Dr. Barchas, I am taking an herbal/homeopathic
blend to “detoxify” my body of chemicals, metals etc. Are there any such herbal/homeopathic medicines for dogs?

Joe Anne
Mechanicsville, MD

There are many homeopathic products available for pets. In fact, there seem to be several blends available for every conceivable condition, as well as many products for “cleansing” the systems healthy pets.

Homeopathy and herbal medicine cause almost as many arguments among veterinarians as vaccines. In the general public, supporters and opponents of homeopathy both have such strong feelings that they often sound like fanatics when the subject comes up.

I have no doubt that certain blends of herbs and natural products may have health benefits for pets. However, I’d urge you to perform due diligence if you are thinking about administering a homeopathic treatment to your pet.

For one thing, the efficacy of many homeopathic products is unproven. And in my opinion, that’s a big deal. It is very easy to prove that a treatment works. Simply set up a controlled, randomized double-blind study with a sample size that will yield statistically relevant results. That may sound technical, but it’s actually very easy to do. If no study has been done to prove the efficacy of a product, it raises a red flag in my mind. Why has the manufacturer not bothered to take this simple step?

Another problem is that the world of homeopathy is not well regulated by governments. This leads to wide disparities in the qualifications of homeopathic practitioners and the quality of their products.

Some practitioners of homeopathy are veterinarians or other individuals with advanced training. These individuals create products that are likely to be safe.

Other homeopathy practitioners are basically snake oil salespeople. They have no training at all. They simply want to cash in on a profitable enterprise.

A third group consists of well-meaning people who are knowledgeable about human homeopathic remedies but have little training with animals. Members of this group can be especially dangerous. Some of them are not aware that certain compounds can be beneficial to humans yet dangerous to pets (grapes, chocolate and garlic come to mind). Sadly, I have seen pets suffer kidney failure, anemia and other adverse effects after consuming human homeopathic products.

I am not opposed to the use of homeopathic and herbal products. But do some research before you purchase and administer these creations. If you aren’t careful you may do more harm than good.