The British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons, BAHVS, 2019 Annual Conference was an inspiring conference held in the stimulating setting of Stirling University and huge thanks must go to vet Dr Wendy McGrandles for organising and chairing it. It was appropriately titled Alive and Kicking as everyone’s enthusiasm for homeopathy is clearly undiminished and vets are reporting an upsurge in enquiries from owners keen to access holistic veterinary care for their animals. As ever, the conference was multinational with attendees from Japan, USA, Germany, France and The Netherlands as well as the UK. It was a great opportunity to take stock, discuss the latest techniques and principles, and strengthen our resolve to remain at the cutting edge of veterinary medicine. Homeopathic vets are, indeed, alive and kicking and will continue to contribute to the best in animal care that vets across the country provide.
As with all fields of veterinary science, it’s important to keep up to date with evolving techniques and developments. Delegates enjoyed a diverse programme including new insights in the following areas:
Some of these lectures and discussions will appear in more detail in the CAM4animals blog later in
the year, but here are some of the highlights:
Dr Lise Hansen described one of many successful case studies highlighted over the weekend. This involved a white German Shepherd Dog with such severe skin issues and extensive whole-body hair loss that euthanasia seemed to have been the only reasonable option. However, four weeks after single dose of the appropriate constitutional remedy, which was prescribed according to the dog’s temperament and physical symptoms, she returned to the clinic unrecognisable with a rapidly growing full coat of luxuriant white hair. Homeopathy used like this is so much more than an acute remedy for a particular condition. It should be noted that no external preparations were used in this case study since these are often contraindicated as they can suppress symptoms rather than cure.
Dr Shelley Epstein covered the Vijayaker Principles. These incorporate the understanding of the principles of embryology, genetics and immunology. They consider the role of suppression in illness and how deep this suppression goes within the body. They can also inform the way we approach diagnosis and prescribing in order to enable a cure.
Dr Nick Thompson gave a presentation on food and homeopathy – would Hahnemann (the founder of homeopathy) have supported raw feeding? On balance, Nick concluded that he would.
On a more sombre, but serious note, Dr David Reilly gave a thought-provoking lecture as a reminder that vets have a suicide rate of four times that of the general public and two times that of any other healthcare professional, reflecting the current concern for health and wellbeing within the veterinary sector as a whole. He covered the need to grow through challenge and to find ways of
accessing hope and positive action to stave off the negativity which can lead to depression. These considerations are useful for anyone under stress of course, and it’s important that people are generally nurtured and mutually supported.
A big thanks must also go to our corporate sponsors:
These companies all produce top quality holistic animal care products, and each gave very informative presentations.
Lee Kane, a qualified pharmacist from Freemans Homeopathic Pharmacy, long time sponsors of the BAHVS Conferences, has developed a harmonious relationship with both the Veterinary Medicines
Directorate and the US Food and Drug Administration by approaching them in a spirit of cooperation. I would suggest that he would be an excellent ambassador to give the RCVS a balanced view of homeopathy given that he successfully runs a conventional and homeopathic pharmacy side by side.
Rowan Sanderson from raw food company Bella and Duke, spoke about ‘The Role of Lectins in Leaky Gut’ which left me wondering what on earth is safe to eat! He explained that lectins are sticky plant proteins which herbivores can digest but humans and dogs cannot. Zonulin is the gatekeeper of intestinal permeability and is implicated in coeliac disease and type 1 diabetes. Grains and lectins cause zonulin to be released which interferes with the “tight junctions” between cells that line the intestine and leads to a torrent of gut bacteria coated with lipopolysaccharides entering the bloodstream. The body then floods the bloodstream with cytokines which regulate immunity and inflammation and may eventually lead to auto immune disease if this reaction is continually repeated. Auto immune disease is the result of three key factors - genetic predisposition, intestinal permeability and sufficient stressors including grains and lectin-rich plants. Pea lectin, often found in dog food, for example, can bind to taurine which may be a factor in the development of cardiomyopathy in certain dogs. Bella and Duke is an example of grain free, low lectin food.
On a different note, Dr Ilse Pedlar talked about the recently published Poetry Anthology, Giving Voice. This is a fund-raising collaboration between BAHVS and CAM4animals with contributions from vets, doctors and supporters of complementary medicine. It’s available to buy for £10 from BAHVS and Helios Pharmacy. All profits go to CAM4animals.
Finally, all delegates were delighted that Dr Sue Armstrong is seeing animal patients once again and being part of a strong homeopathic veterinary community treating patients on the ground with a range of modalities and professional expertise at their fingertips. An update from CAM4animals was delivered as only Sue can to a receptive and appreciative audience.
Everyone went away feeling energised and enthusiastic about the future of veterinary homeopathy and CAM in general. Informed choice is crucial in healthcare and there is increasing support from a wide range of animal owners and farmers who would like access to a full range of veterinary healthcare options. CAM vets, like any other specialists, can also play a significant role in the referral sector – providing back up to primary care vets in certain circumstances.
I would love to see another conference where mainstream vets can gain more information and see the potential of CAM that would enable their individual practices to widen the service they can offer clients.
Dogs can go through life coping with underlying physical conditions and many of these go undiscovered for many years. Many of my canine physiotherapy patients originally come for behavioural therapy where we discover the behaviour problems are a result of hidden pain.
In part one we looked at behavioural signs of hidden musculoskeletal problems and how they can be misunderstood. In part two we will be looking at postural signs that can indicate an underlying problem which may be causing your dog difficulty. Most people assume that if their dog can run and jump they do not have any musculoskeletal problems. Surely if they were in pain they wouldnt do that would they?
Well yes, they would, and they do. As we discussed in part one, dogs are amazing creatures with four legs, which means they can shift weight off the bad limb/area and carry on. This is how they manage to go on for many years without anyone realising. They can do this until the other limbs suffer from the extra strain, which is when they become obviously lame. However, there are signs much earlier on, if you know what to look for.
Watch your dog in different situations and notice whether they are pointing one or more feet out to the side or in towards the opposite leg. Are their feet very close together or far apart when they stand still? Do they seem to be leaning to one side slightly and leaning more on one limb at the front or back? Do they keep their hind limbs forward under their body rather than slightly behind them when they stand? Are the nails scuffed or excessively worn or long on any of the toes? Are any of the pads worn to one side? Look at your dogs footprints when they are wet, walking in snow or sand. Are they even?
These things can all indicate under or over-use of a limb and can indicate increased or reduced weight bearing. It can also tell you if they are not picking certain feet up cleanly or if they have altered they way they stand on a particular limb.
Look at them at different times or in different positions as sometimes things are more obvious than others, for example, when they are tired.
Jake before and after a walk
Look closely at your dog from in front, behind and above. Do they have bigger muscles on one side than the other? Use your hands to feel both sides at the same time. Do they feel bigger on one side than the other? Common places to notice this are over the hindquarters and the shoulders.
Again, these observations can tell you that they are using one side more than the other. look for subtle differences to catch the early signs. See if you can feel the bony areas around and between the muscles slightly on one side more than the other.
Muscle wastage on the right limb, which is the side of the weaker hip.
Notice coat changes. These can creep in very gradually or be dramatic changes that come in quite fast. taking regular photographs of your dog can help you see if something is new or not.
Does the coat feels brittle, dry or scurfy in specific areas and different in others? Are there areas of fur that constantly stick up or out? Are there swirls or partings where the hair changes direction or lies flat or raised? Is it harder to run your fingers through the coat in certain places?
These signs can all indicate signs of strain in nearby or underlying soft tissues where circulation may be compromised or there is muscle tension. The patterns may not be where the problem is but they could tell you your dog is using their body in a way that is putting it under strain. Combined with the other observations we are looking at, they can give you extra information and clues.
Note the swirls and partings in the coat along the length of the spine.
Lying and sitting
Does your dog always lie on one side? Do they always sit on one side? Do they always get up using the same leg first? If you are training your dog do they seem ‘stubborn’ or ‘slow’ when you ask them to sit, lie or stand? Do you have difficulty getting a tidy, even sit? Do they take their time getting up or down? Do they fidget?
Maybe they cant use one or more of their limbs properly. Perhaps there is a joint problem preventing them from flexing and extending their limbs to the extent needed to sit or lie correctly or get up efficiently.
Lying with one hind limb positioned to make getting up easier. Just the paw pads are in contact with the floor for easy push off whilst sparing the more worn hip on the right side.
Filming your dog can tell you a lot. If you have a slow motion function on your phone you can use that. If not you can run normal film through one of the many slow motion apps available. Slowing it right down can help you see small signs as your dog moves. It can also be really useful to show your vet to illustrate what you are seeing as these things are rarely picked up in a vet consult room,especially if the signs are subtle.
Can your dog turn both ways easily? You can use widely spaced weave poles to check if your dog can do this. if you do agility does your dog tend to go wide one way on weaves, or both ways? Do they struggle to come round for jumps or obstacles from the right or left? Do they always turn one way during everyday activities? Look closely.
Can your dog get in and out of the car or on and off the sofa easily and cleanly or do they catch their hind limbs or pull up with their front limbs? Can they climb the stairs slowly? Many dogs run up and down to minimise the discomfort and may ‘bunny hop’ through most running and jumping exercises (using both hind limbs together to push off).
Does your dog pull on the lead? This may be because its uncomfortable to load the hindlimbs, causing them to lean forward and be unbalanced
Leaning on the forelimbs causing pulling on the lead.
Does your dog not want to do things they used to? Have they changed their patterns? Maybe they are choosing to lie in unusual places or on unusual surfaces? Do they seem more nervous or afraid than they used to? Have they always been nervous or afraid? Have they stopped interacting with other dogs or have they always been reluctant to do so? Are they growling at the groomer now? Have they always growled at the groomer? Do they seem afraid to go for a walk or stop and refuse to walk part way through? Many so called ‘stubborn’ dogs actually are having problems doing what you want them to do.
As I said at the beginning, dogs can go for many years of their lives with a hidden condition. So if they have always struggled with handling or interactions with others then it is worth getting them checked over thoroughly. Even if they ‘have always been like that’. If there are sudden changes we tend to suspect a problem easier than if the problems have always been there but vary in degrees of severity. Remember dogs can be struggling with these issues from a very young age, even as a very young puppy. As they grow up, people then think its just how they are, as musculoskeletal issues are not considered unless dogs are older. So, its possible that a dogs life and happiness could be completely changed if a condition was discovered at a very young age, the pain was managed and the dog could feel comfortable and capable of everyday activities without painful repercussions.
I hope this gives you some pointers as to signs of hidden problems in your own dogs.
Julie Moss BSc. Hons., AdvCertVPhys, Dip.APhys.
Julie is a canine behaviourist, veterinary physiotherapist and TTouch Practitioner. She started Best Behaviour in 2005, which has since become part of her new venture, Canine Mind and Body Balance. She has a special interest in integrative veterinary care, where CAM therapies play an important role in truly holistic animal care. Her passion is working with older animals to give them back the best quality of life possible and she is committed to education and enabling people to recognise early signs of lameness in our dogs.