23 February 1996

NOTHING NEW IN NATURAL REMEDIES…

Treatment for cattle disease has become reliant

on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, but there is often a choice of a more natural or alternative therapy. Jessica Buss reports

ONE Oxfordshire vet believes that he can treat disease often with better results using natural remedies rather than modern drugs.

Christopher Day has practised homoeopathic treatment of animals, including cattle, for over 20 years.

Far from being new, he is quick to point out that these treatments have been tested on humans for over 200 years. However, he admits applying these medicines to animals is more difficult.

The skill is in assembling a picture of symptoms, then choosing one of thousands of possible remedies. This is done by comparing the known effect of medicines in a healthy body with the entire picture, mental and physical, shown by the animal.

"It is not enough to know a cow has diarrhoea; it helps to know other factors such as the time of day that symptoms appear worst and whether the animal has any pains or fever," he says. "Other apparently unconnected symptoms suffered by the animal are also taken into account."

He claims that when animals become sick it is usually an imbalance often brought about by the effects of housing, ventilation or management in the widest possible sense. Recovery can, therefore, be helped by improving farm practices and therefore the animals ability to heal.

"Magic bottles may not hold the answer. Using any medicine at all is a sign we need to improve management," he says.

He questions the future of antibiotics. "We have to address the chemicals in our environment. We may not find antibiotic methods prove sustainable, especially from the consumers point of view.

"Farmer and vet should be searching for ways to improve health management instead of looking for the quick solution and forgetting the longer term."

According to Mr Day, alternative medicines work because there is a force in all of us that chooses life over death when the instinct is powerful enough and the correct medicine to stimulate healing is given. "We aim to deliver homoeopathy in a sensible way. We dont sell cure-all medicines – our remedies are tailored to the farm situation," he says. The only claim made is that he will do his best.

The actual remedies cost little, he maintains, for they are often natural products prescribed in small amounts. Most treatments are put in drinking water, but some are injections or powders given by mouth. "Results of treatment are difficult to assess, so we monitor the effects in the best way we can."

Mr Day does prescribe antibiotics when he feels they are necessary or will prevent suffering. Because these work differently to natural medicines they do not interfere with the effectiveness of each other, he claims.

He is sceptical of "cure-all products" and cautions that claims these make may be infringing upon the medicines and the vet surgeons acts. "When such products fail to alleviate suffering then the producer could be open to prosecution under the 1911 act."

"For the natural remedies that salesmen sell we must ask if the product is ethical, and even whether it is what it says," he says.

"Homoeopathic remedies are specific and powerful. When you persist in treating a healthy animal with homoeopathic products you produce the symptoms of that medicine. These are usually the same symptoms as those you are aiming to treat. This results in confusion due to over treatment."

Mr Day warns that a mix of different remedies may fail.

"Medicines work better alone. When you use more than one medicine you dilute the animals response to the stimulant which may be of benefit." For example a cow with mastitis may show many different symptoms such as poor appetite, clots in milk or an inflamed udder.

Mr Day claims that for diseases such as BVD (bovine virus diarrhoea) pneumonia, or mastitis, homoeopathy may often offer as good a cure – or a better one – than antibiotics.

Mastitis treated with antibiotics shows a clinical result but these cows often suffer further symptoms at a later date, he stresses. However, with successful homoeopathic treatment the tendency to mastitis can be addressed and a more lasting solution found.

To boost herd mastitis resistance a nosode (see panel) is added to drinking water. But care must be taken with medicine potency (strength), frequency of its use and duration. When a nosode is administered for too long, or too frequently, it could produce mastitis symptoms, he warns. &#42

Homoeopathic vet Christopher Day chooses a single remedy from thousands of natural medicines that were originally tested on humans.