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Veterinary research

The volume of clinical evidence available for veterinary homeopathy is much smaller than that for use of homeopathy in humans, although this continues to be an active area of research in countries such as Brazil where homeopathy is fully integrated alongside conventional medical techniques.

Two global systematic reviews by Mathie & Clausen summarise the evidence from clinical trials of veterinary homeopathy.1,2

The first review looked at the evidence from randomised placebo-controlled trials and the accompanying meta-analysis3  found weak evidence that homeopathy treatment is different from placebo (p = 0.01 for N=15 trials; p = 0.02 for the N=2 most reliable trials).

The second review assessed randomised trials comparing homeopathy to something other than placebo (e.g. usual care), but found the quality of the trials in this category to be too low to provide useful insight into effectiveness of veterinary homeopathy2.

A more recent study published by Doehring & Sundrum in 20164, looked at the evidence for homeopathy in the care of food-producing animals, specifically in situations where antibiotics are usually used. While the review reached broadly similar conclusions to Mathie & Clausen, the methods used were not consistent with a high quality ‘Cochrane-style’ systematic review. For example, Doehring & Sundrum assessed a body of evidence that included observational, uncontrolled and non-randomised studies, which were excluded by Mathie & Clausen.

Prevention of diarrhoea in piglets

One of the high-quality placebo controlled trials identified by Mathie & Clausen was carried out by Wageningen University in the Netherlands.5

In this triple-blinded RCT, 52 pregnant sows were treated with either Coli 30K (a homeopathic medicine made from E. coli bacteria) or placebo. The sows gave birth to 525 piglets and those in the group treated with Coli 30K had 6 times less diarrhoea than the piglets in the placebo group. This result was statistically significant (p < 0.0001) meaning that it is extremely unlikely to be a false positive result due to chance alone.

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The homeopathic medicine used in this study was made from E. coli bacteria, alternately diluted and succussed to produce an ultra high dilution of 10-60, meaning that it should no longer contain any molecules of the original bacteria.

The particular technique used, where the medicine used is made from the same substance which causes the disease being treated, is a sub-type of homeopathy called ‘isopathy’.

As the only existing way of preventing this disease in livestock is by using antibiotics, this study should be repeated to confirm its findings, as it may provide an effective way to help reduce overuse of antibiotics. 

Wound healing disorder and antimicrobial resistance in a horse

Case reports play a valuable role in documenting the direct experience of individuals, especially when recorded in systematic detail and independently verified. In this recent case report by homeopathic equine veterinarian Dr Petra Weiermayer (Vienna) a 4-year old horse with delayed wound healing associated with antimicrobial resistant bacteria was treated successfully with homeopathy6.

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After surgical treatment of a deep lacerated wound to the right foreleg, the horse failed to respond to appropriate antibiotic treatment. A deep wound swab identified infection with antimicrobial resistant bacteria. Subsequent treatment with homeopathic medicine Silicea terra resulted in complete resolution of the clinical signs of delayed wound healing (putrid inflammation, edema and seroma) and full closure of the wound within five weeks; the improvements were maintained for over a year with no relapses.

Importantly, the case was also documented by the attending independent veterinary surgeon, the horse owner and other horse owners at the same stable, providing valuable external validation.

Considering the global threat of antimicrobial resistance, well-documented cases such as this can form the basis of large-scale clinical studies to assess the potential impact of homeopathy on antibiotic stewardship and treatment of resistant infections. 

Overall, the systematic review evidence in veterinary homeopathy remains unclear – there is insufficient data either to rule out an effect beyond placebo or to demonstrate clear efficacy/effectiveness of homeopathy.

Given the positive anecdotal evidence reported by veterinary homeopaths, farmers and animal-owners, plus the positive trends seen from the small number of robust studies which have been conducted to date, further high quality research is needed as a matter of urgency to clarify the roles which homeopathy may be able to play in improving animal welfare and tackling challenges such as anti-microbial resistance.

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  1. Mathie RT, Clausen J. Veterinary homeopathy: systematic review of medical conditions studied by randomised placebo-controlled trials. Vet Record, 2014; 175(15):373-81 | Abstract
  2. Mathie RT, Clausen J. Veterinary homeopathy: Systematic review of medical conditions studied by randomised trials controlled by other than placebo. BMC Vet Res, 2015; 11(1):236 |Full text
  3. Mathie RT, Clausen J. Veterinary homeopathy: meta-analysis of randomised placebo-controlled trials. Homeopathy, 2015; 104(1):3-8 | Abstract
  4. Doehring C, Sundrum A. Efficacy of homeopathy in livestock according to peer-reviewed publications from 1981 to 2014. Veterinary Record, 2016; 179(24):628 | Full text
  5. Camerlink I, Ellinger L, Bakker EJ, Lantinga EA. Homeopathy as replacement to antibiotics in the case of Escherichia coli diarrhoea in neonatal piglets. Homeopathy, 2010; 99: 57–62 | PubMed
  6. Weiermayer, P. Wound healing disorder in a horse, associated with anitmicrobial resistance, resolved with a homeopathic medicine – a case report. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 2018; 67: 37-43 | Abstract

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