Charles has become one of its most prominent advocate. In his book HARMONY, he writes:

“…one of the big arguments used against homeopathy is that it does not really work medically. The criticism is that people simply believe they feel they are going to feel better and so they think they are better. They have responded to the so-called ‘placebo effect’. It is for this reason that critics of homeopathy argue that it is a trick of the mind and its remedies are nothing more than sugar pills. What none of those who take this view ever seem to acknowledge is that these remedies also work on animals, which are surely unlikely to be influenced by the placebo effect. I certainly remember that when I started to introduce homeopathic remedies on the Duchy Home Farm, farm staff who had no view either way reported that the health of an animal that had been treated had improved so I wonder what it is that prevents the medical profession from even considering the evidence that now exists of trials of homeopathic treatments carried out on animals? It is not the quackery they claim it to be. Or if it is, then I have some very clever cows in my shed!”

[I do love this quote; it so very clearly shows the frightfully muddled thinking of this man.]

In many countries, veterinary homeopaths have their own professional organisations. In other countries, however, veterinarians are banned from practicing homeopathy. In the UK, only veterinarians are allowed to use homeopathy on animals, but ironically anyone regardless of background can use it on human patients. In the US, homeopathic vets are organised in the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.

But what do homeopathic vets treat? One website informs us that the conditions frequently treated are: arthritis, lameness, cruciate rupture, chronic diarrhoea, atopy, allergy, autoimmune disorders (auto-immune), periodic ophthalmia (moon blindness, moonblindness, recurrent uveitis, recurrent ophthalmia, ERU), head shaking (headshaking, head-shaking), hip dysplasia, COPD, sweet itch, laminitis, corneal ulcer, elbow dysplasia, RAO, DJD, OCD, bone cysts, pasteurellosis (pasteurella), chlamydia, cryptosporidia, pneumonia, meningitis, mastitis, ringworm, epilepsy, pyoderma, eczema, dermatitis, eosinophilic myositis, eosinophilic granuloma, rodent ulcer, miliary eczema (miliary dermatitis), kidney problems, liver problems (hepatopathy), cystitis.

Now I can almost hear you shout: WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE???

May I refer you to a previous post on the matter?

It discussed a review aimed to assess risk of bias and to quantify the effect size of homeopathic interventions compared with placebo for each eligible peer-reviewed trial. Judgement in 7 assessment domains enabled a trial’s risk of bias to be designated as low, unclear or high. A trial was judged to comprise reliable evidence, if its risk of bias was low or was unclear in specified domains. A trial was considered to be free of vested interest, if it was not funded by a homeopathic pharmacy.

The 18 RCTs found by the researchers were disparate in nature, representing 4 species and 11 different medical conditions. Reliable evidence, free from vested interest, was identified in only two trials:

  1. homeopathic Coli had a prophylactic effect on porcine diarrhoea (odds ratio 3.89, 95 per cent confidence interval [CI], 1.19 to 12.68, P=0.02);
  2. individualised homeopathic treatment did not have a more beneficial effect on bovine mastitis than placebo intervention (standardised mean difference -0.31, 95 per cent CI, -0.97 to 0.34, P=0.35).

The authors conclusions are clear: Mixed findings from the only two placebo-controlled RCTs that had suitably reliable evidence precluded generalisable conclusions about the efficacy of any particular homeopathic medicine or the impact of individualised homeopathic intervention on any given medical condition in animals.

…homeopaths…will try to claim that [the review] was a biased piece of research conducted, most likely, by notorious anti-homeopaths who cannot be trusted. So who are the authors of this new publication?

They are RT Mathie from the British Homeopathic Association and J Clausen from one of Germany’s most pro-homeopathic institution, the ‘Karl und Veronica Carstens-Stiftung’.

At this stage, some of my readers are quite angry, I imagine. They might wonder how to protect defenceless animals from homeopathic quacks. But how?

Simple! Just sign the petition to ban veterinary homeopathy! I mean it – please do!!!

37 Responses to Veterinary homeopathy? No thanks…(sorry Charles)!

  • Since a minor agitation about the fact that our minister of health and president of Medical Association support homeopathy, I found an interview with a veterinarian who was said to be using homeopathy for treatment of septic wounds in horses. And I suppose he cares about horses, but his reasoning was for example homeopathy has been using for hundreds of years longer than antibiotics, therefore homeopathy! Well, judging from the date it is not exactly hundreds, and, although we lack information, it that people have been using topical products with bactericidal properties at least for treatment of people long before homeopathy.
    But horses seem to recover after failed courses of antibiotics. At least, everybody is told so. Although 100% recovery is unbelievable.
    I don’t know about horses, but I had a dog once, who had suffered serious diarrhea as puppy, and did not recover completely, but thanks to a kind of educated guess I chose food for dogs with pancreatic problems. And it was enough to forget about both digestive and skin problems.
    But if I believed in homeopathy and somebody had suggested that try something, I might had explained success by the magic water and not by easy to digest and absorb diet.

    • Ieva Zagante said:

      our minister of health and president of Medical Association support homeopathy.

      Not sure if you’re referring to the UK, Ieva, but Jeremy *unt says he’s recanted his belief in homeopathy. No! Wait! Maybe not. He seems to believe he can get more out of the NHS by reducing its funding and banging it about a lot…

      • I am not referring to UK. Or does UK has supporters of homeopathy among the top the healthcare system?
        Just examples of thinking. I hope that veterinarian uses other things than magic water to treat horses, because the fact that some of them finally recovered is no reason to attribute it to the homeopathy. We don’t know about other changes.

      • Then how does the fellow Hunt explain the patronizing and rather aggressive letter he once wrote to a constituent who complained about the presence of homeopathy in the NHS?

        • This one from Sean Ellis? The NHS Reforms – A Letter to Jeremy Hunt. The reply was from Earl Howe:

          Finally, decisions on the provision and funding of homeopathic treatment will remain the responsibility of the NHS locally. A patient who wants homeopathic treatment on the NHS should speak to his or her GP. If the GP is satisfied this would be the most appropriate and effective treatment then, subject to any local commissioning policies, he or she can refer them to a practitioner or one of the NHS homeopathic hospitals. In deciding whether homeopathy is appropriate for a patient, the treating clinician would be expected to take into account safety, clinical and cost-effectiveness as well as the availability of suitably qualified and regulated practitioners. The Department of Health would not intervene in such decisions.

          The usual Tory response: don’t ask us; we’re not responsible.

          • When one of his constituents questioned the money spent on homeopathy by the NHS, Hunt replied that it’s there ‘because people want it’.
            As others have pointed out, can we therefore expect to see voodoo or witchcraft available?
            I like Marmite, but I still have to pay for it myself.

  • I’ll bet

    Dear Sir Prince,
    I’m prepared to bet a fairly sizeable amount that you do indeed have some very clever cows in your shed.
    Depends who it is you’re comparing them to.

  • In the UK, only veterinarians are allowed to use homeopathy on animals,

    Minor quibble.

    Owners can buy and use remedies themselves.

    That quote from Price Charles is priceless. The scariest thing is that I don’t expect he has any inkling about how fallacious is his thinking. And no one near him dares point it out.

    I was told once by a respected scientist of an incident where he met Prince Charles, who went off on a pro-quackery spiel similar to what you quoted. The scientist was clearly about to take issue with HRH when a lackey smoothly intervened and said that ‘the Prince does not like to be contradicted’

    • Owners usually buy remedies because somebody they respect: a veterinarian, a friend, a TV-guru or Prince Charles has told that homeopathy works, or even that homeopathy is great.

  • Prince Charles apparently talks to plants. They do not talk to him, presumably because he is beneath their intellectual standard.

  • There are so many reasons animals might appear to respond to an ineffective treatment, HRH’s text is disingenuous and simply untrue, as anyone who has treated animals will recognise. I wrote an article some years ago on the subject (http://aillas.blogspot.co.uk/2008/08/does-apparent-effectiveness-of.html). Many of the explanations are straightforward and shouldn’t be a great surprise, but some prefer to ignore them and instead believe that homeopathy, no matter how impossibly implausible is what makes the difference – it isn’t, there is no need to invoke homeopathy or anything else in many cases where animals get better contrary to expectations.

    Conzemius and Evans even managed to describe a placebo effect of sorts in animals in 2012 (http://www.rationalvetmed.org/papers_c.html#Conzemius2012) whereby owners and other caregivers can convince themselves a condition has improved in an animal they are treating when in actual fact the condition, when analysed objectively, has stayed the same or even got worse.

  • Of course homeopathy ‘works’ on animals.
    But not because the HP (homeopathically prepared) remedies have any effect on any disease.
    There is no plausible evidence of that.
    Animals get better for the same reasons human animals do: regression, remission etc.
    Plus the effects of caring owners taking care.
    The fact that PC does not understand vicarious placebo effects is of interest, but irrelevant.

    I have never come across a simple controlled trial where a group of ill animals (say, cows with mastitis) was divided in two, half having HPs, the others not. The owner, farmer, prince what have you being blinded as to what each cow received. So too the assessors until the results were in.
    Have such trials been done?

    References given to date are surprisingly negative.
    No surprise there, but HP manufacturers have pills to push.

  • I have signed the petition. Sadly it doesn’t look as though many others have done – fewer than 2,000 so far.

    • I signed and posted on Facebook. To my huge disappointment I attracted only two ‘likes’, neither of whom seems to have signed the petition.

      • Missed it the first time so just signed and shared.
        By the way-on a related manner, I just heard from a friend that his little granddaughter has skin cancer, so I asked the homeopaths I’m arguing with on Quackwatch if they’d supply details of any cure they know. They’re always saying that the evidence is all there if only the rest of us were open-minded enough to see it.
        One of them stormed off in a huff, complaining of being mocked.
        I’ll keep you all posted though.

        • Here’s an example of veterinary homeopaths claiming to do just that – cure cancer:
          http://www.bahvs.com/cured-cancer-case-2/

          Although, following my complaints and a letter in the veterinary press they now mention briefly the dog was given NSAIDs to help with the pain of the tumour they still haven’t explained that this particular patient was treated with NSAIDs throughout the duration of the condition and that NSAIDs are drugs which have powerful anti-neoplastic properties, particularly in cases of squamous cell carcinoma such as Bedford had.

          His so-called cure was entirely conventional and nothing to do with homeopathy yet the British Association of Veterinary Homeopaths are happy to continue to mislead the public in this way. And, of course, the ‘cure’ was nothing of the sort. Poor old Bedford died following siezures, almost certainly brought on by local infiltration through the skull and into the brain.

          I have asked BAHVS several times and they have refused to put a proper explanation on their website. My only consolation is this unfortunate dog at least had the benefit of conventional medicines aswell as homeopathic sugar tablets.

          This case is a distillation for me of the reason I have to keep going after homeopaths and exposing them. It completely blows away any pretence that they are interested in presenting the ‘evidence’ or the ‘truth’ about homeopathy.

          • “Here’s an example of veterinary homeopaths claiming to do just that – cure cancer:”

            Misleading. BAHVS does not claim can cure the “cancer”. The webpage show only some cases, for example the nose. You need perform the reading skils.

            “His so-called cure was entirely conventional and nothing to do with homeopathy yet the British Association of Veterinary Homeopaths are happy to continue to mislead the public in this way.”

            Evidence of the entirely cure made by “conventional” treatment, please, feel to share the cuadruple blind randomized study with super ultra combo high quality and the independent multicenter replications published in Nature or Science only.

            PD. I’d like happy aplying the same tactics used by pseudoskeptiks

      • “only two likes” Ha, ha, ha, the pseudoskeptikal movemt needs more ca$h, media and Randi’s journalist$????

        • Egger said: “Misleading. BAHVS does not claim can cure the “cancer”.”

          The fact the page is entitled “Cured Cancer Case 2” and contains the sentence “Symphytum seemed an obvious choice and was given in the 200C potency three times daily. The effect was dramatic and immediate, with swift resolution of the tumour…” leaves no doubt the intention of BAHVS is to mislead unsuspecting members of the public into thinking homeopathy can “cure” and cause “swift resolution” of cancer.

          Egger said: “Evidence of the entirely cure made by “conventional” treatment, please”

          Bedford was never ‘cured’ of cancer, although conventional treatment greatly improved his quality of life he eventually died of its effects.

          I’ve seen the full clinical history and the dog was on NSAIDs throughout the course of the condition; NSAID’s have well recognised anti-neoplastic properties, homeopathic remedies do not. If the BAHVS are so confident about the cancer-curing properties of homeopathy why not explain in the article about how NSAID’s are commonly used to ameliorate squamous-cell carcinomas in practice and let the public decide for themselves.

          Strangely, after I wrote to BAHVS about the Bedford case they then declined to send me the full histories I had requested for the other “Cured Cancer Cases” they describe.

          This is homeopathic spin, designed to decieve in the most cruel way.

        • What a disturbing fellow you seem, to be sure.
          The way in which you read an article as saying the exact opposite of what is there for all literate, intelligent people to see would appear to explain quite a lot about your aggressive, warped mindset and your attraction to magical belief systems.
          I confess, however, that I find your spelling of ‘quadruple’ rather dainty, and fully intend to employ it myself at such times as the fancy takes me.

  • And by the way-what do dim cynics like Egger think ‘pseudoskeptical’ means? I can see it’s supposed to be a play on ‘pseudoscience’, but the latter actually means something. It refers to a belief that is meant to look ‘sciencey’ but in actuality has no scientific basis. ‘Pseudoskeptics’ aren’t pretending to be sceptics-to use the British spelling. They ARE sceptics. Even a joke is meant to have an internal logic.

  • There was an interesting feature on using homoeopathy on farm animals on a recent Radio 4 Farming Today programme. What came across to me was the fact that these farmers / farm managers cared very much for the welfare of their animals. In each case they described the homoeopathathic treatment as a part of what I would call holistic and very attentive care of the herd and the individual animal. It was simply not possible to separate the treatment from the general animal care.

    • it was a scandalously biased program, in my view.

      • It was hopelessly biased, with nothing in the way of a balancing comment provided. Sadly the article is now on the BBC website for all to see, surrounded by alsorts of promotional spin for homeopathy.

        The truth is, as Norma says, these producers care for their stock and want to do the best for them but instead of being content with reduced stocking levels and improved husbandry they are being told by homeopaths this isn’t enough and they also need to supplement all their hard work with homeopathic water. These farmers are being fooled into believing they can’t manage without homeopathy, whereas homeopathy is just a pointless drain on their limited resources, the only people who benefit are the homeopaths themselves.

    • @Norma
       
      Your comment prompted me to listen to the relevant broadcast. It concerned two organic farmers who claim to use homeopathy to prevent and cure problems with their livestock. It contained quotes like “My own experience is we’ve had great success with it.” without any clear indication what constituted “success”.
       
      The interviewer tried to press on details. “I hear it can be used for mastitis but what about more serious illnesses?” The answer was about a case of a cow with snakebite: “We used homeopathy along with conventional thereapy: it’s not just about using one thing or another.” Then pneumonias were mentioned, but no details given whatsoever.
       
      I agree with you that these people cared a lot for the welfare of their animals: the livestock seemed not to suffer much from any illness at all. That has to be a setting in which homeopathic medicines “work” perfectly. So too would prayer, flicking around “holy water” with an aspergillum, or daily sacrifice of a goat. “How can you ever measure it has worked?” asked one of the farmers, clearly not a deep thinker. “You give them a remedy and you see an improvement,” commented the other. Against their background of fit and healthy livestock, one is left wondering what improvement there is to see other than regression to the mean in trivial conditions.
       
      Sorry, Norma, this was the usual biased, unreasoning claptrap we have come to expect from people who delude themselves about all kinds of improbable things “working”. In the sole instance we were given of something that might be regarded as a real veterinary problem — the snakebite — homeopathy was not given a chance to reveal its wonders: these people may be deluded, but they still seem to know to use proper medicine when the chips are down.

      • Not sure what the “sorry” to me is for? Unless the fact that I recorded that the farmers were attentive to their animals is somehow stretched into an assertion that the homeopathy worked? I hope not because readers of a site like this presumably are quite careful? The point I am clearly failing to make is that the farmers were attentive, exceptionally so in my view, and it was not possible to distinguish between that and any effect of the homeopathy. Ok so you know there won’t be an effect but I think perhaps the point is tolerably clear?

        And fwiw mastitis in cattle can be extremely serious both for the cow and the farmer.

        I didn’t think the programme was biased. It didn’t really challenge them but that is a different issue. It recorded what the farmers said and that is the usual style. The programme slot is tiny and the BBC is notorious for superficial and frustrating efforts to get”balance” that end up saying nothing. I would prefer a slot like that than trying to squeeze a whole debate in.

        • @Norma
           
          Another “sorry” due, for failing to grasp the point you were trying to make. You used the word ‘holistic’, which is usually the mantra for supporters of homeopathy, and gave your comment a feel and purpose it didn’t intend.
           
          I agree with you about mastitis: I was just quoting the interviewer.

        • With respect, I think it’s perfectly possible to distinguish between ‘attentiveness’ and ‘any effect of homeopathy’, since homeopathy has never been shown to have any effect beyond that of placebo. Therefore it would seem that any effect must be down to placebo, attentiveness, or proper medication, or any combination of. But certainly not homeopathy. Even to suggest that homeopathy could have possibly had an effect accords it more respect than it deserves.

          • Huh? Of course it would be possible! Who says otherwise? With *respect* I was pointing out that in the programme those two factors existed and that *in that programme* any effects of homoeopathy could therefore not be assessed. But I’ll leave the last word for you x

  • I once found on Youtube a clip from the ‘Countryfile’ programme in which a naive, golly-gosh presenter allowed an organic farmer to get away with the most incredible tosh, including his claim that he always planted his crops by moonlight, and put into the ground nearby a cow horn filled with homeopathic wingwang.

    • As a general rule it used to be said that for every illness, whatever the treatment or none; 1/3 get worse, 1/3 stay the same and 1/3 get better. Not all organic farmers use homoeopathy and in my view there are compelling reasons to buy organic produce, which for me is a completely separate issue.

  • I complained to the BBC about the Farming Today programme. Here is their reply:

    Thanks for raising your concerns about our item on the use of homeopathy on farms broadcast on Thursday 4 February.

    This item formed part of that week’s theme, which was looking at the treatment of diseases among livestock. Other reports that week included an interview with the Chief Vet, an item on antibiotics as well as how farmers are improving their biosecurity.

    The presenter’s introduction to the piece acknowledged that homeopathic treatments are dismissed by some, while others swear by them. Whilst the use of homeopathy on farms is far from common, it does have a place in Farming Today’s coverage as some farmers, for example the two organic farmers we interviewed, do use it. On the other hand, as was made clear across the week’s coverage, this is not a mainstream approach. In one answer, John Newman of Abbey Home Farm describes treating a snake bite in a cow using both conventional and homeopathic methods, and in one question the reporter refers to homeopathy as “Harry Potter magic”.

    While most Radio 4 listeners will be across the debate on homeopathy, with hindsight, we agree that it would have indeed been better to have made the lack of scientific evidence when it comes to homeopathy clearer. Following the transmission of the item, the team has been reminded about the requirement for fair and accurate reporting in their coverage, especially when it comes to science reporting. They have also been reminded that it should not be assumed the audience is familiar with the details of a specific debate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please answer the following: *

Recent Comments

Note that comments can now be edited for up to five minutes after they are first submitted.


Click here for a comprehensive list of recent comments.

Categories