Friday, August 13, 2010

Supplements for Reactive Dogs, Part 6: Homeopathic Remedies and Flower Essences

This is part of an ongoing series on supplements recommended on the internet for reactive dogs. I am not a vet, nor have I personally tried most of these supplements with my dog, which means that I cannot tell you if you should or shouldn’t use them with your own. I’m also a lazy researcher, and used Wikipedia for my starting point. Google filled in the rest, and while I think I’m pretty good at separating the good sites from the propaganda, I cannot verify the accuracy of their claims. If you want to use a supplement with your dog, do your own research, and consult with your vet.

In other words: Use this information at your own risk.

Homeopathic Remedies
What is it? How does it work?
Homepathy is based on the “law of similars,” in which a substance that causes the symptoms of the disease being targeted is given; this is said to enhance the body’s ability to heal itself. The remedies involve diluting different plants (such as herbs or flowers) in water or alcohol. The level of dilution is expressed in numbers such as 2X or 1C, with higher numbers indicating a more dilute substance. Homeopathic remedies come either as liquids or small, dissolvable granules.

The specific homeopathic remedies I’ve seen referenced for reactive dogs includes PetCalm, and Newton Homeopathic’s Fear and Nervousness.

What are the risks of using it?
Homeopathic remedies are generally considered safe. Proponents of their use say they are natural, and diluted so that they are not dangerous. Critics claim that since they are nothing more than water and alcohol, they are therefore safe. They do note that the most serious risk of homeopathic remedies is the failure to obtain conventional medical care when warranted.

Availability and dosing considerations.
Homeopathic remedies are widely available on the internet, as well as from holistic vets. The doses should be listed on the bottle’s label.

Are there any scientific studies supporting its use in canines?
This review of research done on homeopathic remedies found that studies which had favorable results tended to be smaller, and of poorer quality. It concluded that there is weak evidence supporting the use of homeopathy, and that improvements were largely due to the placebo effect. Other studies have found that there is a placebo effect in an owner’s interpretation of their pet’s health, and possibly a placebo effect in theanimal itself.

Flower Essences
What is it? How does it work?
Flower essences are similar to homeopathic remedies in that they are diluted in water or alcohol, however, they are not chosen based on the “like cures like” philosophy of homeopathy. The are based on the belief that illness is caused by imbalances in the body, and that the essence of the flower can help the body achieve balance, and thus heal itself.

What are the risks of using it?
Like homeopathy, there are few risks of using flower essences.

Availability and dosing considerations.
Flower essences are widely available on the internet, from holistic vets, and in health food stores. The most common brand name is Bach, although others are available. Dosing instructions are given on the label.

Are there any scientific studies supporting its use in canines?
This literature review suggests that the effectiveness of flower remedies is nothing more than a placebo effect. This study studied the effect of flower essences for anxiety, and concluded the same thing.

On a personal note, I do use Bach’s Rescue Remedy for both myself and Maisy. Although I cannot speak for Maisy, I have found a measurable reduction in ring nerves when I take the Rescue Remedy. It may be a placebo effect, but I don’t care. I feel better, and there’s little risk involved, so I continue using it.

I also use a variety of homeopathic remedies, including flower essences with Maisy. The flower essences are targeted specifically for her reactivity. About six weeks ago, I ran out of her flower essences. I didn't think they made a big difference, so I didn't rush to refill them. However, after about two weeks, she became incredibly jumpy around the house, although I didn't notice much change outside the house. We just started up on them again this week, and she already seems calmer. Placebo effect? I don't know, but I like her behavior (or my perception of her behavior) when she's on them!

Edit February 2015: Why I Chose Medication Instead of Supplements 


Erin said...

I would just like to add in here, that while I do use homeopathy and think that it works, people should not attempt to treat a dis-ease on their own. Work with a legitimate homeopath, one who specializes in dogs if you are needing treatment in your animals. I can recommend a good one if anyone needs a referral, but aggravations to remedies do happen, and if used incorrectly, remedies can cause more harm than good.

Crystal said...

Erin, I totally agree! Maisy takes a wide variety of supplements, but every single one has been discussed and recommended by her vet. When I refilled her flower essences, I did a bit of research beforehand and suggested a couple that looked like that might have potential. The vet said the one made a lot of sense, but said the other two weren't really appropriate for Maisy, which I appreciated. If I tried to do it myself, I would totally get it wrong.

Cinnamon said...

Oh, Crystal, that is encouraging! After one of my friends told me that flower essence is working for her cat, I asked another friend who runs natural cosmetic business what flower essence might be effective on Cinnamon. She recommended de-stress support blend, so I ordered it. I look forward to seeing how it works for us.

Cinnamon's mum

Jules said...

I have not used homeopathy for reactivity, but have used it extensively for health issues with my Schnauzer under the direction of a Certified Veterinary Homeopath (CVH). I have been really pleased - homeopathy was able to do what the conventional vet could not. As Erin mentioned aggravations to remedies can occur and if they do Mint is a good antidote.