This is Part 2 of a 2-part series on homeopathy, immunity, vaccinations, and nosodes.
Review on Immunity
An animal, properly fed and cared for, will have a significantly enhanced resistance to disease. The degree of resistance relies principally on nutrition and total care.
After a lifetime of work and research, Pasteur, the inventor of pasteurization and the 'germ theory', ended up saying, "The microbe is nothing, the soil is all."
To vaccinate is to administer a preparation of killed microorganisms, living attenuated organisms, or living fully virulent organisms, to produce or artificially increase immunity to a particular disease.
Because travel from place to place is common, chances are great that our horses will encounter exposure to a new virus, bacteria, or toxin to which they have not yet established immunity. If we were to capture those little invaders and expose our animals to them in small amounts beforehand, the immune systems might then build a defense for larger, future exposure, thus minimizing the chance for getting the virus, or lessening the severity of its effects, if contracted.
Annual vaccinations were intended to do just that. Each year, a booster should provide added protection from whatever disease may be encountered. Veterinarians typically impress upon owners how important it is to provide annual vaccinations, and that they are essential for a horse's good health. In some ways that is true, but in other ways, annual vaccinations are counterproductive.
Too much of a good thing
Although there are undoubted benefits of vaccination, recent statistics have shown that vaccinations on a yearly basis are not necessary to establish and retain immunity to certain diseases.
Dr. Ronald Schultz, immunologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, explains, "Immunity lasts for years, and often for the life of the animal, especially in the case of some viral diseases. Only certain vaccines require boosters at regular intervals, such as toxins like tetanus. Rabies boosters are required by law for certain species. Studies on some canine vaccines that are routinely given annually have shown duration of protection of as many as nine years. Therefore, vaccinating annually may not be unnecessary but it is a convenient time for a routine veterinary check-up of an animal."
While there are excellent vaccines, with a high efficacy and long duration of protection, certain vaccines have been shown to be less effective. Quality differs from vaccine to vaccine. The three-year rabies vaccine, for instance, has been proven to be protective for a minimum duration of three years, however, that is the only vaccine available that a minimum duration of immunity has been well established.
Some vaccines, according to Dr. Schultz, are just not effective products; the protection produced, and the duration of protection, are minimal for equine flu and equine herpes vaccines.
For immunizations to be effective, the recipient must be healthy. The body, if using its energy to repair and heal itself, has less energy to put into building its defenses. Both Dr. Henneman and Dr. Chambreau point out that it is written in vaccine instruction inserts that the product should be given to healthy animals only. The question is, what is accepted as health?
While the positives of effective vaccinating have been evident for years, the negatives are just beginning to get noticed. There is growing evidence that vaccinations can cause harm. Vaccinosis is the term used in homeopathy for an abnormal or diseased condition as a result of vaccination. Many chronic problems, such as arthritis, allergies, skin problems, infertility, autoimmune problems, neurological syndromes, and other such diseases, are forms of vaccinosis, and have been seen as severe adverse vaccine reactions in certain animals.
Reactions and side effects
Many animals have had "reactions" to vaccinations. The usual in horses is a swelling in the area of injection, or a stiff neck, and possibly an abscess, a high fever, lethargy, or diarrhea.
Dr. Henneman reports, "I saw one young race horse start to act like a 'wobbler' within 48 hours after being vaccinated. Over-vaccination problems," she explains, "may be just about anything that is related to the immune system and odd, immune-mediated inflammatory problems."
According to Dr. Henneman, a study, presented to a veterinary conference in Las Vegas in 1997, showed that vaccinating in general increased the risk of colic two times, and vaccinating with Potomac horse fever increased the risk 6.7 times.
Some vaccinations, such as influenza, reportedly have a low efficacy and a high incidence of adverse reactions, which can be worse than the disease itself. Why try to prevent one disease when it will likely cause a worse one?
Small animals have some of the same reactions, and the cat can even develop sarcomas (cancers) at the vaccination site. In rare cases, horses and other animals actually come down with the disease that the vaccine was designed to prevent.
Many times, more serious symptoms emerge over the years, such as the appearance of a chronic disease (see SIDE BAR, Holistic Horse Keeping). Owners may correctly make the assumption that the vaccine had something to do with the animal's change in health or behavior, even though it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove.
Many people have reported to their veterinarians that their horse or other animal suffered an adverse reaction or change for the worse after a vaccination, and there are likely just as many unreported cases. Chronic problems actually happen more often than the immediate, clear-cut side effects, which happen within 48 hours after vaccinating.
Dr. Henneman explains, "Most immunologists consider any immune reaction related to vaccinations, or other chemical exposures, if the reaction occurs within four weeks of exposure. Cell-mediated immune problems can take that long to manifest."
One recent study from Purdue demonstrated that the vaccination of dogs with commonly used vaccines and a routine protocol induces autoantibodies (antibodies to self). The effects of this have not yet been determined, but it appears that the induced autoantibodies may be a response to the components used in the production of vaccines. This development of autoantibodies with canine vaccines is not surprising since it has been seen with certain human and other species vaccines.
Vaccination Research Is Needed
To be inquisitive about vaccinating is part of being a responsible horse owner. It is important to report any adverse reactions from any vaccinations to your veterinarian, who should inform the manufacturer. The evidence is increasing, and investigative research is underway, but more immunization research, especially for horses, is desperately needed.
What Is A Nosode?
In homeopathy, there is a special type of remedy called a nosode. A nosode (from nosos, the Greek word meaning disease) is a homeopathic preparation made from matter from a sick animal or person. Substances such as respiratory discharges or diseased tissues are used. It sounds repulsive, but the preparation, using alcohol, as well as the repeated dilution and succussion, essentially renders the substances harmless, while producing a powerful remedy.
While some nosodes have been proven (scientifically tested to determine a symptom picture), most nosodes have not. The nosode symptom picture is derived from the disease picture. Using an unproven nosode to treat its corresponding disease is not truly homeopathic, because it does not follow the "like cures like" principle and the law of similars. It is isopathic, meaning treatment of a disease by the identical agent of the disease.
Nosodes such as Lyssin (proven), which is made from saliva of rabid animals, and Distemperinum (not proven), from distemper, have been used isopathically to treat their corresponding diseases successfully for so many years that they have literally proven themselves. [Note: No one should ever try to treat a horse or other animal with rabies!] Therefore, other nosodes have been developed to treat their respective diseases. In the equine world, among the many nosodes that are presently available through veterinarians are Lyssin (Rabies), Borrelia (Lyme), EPM (Equine Protozoal Myelitis), PHF (Potomac Horse Fever), Influenzinum, Strangles, Botulism, Tetanus, and EEE/WEE (Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis).
The use of nosodes in a prophylactic manner, for preventing disease, has been employed in veterinary and human homeopathy for many years. It is supported by various holistic veterinarians and authors, yet not recommended by others.
From a homeopathic standpoint, a remedy is administered to a patient showing symptoms of disease. To use a nosode for prevention, when there are no symptoms of disease, is not following homeopathic principles. If that nosode is given at the onset of an acute disease, however, where the insult to the body's vital force has already occurred and symptoms are emerging, that is following homeopathic principles. Administering a nosode to a symptom-free animal at the time of, or shortly after, definite exposure to a disease, is acceptable to many holistic veterinarians. It may be unnecessary, but it may help.
Treatment of Disease
Nosodes are typically used in a therapeutic manner, to treat patients with the same illness (isopathic), or a similar disease (homeopathic). For example, Psorinum, the mange remedy, is made from human scabies, and is useful in treating other skin conditions as well.
Nosodes, when properly prescribed, are useful and safe for young animals who, while below the recommended age for vaccinations, have become ill with a particular preventable disease, or similar disease symptoms.
When using nosodes to treat an existing illness, such as EPM and other seriously debilitating diseases, however, it would be a mistake to look at a nosode, or any other homeopathic remedy, as the only solution. One or more veterinarians should be consulted to evaluate the animal's situation, and the results that follow treatment. For instance, if Hypericum and the EPM nosode are given to two different horses, one horse may have tremendous improvement, and another horse may appear much worse. It is also vitally important to balance the nutrition, to support the horse with vitamin and possibly herb therapy, and to consider other therapies, to get him in a state of recovery. Finding a well-trained homeopathic veterinarian is important if you choose this route. A list of homeopathic veterinarians is available through the AVH and the AHVMA (see SIDE BAR).
Regarding vaccinosis, if your animal is suffering from the ill-effects of a particular vaccination, the nosode of that particular disease could be used to antidote the effects. Some of the other remedies that may help the body rid itself of vaccinosis include Lachesis, Pulsatilla, Silicea, Sulphur, and Thuja. Chronic conditions, especially, are best left to the professional homeopath.
Prevention of Disease
Nosodes are also being used in a prophylactic, or preventive, manner, such as in healthy young animals below vaccination age. It is viewed by some as a way to expose the immune system to the energies of a disease, without exposing it to the disease itself, thereby stimulating an immune response. Unlike a vaccination, a nosode will not introduce foreign, and possibly harmful, substances into the body.
It is believed by some homeopaths that energetic immunization can be achieved with nosodes, orally, via contact with the nervous system. There are more nerves in the mouth than anywhere else. In contrast to vaccinations, nosodes activate the entire defense system, energetically and physically, thereby yielding a more solid immunity.
Nosode Research Is Needed
No proof exists, however, that the preventive use of nosodes is effective. Dr. Schultz comments, "I don't know of anyone that has ever shown this to be true. We did studies with a canine parvovirus nosode and found it to provide no protection from disease and death."
In the equine world, very few studies have been attempted. Most of what is now known was learned through dog and cat research. Studies of varying design have shown that nosodes do not establish immunity, such as parvovirus in dogs. English studies with pigs and cows showed more positive results, but for diseases which are not easily reproduced.
It is difficult to determine the effectiveness of nosodes using conventional vaccine standards, because homeopathy works on an energetic level as well, which is not measurable. The presence or absence of antibodies does not indicate energetic immune status. To do nosode studies, many other factors, including the health of each test subject, must be considered. What is needed is for all people using no vaccinations, or using nosodes, to report to a central place so that data can be analyzed. Anyone interested in participating in a study on nosodes may contact the Natural Horse office at 610-926-0427, or e-mail email@example.com .
Do No Harm
When it comes to nosodes and vaccinations, each holistic veterinarian has his own recommendations. Not enough is known about nosodes, so there is little "standard procedure" for them. Some holistic veterinarians still recommend vaccinations, but less frequently; other holistic veterinarians have found nosodes useful as part of the immunization process; and still others do not use nosodes prophylactically, except in the case of an outbreak and after exposure. In complementary medicine, treatment is individualized, and each horse is unique. A common recommendation, however, is do no harm.
Nosodes may be suitable and recommended for the older horse, the horse who has had vaccinations previously in its lifetime, and the horse who has had any kind of reaction after a vaccine. According to some practitioners, disease nosodes may be useful instead of vaccinations, except for Rabies and Tetanus. Rabies and Tetanus nosodes, however, are sometimes used in conjunction with the vaccines, to strengthen the immunity and weaken the possible side effects. Nosodes, when used with vaccinations, may enhance immunity and minimize the side effects of conventional vaccines. There is controversy as to whether nosodes and homeopathic medicines can prevent diseases, but there is no controversy that properly chosen homeopathic remedies have the ability to reduce the side effects that vaccinations can cause, both acute and chronic.
The chance for an adverse reaction depends on how the vaccination is made, and it varies from horse to horse, and from stable to stable. According to research, the vaccines that most commonly produce reactions are Potomac horse fever, rhino, influenza, and encephalomyelitis. Among the reactions most often seen are fever, depression, and low blood counts. Influenza is one vaccine that all too often produces ill effects. The corresponding nosodes, in comparison, do no harm.
Dr. Schultz from the University of Wisconsin feels that nosodes should not replace vaccinations. "What we don't want to do is scare people away from vaccinations altogether," says Dr. Schultz. "There are some very good vaccines on the market. When there is a good vaccine, like tetanus, or rabies, or panleukopenia for cats and parvovirus for dogs, with minimal side effects and maximum protection, it doesn't make sense to take the chance of not vaccinating when there is an effective vaccine available. Use vaccines first and be sure to immunize the animals, then if you want, use nosodes as boosters. If I know there is a real risk, and if there is an effective vaccine to prevent a significant disease, then I would use the vaccine."
Dr. Christina Chambreau says, "There are people who have used nosodes instead of vaccinations with no problems, even when faced with disease. But these people also take good care of their animals. They do the right things, avoid the harmful things, and provide the optimal, natural lifestyle. I wonder how much of the success is the nosodes, and how much is the total care."
According to Dr. Schultz, people who claim success by using nosodes instead of vaccinations are lucky.
The risks are ours to consider. In time, and with more research, the answers we are looking for will hopefully be available.
Natural Horse Magazine thanks Dr. Kim Henneman, Dr. Christina Chambreau, and Dr. Ronald Schultz for their tremendous help in preparing this article.
To find a homeopathic veterinarian, contact:
The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH)
751 N.E. 168th Street
North Miami Beach, FL 33162-2427
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA)
2214 Old Emmorton Road
Bel Air, MD 21015
Additional information on nosodes is available in these books on homeopathy:
- The Treatment of Horses by Homeopathy, by George Macleod
- The Homeopathic Treatment of Small Animals, by Christopher Day
For information on human vaccines -
National Vaccine Information Center
512 W. Maple Avenue, #206
Vienna, VA 22180
Phone: (703) 938-0342
Fax: (703) 938-5768
To avoid immunizing unnecessarily, discuss the following with your veterinarian. Together you can determine which vaccines or nosodes are useful, or are not recommended, in your situation. If they are truly healthy, they may not need additional protection. Keep in mind that exposure keeps the immune system active.
Consequences of the disease - mild/temporary, permanent/death, risks to others
Present health status, including pregnancy, and age of horse
Current immunity status - number of immunizations received in the past; titer test
Current work or performance demands
Past adverse reactions to vaccinations
Immunization's usual effectiveness, length of protection, and need for boosters
Expected or possible adverse reactions - severity, frequency
Risk to human health - rabies, encephalomyelitis
Rules of Thumb
Avoid vaccinating or the use of nosodes when the animal is pregnant.
If a pregnant animal needs to be vaccinated, use killed vaccines.
Give each disease immunization at separate times for maximum benefit and minimum side effects.
Never vaccinate, or administer nosodes prophylactically to, an animal who has a chronic or acute illness. A healthy, strong system is needed to build the best immunity.
Avoid vaccinations or nosodes if currently receiving homeopathic treatment, unless advised by the practitioner.
Consider which immunizations are the ones most often given, and why. If they need to be repeated more often than yearly, they may not be accomplishing what they are meant to do, which is establish a good, long-lasting immunity, and may need to be eliminated.
Observe your animal carefully before and afterward, even months later. Write down any changes, and report them to your veterinarian. This feedback will encourage investigation into the current practices, and into better ways of immunizing.
Dr. Christina Chambreau offers this plan:
1. Feed the best.
2. Vaccinate the least.
3. Provide the best environment for that animal.
4. Build up the health of the animal rather than treating diseases or symptoms.
5. Know the possible result of treatment - cure, palliation, suppression - so you can determine if your animal should continue the current course of treatment.
Start holistic; go conventional only when needed.
Everybody is individual, there is no one right way, and there are different ways for different individuals.
Holistic Horse Keeping
Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic, Madalyn Ward, D.V.M.
11608 FM 1826, Austin, TX 78737 (512) 288-0428
Problems with Vaccinations
I was taught in veterinary school that vaccinations could do no harm and were very effective in preventing disease. For the first ten years of my practice, I encouraged owners to vaccinate for encephalomyelitis, tetanus and rabies once a year and influenza and rhinopneumonitis twice a year. Pregnant mares were vaccinated for rhino at 5, 7, and 9 months of pregnancy. I never saw a case of encephalomyelitis, tetanus or rabies and I believe the incidence of full blown cases of flu and rhino were decreased in vaccinated horses. However, I was kept very busy treating colic, laminitis, sick foals and chronic respiratory infections.
Around 1990 I read my first article suggesting vaccinations could have some negative effects on horse's health. My initial reaction was one of disbelief and anger at even the suggestion. Once this seed was planted, however, I could no longer deny that vaccinations often did aggravate symptoms in some chronically ill horses.
At this time my roommate and I had 20 horses and after some soul searching, we elected to skip their annual boosters. To our amazement not only did the horses stay healthy, but their health actually improved. Several of these horses had a tendency to colic and they colicked less frequently or not at all. Two horses had chronic laminitis and both of these improved steadily and one was even able to go back into training. Several of the horses did contract a respiratory infection at a local show, but other vaccinated horses at other barns in the area were also affected. Hair coat, hooves and feed efficiency also improved.
About one year after our decision to skip vaccinations, we had an encephalomyelitis scare so we boostered all horses with eastern and western encephalomyelitis and tetanus. Within 30 days, both foundered horses relapsed and our colic incidence was back up.
This experience made a believer out of me and from that point on, I advised my clients to tailor their vaccination programs to individual needs and to cease vaccinating any horse with a chronic illness. After 4 years of less vaccination and drug use I noticed fewer laminitis cases, milder and fewer colics and overall healthier patients.
Vaccinations can overwhelm the immune system especially if it is weakened already by chronic disease.
In healthy individuals excessive vaccination can actually create a disease state called vaccinosis. Symptoms of vaccinosis can vary greatly but include dry hair coat, weak hooves, skin eruptions, sarcoids and warts.
There is much we need to learn about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines. Drug companies do not test vaccines to see how long they are effective, so checking titers on horses may be a way to avoid annual vaccinations. Vaccination programs should be geared to fit each individual situation.
Thuja Occidentalis - Arbor Vitae
This remedy is most often prescribed for the ill effects of vaccination. Its main action is on the skin and genito-urinary organs. Symptoms include warts, polyps. lameness in tendons and muscles which is worse in damp weather, rapid emaciation, chronic nasal discharge, chronic diarrhea, distended abdomen, colic, inflamed ovaries, chronic uterine infection, poor quality hooves and swollen glands.
Natural Horse Magazine thanks Dr. Madalyn Ward for allowing us to reprint her article.