The highest ideal of therapy is to restore health rapidly, gently, permanently; to remove and destroy the whole disease in the shortest, surest, least harmful way, according to clearly comprehensible principles. - Dr. Samuel Hahnemann

Respiratory Troubles? Breathe Easy - Homeopathy Can Help!

Homeopathy is being used with great success throughout the world in veterinary as well as human practice. More and more animal owners are happily discovering that with proper homeopathic care, illnesses that are considered incurable have a good chance for cure.

Homeopathy is a unique branch of holistic medicine that has specific principles and laws. "Like cures like" is the basic principle of homeopathy. Substances which cause symptoms in a healthy individual can be used to cure them in an unhealthy individual. Matching the symptoms of the sick body with the proven toxic effects of a certain substance is the key. The substance, if prepared homeopathically (diluted and succussed repeatedly in a specific manner), becomes highly energetic but non-toxic. Thus even harmful substances become completely safe, and curative.

Most commonly, only one remedy at a time is used to stimulate the Vital Force (the life force) to achieve cure. The 'totality of symptoms presented' is used to select the most appropriate remedy, known as the simillimum. All the symptoms and characteristics of a horse or other individual are considered when choosing the remedy. Several individuals with the same condition may all need different remedies, chosen according to their individual characteristics. That is why homeopathy does not require an exact diagnosis to treat disease; the symptoms are the indicators for a remedy, not a disease name. Homeopathy is highly individualized and symptoms are considered an expression of the Vital Force that all is not right within. This expression of symptoms is what guides the homeopath to the correct remedy.

'Cure' is meant to be true, thorough, deep and permanent healing, not just the removal of symptoms. Unlike conventional medicine in which drugs and various treatments disrupt balance by suppressing symptoms and producing side effects, homeopathy leaves the patient more balanced mentally, physically, emotionally, and functionally, and more able to resist illness in the future. With homeopathy, the patient is viewed as a whole, not a sum of parts.

For a homeopath to successfully treat a horse, he must obtain, as much as is possible, a complete and thorough history of the patient and her symptoms. He must then find the simillimum (the remedy that matches that patient and her symptoms), and remove the obstacles to curing. The initial interview, where a history is taken, is time well spent and any and all peculiarities about the patient should be noted. Often the most peculiar behaviors and symptoms point most directly to the correct remedy. The correct remedy can kick-start the body into action to heal itself, but the body must be nutritionally supported to fuel its efforts and it must be protected from harmful effects so that cure can take place.

Obstacles to a cure are things that can get in the way of the body's ability to cure itself. Some of the more common ones include steroids, antibiotics, hormones, vaccinations, combination vaccines, conventional medicines (they merely relieve or suppress), chemicals and preservatives in feed, processed feed, lack of turnout and exercise, noxious ammonia fumes in the barn, and lack of fresh air. Since it is the body that does the work of cure, it needs to be supported and not thwarted. If there are no roadblocks, cure will come more readily.

Respiratory disease

Equine respiratory problems are numerous and varied, from nosebleeds to heaves. While all chronic problems are best left to the professional homeopath, some acute problems may be treatable by the owner with guidance from an experienced veterinary homeopath.

Mary Brennan, DVM from Marietta, Georgia explains, "Guidance is needed because you don't want a respiratory virus or bacterial infection getting worse. People may give a homeopathic [remedy], and if it's not the right homeopathic and the horse does not respond, he could get extremely ill. Of course, any serious respiratory problem requires veterinary consult."

There are thousands of homeopathic remedies, each with its unique symptom picture, and it is challenging to find the one that could be of the most value in effecting a cure. Says Dr. Brennan, "The difficulty with treating respiratory or any problems homeopathically is that in order for it to be successful, we need to have the correct homeopathic remedy.  Then homeopathy can be very, very effective medicine," says Dr. Brennan, "and especially for respiratory problems."

A homeopath with a thorough knowledge of the remedies can more quickly and accurately pinpoint the simillimum. "That requires taking notes on symptoms, repertorizing and then selecting the right homeopathic. That takes an experienced person who knows how to do that," she says. "I hesitate to say 'this remedy is good for this or that' because the case may not get better if it is not the correct homeopathic for that horse, and the problem could get serious. Sometimes you have to intervene earlier with a remedy change or other treatment. There are a few homeopathics that people could try, as long as the case is not severe," says Dr. Brennan. "But what I don't want people to do is to just give a homeopathic instead of monitoring the case. I stress guidance from an experienced homeopathic veterinarian instead of using, for example, the over-the-counter homeopathic mixes. Most of them are not very reliable because homeopathics must be very specific to each individual. But properly chosen homeopathics really do work extremely well."

According to Dr. Brennan, "Bacteria seem to be less responsive to homeopathics than the viruses. If there's a bacterial pneumonia problem, or an infection in the sinuses or the guttural pouch, the horse may require an antibiotic. Sometimes these infections are responsive to homeopathics, but to treat a bacterial respiratory infection requires an extremely skilled holistic veterinarian who is very experienced in homeopathy. I probably would not limit the treatment to just homeopathy. I might want to include other alternative therapies to support the immune system as well, such as acupuncture and possibly some herbs. The viruses are the ones that we treat most often with homeopathy because there aren't really any other medications for them except those that support the immune system."

Chronic or acute

An acute problem is a disease state which is usually brief in duration. A chronic problem is a more slowly-developing condition that will last indefinitely and is more difficult to prescribe for. Chronic disease may consist of repeated acute flare-ups of disease. Whether acute or chronic, a symptom is not the diagnosis; it is a sign of an imbalance or underlying disease, and the symptoms are the clues to finding the correct remedy for that individual.

"Homeopathics can be very, very successful in treating acute and chronic respiratory problems,"

says Dr. Brennan. "For example, heaves is a very difficult chronic problem. Treatment depends on how advanced it is and how many years it has been going on. Heaves is usually an allergic condition, and may be more responsive to other types of therapy in addition to homeopathics. But heaves can be responsive. Sometimes muscle testing works also. Kinesiology, or muscle testing, is a very useful technique if someone is educated in doing that. It often works well for homeopathy," she adds.

"My personal preference is not to treat heaves with solely a homeopathic. I find a combination works best with heaves because it is so difficult to treat. I have had some very successful cases, and most holistic veterinarians do have a lot of success treating heaves. It's not a blanket treatment," she explains. "Each horse is allergic to different things. Heaves is a very complex problem, but it can be very successfully treated."

The body may need to work back through several 'layers of disease' to get to its core of good health. This road to cure may be deceiving in that a worsening of symptoms or reappearance of past disease, while unsettling to the observer, generally means that cure is under way. "Sometimes they get worse before they get better," says Dr. Brennan. "We have to be very careful at times to not stimulate too big of a response. This can happen during the process of healing. Sometimes we can't predict the responses, especially for the really hard chronic cases. We need to monitor the situation, and many things need to be taken into consideration when prescribing treatment."

A qualified homeopathic veterinarian will know how to recognize and measure progress toward cure. He can assess the action of a remedy, and can determine whether it is curing rather than just alleviating the problem.

Helping the homeopathic veterinarian

To help your homeopathic veterinarian determine which remedy is the correct one, be observant. It's important to observe and note any signs and symptoms; it helps to keep written records when problems are noticed. "Record keeping and observation are the biggest help in getting to the bottom of a problem," Dr. Brennan points out.

"Write down things like what times of day the animal or symptoms are the worst - what symptoms you notice at what time. And don't think that any symptom is too small to notice. Any symptom can be important. Generally a holistic veterinarian will choose certain symptoms to use, but the more symptoms you can give them, with a time reference, the better. Your observations are the most important thing to help us."

The observation and recordkeeping may include many things. Dr. Brennan suggests, "Perhaps in the morning the horse's nose is totally clear and he seems fine, and as the day progresses it gets really bad, and is at its worst around 5:00pm. Perhaps the horse is stiff in the early morning then gets better, or he doesn't want to move to the right side. Maybe he won't eat his grain in the morning, but usually feels good enough to eat it by noon, or he doesn't want to drink his water well. Perhaps there are behavioral changes.

"These are important, helpful observations, in addition to the normal things like any recent feed or supplement changes, environmental changes or stresses, and how they are affecting that horse's behavior and/or the manifestation of the disease. Is the horse better or worse from the changes? I've heard, 'He was getting well until we changed his stall, and then he got really sick, then we changed him back and he didn't get better.'; those kinds of things. Any kind of information helps a holistic veterinarian understand and see the case more clearly. You never know what piece of information will be helpful. Colors and textures of discharges are important. Some veterinarians ask people to look for more specific things. That will vary a little bit from one veterinarian to another. Write things down - keep detailed information."

Dr. Brennan says, " I prefer homeopathy because it is actually very safe and mild, yet quite effective. One cannot easily say that a certain homeopathic treats a certain condition; certainly some specific remedies may come to mind, but homeopathy is a little more involved than that." Homeopathy is individualized and choosing the remedy to fit the patient is not a simple task, but it is the key to its success.


Natural Horse Magazine thanks Dr. Mary Brennan for her assistance in preparing this article.

Dr. Brennan operates a holistic equine practice in Marietta, Georgia. She offers acupuncture, chiropractic and other holistic modalities as well as homeopathy. She is the author of "The Natural Dog", a book on holistic dog care published by Penguin, and "The Complete Book of Veterinary Holistic Horse Care", a book for the holistic-minded horse owner, which is currently being published and will be available about the end of summer.


Respiratory signs and symptoms worthy of noting to help your holistic veterinarian



From where - eyes, nostrils, ears; right , left, or both


Description - color (white, yellow, green, gray, brown, bloody); consistency (thick, thin, sticky, stringy or ropy, lumpy, watery, burning and irritating to the skin, dry and crusted)


Odor of discharges or breath


What causes the discharges to be worse or better?

Mucous membranes:


Description - thickness, color, wet or dry, hot or cool, ulcerated


Tongue (crevices, color, coated, furry)

Snorting/sneezing, coughing:


Productive or dry
Spells of coughing


Relieved or worsened by drinking or eating



More difficult to breathe in or breathe out


Rapid, shallow, deep, labored


Sounds (snoring, rattling, raspy)


Flared nostrils


If worse or better with exercise

Other characteristics:


Sensitivities to drafts, cold, pressure on certain areas, weather changes


What time of day is the horse or the symptoms worse/better?


Mental attitude - anxious, agitated, irritable; dull and responseless, listless; fearful, overreactive, delirious; affectionate or overly affectionate, clingy; violent


Physical - involuntary twitching of any muscles (extremities or facial); weakness, debility or paralysis; pulse (full, strong, weak, rapid); body temperature (normal, fever, below normal); sweating (where, amount, odor); eyes (sunken, enlarged); pupils (dilated, contracted, each different); conjunctiva, insides of the eyelids (red, swollen, pale, blue, yellow, moist, dry); glands (swollen, hard or soft, size); thirst; appetite; urination; defecation; skin; hooves; extremities; teeth