Understanding Your Pet’s Behaviour Part Two

Continued from last weeks part one….

Touch is also important. Hepar sulph for example is indicated in those who are very sensitive to touch. You’ll sometimes notice this in animals who are normally very friendly but who back away from you when they are ill because they are scared stiff of being touched. If an animal suddenly develops an aversion to being touched after an injury, Arnica may be indicated.

I can’t stress too strongly that in homeopathy you do not talk about one remedy for one condition. Some books present the subject in this way and you quickly get the impression that if the animal has a temperature it needs Belladonna, if it has diarrhoea it needs Arsenicum. It’s what I call a cookery book homeopathy. Using homeopathy in this way won’t work. Bear in mind for example that Arsenicum, whilst good for diarrhoea is also useful for some skin conditions amongst other things. You have to think broadly. Arnica, which we think of as a specific remedy for bruising, is also a very good support remedy for failing hearts. So if you’ve got an old dog who’s puffing and panting in the heat, you’ll try Belladonna in vain. What the dog could benefit from is a dose of low potency Arnica, which will support the whole system. It’s well worth considering it as a general support remedy.

We also have to consider the mental symptoms of animals. And this is where it really does get interesting because a lot of people think that we just cannot guess at the mental symptoms of animals. You would obviously know if you had an aggressive animal. At the other end of the scale you can get very submissive animals, who are Pulsatilla types – the ones who roll over at the drop of a hat and are very affectionate.

However, those are personality types. The mental effects are the changes in normal behaviour you note in the animal, for example grief and resentment. These can both be very marked on the physical and behavioural level. One of the great remedies when it comes to anger and resentment is Staphisagria. A lot of cats that develop pustular skin conditions and hair loss respond well to Staphisagria, and you can often trace these problems back to neutering. These conditions are not always as our conventional colleagues believe, due to upsets to hormone levels or allergies, but due to resentment at being neutered. These symptoms occur more often in male cats, but can be found in both sexes. Staphisagria may help in these situations, but you may find that the cat’s resentment is a normal reaction to its treatment, and therefore you may only get a limited response to the remedy. Other remedies may be tried on a constitutional basis.

We get an awful lot of trouble with young teenage girls, in the animal sphere I mean. Obviously it depends on the type of veterinary practice you have, but I regularly see horses that are sold as perfectly docile and placid who suddenly become vicious – biting, bucking and kicking – when they get to their new homes. This can often reach the stage where the owners return their horse and ask for their money back.

The story here is almost invariably the same. This young pony or horse has been bought for the young teenage daughter who has spent all her Saturdays and all her holidays caring for it, grooming it and riding it. Suddenly boys are more interesting, and the horse gets less and less attention, until the father finally says, “I’m not going to pay for a horse that you’re no longer using,” and the horse is duly sold. But the horse is unhappy with its new owners because it has formed an attachment to that girl and is suffering from grief. And this is typical of Nat mur which tends to work in most of these cases.

Another case I remember from last year was a cat that was referred to me with chronic cat flu, a typical upper respiratory tract infection. This animal had already been seen by another vet and been prescribed the usual antibiotics. They were not getting very far with this treatment. The cat was brought to me and I looked at the history preceding the onset of the syndrome. In this case, the girl who owned the cat had gone off to university. From the animal’s point of view, she had departed for no valid reason. Animals have their own priorities, and in a lot of cases, they’re more sensible than ours. The remedy I used for this particular cat was Ignatia, another useful remedy for grief, and the ’flu cleared up beautifully.

When you’re looking at your animal, you’ve got to be extremely careful about interpreting what you see with regard to an animal’s mental characteristics and not impose a human interpretation on your pet’s behaviour. You must know and understand your species.

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This article has been adapted from a talk given by John Saxton at the Homeopathic Trust supporters’ event held in London in September 1999.