Homoeopathy and Neurological Disorders
I would not recommend the lay person to treat any horse with a serious neurological disorder without the professional, expert help of firstly your veterinarian, and secondly your homoeopath. Neurological disorders are often complex and difficult to understand. Many lead to devastating consequences for both horse and carer.
A few of the many nervous system disorders your horse can encounter include: equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), rabies, equine herpes virus I, tetanus, stringhalt (or lathyrism), wobbler syndrome, shivers, facial nerve paralysis, narcolepsy, toxic substance ingestion induced neuropathy, post-anaesthesia neuropathy, viral encephalitis, laryngeal hemiplegia (roaring), epilepsy, equine motor neuron disease (EMND), trauma/inflammatory induced neuropathy, effects of lightning strike, and general nervousness.
Early detection and treatment is important to minimise brain and/or spinal cord lesions that may occur during a bout of some of these disorders that could lead to permanent neurological damage. As several different locations and areas of the nervous system can be affected at one time, the signs and symptoms will manifest differently from one horse to the next and also vary in intensity.
A complete examination (general physical and nervous system) should be performed. Rarely is a nervous condition able to be diagnosed solely on this examination. Further diagnostic procedures such as blood tests, spinal taps, radiographs, myelographs, and nuclear scintigraphy will likely need to be additionally employed and though not always totally accurate, provide results that can be helpful for a clearer judgement in diagnosis.
Evaluation of a horse's response to a given treatment may give information to either support or refute a previously diagnosed condition. However, as other health conditions that may mimic a nervous system disorder can also improve under these medications and similar therapies, this may lead to inaccurate conclusions.
Careful scrutiny of a case should be made from as many perspectives as possible, keeping open to all kinds of possibilities.
A BRIEF LOOK AT EPM:
Toe dragging, stumbling, back soreness, bucking, head tossing, intermittent lameness, asymmetrical lameness, incoordination, proprioception deficits/ ataxia, behavioural changes such as irritability or spookiness, and sudden changes of coat condition are some of the symptoms seen in EPM. This variety of symptoms can make the diagnosis of EPM difficult, as they can also be signs of a number of other health imbalances. An advanced case can exhibit signs such as staggering, paralysis, recumbency, and severe muscle atrophy that can often be seen to affect only one side of the body.
The best prevention against EPM is a strong, healthy vital force. A horse is unlikely to contract EPM while his immune system is capable of defence by killing EPM-causing parasites, protozoa called sarcocystis neurona and occasionally neospora species , before they enter the nervous system. Addressing your horse's general state of health and wellbeing using classical homoeopathy and constitutional natural remedies will assist in maintaining his defence mechanism against invasion. Keeping your horse in a healthy, natural, drug-free environment with quality food and water, providing exercise and mental stimulation, and ensuring a minimum of stress all play a significant role here too!
As an individual, each horse will respond in his own way to an immune system breakdown that has allowed EPM to take hold. You can greatly assist your veterinarian and homoeopath by making as many observations of your horse's symptoms as possible. While a veterinarian may be more interested in specifics of the disease, a homoeopath will require information about the horse as a whole. The disease label will only represent one symptom area of the entire horse's symptom profile.
Other things to note will be aside from the expected common symptoms of a disease process. Your homoeopath will want to know every little detail about your horse, even points that seem insignificant. Though the most immediate symptom picture will be the first addressed, not only current symptoms will be discussed. A complete history will be analysed including any inherited susceptibilities, an event or trauma in the horse's life that he has never been the same since from, periods of any other health imbalances, and any ideas from the carer as to a possible trigger to the decline in health.
Also of great interest will be: -
His personality, characteristics, and any unusual idiosyncrasies; how he relates socially; what his eating and drinking habits, bowel, urinary, and sweating patterns are; weather preferences and aversions; lying positions; likes and dislikes in general; fears; moods; levels of energy; and times of day or night he appears better or worse, etc.
Should your horse succumb to a neurological disorder there is a large range of homoeopathic remedies to aid in his recovery and modify the course of 'dis-ease' but as previously stated you are best advised to seek the professional services of an expert to guide you. There are homoeopathics for both constitutional therapy and specifics that can be selected by your homoeopath. Once a complete profile of your horse's symptoms and characteristics has been analysed, your homoeopath will determine which remedy best fits the total symptom picture of that individual.
Homoeopathic remedies are most effective when the symptom profile and the remedy picture are closely matched. While the following remedies are indicated for various neurological complaints, they are not limited to these problems, nor are the problems limited to these remedies. Considering the type of ailment, any other health discrepancies, mental/ emotional status, and the nature of the horse as a comprehensive whole, a professional homoeopathist can give the best guidance on which remedy most accurately fits the patient to provide the most beneficial results.
Your homoeopathic practitioner will also have experience and knowledge in: which remedies are complementary to each other and which are not; the lesser known remedies and those difficult to acquire; several dosage guidelines and techniques of administration; how to unravel a difficult case as it unfolds; being able to work on miasmatic background (inherited pre-dispositions); and pointing out obstacles to cure.
In this issue I will begin with some remedies starting with the letter 'A' as there are seven of these alone. In the next issue (Part 2) I will continue with the remainder of my remedy listing. Please study your materia medica for further differentiation and other remedy considerations. Consult with your homoeopath for verification and dosing advice.
The following represents only a few key tips on some of the specific remedies that may help your horse and is by no means a comprehensive or complete list .
ACONITUM NAPELLUS (Monkshood) - A prominent remedy for shock. Symptoms are rapid in onset, violent and painful, with restless tossing, and much fear or anxiety. Especially indicated when symptoms occur shortly after exposure to cold, windy weather or after a fearful experience. Neuralgic pains are very intense. The patient is worse during the night, when overheated in a stuffy stable, while sweating, lying on painful areas, and being touched. He is better in fresh air and will have an intense thirst for cold water. Aconite is frequently alternated with Belladonna for acute inflammatory conditions or flare-ups of chronic complaints where there is anxiety, suddenness of symptoms, violence of symptoms, fever, a bounding pulse and shining eyes.
AESCULUS HIPPOCASTANUM (Horse Chestnut) - A weak spine where the back and legs give way easily. Aching, dull pain in lumbar, sacrum and hip area. All legs and the spine have a paralytic feeling. Pain extending from the elbow, outside of forearm, to the outside of the hoof, as if a nerve had been compressed. Strange trembling of the muscles of the left shoulder, continuing for a couple of hours and followed by soreness. The patient may have a frequent desire to swallow, with a feeling of dryness and stiffness of the glottis, and all the pharyngo-laryngeal mucous membrane. Stools dry and hard with frequent ineffectual urging, dry skin (Alumina = weakness/ paralysis, dry skin, and dry, hard, knotty stool with little urging). The patient is depressed and irritable and has trouble fixing his attention. He is worse in the mornings, for any motion, cold air and cold seasons, and better in the summer.
AGARICUS MUSCARIUS (Bug Agaric, a fungus) - Jerking, twitching, trembling and itching are strong indications. This remedy suits various forms of neuralgia, spasmodic affections, and neurotic skin troubles. An unusual guiding symptom is yawning before pains or spasms. A sense of paralysis near the lumbar vertebrae, close above the border of the os-ilium, makes it difficult for the horse to step forward. Stiffness in front legs, back of neck and both hip joints. Paralysis of hind limbs and slight spasms in front legs. Softening of spinal marrow. Left side often most affected but symptoms may appear diagonally (right fore leg and left hind) or generally. Irregular, uncertain, and exaggerated motions with the horse reaching too far, staggering or stepping too high. Paralysed facial muscles causing one or both corners of the mouth to drop allowing saliva to run out. Considered by some to give the nearest approach to general paralysis of all remedies. Worse evening/ night, the body is covered with sweat, and there is tremor and weariness of the limbs. Excitement followed by depression and confusion. The patient is thirsty all of the time with an unusual hunger but no relish for food. He is very sensitive to pressure and cold air, and is better for gentle, slow motion.
ALUMINA (Oxide of Aluminium, pure clay) - Degeneration of the cerebrospinal axis causing disturbances in coordination and paretic effects. Feeble circulation, feeble conductivity, feeble nerve action; everything is slowed down. One-sided paralysis, right eyelid, and especially of the extensors. Paralytic conditions of the oesophagus make swallowing difficult and create voice loss. Voice loss can also be the result of excessive whinnying. Straining before urination has begun due to paretic condition of the bladder muscle. Dry hard, knotty stools with little urging dry flaky skin, and brittle hooves. Affections showing excessive dryness of mucous membranes and feverish states where the temperature remains elevated. Thin and inactive with trembling of the whole body and a desire to lie down, however this increases the fatigue. During the night, anxiety, agitation, and tossing about. The patient may improve then worsen every second day, or periodically. Chills over the whole body every other day towards evening, without any thirst and little appetite but trembling and weakness is worse when hungry. A staggering or tottering gait is worse in the dark. Better for moderate exertion and temperature, and while eating preferring dry food. Often indicated in aged or prematurely aged subjects.
APIS MELLIFICA (Honey-bee poison) - To be remembered for swollen meninges of the brain; encephalitis and hydrocephalus. One half of the body twitching, the other lame or paralysed (hemiplegia). Right side is affected more with symptoms going from right to left side. Stupor, suppressed urine (scanty urine), hurried and difficult breathing, tender abdomen, and watery, yellow diarrhoea accompany brain symptoms. The patient is fidgety, restless, desires company but is sensitive to touch, intolerant of heat and thirstless. He is better in cool air, being uncovered, and cold bathing.
ARGENTUM NITRICUM (Nitrate of Silver) - For anticipatory anxiety, fear or panic attacks. Anxiety is seen before an engagement such as a show or competition, or before being transported, though the horse can remain anxious throughout the event. Anxiety can be the result of confinement. The horse may crave and/or hate suspense, and can be impulsive, hurried or impatient as anxiety builds up. Diarrhoea and heart palpitations from anticipation are commonly found. Incoordination, loss of control, and want of balance figure mentally and physically. This remedy is useful for paraplegia, myelitis, disseminated (scattered, distributed over a considerable area) sclerosis of the central nervous system, chorea-like convulsions, and peripheral neuralgia's. Tremulous weakness and general debility lead to a need to lie down with loss of voluntary motion. Spasms of tongue and throat muscles affect the voice and make it difficult to eat, can only swallow fluids. There are numerous gastric symptoms. Paralysis, mental and abdominal symptoms form a trio. The patient is intolerant of heat so has a strong craving for fresh air. Your horse can have a sweet tooth but is worse for sweet feeds.
ASARUM EUROPOEUM ( European Snake Root) - A remedy for nervous affections, loss of energy and excessive erethism (abnormal increase in nervous irritability, state of excitement or irritation, an unusually quick response to stimulus). Cannot bear the sound of scratching on paper or stiff fabrics, oversensitive to the slightest noise. Sensibility is increased, even from mere imagination. Cold shivers from any emotion. Tension and contractive sensations, weakness and staggering. Difficult breathing with short breath at night. This patient always feels cold however complaints are relieved by cold face washes. You will observe a decline of appetite and an appreciation for drinking cold water. Generally slow and lazy with weakness every afternoon and constant yawning. Worse in cold, dry weather and better damp, wet weather or wetting the affected part.
To be continued.
This article is for educational purposes only and in no way replaces veterinary advice or treatment. Always call your veterinarian when serious events arise. If you desire to follow a holistic path, I would recommend that you obtain approval from your veterinarian to seek the professional services of a qualified classical homoeopath or other certified holistic health practitioner.
'Understanding Equine Neurological Disorders' by Bradford G. Bentz, VMD , MS
'Ruddock's Homoeopathic Vade Mecum' by E.H. Ruddock, MD
'A Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica' by J.H. Clarke, MD
'Concordant Materia Medica' by Frans Vermeulen
'Synoptic Materia Medica II' by Frans Vermeulen
'The Treatment of Horses by Homoeopathy' by George Macleod, DVSM
'A Veterinary Materia Medica and Clinical Repertory' by George Macleod, DVSM
Case History and Clinical Notations by Tanya Nolte, DipHom
About the author:
Tanya Nolte lives in NSW, Australia where she keeps a number of horses and also an interesting array of other furry animal companions. She has educated horses and competed successfully in a number of equine disciplines for more than 35 years. Tan operates equine holistic health and horsemanship workshops in what she describes as "EquiPotential". Being a registered classical homoeopath and a practicing veterinary nurse has given her the capacity to conduct consultations at several veterinary clinics, a human/ animal homoeopathic practice, and privately at her home office. Tan is a professional member of the Australian Homoeopathic Association, the official Australian Register of Homoeopaths, and the Holistic Animal Therapy Association of Australia for which she is also a committee member. Although specialising in equine health, Tan also happily works with all our other animal companions and their human counterparts. She is available for distance consultations via phone, regular mail or E-mail correspondence.
For more information, and to find a homoeopath near you:
Tanya Nolte, Classical EquiHomoeopath.
Whispering Horse Therapies
PO Box 170 , Nimbin
NSW 2480, Australia
Phone 0266 897500
Australian Homoeopathic Association
PO Box 396 Drummoyne
NSW 1470, Australia
Phone 02 97192763
Holistic Animal Therapy Association of Australia
PO Box 202 , Ormond, Melbourne
Vic 3204, Australia
Phone 03 59688100
The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy
751 N.E. 168th Street
North Miami Beach , FL 33162-2427
National Center for Homeopathy
801 North Fairfax St., Suite 306
Alexandria , VA 22314
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
2214 Old Emmorton Road
Bel Air , MD 21015