Monterey, California Conference Summary by Kathy Edstrom
The Ninth Annual Conference for the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH) took place in Monterey, California, November 2 – 5, 2006. This organization was established for two purposes: To establish standards of practice of veterinary homeopathy and to advance veterinary homeopathy through education and research.
As described by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine2 (NCCAM) the term homeopathy comes from the Greek words homeo, meaning similar, and pathos, meaning suffering or disease. Homeopathy is an alternative medical system. It takes a different approach from conventional medicine in diagnosing, classifying, and treating medical problems.
The key premises of homeopathy, also known as homeopathic medicine according to the NCCAM are as follows:
– Homeopathy seeks to stimulate the body’s defense mechanisms and processes so as to prevent or treat illness.
– Treatment involves giving very small doses of substances called remedies that, according to homeopathy, would produce the same or similar symptoms of illness in healthy people if they were given in larger doses.
– Treatment in homeopathy is individualized (tailored to each person or animal in the case of veterinary homeopathy). Homeopathic practitioners select remedies according to a total picture of the patient, including not only symptoms but lifestyle, emotional and mental states, and other factors.
Homeopathic treatment involves giving extremely small doses of substances that produce characteristic symptoms of illness in healthy people when given in larger doses. This approach is called “like cures like,” and was developed by a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700’s.
It was with great honor that I was asked by the Flower Essence Society to represent their outstanding organization at this conference. I had the opportunity to speak with veterinarians from the United States and Canada on the use of flower essence remedies. It was exciting for me to talk with so many veterinarians that had not been utilizing flower essence therapy in their practices, but were considering incorporating this modality into their health care programs. I also learned a great deal about homeopathic medicine and the in depth knowledge required to practice in this field of veterinary medicine.
The following is a summary of the sessions I attended at the conference. My intention is to provide some insight into the discussions and the importance of each topic presented.
Rubrics of the Mind Relevant for Veterinary Medicine
Marc Baer, DVM from Homeopatte-Homeopathy for Animals, Switzerland spoke on the “Rubrics of the Mind Relevant for Veterinary Medicine” and “Rubrics of the Heart and Circulation”. The term “rubric” was new to me, so I wanted to learn about it and what rubrics meant in homeopathic medicine.
A homeopathic repertory is one of the chief tools of the professional homeopath. It is an exhaustive list of symptoms, each followed by a list of remedies that have either produced the symptom during a proving or cured it clinically. A rubric is a symptom in the repertory. Under this symptom may be listed any number of remedies which have produced and/or cured this symptom.3
According to Dr. Baer, he believes emotions in humans exist in animals. We can indeed observe fear, anger, grief, happiness, etc. The problem he suggests is that we have to translate the words in human terms to animal behavior. He strongly urged to stay away from remedies that haven’t been sufficiently proven.
The “Rubrics of the Heart and Circulation” presentation was given as a means to help veterinarians find remedies for emergencies and to know which ones to use to treat the disease or the symptoms. Being that I am not a veterinarian I am not going to list the remedies that Dr. Baer suggested when he’s dealing with cardiac and shock cases, rather I will note that he uses Kent’s Repertory and material medica. (In homeopathy the material medica refers to the written descriptions of the effects of homeopathic medicines. Literally meaning “medical material”, it comprises thousands of volumes of remedy descriptions to find the remedies that will treat the presenting illness.)4
Going from Good to Great
James E. Guenther, DVM, MBA, MHA, CVPM from Asheville, North Carolina spoke on the subject, “Going from Good to Great in a Homeopathic Veterinary Practice”. He began his presentation by saying that the general public views medicine as traditional Western style of medicine when actually homeopathic is traditional and Western is the alternative. “The use of herbs, leaves, roots and juices alone or in combination have successfully treated many people and animals over the centuries. Even in today societies there are plenty of success stories related to homeopathic medicine alone or in combination with Western medicine.”5
According to Dr. Guenther, he states that pets are living longer. The life span has increased two years over the past decade. He also pointed out that more people are giving human attributes to their pets. Pets are now filling the void at home for those who don’t have children.
The main topic he discussed was the financial area of veterinary practices; what veterinarians should be charging per hour, product sales and dispensing fees. He concluded his talk by saying there is more profit from services than from product sales. Dr. Guenther suggested not relying on products but on services.
I was very much looking forward to Dr. Richard Pitcairn’s presentation on “What Type of Veterinary Repertory Does the Veterinarian Need?” He said, as veterinarians, they have very limited information which is often reduced to common symptoms and pathology, especially if the animal has been ill very long and already had extensive suppressive allopathic treatment…A state such as “anxiety” has so many remedies in the appropriate rubric that it becomes basically useless.6 Dr. Pitcairn went on to say that it is beyond anyone’s means to memorize the extensive amount of data available, so a repertory organizes the information in a way that a symptom can be looked up and below that symptom is a list of remedies known to display that symptom in provings.
Dr. Pitcairn discussed several cases and concluded his presentation by recommending for animal cases, to start with the Boger/Boenninghausen Repertory, at times supplemented by Kent’s Repertory. With usual symptoms, when he wants to search more extensively, he uses the Complete Repertory or Synthesis – or just as often Reference Works for a material medica search.7
Susan Beal, DVM – Big Run Healing Arts in Pennsylvania spoke on selecting rubrics. “A Thousand Shades of Grey: A Closer Examination of Rubrics for the Veterinarian.” I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Beal’s presentation. She said that as a practitioner, there needs to be more care and concern about the outcome of the patient being treated. Be empathetic; don’t be sympathetic because a veterinarian can’t provide efficient care.
Dr. Beal described disease as “dis-ease: a disconnect from the spirit”. One example she provided was a dog being treated for an ear condition. Within 3 days the dog started to limp. The dog was then put on a neutraceutical. The dog stopped limping. She stated that just because the symptom disappeared does not mean it still was not there. The question then was what caused the limping? Was it somehow related to the ear condition? An imbalance in the body?
In order for a veterinarian to completely understand the health of the individual being treated, the practitioner must be fully present and engaged throughout the time spent with the patient. The veterinarian must not be distracted by their noisy minds, by the environment both immediate and afar, by other thoughts and worries, by the last appointment, by the next appointment, by the plans for what’s next with the case at hand…It’s important to work beyond those things, to be in the moment with the patient and to provide the full attention to the moment in the moment.8
In Dr. Beal’s written portion of her presentation she wrote, “We have much to gain through quiet and non-manipulative observation of the patient. Much can be garnered by simply allowing them to spend some time in the space at hand, unencumbered, as much as is possible, by the humans.”9
Some behaviors to observe:
- Does the animal lie down and sleep? Wander? Settle easily? Where? When?
- How far from the client?
- Does the animal demand attention or are they content in their own space?
- What’s the relationship between the client and the animal?
- Is the client continually correcting, cuddling or petting the animal?
- In the case of a dog, is the client making him do obedience moves and exercises in the midst of the office time?
- In the case of a horse, is the owner constantly fiddling with tack and the lay of the mane?
- What is the demeanor of the animal during this period of observation as well as during the physical examination? Are there potential symptoms (and possible rubrics) that might be elicited during these exchanges?
Dr. Beal urged that all of this information is critical in finding the correct remedies for that patient. Don’t ignore such symptoms and continually consider their usefulness in clarifying the case at hand.
I found this session to be highly applicable to my own flower essence practice. So much of what Dr. Beal spoke about were things I already do in my practice, which was a very nice confirmation for the work I do. Even though I am not a veterinarian, it felt like a pat on the back, acknowledging the thoroughness that I strive to achieve in my work.
Dr. Beal had a very well written presentation that was included in the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy proceedings.
“The Rap on the Rep: Improving Case Analysis” presented by Frederik Schroyens, MD (Belgium) was a discussion on animal versus human case analysis. Dr. Schroyens highlighted 5 key points in part one of his session. The first point covered his approach to prescribing a homeopathic remedy.
From silence to words: collect as much information as you can obtain. Allow the owner to speak only; read the silence the non-verbal cues such as the client’s eyes, her breathing, facial expressions, but do not interrupt. Dr. Schroyens recommends some elements to show that you, the practitioner are listening:
- Match the position of the client’s head
- Match the position of the body
- Match the voice
- Match words of the patient
By matching these elements most often will be the best signal to let the client provide that information which is essential. He went on to provide the basic homeopathic consultation and the four steps he takes to ensure a successful session.
- Don’t interrupt the client
- Ask “What else?”
- Ask details of the complaints
- Summarize the complaints
From story to homeopathic story: speak with the owners always asking for more details to get relevant information.
- Look for symptoms
- Be aware that some information may unwillingly be presented as a symptom, yet is not the “true” symptom
- After the core case taking is completed, run through a number of questions investigating location, sensation, modality and concomitants.
According to Dr. Schroyens, after checking the whole story from the above points of view, the practitioner will have obtained the homeopathic story which can then be used as the basis for prescribing a homeopathic remedy.
From homeopathic story to symptoms: As the practitioner, ask for details.
- What is the focus of this information?
- The symptom can be combined with similar symptoms to increase the choices of potential remedies
Repertorization: Don’t repertorize similar symptoms otherwise the same remedies will be promoted too strongly. If the symptom is peculiar, go for the stronger symptom; the symptom that is most observable.
Differentiation of Suggested Remedies: Select the remedy
- Get the story from the client
- Make client aware you are there to listen
By doing this, the practitioner will have gained an understanding of the case as to which are the strong and striking features of the case…If the remedy covers what is strong and striking in the patient, it has more chances to fit the case.10
Part two of Dr. Schroyens presentation was on the “Use (lessness) of Repertories and Repertorizing”. According to Dr. Schroyens, he said that some debate has been held about the usefulness of repertories. So why, then, was a repertory ever created? Dr. Schroyens believes repertories were created to aid our memories. It is an index and in any large amount of information benefits a lot from being indexed.
Dr. Schroyens wrote: “There is still another reason why a (veterinary) repertory should remain a critical part of our profession and that is to exchange information. If you have a nice case, a proving, a new understanding of a remedy with some additional symptoms, you want to exchange that information with your colleagues. You can publish it in a journal, as a booklet, and it will reach some hundreds of colleagues.”11
About repertorization techniques:
- Sum of symptoms – the remedy with the highest sum of symptoms has the highest probability to be the best fitting remedy.
- Elimination method (going back to rubrics) – first the most important rubric was selected, then the second more important rubric was selected and only those remedies are considered that are common between the two rubrics.
- Small remedies – maybe the remedy covering the more peculiar symptoms fits the case best.
The third part of Dr. Schroyens presentation was on “A Veterinary View on Materia Medica and Repertory”. Unfortunately I was not available to attend this session as I was speaking with veterinarians on the use of flower essence remedies in their animal practices.
The final session I attended was Sue Armstrong’s, “Crossing the Ocean”. (Sue Armstrong, MA, VetMB, VetMFHom, MRCVS of Balanced Being in England)
Dr. Armstrong’s presentation was quite interesting as she spoke specifically on the homeopathic remedies that come directly from the sea. As I noted earlier in this article, I am not a veterinarian, so I am not going to detail the specific remedies Dr. Armstrong utilizes for treating animal illnesses. However, a summary of how she selects a remedy is as follows:
- Start with a group in a repertory
- Seek out a proving of the remedy in question (Who’s written about it?)
- Learn from nature; investigate the large variety of remedies from the sea
- Remedy selection: If it’s the right remedy, no matter what the potency, there should be some effect.
In many ways the approach homeopathic veterinarians take when consulting with their clients is very much the way I approach my case taking. The only true way to achieve success in wellness is to get the whole story, as what each of the above mentioned speakers stressed. By getting the entire homeopathic story, that will allow the practitioner to select the most effective remedy/remedies to help facilitate healing in that animal. This holds true for all forms of medicine, whether it is homoepathic or Western medicine, listening and learning with empathy will have far greater impact on the overall health of the animal: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
I personally find repertories extremely helpful in my flower essence practice. The Flower Essence Society’s Flower Essence Repertory12 by Patricia Kaminski and Richard Katz is an excellent resource for narrowing down the possibilities of flower essence remedies for emotional issues. I have to translate the emotional descriptions in the Repertory to the behaviors observable by the animal’s caretaker and by what I glean from the consultation. However, Patricia Kaminski, Co-director of the Flower Essence Society is currently writing a flower essence repertory specifically for animals, Anima Flora. I am anxiously awaiting the published version of this book, as no doubt it will be a staple in my practice and will be getting a lot of use with my client cases.
Hopefully you found the information in this article interesting and perhaps useful if you are a veterinarian or provide other services in the animal health care/behavioral consulting field..
I believe each of us strives to be the best practitioner and/or pet owner we can be. So the next time you work with a client, try some of the recommendations suggested by the speakers at the AVH Conference. You may find that just by listening and being more attentive to your client, the diagnosis and treatment will become clearer, faster.
For we animal caretakers, don’t rely on your animal companion’s practitioner to do all of the work; be thorough when describing your pet’s physical and emotional behaviors. The more information you can provide, the better the chance of the practitioner providing more accurate treatments for your pet to obtain healthful results.
Be happy, be well and listen to the animals. They tell us a lot.
1. Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH) Conference proceedings (2006)
2. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: www.nccam.nih.gov
3. Center for Homeopathy of Southern Vermont: www.centerforhomeopathy.com
4. Center for Homeopathy of Southern Vermont: www.centerforhomeopathy.com
5. AVH Conference proceedings, page 13, paragraph 1
6. AVH Conference proceedings, page 81, second column, paragraph 1
7. AVH Conference proceedings, page 96, first column, paragraph 3
8. AVH Conference proceedings, page 21, paragraph 8
9. AVH Conference proceedings, page 23, paragraph 4
10. AVH Conference proceedings, page 47, step 5, paragraph 2
11. AVH Conference proceedings, page 50, paragraph 4
12. Flower Essence Society: P.O. Box 459, Nevada City, CA 95959 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org