Homeopathic First Aid Tips for Wildlife
Shirley J. Casey, MBA and Betty Jo Black, DVM
Increasing Interest in Homeopathy for Wildlife
Since the 1990’s, rehabilitators have become increasingly interested in the use of holistic medicines for wildlife, particularly homeopathy. This does not mean that rehabilitators are turning away from conventional medicine, but rather are considering adding complementary methods that might be able to increase their ability to help wild creatures regain their health and accelerate their release – just as they consider advances in diets and cage designs.
There are many reasons for the growing interest in the use of homeopathy for wildlife. Homeopathy has been used effectively and safely for about 200 years with humans and captive animals with both acute and chronic conditions. According to the World Health Organization, homeopathy is the second most commonly used health care modality in the world (botanical medicine is first). Rehabilitators and many others are increasingly concerned about the overuse and potential long-term effects of antibiotics, corticosteriods, and other strong medications, as well as short-term effects such as drug sensitivities, gastrointestinal upset and decreased appetite. The increasing cost of conventional medications and decreasing availability of certain medications are further concerns.
Invasive diagnostics, as well as the frequency and duration of medicating animals can increase stress. There are some conditions that conventional medication is unable to treat in wildlife, such as viral disease and emotional states (such as fear). The rehabilitators have appreciated the homeopathic principle of the minimum dose, since that means less capture, handling, and stress on the animal and rehabilitator. In addition, homeopathic medicines generally cost less than conventional medications.
Rehabilitators are beginning to consult with homeopathic veterinarians on wildlife cases. Some rehabilitators have found homeopathy highly effective with acute wildlife trauma, including conditions such as shock, contusions, concussions, abscesses, infections, and fractures. They have found the healing of some conditions to be accelerated, which is good for the animal that is handled less and possibly released sooner. Accelerated recovery and release back to the wild can reduce the general time, effort and costs associated with rehabilitation (food, caging, cleaning, etc.).
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a system of medicine that is used around the world by thousands of skilled practitioners. Developed in the late 1700’s by Samuel Hahnemann, MD, homeopathy works on the principle of ‘like cures like’. This involves administering a micro-diluted, potentized medicine in order to stimulate the body’s defense system to heal itself. The homeopathic medicine is carefully chosen to match the full range of the patient’s symptoms, including mental, emotional, and physical symptoms, and deals with the symptoms at the underlying energetic level. This is very different from conventional drug treatment that may approach a disease or disorder by overpowering the causative agent (e.g., bacteria, inflammation) to reduce or eliminate the symptoms.
What Can Homeopathy Treat?
Homeopathy has been used to treat physical, emotional and mental states. Millions of people have used homeopathic first aid with themselves or their families to treat acute conditions, such as bruising, insect bites, motion sickness, or food poisoning. More serious acute conditions such as fever, heat stroke, and burns, as well as chronic conditions such as skin disorders, joint pain and headaches are also treated by homeopaths. Homeopathic medicines have been used successfully with some bacterial and viral diseases such as flu, pneumonia, scarlet fever, and cholera, as well as emotional conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Rehabilitators have used homeopathic medicines to treat a wide variety conditions, including shock, severe bruising, fractures, head trauma, aspiration pneumonia, dehydration, wounds, abscesses, diarrhea, and fear. Homeopathic medicines used for first aid may be used concurrently with other standard treatments. For example, a patient in shock would be provided warmth and quiet, and possibly a homeopathic medicine. A dehydrated patient would be given isotonic fluids as well as a homeopathic medicine. A wound would be thoroughly cleaned and a fracture would be stabilized – in addition to providing a homeopathic medicine. However, there are some cases where homeopathic medicine may not be appropriate. For example, homeopathy is not a standard treatment option for parasites.
Rehabilitators must also provide the appropriate diet, use proper feeding methods, keep the animal in appropriate caging, minimize exposure to stressors, and so forth. Close consultation with a veterinarian is necessary for a rehabilitator, whether or not they use homeopathic medicines.
Learning About Homeopathy
Since homeopathic medicines can usually be purchased without a prescription, some people make the improper assumption that it is an informal, casual, or easy to use medical system. Homeopathy is, however, a very powerful, systematic, complex, and complete modality – and not to be taken lightly. While some of the homeopathic medicines can be used with first aid, the prudent user will make sincere effort to learn more about this modality before using it.
The rehabilitator interested in learning about homeopathy would benefit from reading more about the modality (see inset box). While these books listed tend to describe conditions with humans and domestic animals, they provide a foundation of how homeopathy works. Homeopathy study groups provide another opportunity to learn about the modality. While most homeopathy study groups are focused on humans, study materials for wildlife first aid cases are available from the authors. Seminars, published articles, and a book by the authors provide specific information on the use of homeopathy with wildlife.
Homeopathic veterinarians are another valuable resource for wildlife rehabilitators wanting to learn homeopathy. Rehabilitators are encouraged to learn some of the basics of homeopathy so that time with the homeopathic veterinarian can be optimized. Since it is not unusual for homeopathic veterinarians to have limited experience with wildlife or acute traumas, it will be helpful for the rehabilitator to share wildlife information with the veterinarian.
Useful Introductory Publications
Beyond Flat Earth Medicine. Dooley.
The Complete Homeopathy Handbook. Castro.
Homeopathic Medicine: First Aid and Emergency Care. Morgan.
Everybody's Guide to Homeopathy. Cummings and Ullman.
The Science of Homeopathy. Vithoulkas.
Homeopathic Care for Dogs and Cats. Hamilton.
Homeopathy for Wildlife Care. Casey, et al.
Homeopathy articles posted at eWildAgain.org.
There are many excellent books that discuss the scientific basis for homeopathy. The following description is summarized primarily from George Vithoulkas in his work The Science of Homeopathy, with additional information from The Emerging Science of Homeopathy: Complexity, Biodynamics and Nanopharmacology by Paolo Bellavite, M.D., and Andrea Signorini, M.D., and Homoeopathic Science and Modern Medicine by Harris Coulter. Information on recent research can be found in Healing with Homeopathy: the Complete Guide by Wayne Jonas, M.D. and Jennifer Jacobs, M.D. and The Consumer’s Guide to Homeopathy by Dana Ullman.
The primary understanding of how homeopathy works is based on recent work in quantum physics that holds that all matter in the Universe, from a simple atom, to a complex structure such as the human body, has electromagnetic properties. A corollary then is that all matter must possess electromagnetic energy and emit electromagnetic waves. However minute, these waves do have measurable properties of wavelength (or frequency) and amplitude (or force).
The human body possesses its own unique and characteristic energy. That energy changes when it becomes diseased or injured. From the homeopathic perspective, this change in energy in the body is manifested by the presence of observable symptoms (physical, mental, or emotional), such as swelling or inflammation, or grief or sadness, or mental confusion or sudden forgetfulness. As the body undergoes healing, the energy “signature” changes back to that of a healthy state with an absence of symptoms.
Homeopathy is founded on the concept and acceptance of the existence of a naturally occurring life force in all living beings that constantly strives for a state of wellness, or a balance in the state of health and disease. This concept of a “Vital Force” can be traced back to the philosophy of Vitalism. This philosophy holds that the vital force animates the body and possesses the “intelligence” to govern all facets of the body’s existence, the balance of health and disease. Another way to describe this Vital Force or life force is as having “… a dynamic self-regulatory capability which all living creatures are undeniably endowed with in order to give them a better chance of survival” (Bellavite and Signorini).
From a homeopathic perspective, it is the Vital Force that causes the change in the energy state of the body in response to a stimulus or insult, such as an injury or virus. This change in energy prompts symptoms to occur as the way for the body to heal itself. The goal of the homeopath is to assist the Vital Force in the healing process. This is done through knowledge of what constitutes a healthy state in a patient, a careful observation of symptoms in a sick patient, and selection and administration of the homeopathic medicine.
Homeopathic medicines or remedies are developed from a wide variety of substances such as plants, minerals, tissue and toxins. Initially, these substances are placed in a solvent such as water or alcohol. Then they are diluted to extremely small or even ultramolecular microdilutions to reduce the toxicity of the original substance. During the serial dilutions, the remedies are also vigorously shaken, or succussed, a process that has been found to impart higher levels of energy into the resultant solution. This “potentization” (Vithoulkas) or “dynamization” (Bellavite and Signorini) is what gives the remedies of higher dilution (and lower chemical concentration) their higher levels of energy, or potency.
These homeopathic remedies, once made, are then studied on healthy people. Under controlled medical study conditions, healthy people are given a single remedy and asked to record any physical, mental or emotional symptoms that may result. Those symptoms that occur in the majority of these people then form the “picture” of that remedy. This “remedy picture” represents the collection of symptoms and signs that may then be successfully treated by the remedy. This process is called a “proving”, taken from the German word, Pruefuhg, meaning “test”. In other cases, information on the remedy picture is developed based on clinical experience or toxicology.
Finally, it is through the physical property of wave mechanics known as resonance that the homeopath is able to assist the body’s Vital Force in healing itself. Resonance is the property of waves that explains why two identically pitched tuning forks in close proximity will vibrate at the same force when one fork is struck and begins vibrating. It also explains why they will both vibrate at a higher force when one is struck even harder. A homeopath will draw upon this property of resonance by choosing a remedy that has the same symptom “picture”, or energy, as is being observed from the patient’s set of symptoms. And, the homeopath will choose a potency (or energy force) of the remedy that matches the energy of the illness or condition and the vital force of the patient. The additional energy provided by this remedy (through resonance) may actually amplify or temporarily aggravate the symptoms, as the body responds in its own natural healing process. This aggravation may well be a confirmatory sign that the remedy and potency have been correctly selected.
This very precise homeopathic approach described by Hahnemann involving the Law of Similars, the detailed case-taking, the single medicine, and minimum dose has not changed in almost 200 years. In fact, early homeopathic researchers are credited with developing the scientific method used today. Several of the homeopathic medicines that were originally proven in the early 1800’s, have been reproven recently in double blind controlled conditions with identical results (Coulter, Jonas, Gray).
Some people, however, still question how homeopathy works and criticize the concepts of Vital Force, potentization, and ultramolecular dilutions. Many of these same people, however, accept certain “givens” in physics, such as inertia, gravity, and magnetism. All of these physical “Laws” are accepted because they are repeatable, observable phenomena, and not because of their scientific explanation, since none exists.
Many homeopaths consider certain aspects of homeopathy to be “givens” because they have been observed to work successfully and repeatably. Most homeopaths seem to embrace homeopathy for what it can do, and do not seem to be too concerned about the scientific nuances of its workings. As advances continue in the science of quantum physics, conventional scientific understanding and more widespread acceptance may grow. In the interim, the books listed above are excellent sources discussing the current understanding of the science behind homeopathy.
As mentioned above, homeopathic medicines are made from a wide variety of substances, diluted and then succussed, resulting in potentized micro-doses.
Homeopathic medicines are not the same as herbal medicine. In some cases, homeopathic medicines may be made from plant, but the dilution and succussion process results in a different product that may treat different conditions. For example, the herbal preparation made from the plant Saint John’s Wort has been used for depression, whereas the homeopathic medicine Hypericum, made from the same plant is used for additional conditions, including crushing injuries, lacerations, and spinal trauma. While herbal medicine relies on the chemicals in the substance, homeopathy works from the energetic message. The modalities are very different.
Like Cures Like
Homeopathic principles provide the foundation for making decisions about its use. As mentioned earlier, homeopathy is based on the principle of ‘like cures like.’ Administering micro doses of the potentized substance that matches the patient’s symptoms can stimulate his defense system, sometimes described as a type of ‘jump start’. Conventional medicine has applied this principle in the use of allergy treatments or immunizations, although those medicines are used differently. The goal of selecting the homeopathic medicine that matches the case is to help the body heal itself and achieve a complete cure. If the homeopathic medicine given to a patient is not a match, it is unlikely to have any result. If it is given multiple times to a patient who does not need it, it is possible to cause a proving.
Considering the Whole Being
Another key homeopathic concept is that of treating the whole patient, thus considering the full suite of physical, emotional and mental symptoms. Homeopaths do not describe the patient as a single problem or disease. Rather they consider symptoms to be integrated and connected. Consider the analogy of a jigsaw puzzle. If one only has one piece of the puzzle, it is difficult to guess what the picture is. When more pieces of the puzzle fit together, it is much easier to see the picture. By identifying as many of the major symptoms as possible, it is easier to find the homeopathic medicine that is the closest match. That may be a challenge with humans or familiar domestic animals, but can be more difficult with wildlife.
The Role of Symptoms
Homeopaths believe the body is constantly striving to achieve health, and view symptoms as the body’s attempts to regain balance and health. Take the example of a small sliver in a finger. The body develops a small pocket of infection around it, which, untreated, drains and expels the sliver. Vomiting or diarrhea after food poisoning is another example of the body trying to heal itself by eliminating the problem. Symptoms are critical to understanding the ‘picture’ of the patient and thus identifying the homeopathic medicine that most closely matches the case. This is different from conventional western medicine which may attempt to give temporary relief by palliating or suppressing symptoms, with such medications as anti-inflammatories.
The Minimum Dose
Another key principle of homeopathy is that of the minimum dose. This refers to using a small dose of a homeopathic medicine in order to help stimulate the body to heal itself. This minimum dose refers to the miniscule amount of the substance in a homeopathic medicine and also the number of doses needed. Consider the analogy of a car. The driver turns the key in the ignition to start the car. As long as the car is running, the driver does not keep turning the key in the ignition. The homeopathic medicine is given when the symptoms show the need. In the car analogy, this would be turning the key in the ignition if the car stalls. This is very different from conventional western medicine that prescribes medication on a set schedule for a specific duration.
The Single Medicine
Classical homeopathy considers the selection and use of a single homeopathic medicine that is carefully selected to match the patient’s symptoms. One of the reasons for this is that the homeopathic medicines were proven separately. The use of the single medicine is consistent with the principle of the minimum dose, that is, not giving any more medicine to a patient than is needed to stimulate the body’s healing. Finding a single homeopathic medicine to match the symptoms can be a major challenge, although it is often easier with first aid than with more complex cases. While there are commercial products available that combine low doses of several homeopathic medicines, these products hope that one of the medicines will give temporary relief to the symptoms. These combination homeopathic medicines often have to be repeated regularly to give temporary relief, instead of stimulating the body to achieve complete and lasting health. The use of combination homeopathic medicines is different from classic homeopathy as described here.
First Aid, Not Chronic Cases
As mentioned earlier, homeopathic medicines are used to treat a wide variety of acute and chronic conditions. This article, however, is only offering information on some initial first aid situations for self-limiting conditions that come on quickly, and are often resolved quickly. The rehabilitator considering these first aid tips is expected to work closely with a veterinarian. Some rehabilitators will administer a homeopathic medicine while on the way to the veterinarian, or while waiting for the appointment.
These quick first aid tips are NOT meant to substitute for veterinary care or to treat chronic cases. While homeopaths often treat serious cases, they have far more training, resources, and experience than this short article provides.
The Homeopathic Process
Homeopathic case-taking is rather different from most conventional western case-taking. Taking a case homeopathically means considering the physical conditions, the cause or etiology (if known), as well as what can be determined of the animal’s mental and emotional state. In order to effectively describe a wildlife case, it is necessary to know what is normal for the species. For example, it helps to know the approximate time it takes for a nestling sparrow’s crop to empty, the amount of vocalizing normal for a crow, and the firmness of the fecal pellets of a cottontail rabbit – in order to recognize what is unusual.
It is also important to document the details of the case, such as the color, shape, and smell of the stool/droppings, whether the breathing is fast, slow, irregular, or audible, and the color, texture, and smell of discharges. Rehabilitators need to give significantly more attention to case-taking and documentation when working with more complex homeopathy cases.
Finding the Matching Remedy: Using the Repertory and Materia Medica
When learning that there are thousands of potential homeopathic medicines to consider, it may seem overwhelming to find a close match. In the early days of homeopathy, it was necessary to study the remedies individually and remember which remedy was for which condition. This task has been streamlined with the development of homeopathic repertories.
A repertory is a book of symptoms, generally organized by major body function or part. While there are some condensed repertories, it is much more effective to use a complete repertory. Kent’s Homeopathic Repertory of the Materia Medica is considered a classic complete repertory and has been used with many wildlife cases. Murphy’s Homeopathic Medical Repertory, Schroyens’ Synthesis, and Van Zandvoort’s Complete Repertory are other complete repertories, although more expensive. After becoming adept using the repertories in book form, some rehabilitators have advanced to using the software versions, such as MacRepertory and RADAR. While repertory software can speed up repertorizing for the skilled homeopath, it requires a computer with significant memory and software.
After documenting the symptoms, etiology, and so forth during the case-taking, one selects the most critical symptoms and establishes priorities. The next step is to translate the symptoms into a form that can be found in the repertory. For example, bruising is not listed as such, but found in the chapter: GENERALITIES, and the rubrics (symptoms in repertory language) of ‘injuries after’. When an animal appears off balance or dizzy, those symptoms are found in the Vertigo chapter. Translating symptoms to rubrics can be rather challenging and benefits from careful study, as well as effective communication with an accomplished homeopathic veterinarian. Other rehabilitators familiar with the species and repertory may also be very helpful.
The homeopathic medicines listed in the rubric identify which homeopathic medicines have been effective with such conditions. The rating of the remedy (bold, italic, or plain type) indicates how often the symptom appeared in provings and clinical use. Some of the remedies in the rubric: HEAD; injuries include homeopathic medicines such as Arnica, Natrum sulphuricum, Hypericum, and Cicuta virosa. The medicines listed and the associated ratings are placed on a worksheet. After looking up and documenting the full suite of symptoms, the ratings are totaled (bold type gets a 3, italic a 2, and plain a 1). This type of calculation, example below, gives some direction about which homeopathic medicines to review in the materia medica.
A materia medica is a description of the homeopathic medicines, somewhat like an encyclopedia. The descriptions are of symptoms that showed up during the proving or clinical experience, identification of the substance from which the medicine is made, and other information. These descriptions may be extensive and can be somewhat confusing at first. While the description should be as complete a match as possible, the description may have many more symptoms than are known about or relevant to the wildlife first aid case. A case will not have every symptom listed in the description of the homeopathic medicine.
It is most helpful to use a complete materia medica so as to have a fuller picture of the homeopathic medicine, and thus improve one’s chances of finding the closest match to the patient’s symptoms. Materia medicas that are organized by sections that match the repertory tend to be easier to use. Rehabilitators have found several to be especially useful, including Boericke’s Materia Medica with Repertory, Phatak’s Materia Medica of Homoeopathic Medicine, Murphy’s Lotus Materia Medica, and Vermeulen’s Concordant Materia Medica. Both Boericke’s Materia Medica with Repertory and Phatak’s Materia Medica of Homoeopathic are rather inexpensive and easily available by mail by homeopathic book distributors (see sources at end of chapter).
After reading the full description of the homeopathic medicines, the prescriber chooses a homeopathic medicine that clearly matches the case – and selects it. Sometimes the choice is less clear. In such situations, it is important to focus on the key symptoms of the case and select the closest match. Since there are a few homeopathic medicines that should not be used adjacent to each other, it is useful to check the materia medica that there are no restrictions on the sequence of use.
Selecting a Potency
Homeopathic theory emphasizes that the selection of the homeopathic medicine which most closely matches the case is more critical than the potency of the medicine. Classical homeopathy often bases the selection of the potency on the patient’s vital force, the intensity of the insult (e.g., trauma) or condition, and the speed of onset (e.g., quick with trauma). The potency is not selected based on the animal’s weight, size, or age.
Since wildlife trauma tends to be acute and involves an animal with a high vital force, classical homeopathic principles suggest using the minimum dose of a higher potency. In chronic cases, even acute flare-ups of chronic cases, lower potencies are often used and may be repeated more often. Chronic or serious cases are much more complex than first aid and should be treated by a qualified veterinarian.
A 30c potency is considered on the low range of high potencies and generally considered safe with wildlife. When used with wildlife, a 30c potency may have to be repeated several times. If the condition is severe, the vital force is high, and the practitioner believes the remedy is a close match, a 200c potency may be used. In some severe cases and with support by a homeopathic veterinarian, a 1m potency may be administered to the animal, but it would rarely be given more than one or two times. In North America, pharmacies or natural food stores sell a variety of commonly used homeopathic medicines in 30c potencies; others can be ordered from homeopathic distributors (see list after References).
Repeating or Changing a Homeopathic Medicine
Remember the analogy with the key in the car ignition? The same analogy can be continued here. The driver turns the key to start the car engine. In some cases – like a low battery, the driver must turn the key a couple of times to start the car. If it doesn’t start then, another approach is needed – which could be another medical treatment or another homeopathic medicine (which may require more case-taking, repertorizing, materia medica review, etc.). In the case of homeopathy, if results are not seen in an appropriate time (rapid response for some conditions like bleeding or respiratory conditions, a little longer for recent head trauma, somewhat longer still for tendon injuries, etc.) other actions may be needed.
After the key starts the car, the driver only turns the key again if the car stalls or turns off. So if the condition demonstrates a marked improvement, whether in one to three doses of 30c or one dose of a 200c or 1m, another dose is not needed. If case stops improving – the car stalls - another dose may be given as long as the symptoms demonstrate the need.
However, if instead of the car’s engine stalling, it develops a flat tire, that is a change and must be handled differently. Thus, if the symptoms change significantly, it is necessary to take the case again, adjust the repertorizing to reflect the changed symptoms, and read the remedies again in the materia medica. The remedy might be repeated at a higher potency or changed. If the symptoms change again, it may be necessary to repeat the process… just like if the car then ran out of gas.
Knowing when to repeat or change a homeopathic medicine offers some challenge. It is critical to closely monitor the case in order to identify changes in the condition, whether positive or negative. Staying in close contact with veterinary support is also vital.
Administering Homeopathic Medicines
While many of the homeopathic medicines are sold in small pellets, ranging from the 1/8” (.5cm) pellets to some the size of poppy seeds; some manufacturers market the homeopathic medicines as liquids. Unlike conventional medicines that work on a chemical action, the size or number of the pellets is not as important selecting the homeopathic medicine.
In many cases, it could be difficult to administer these pellets directly to conscious wildlife. Many rehabilitators have found it convenient to dissolve the pellets in a few drops of water (preferably spring or distilled water, although tap water is usually acceptable), draw it into a small syringe and administer a drop to the animal’s mouth. The drop of homeopathic medicine is placed on the animal’s mucous membranes (e.g., mouth), but it is not necessary for the animal to swallow it. If one has the larger pellets and wants to use them dry, the pellets can be placed in a small piece of folded paper and crushed, and then administered.
Homeopathic medicine should not come in contact with the person administering it. Avoid touching homeopathic medicines with fingers to avoid contamination. Instead, tip the bottle and gently tap a few pellets into the lid and then put into another small container (spoon, plastic cap, etc.), close the bottle, and add water to the small container (spoon, cap) with pellets. Any pellets that spill out should be discarded and not returned to the bottle to avoid contamination. Multiple bottles of homeopathic medicines should not be open at the same time.
A single administration is a single dose, whether one drop, ten drops or one cup. After time has passed, even a few minutes, it would be considered another dose. As mentioned earlier, the number of pellets or the amount of liquid administered is not as important as getting the homeopathic medicine that is the closest match to the patient’s case since it works on an energetic, not chemical, basis.
Homeopaths prefer for the medicine to be administered to a clean mouth. While it is preferable to not administer the medicine with food, it is acceptable if other options are not viable. If the animal can not be handled, some rehabilitators have placed the remedy in the animal’s mouth via a pole syringe or by placing the medicine in a water bowl and watching to ensure that the animal only takes one drink (multiple drinks would be considered multiple doses). Homeopathic veterinarians recommend that the implement used to administer the homeopathic medicine either be discarded or washed thoroughly according to sanitation protocols, placed in hot water, allowed to cool to room temperature, and rinsed again before reusing.
Homeopathy medicines or their action on a patient can be cancelled or interfered with by things such as strong scents (e.g., cleaning agents, eucalyptus, camphor), electromagnetic waves (e.g., computers, microwaves, and televisions), and coffee (which should not be given to wildlife anyhow). Homeopathic medicines should not be stored in sunlight.
Using Homeopathics Concurrently with Other Medical Treatments
Homeopathy can be used concurrently with other treatments, such as heat, fluids, cleaning wounds, or stabilization of fractures. There are situations when western medications or botanical medicines (herbs) that work in a different manner are used at the same time. For example, a wild animal with severe diarrhea may be found to have a very high load of parasites. The animal may be given a homeopathic medicine, Lactated ringer solution to rehydrate, and an anti-parasite treatment to eliminate the parasites. If the animal is in a weakened state and fighting off a life-threatening infection, the veterinarian might prescribe an antibiotic as well as a homeopathic medicine. However, homeopaths prefer to avoid the use of corticosteriods and other drugs that suppress the symptoms and work against basic homeopathic principles.
Flower essences, such as Rescue Remedy™ or Nature’s Rescue™, are generally considered compatible with homeopathic medicines. Chiropractic medicine, massage, and Reiki also have been used concurrently. Since many homeopaths recommend not using acupuncture concurrently with homeopathy, the homeopathic veterinarian should be consulted before ‘mixing’ homeopathy and acupuncture. While some essential oils are compatible with homeopathy, some are not. Again, one should check with the homeopathic practitioners before using essential oils at the same time as homeopathic medicines. Since tea tree oil has an extremely strong scent and believed by some to cancel homeopathic medicines, homeopathic veterinarians may discourage its use at the same time as homeopathic treatment.
Homeopathic Medicines Used with First Aid
While it might initially seem easy to use tiny homeopathic pellets to treat what someone considers a straightforward health condition, the use of the homeopathic medicine requires considerable knowledge. It is critical to follow basic homeopathic principles and concepts for it to be most effective, such as the condensed version above.
These homeopathic medicines are used for far more conditions than the brief descriptions indicated below. In first aid, a remedy may be selected based on a few primary symptoms. The entire description of a remedy may not match the case, but the closer the match, the more likely it is to help. In order to become more familiar with the homeopathic medicines, rehabilitators are encouraged to study these and other commonly used first aid medicines in a homeopathic materia medica, such as those listed earlier. If a book copy is not convenient, Boericke’s Materia Medica is available online at .
Brief Descriptions of Some Homeopathic Medicines Commonly Used with Wildlife First Aid
It is critical to follow standard rehabilitation practices such as supplemental heat, good diets, appropriate caging, and, of course, veterinary consultation.
1. Aconitum napellus (Acon) – Extremely useful for INTENSE FEAR. Severe shock, especially shock from fright or accident. Symptoms are intense, painful, and acute (occur quickly). Hemorrhages are bright red. May be very restless or timid. Senses are acute. Remote affects of fright or terror. Acute inflammation and infection. Acon is often the first remedy given to an adult or older juvenile wild animal brought into rehabilitation since they are in shock and terrified from being captured and handled by a predator (human). In cases where fear is a primary reason for selecting Acon, it is often only given one time at a 30c, 200c or 1m potency. If initially selected due to animal’s severe fear, it may be followed a short time later (15 to 30 minutes) by another remedy for another condition, such as Arn.
2. Arnica montana (Arn) – Often selected as the first remedy for TRAUMATIC INJURY, such as bruises, head trauma, sprains, fractures. Extremely useful in treating injuries, falls, blows, contusions and shock from injury. Patient does not want to be touched. Cannot get comfortable. Sore, lame, bruised feeling with tendency for bruises to hemorrhage. Some vertigo (dizziness) after head trauma. Overuse of muscles. Tends to be cool. A very common homeopathic medicine used with wildlife since so many wild animals arrive in rehabilitation as a result of trauma (falls, accidents). Considered when a trauma, however remote, may have caused the problem.
3. Arsenicum album (Ars) – Useful for sudden weakness, restlessness and anxiety. Prostration seems out of proportion from the illness. CADAVEROUS ODORS, such as from diarrhea. Intense thirst; drinks little and often, which distresses the stomach and may be vomited immediately. Loss of appetite, with thirst. Twitching, trembling extremities. A wide variety of conditions can result in these symptoms, including exposure to some toxins and viruses; infections; eating rotten food, especially fruit or meat; or emotions.
4. Calendula (Cal) – Supports healing of open, torn, cut, lacerated, ragged or suppurating wounds. NOT USED WITH DEEP PUNCTURES. Hemorrhage after lacerations or scalp wounds. Promotes healthy granulations. Can be used topically (dissolved in water) or orally. Continue to follow standard wound management protocols.
5. Carbo vegetabilis (Carb-v) - General WEAKNESS, easily tired. EXHAUSTING DISEASE (e.g., respiratory distress, diarrhea, dehydration). ICY COLD and does not want heat. Some digestive problems.
6. Cinchona officialis (China) – Used to treat debility from FLUID LOSS; PROFUSE, EXHAUSTING DISCHARGES, including diarrhea, hemorrhage, loss of vital fluids. Variety of gastro-intenstinal and stool problems. Oversensitive to noise. Used conjunction with the administration of isotonic fluids.
7. Gunpowder (Gunp) - Blood poisoning or septic suppurations after wounds. Wounds that are expected to become infected or septic (sometimes used prophylatically). Continue to follow standard wound management protocols. External use of Calendula may be complementary in some cases.
8. Hepar sulphuris (Hep) – Small wounds fester and become infected. OVERSENSITIVE to all impressions, cold, pain, noise, odors. Easily irritated. Chilly. The higher potencies may abort suppuration (30c), the lower may promote it (less than 30c). There are other homeopathic medicines used for different types of infections.
9. Hypericum (Hyper) – The great remedy for INJURIES TO THE NERVES, especially fingers, toes, nails, tail, coccyx. Punctured or lacerated wounds. Useful for excessive painfulness or crushing wounds. Concussions to the spine or brain. Spasms after injury. Effects of shock.
10. Ignatia (Ign) – Conditions arriving from profound emotion, such as GRIEF or fright. Takes deep breath for relief (sighs, yawns). Hungry but loses appetite. Some neurological symptoms. Especially considered when an animal with close connections to mate, family, flock, or herd is separated from them, such as geese, corvids, raptors, fawns or juvenile rabbits. Often only a single dose of an Ign 30c or 200c has been needed in such cases.
11. Ledum (Led) – PUNCTURE wounds, including bites, stings, injections, and other intentional wounds. Puncture wound feels cold. Supports puncture healing from ‘inside out’. Bruises are swollen, puffy, and purple. Avoids placing weight on painful foot.
12. Lycopodium (Lyc) – Affects NUTRITION; WEAKNESS OF DIGESTION. Some diarrhea; bloat after eating. Easy satiety (becomes full after eating a small amount). Many gastrointestinal and urinary symptoms, including lienteric stool. Malnutrition. Symptoms may move from right to left. Awakens angry.
13. Nux vomica (Nux-v) – DIGESTIVE DISTURBANCES, especially after eating improper diet or overeating. Angry, irritable, impatient. Cannot bear noises, odors, light, etc. Possible vertigo. Easily chilled.
14. Natrum sulphuricum (Nat-s) – Head symptoms AFTER INJURY TO THE HEAD (follows Arnica well). Mental dullness. Vertigo. Head tips to the side. Many head symptoms. Some spinal injuries. Some gastrointestinal symptoms.
15. Phosphorus (Phos) – SUDDENNESS of symptoms. Hemorrhage of bright red blood. WOUNDS BLEED MUCH EVEN IF SMALL. SUDDEN RESPIRATORY DIFFICULTY. Many respiratory symptoms. Indifferent. Great weakness after stool, debilitating diarrhea.
16. Podophyllum (Podo) – Profuse, offensive, gushing, INVOLUNTARY and PAINLESS LIQUID STOOL. PROLAPSED RECTUM during or after stool. It is still necessary to follow other protocols to reduce diarrhea and dehydration, such as treating for parasites.
17. Ruta graveleons (Ruta) - BONE BRUISE. Sprains (Ruta would be given after Arnica). Restlessness. Injured tendons and joints. Weakness in limbs from bruising.
18. Symphytum (Symph) – Injuries to BONE, PERIOSTEUM, and CARTILAGE including FRACTURES. Used after Arnica for bone injuries. Eye injury and pain after blow or blunt trauma; TRAUMATIC INJURIES OF THE EYE. Follow standard fracture management protocols, such as stabilizing the fracture and restricting patient’s movements. Symph should NOT be administered until after the fracture is set.
Examples of Some First Aid Cases
The following provide some examples of how homeopathy has been used with wildlife and demonstrate the principles described earlier.
A Hard Fall
Four young eyes closed nestlings were thrown out of their nest when their tree crashed to the ground. They were rushed to a rehabilitator. The birds were in shock from the injury and likely bruised. The rehabilitator placed them in a quiet basket on heat. She recognized the situation as the type of condition for which Arnica montana was well-known: a fall, contusion (bruise), and shock from injury. While she dissolved several pellets of Arn 30c in spring water, she noted that one of the birds was less responsive and seemed to have a ‘squishy’, tender abdomen. She used a clean syringe to promptly administer one drop of the dissolved Arnica in each bird’s beak.
Within 15 minutes, three of the birds seemed to be more responsive. The nestling with the ‘squishy’ abdomen seemed to be less painful. She repeated the dose of Arn 30c. When she checked them in another 30 minutes, the one with the ‘squishy’ abdomen had died. The others seemed stronger. She repeated the Arn 30c. After an hour, she found that they were already showing some bruises; this was not surprising since Arn can accelerate the healing of bruises. They ate willingly when offered the appropriate food. Since they seemed stable and healing seemed underway after the 3 doses of Arnica 30c, she did not continue it. Considering that they had high vital force and severe trauma, she could have instead given a single dose of Arn 200c if it was immediately accessible.
The next day, the rehabilitator noticed that two of the nestlings were eating well and seemed fine. The third, however, was leaning its head to the side and seemed somewhat ‘dull’, probably as a result of head trauma from the fall. She consulted with a homeopathic veterinarian who repertorized the case (see example of chart on p. 7) and suggested that the rehabilitator administer 3 doses of Natrum sulphuricum 30c over a 12 hour period to the nestling with the tilt. The rehabilitator dissolved a few pellets of the Nat-s in water and put a drop in its beak as directed. By the following day, the nestling was as alert as the siblings and no longer showed any tilt. No more homeopathic medicines were needed for any of the birds. Their recoveries were uneventful.
A homeowner noticed that a House finch had caught a toe in a metal strip on the bird feeder. When he was trying to remove the bird’s crushed toe from the metal strip, the bird tried to escape. While the rescuer did manage to get the bird free from the feeder, a tail feather had come out and the bird collapsed. The homeowner immediately called a rehabilitator and asked for help.
The rehabilitator had dissolved a few pellets of the Aconitum 200c in water when she heard the bird was being brought to her. On arrival, the rehabilitator examined the terrified bird. She immediately administered a single dose of Acon 200c with a small syringe and put the bird in a quiet, warm cage. Fifteen minutes later, she checked the bird and found him calmer. The toe seemed flat (crushed) and painful. The missing tail feather did not seem to be a serious problem. Since homeopathic Hypericum is considered excellent for crushing injuries and wounds in areas rich in nerves (including toes and coccyx), she dissolved a few pellets of Hyper 30c in water. She placed a drop of the dissolved Hyper in his beak. A short while later, she saw the finch eating and placing full weight on his foot. The homeowner returned two days later and took the bird back to his yard for release.
Terror and Trauma
A homeowner moving a woodpile accidentally dropped a log on a nest of cottontail rabbits. Only one of the juvenile rabbits remained alive. While phoning a rehabilitator to make arrangements to deliver it, he allowed his large dog to lick the rabbit. The rehabilitator told him to put the rabbit in a small box with a piece of towel and to deliver it immediately. The rehabilitator knew that wild animals may die of fright from such experiences. She had previously worked with her veterinarian to develop treatment protocols she could use with rabbits and had several homeopathic medicines at her facility. She dissolved some tiny pellets of Aconitum 200c expecting the rabbit would arrived terrified from its experiences.
As soon as the rabbit arrived, the rehabilitator placed a couple of drops of homeopathic Acon 200c on the mouth of the frightened rabbit and placed it in a quiet, warm basket. A short while later, she conducted an examination of the rabbit and found it more ‘jumpy’ than normal for a rabbit its age. There were no obvious signs of injury. When she tried to feed it, the rabbit refused to eat. Knowing that juvenile rabbits are part of a large litter and often seem to develop problems (e.g., loss of appetite, gastro-intestinal upset) when they are separated from the litter, she decided to give him a single dose of homeopathic Ignatia 200c (she could have also used Ign 30c). This homeopathic medicine has been used for people when grief affects physical health, such as eating. The rabbit ate willingly when offered food later that night.
The next morning, the rabbit still ate willingly, however, he limped. She believed it was likely that he had been injured when the rest of his siblings were killed. Since homeopathic Arnica is a primary homeopathic medicine considered for trauma, she promptly dissolved some Arn 30c and used a syringe to place a drop on the rabbit’s mouth. By the next feeding, the rabbit was no longer limping – and thus did not need another dose of Arn. If he had been still limping, she would have given him another dose or two of Arn to see if that resolved the problem. If it did not, she would have consulted with her veterinarian, and possibly changed the remedy or treatment. In this case, the rest of his rehabilitation was uneventful and he was released.
When the rehabilitation center supervisor returned from admitting a new wildlife patient, she found the new volunteer had already finished feeding the baby birds. This was surprising since they generally took longer to feed. When the supervisor checked on the birds, she found that two nestling Robins that had been fine before the feeding suddenly had respiratory difficulty. Their breathing was loud and labored. The supervisor believed that the new volunteer had aspirated them while feeding by getting food into their trachea instead of esophagus. Their breathing became more labored each time she fed them over the next couple of hours.
The supervisor had seen such cases before and discussed them with her veterinarian. Homeopathic Phosphorus had been used in previous cases of rapid onset of aspiration difficulties. The supervisor placed several pellets of Phosphorus 30c in a small amount of water. Using a small syringe, she gave a drop to each of the two Robins. A couple of hours later, one of the Robins was breathing normally. The other Robin seemed to be a little better, but still breathing audibly. The rehabilitator gave another drop of the Phos 30c to the Robin that still had aspiration symptoms. Later that day, the second Robin seemed to be breathing normally. The rest of their rehabilitation was uneventful and they showed no further problems.
If you are interested in starting to use homeopathy with wildlife, here are some first steps.
- Recognize that homeopathy is not a quick fix or magic answer to wildlife conditions. It takes considerable study, work – and some new resources. There are some costs involved.
- Learn more about the foundation and principles of homeopathy. Learn what homeopathy treats and what it doesn’t, and how it might be used in a complementary manner with conventional western medicine. Read. Attend training. Discuss cases. Work on practice cases. Consider participating in a wildlife homeopathy study group (visit for information).
- Arrange for homeopathic veterinary support, preferably in your area (see “Finding and Using Holistic Veterinary Services” at ). Describe wildlife rehabilitation and your rehabilitation activity (species, ages, type of conditions commonly seen). Explain that you are willing to prepare (reading, training, etc.) and have the cases described in detail before asking about a case. Talk with the veterinarian about how and when he or she would expect homeopathic medicine to be used, and the best way to communicate on time sensitive cases. Mention that you will be respectful of the veterinarian’s time.
- Purchase a few of the most basic homeopathic medicines used with wildlife first aid cases in advance:
- Aconitum 30c
- Arnica montana 30c
- Hypericum 30c
- Ignatia 30c
- Natrum sulphuricum 30c
- Phosphorus 30c
- Start with some basic cases, not the most complex. For example, when a wild animal arrives in severe fear (and many do), consider a single dose of Aconitum 30c. If an animal has had a hard fall or blow, consider Arnica montana 30c according to the principles described earlier.
- Realize that homeopathy does NOT mean discontinuing the use of other medical practices and veterinary support. Rather, homeopathy may be used as a complement to those.
- Continue to follow effective, standard rehabilitation practices… such as quiet, warmth, hydration, appropriate diets, and caging.
- Continue studying and communicating about effective rehabilitation practices, including homeopathy.
When Homeopathy Has Not Worked
While many people have seen a variety of cases with a wide range of species where homeopathy has been successful, there are times when it has not worked – just like there are times that conventional western medicine has not achieved the desired results. That does not mean that they are not effective, but that various factors could have affected the situation. If the results are not what was sought, identify the reasons and adjust accordingly.
- The patient may not have been able to recover (e.g., crushed head or spine, excessive amounts of toxins) or was not admitted to veterinary or rehabilitation care in a timely manner.
- Maybe the condition was not one that could be effectively treated with homeopathy.
- Other factors affected the wild animal’s rehabilitation and recovery, such as diet, caging, handling, stress, or conventional medications.
- Veterinary consultation and care was not used appropriately or in a timely manner, whether conventional western medicine or homeopathic.
- The rehabilitator did not have adequate knowledge or skill in applying homeopathic principles or using effective procedures (i.e., observation, diagnostics, knowing what is normal for the species, administration of medicines).
- Case-taking was incomplete or inaccurate.
- Complete repertories or materia medicas were not used, or were not used effectively.
- The full suite of symptoms was not used in repertorizing.
- The remedies were not reviewed in a complete materia medica.
- The homeopathic medicine selected or given was not a close match to the patient’s full suite of symptoms.
- The potency was not closely matched to the case.
- The homeopathic medicine was not given in a timely manner, including initial administration, as well as decision of whether to repeat or change.
- The homeopathic medicines were cancelled, such as with another treatment, product, medicine, or improper storage.
- Homeopathy was seen as a quick, easy fix, and used superficially or inappropriately.
Some people have assumed that since most homeopathic medicines can be purchased in North America without a prescription from a licensed medical practitioner, and that since homeopathy has been used widely for almost two centuries, that there are no health risks associated with its use and administration. While homeopathy does have a long history of safe use, there are risks in its misuse. For example, if homeopathic medicine is used exclusively, without other appropriate medical treatments (e.g., fluid for dehydration or stabilization for fractures) or good basic husbandry and rehabilitation practices, the wild animal patient may not recover. If the exclusive use of homeopathic medicines causes a delay in needed and critical diagnostics or conventional medical treatments, the condition could worsen or cause other problems to develop. If inappropriate homeopathic medicines or potencies are given, the patient’s symptoms could worsen and/or delay recovery. If an inappropriate homeopathic medicine is repeated too often, it could cause additional, unintended symptoms to appear, or possibly even create a homeopathic proving. As is the case with any other medicine, homeopathy needs to be used carefully and only with considerable knowledge and skill. Learning more about this powerful modality, coupled with regular consultation with a homeopathic veterinarian, can help improve its effective use and increase the likelihood of producing safe and desired results.
Homeopathy: A Different Approach
A growing number of rehabilitators and veterinarians have found homeopathy to be very effective with some types of wildlife cases, particularly as a complementary modality. There are no guarantees that homeopathy can help, but there are many cases where it might. Homeopathy is different from conventional western medicine in many ways. The fact that homeopathic medicines are easily available and inexpensive does not imply that it is an ‘easy’ modality. The more knowledgeable and skillful the homeopathic practitioner, the higher the probability that homeopathy will be effective in a variety of cases. The general concepts are fairly straightforward and the resources relatively inexpensive to acquire. Consultation with a homeopathic veterinarian is also critical.
As rehabilitators know, wildlife rehabilitation is a relatively young profession. Many advances in the field of wildlife rehabilitation have improved the quality of care for wild patients and success of releases back to the wild. However, there are also cases where rehabilitation results are less than optimum. As rehabilitation knowledge, skill, and practice improves, so does the care of wildlife. While there is much more to learn about the use of homeopathy with wildlife, expectations are high for this powerful modality and its ability to help wildlife.
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Shirley Casey is a licensed wildlife rehabilitator in Evergreen, Colorado. See About Us for more info.
Betty Jo Black, DVM, of Denver, CO, has an extensive background in homeopathy. After beginning as a veterinarian with Holistic Care for Animals in Colorado, she moved to Vermont where she continues to practice veterinary medicine. A certified homeopathic veterinarian, she served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy and member of the Board of the Colorado Holistic Veterinary Association. Betty Jo is a co-leader for wilderness retreats throughout North America. She received her veterinary degree from Colorado State University.
Finding a Homeopathic Practitioner
Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy
PO Box 9280
Wilmington, Delaware 19809
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
2218 Old Emmorton Road
Bel Air, MD 21015
410-569-0795 fax 410-569-2346
National Center for Homeopathy
State Holistic Veterinary Associations – check with the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy
Sources for Homeopathic Medicines (preferably 2 dram bottles, pellet size 10)
Natural Health Supply at 1-888-689-1608 or
Washington Homeopathic at 1-800-336-1695 or