Licking Colic with Homeopathy - Eight Helpful Remedies
As you walk by the window, you are halted in your tracks. Out in the pasture, your horse is pawing the ground. He drops. he rolls. your heart skips a beat. He gets up energetically, shakes off, and walks on. Phew. He just wanted to scratch his back or get rid of a pesky fly.
But what if he had dropped to the ground and lay there, staring uncomfortably at his flanks? What if he had started kicking at his belly, thrown himself to the ground, then rolled and thrashed? Such are some of the warning signs for colic. The horse prone to colic keeps his owner in suspense and wary of his every move. The tell-tale signs are burned into the memory from past emergencies. The veterinarian's number is plastered everywhere.
Calling the veterinarian is always the best course of action, because colic can be a precursor to a fatality if proper action is not taken promptly. Minutes may matter with colic; a horse could die in a few hours. But is there something you can do to help matters until the vet arrives?
Yes. Homeopathy can help. It can help relieve the more acute symptoms of colic, make the horse more comfortable, and reduce the amount of conventional medications that otherwise may have been required to treat him. Homeopathy excels when it comes to colic.
There are various remedies that should be kept on hand in case the need ever arises. Once you have chosen the homeopathic remedy that best matches your horse's condition at the time, administer it at timely intervals until the veterinarian arrives or the situation calms. Chances are good that when the veterinarian arrives on the scene, the colic will be much less severe and the horse will be more stable, or the colic may even have passed completely making further intervention unnecessary.
To administer the homeopathic medicine, stir two pellets of the remedy in 1/2 cup of water and give the horse 6 to 12 cc (or one to two tablespoons) of this mixture orally via clean syringe, dropper, or spoon every ten minutes for three doses. (The solution does not need to be swallowed; contacting the mucous membranes is how the remedy works. The exact amount of water used in the dilution process and the actual amount of the diluted remedy that you give at each dose is not critical.) If you have not seen any improvement or if the horse's condition is changing or getting significantly worse after these three doses, stop and reassess the situation, and perhaps change the remedy.
If the symptoms appear to be improved after the three doses, stop giving the medicine, and observe the patient. The initial responses may be subtle - a calmer look in the eye, longer intervals between cramps, a reduction in the sweating, passage of gas or manure, a reduction in restlessness (pacing or getting up and down), or interest in food or water. You may need to repeat the medicine if the symptoms reappear as the action of the remedy wanes.
Change, or response, can happen almost instantly, but not always. The remedy stimulates the Vital Force which restores harmony within the system. This enables the body to begin healing itself, and depending on the situation the response could be instantaneous or may occur after a brief delay. After seeing a response, stop administering the remedy and let the body do its work. If the symptoms start to return, then administer the remedy again; repeat this process as needed until the horse's condition is back to normal.
It is important to emphasize that, although the Vital Force needs some time to respond, in acute situations such as this it is not necessary to wait for prolonged periods of time if the situation is deteriorating. Some response to the administration of the remedy should be seen fairly quickly. A horse with a slow-moving, gassy, grumbling gut with mild discomfort can be allowed more time than a horse who is fearful, anxious, and in distress or who has collapsed. The pace of the return to "normal" typically reflects the pace of the onset of the symptoms. Essentially, if the symptoms appeared suddenly, the correct remedy would shift them at that pace - more quickly. If they have been slower to develop and are less extreme, then the remedy would shift them in a slower manner.
Listed below are some remedies that are helpful in colic cases; often one dose will bring about tremendous relief. Remedies in 30c or 30x potencies are applicable in acute first-aid situations such as this. Observe your horse closely and choose the remedy that best matches his symptoms. Continue to observe him after administering the remedy to see if there is any change.
- Aconitum napellus - very beneficial when used at the onset of any disturbance, colic included. It works best in the very early stages of acute presentations. Aconite symptoms (any and all, including colic, nasal discharge, earaches, lameness) are sudden, and often occur after a change in the weather - a cold snap, a front moving through, or windy weather. The horse is often very fearful with a full, hard, rapid pulse and a restless, anxious demeanor, and may have a sudden, high fever. He is usually sweating and thirsty.
- Nux vomica - for the very irritable horse with a fiery temperament, overly sensitive to noise, light and other stimulus; jumpy, twitchy, angry, resentful, does not want to be touched. Intestinal rumblings and gurglings can be heard. The horse walks slowly and may want to press his head against something. Nux is an excellent initial remedy to use when restlessness, indigestion, or bloating occur, especially from ingestion of inappropriate foods or from overeating. Nux is for excess - excess food, also excess in the symptoms - excessively sensitive. It's a good remedy for exposure to toxins that results in spasms and sensitivities. It is also excellent when constipation is part of the picture. Nux helps with ineffectual urging, excess straining to pass a stool, or straining with no stool. It has a very beneficial effect on the digestive system and is worthy of consideration in many digestive disturbances.
- Colchicum - the Colchicum picture is a very gassy, noisy colic. The abdomen is distended and rumbling of the bowels is easily heard; the horse generally prefers to stand still and may be unable to stretch out his legs. He may kick up at his belly with his hind feet. The pulse is weak and thready; there may be great exhaustion. The colic may be caused by too much grass or other greens.
- Colocynthis - is an excellent remedy when the colic presents itself with much spasm. The pains may come and go, often in episodes. The Colocynthis colic is a quieter, less rumbly, gassy colic. The abdomen is usually tight and distended. Bending double relieves; the horse may try to achieve this posture as best he can - he may even get in a sitting position to compress the abdomen because the pressure on the abdomen brings relief. The horse is often agitated and feels better when moving about. He may roll and arch his back, or grind his teeth.
- Magnesia phosphorica - the Mag phos colic presents with involuntary twitching and spasms - of the eyelids, muscles, and extremities as well as that of the gastrointestinal tract which is shown by the spasmodic and sudden cramping. The horse may be pawing and kicking at his abdomen and there may be bloating. Bending double and pressure on the abdomen relieve discomfort. Walking about also relieves discomfort because gas is expelled while walking; the gas expulsion is more relieving than the walking.
- Belladonna - With the Belladonna colic there is a full bounding pulse, hot skin, sweating, dilated pupils, delirium and excitability. There is increased sensitivity to noise, motion, and light, and touch; the abdomen may be extremely tender and sensitive to touch. In contrast to Nux, Belladonna patients usually appear to be hotter, are usually thirstless, more wide-eyed, not as irritable but perhaps more violent. Horses in a Belladonna state tend to have dry mouths, tacky mucosal membranes, and may have sticky, thick saliva. They often have elevated rectal temperatures.
- Arsenicum album - useful for the colicky horse that is restless and anxious (mental restlessness as well as physical restlessness). The horse gets up and down and frequently changes positions. If the horse is in an advanced Arsenicum state he may be weak and down, but still making little movements of the limbs and head. It may be a middle-of-the-night colic, because Arsenicum symptoms are generally worse from eleven PM to three AM. The colic is often sudden. The horse drinks water, but in frequent small sips. There may be watery diarrhea, dark and somewhat bloody - usually a darker, more fermented type of blood. The smell is cadaverous - like something dead and decaying (a rare smell for an herbivore). Arsenicum also has a real periodicity to it - the colic often happens every two weeks.
- Carbo vegetabilis - the remedy for the horse that is down and in a state of extreme weakness, collapse or shock. The Carbo veg colic is gassy and could be caused from overeating; the surface of the body feels cold; the skin and mucus membranes of the mouth and rectal/vaginal areas may appear bluish. Breathing is shallow. This remedy is nicknamed "the corpse reviver". Often the horse is nonresponsive - to touch, to sounds, to other stimulus. The corneal reflex may be absent. Carbo veg is often indicated in colics from overeating and excesses, but in contrast to the Nux excess, the Carbo veg colic is a state of depletion and collapse rather than the active and excessive reactions of Nux. If the Carbo veg rescues the horse from the collapse, another remedy may be needed as the symptom picture unfolds.
These remedies should be kept on hand for an emergency colic situation so they are ready for use until the veterinarian arrives because minutes do matter with colic. The time to shop and stock up is well before you have an emergency.
Homeopathic first-aid kits, invaluable for many situations, can be purchased from a homeopathic pharmacy (see Side Bar). These kits will contain the remedies most frequently needed in these types of situations. You need not purchase a veterinary kit - most human household kits are fine because all homeopathic remedies are for human use as well as for animal use. Although it may be a bit of an investment initially, a kit is the most cost effective means of purchasing a selection of remedies. Buying remedies one at a time is much more costly. The remedy kits, if stored properly (out of sunlight, away from excessive heat, microwaves and other electrical sources, and away from strongly-scented products) contain essentially a lifetime's worth of remedies. A household remedy kit will typically range from $30 to $70, depending on the number of remedies and their potencies.
Remedies in the 30c potency are suitable for acute presentations and emergencies. The remedy selection, its repetition, and the assessment of remedy action are most important, not the potency of the remedy used.
Other things you can do
Walk the horse to keep him occupied and to allow the gut to function more readily. However, don't necessarily force the horse to walk if he's more comfortable quiet.
Rescue Remedy, though not a homeopathic remedy (it is a liquid Bach flower essence), is an important and useful mixture to have on hand for any emergency or stressful situation - for human and animal. While it is not necessarily a substitute for other medical treatments, it is effectively used to treat situations associated with crisis, such as fear, panic, severe mental and physical stresses, anxiety, and tension.
Rescue Remedy, also sold as Calming Essence or Nature's Rescue, is made up of five flower essences: Star of Bethlehem, Rock Rose, Impatiens, Cherry Plum, and Clematis. These together help to quickly overcome trauma and stress, both emotional and physical. Rescue Remedy rapidly restores the energy system to normal, allowing the healing process to begin. It has been found to be effective when used alone, or when combined with other flower essences and therapeutic modalities. It can be used with other medications and drugs, and with homeopathic remedies without interfering with their action. To administer Rescue Remedy, place ten drops in your horse's mouth (and four in yours!) or have it mixed in a spray bottle and mist the stall or the horse. It may also be put directly into the horse's drinking water or placed on the ears, gums, nasal areas, or on pulse points.
Use the Tellington Touch Equine Awareness Method (TTEAM) belly lifts, ear work, and tail pulls. If you are not familiar with these methods, read up on them (there are several good books) and practice them ahead of time. The TTouch techniques for first-aid offer animal owners an invaluable tool in emergencies with colic, illness, and injury. TTEAM work with the ears can keep or bring a horse out of shock while waiting for the veterinarian. The Tellington Touch finds areas in a horse's body that indicate tension, fear of contact, soreness or discomfort. TTouch has been used extensively to speed healing and recovery from injury and illness in horses, other animals, and humans. These are helpful techniques to know at any time, not just when there is a problem.
Giving probiotics, or direct-fed microbials, may be helpful in both the short and long term management of the horse with a tendency to colic. There are two basic types of microorganisms in the intestines - the majority are beneficial or good bacteria and the others are pathogenic or bad bacteria. The key is to maintain a balance of good and bad bacteria. When the proper balance is maintained, an animal is healthy, grows at a good rate and converts feedstuffs efficiently. When the balance is upset due to stress or other factors, good health and feed conversion decline. Colic can cause this imbalance of intestinal flora; also, an imbalance or lack of normal flora can precipitate an episode of colic. Either way, supplementing the horse with good bacteria, for example Lactobacillus Acidophilus, or using a product such as ProBiä made by Advanced Biological Concepts will inhibit the growth of the bad bacteria and help keep the pH balanced. ProBiä can be given orally as soon as colic is suspected.
Before you are in a colic situation, get to know your horse and what is normal for him. Observe him often and at different times of the day. Check his temperature, respiration, heart rate, and gums when he is healthy so you will know if something is abnormal. You can then recognize the more subtle signs of colic such as being a bit slow to the feed bucket and changes in manure consistency and frequency. Also alert your veterinarian if you have a horse that tends to colic. Sometimes veterinarians like to know so they can be better prepared.
A horse's tendency to colic can be remedied constitutionally with the help of an experienced equine homeopath. Though many contributing causes of colic are now known, and should be avoided, some are yet unknown. Whether colic is from over-eating, parasites, vaccination (for more information on vaccine-induced colic, see NHM Volume 1, Issues 1 and 2, Boosting Immunity - Nosodes, Vaccines, and Health), or from an unknown cause, a horse's tendency to be so sensitive to these circumstances that he presents with colic can be dealt with homeopathically from a constitutional approach.
If you have a colicky horse, first call your veterinarian. Then head for the remedies. Take a moment to breathe, and look at the horse calmly and clearly. To select the appropriate remedy for the situation, to provide helpful information for the vet, and to help monitor progress, note the following:
For remedy kits and more information:
Arrowroot's Natural Pharmacy
83 East Lancaster Avenue
Paoli, PA 19301
4914 Del Ray Ave.
Bethesda MD 20814
Natural Health Supply
6410 Avenida Christina
Santa Fe, NM 87505
Natural Living Products
PO Box 607
Island Heights, N.J. 08732
Nelson Bach USA Ltd.
Wilmington Technology Park
100 Research Drive
Wilmington, MA 01887-4406
PO Box 3793
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Vernon, BC V1B 3E8
Advanced Biological Concepts
301 Main St. - P.O. Box 27
Osco, Illinois 61274-0027
For additional information or 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