Thanks to all the recent media coverage about the H1N1 'Swine' flu, everyone is thinking about that insidious influenza bug. Because this is also the time of year for traditional flu/rhino vaccinations for horses, many people are wondering:
- is flu different in horses?
- what aspects are the same as in people?
- how can you treat it if vaccinations fail (which they often do) or if an animal isn't a good candidate for immunizations due to reactions?
While it is beyond the scope of this little article to go through homeopathy's effectiveness in epidemics throughout history, that information is readily available to anyone who is interested in homeopathy's role during times of public disease. During a cholera epidemic of the early 1900s, the allopathic hospitals had a survival rate of 16%, the homeopathic hospitals had 66% of their patients walk out to live another day; in the famous 1918 influenza epidemic, homeopathic hospitals had a 1-2% death rate; conventional, allopathic hospitals had a 30% one.
So, you walk into the barn one day, and you find your horse standing with a yellow runny nose, coughing and, possibly, (if you think to use a thermometer) running a fever. The common treatment response is to prescribe antibiotics ... even with all the talk about not using antibiotics with viral infections. But what are your homeopathic options? (And by the way, remedies that we use for treating the flu in horses are also effective in treating it in people. I had the opportunity to effectively treat a bout with the H1N1 in myself in June ... I was mildly sick for no more than a couple of days). Also please remember, if you aren't sure about your horse's symptoms, contact your routine veterinarian to make sure symptoms aren't a sign of a more serious illness. If you can, consult with a veterinarian who is experienced in homeopathy. You can find one by contacting the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy or the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.
Although I am mostly a classical homeopathy (one remedy, one potency at a time), my favorite remedy, both for myself and for my horses, is actually a 'trade' remedy, Oscillococcinum. Oscillo comes as multiple vials of small sugar globules; I recommend my clients dose healthy, average-sized horses by giving ½ a vial (directly in the lower lip) once an hour for 3 doses. If the horse is improved but not quite fully over it, I will repeat it the next day. Rarely do we have to give a 3rd day of dosing. In horses less than a year of age or in fragile, geriatric horses, I cut the dose down to about 1/3 of a vial, three times over the course of the day. Other clients have reported results with another trade remedy called Gripp-Heel.
POTENCIES and DOSING
I recommend that you get the highest C potency that you can purchase over-the-counter; that means usually you will be using 6C, 12C or 30C. If you are lucky enough to have a store that sells 200C potencies, be cautious using them in older or weaker animals. When in doubt, stick to 12C or 30C potencies. If you are buying OTC, most likely the size of the sugar pellets will be about the size of B-B pellets and an average horse's dose would be 5-8 of those. If you are using poppy-seed-sized pellets, the dose would be approximately 20-25 pellets. The dose of alcohol-based tinctures would be 3-5 cc (1/2 – 1 tsp). The timing of dosing depends on how serious the initial symptoms are. The stronger the symptoms, the more often you give the initial doses of the selected remedy. As symptoms start to improve, you start backing off and give the remedies less often.
For example, if I walk into my barn and find my 23-year-old ex-Excalibur Casino jousting horse not wanting to eat, running a fever of 102F with swollen jaw lymph nodes and a harsh, moist cough, I would probably dose him once an hour for 3-4 doses of my selected 6C remedy then wait and see how he was feeling. If he shows signs of a positive response, such as a decrease in his fever or improvement in his appetite, then I would stick with that remedy over the next day or two (provided his symptoms don't change) but now maybe give him the remedy 3 times a day. If in 5 days all of his symptoms are almost gone except for a residual cough, I would probably dose a few days once a day.
The following are the main remedies that I use for influenza and other viral upper respiratory diseases. Since I am a classically-trained homeopath, I use only a single remedy, single potency at a time, and that is how I train my clients to use homeopathics, too. But, when you are treating classically, be ready to be flexible and change remedies as the patient's symptom picture changes.
ACONITUM: best remedy for early but vague symptoms, especially with a fever.
BELLADONNA: the keynote to Belladonna is sudden and violent onset. A high fever that comes on quickly is a common presentation.
GELSEMIUM: influenza with malaise and fatigue, apathy and dullness, dry cough and thin, burning, watery nasal discharge.