Homeopathy for Eye Disorders

By Todd Cooney, DVM, CVH | February 9, 2017


We say the eyes are the window to the soul. One can gauge an individual’s health with a thorough gaze into this amazing organ. Eyes are also a window to the outside environment, and crucial to most animal species. Eye disorders are a regular part of veterinary practice, and homeopaths treat eye symptoms as part of the individual’s total symptom picture, or totality. Let’s consider how homeopathy is useful in treating some of the most common eye disorders seen in practice today, after this quick overview of homeopathy basics.


Homeopathic treatment is based on true natural laws of healing, which do not change over time. Homeopaths study the same textbooks used over 200 years ago, and practice according to the same principles outlined by the old masters of this healing art. Three basic laws undergird all of homeopathy:

1.    The Law of Similars states that any substance that produces symptoms in a healthy individual can cure the same symptoms in disease. For example, the watery nasal and ocular discharge of hay fever or a cold may respond well to Allium cepa, a remedy made from onions, because sliced raw onions cause similar symptoms (it may help any individual with watery ocular discharge).

Another good example is parvo virus in puppies, with its characteristic nausea, vomiting, and foul liquid diarrhea, often helped by Arsenicum album, which causes the same syndrome in healthy individuals. Symptoms are the body’s attempt to restore homeostasis, or balance, and the correct homeopathic remedy supports this process, rather than opposing it. Opposing symptoms or surgery often lead to suppression, forcing the natural disease deeper into the body.

2.    Hering’s Law states that disease tends to develop in a certain direction, and leave in the opposite direction. All cure starts from within and moves out, from the head down, and in reverse order as the symptoms appeared, or were suppressed. This translates to symptoms moving from more vital to less vital organs, from the interior to exterior of the body (think skin), and from the top down (or head to tail in animals) as healing occurs. For the eye, a cure would move from a cataract to an ocular discharge. This direction of cure is universal, and happens regardless of the type of medicine doing the curing.

3.    The Law of Dilution/Potentization states that repeated dilutions and succussions (forceable mixing) of remedies results in a greater strength of effect. A 6c potency is diluted 1:100 six times and succussed each time; the much more potent 200c is diluted 1:100 a total of 200 times with succussions. Quantum physics is shedding some light on possible explanations for this phenomenon, as is nanotechnology (see the two-part article “Homeopathy: a 200-year-old nanomedicine” by Shelly Epstein, DVM, CVH and Iris Bell, MD in the Summer and Fall 2013 issues of IVC Journal), and clinical experience confirms this law.


A noted human homeopathic ophthalmologist, Edward Kondrot MD, CCH, DHt (healingtheeye.com), believes that the largest cause of all eye disease in people is suppression caused by modern medicines and treatment methods. I feel this also translates to our animal patients.1 The following are a few contributing factors:

·        Antibiotics for conjunctivitis

·        Treatment of chronic blepharitis

·        Steroid eye drops and ointments

·        Cataract surgery

·        Laser surgery and injections for retinal disease

These “opposite” treatments cause the disease to go deeper into the body, resulting in more serious eye problems. A good example are the “side effects” listed for steroid eye drops, which are actually the result of suppression – corneal ulcers, infections, cataracts, increased intraocular pressure, to name a few. This is also true in our veterinary patients, as antibiotic/steroid medications are the first line of allopathic treatments for most eye conditions seen in practice. How do we address some common veterinary ophthalmological conditions with homeopathy?

1.    Conjunctivitis

Up to 90% of eye cases have some degree of this inflammatory symptom. Many clients present an animal with eye discharge and want an antibiotic, fearing infection. However, true infections are rare. The ocular organs given the body a route of cleansing and detoxification (lacrimal system), along with the saliva, lungs, skin, gastrointestinal tract, urine, etc.

The most common causes of conjunctivitis are poor diet, toxin accumulation from vaccinations (vaccinosis), GI imbalance, and possibly tight dog collars (harnesses improve many health conditions). Bathing the eye with soothing solutions can be taught to clients.

·        Saline: ¼ teaspoon salt in one cup clean, distilled water.

·        In severe cases, add up to ten drops per cup of water of one of the following herbal tinctures: goldenseal, euphrasia, calendula or hypericum.

Here are a few of the most useful homeopathic medicines for conjunctivitis, with common indications (the symptoms of the patient should be present in the remedy, but not all the remedy symptoms need to be present in the patient):

·        Aconitum – sudden onset; intense fear; exposure to bright sunlight/ snow reflection or cold weather; early stages with intense painful inflammation; profuse watery discharge; bloodshot eyes

·        Allium cepa – minor irritations; watery, bland tears

·        Apis mellifica – swelling is key; chemosis; thick, sticky discharge; thirstlessness

·        Argentum nitricum – young animals; copious yellow/green discharge

·        Arsenicum album – yellow/watery discharge; chilly, restless, thirsty patient

·        Belladonna – sudden, intense inflammation; dry eyes; dilated pupils

·        Euphrasia – also known as “eyebright”; acrid tears leaving a stain; chronicity

·        Mercurius (vivus or solubilis) – acrid, thin discharge; pus in anterior chamber; green nasal discharge; irritable nature; sensitive to hot and cold

·        Pulsatilla – bland yellow discharge; itchy eyes, mild inflammation; resolving upper respiratory infection

·        Rhus toxicodendron – yellow, profuse discharge; intense inflammation; painful; gluey discharge sticking lids together

·        Sulphur – end of upper respiratory infection; acrid discharge; itchy eyes and lids; rubs eyes and face a lot

1.    Corneal ulcers

These are common, and often a sequel to conjunctivitis, ranging in severity from superficial to deep, or even indolent.

·        Euphrasia – a very good remedy for many ulcers; used topically in saline eye wash, or given orally in potency (or both)

·        Aconitum – if the ulcer is very painful, and developed recently

·        Apis, Argentum nitricum, Arsenicum alb., Hepar sulph., Mercurius, Rhus tox., Silicea, Sulphur, Thuya – other remedies to help heal ulcers

·        Silicea or Thuya – to complete healing of stubborn, indolent ulcers

1.    Eye injuries

Scratches, abrasions, lacerations and bruising are some of the most commonly seen injuries. These cases will usually respond very well to the correct remedy, without needing any other treatment. Consider the following:

·        Arnica montana – patient extremely touchy; traumatic injuries of any kind

·        Calcarea sulph. – excellent for splinters or foreign bodies in soft tissue around eye

·        Calendula – used internally or topically

·        Conium – cataract developing after trauma

·        Euphrasia – corneal edema post injury

·        Ledum – bruising; blood pooling under sclera/cornea, in anterior chamber

·        Staphysagria – corneal scratches/lacerations

·        Symphytum – blunt trauma to eye (“Arnica for the eye”)

1.    Entropion

This is a very painful condition, which often requires surgical correction. The following remedies may be helpful in some cases, and even prevent surgery:

·        Borax – patient displays extreme noise sensitivity; fear of falling (avoids going down stairs or panics when picked up)

·        Calcarea carbonica – other developmental problems present; soft, flabby, big-boned patients; slow dentition in history

1.    Ectropion

Many cases can tighten up enough to not need surgery, and involve many of the same remedies listed above, as well as:

·        Calcarea carbonica – if often needed

·        Apis, Argenticum n., Mercury, Sulphur

1.    Cataract

Some cases respond well to homeopathic treatment, especially when the total symptoms shown by the individual are included. Dr. Compton Burnett, a British homeopath in the late 1800s,2 used various remedies, depending on the patient’s symptom totality, and had good success with many cases. He also describes five cured cases in his wonderful book, Fifty Reasons for Being a Homeopath.

Dr. Richard Pitcairn3 lists the following remedies as useful for cataract treatment:  Conium (especially indicated in cataract following eye trauma, and in older patients), Silicea, Pulsatilla, Sulphur and Euphrasia. 


The healing responses of many eye cases I’ve treated since I began to practice homeopathy encourage me to use this modality first when presented with eye issues. Eye problems often appear to be isolated from the rest of the body, but must be seen holistically to choose a successful prescription.

Case Studies

1.    Indolent Ulcer in Cat

In November 2012, a specialist diagnosed an herpetic keratitis in the right eye of an 11-year-old Siamese mix named Emma Morse, which had progressed into an indolent ulcer. He recommended surgery to repair it, and dispensed topical and oral antibiotics.

Dr. Jennifer Ramelmeier prescribed Hepar sulphuris calcareum 1M to be given QD on November 17, 18 and 19 because of the severe pain and ulceration.  

On recheck on December 3, the ophthalmologist reported the cat had improved significantly so surgery was no longer needed. A second prescription of one dose of Hepar sulph 10M was administered once, and by January 14 the ulcer was healed.  There was a small milky spot remaining.

2.    Recurrent Uveitis in a Mare

By Stephanie A. Chalmers, DVM, Diplomate ACVD, CVH

Haleakala is a Rocky Mountain Mare. Born in December of 1994, she had been a brood mare before being purchased in September 2005. She had multiple (12) vaccines between October 2005 and May 2007 (at which time her owner stopped vaccinating). She had a hoof abscess in March 2008.

Ocular pain, eyelid swelling and mild scleral injection were noted in the left eye on April 17 of 2008. The local vet made a diagnosis of uveitis and administered Banamine and a topical antibiotic eye ointment. Symptoms recurred on May 25, again in the left eye. This time the vet administered an intravenous steroid and prescribed a topical antibiotic/steroid ointment.

When her owner contacted me on June 9, mild conjunctivitis and squinting were still present in Haleakala’s left eye. She also had early cataract development in the right eye. Her owner described her as a mild-mannered horse, sensitive and responsive when ridden. She liked to be brushed and petted. Though she had been a good mother, she seemed unattached to the other horses on the property.

My assessment was that this was a manifestation of vaccinosis. Drugs temporarily covered up the eye symptoms, but had not resolved the underlying vital force imbalance that continued to generate this symptom.

Silica 30c was prescribed to be given once, based on the symptoms of uveitis, the cataract, the suspected role of vaccination, the history of a hoof abscess and the mildness of Haleakala’s nature. We discontinued the eye ointment.

A complete resolution of her ocular symptoms occurred within one week after administering the single dose of homeopathic medicine. Her owner also noted that her coat looked better.

The uveitis returned in 2010 in the same eye and resolved with one dose of Silicea. The same thing happened again the following year (2011), but the disease never progressed to pathology. During that period, I treated her with Sulphur to resolve a hoof abscess. 

I was unable to continue prescribing to completely cure Haleakala, because the owner decided to treat the mare herself when the eye inflammation recurred in 2013.

1Kondrot, Edward MD, CCH, DHt. (healingtheeye.com)

2Burnett, J. Compton. Cataract: Its nature, causes, prevention, and cure. 1889.

3Pitcairn, R and Hubble, S. Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats



1 in 3 Household Pets are Overweight

1 in 3 Household Pets are Overweight



By Aly Semigran  comments by Diane Weinmann   


Over the past decade, there’s been a steady climb in the number of obese domestic cats and dogs, according to an eye-opening report released by Banfield Pet Hospital. 


The State of Pet Health report breaks down the obesity epidemic with shocking numbers, including a 169 percent rise in overweight cats and a 158 percent rise in overweight dogs since 2007. 


The report found that 1 in every 3 household pets is overweight, stemming from both overfeeding and a lack of exercise. 


“Obesity is so common that many people underestimate their pet’s body condition, preventing them from taking action to manage their pet’s weight,” the report stated. (The Banfield report was conducted by its BARK Research Team, which analyzed data on over 2.5 million dogs and 500,000 cats from Banfield’s 975 veterinary hospitals.) 


Though some pet breeds are more prone to obesity, Banfield breaks down how to determine if your pet is at risk (by calculating their body condition score), and also offers diet and exercise tips. Maintaining your pet’s weight is important, considering excess pounds can lead to conditions like arthritis and diabetes.


The report also points out that pet parents take a hit financially when their pet is obese, estimating that overweight dogs can cost their owners over $2,000 more a year in medical costs. 


While these guidelines can help educate pet parents on how to prevent their cat or dog from becoming a statistic, it’s always wise to consult with your veterinarian first to determine the best plan for your pet. 

Being certified in canine nutrition, most pets can benefit from veggies and fruits in their food bowl.  My husky is tricky – he will only eat his bigger veggies with dip (guess where he learned that from? … my son!) so we chop the broccoli, carrots and cauliflower until it’s almost ground up then mix it with his regular food.  We also do that with melon and berries, although once in a while, he will eat a whole blue berry.  Be sneaky and your pet will benefit!


5 Ways to Help a Hiding Cat

5 Ways to Help a Hiding Cat

By John Gilpatrick

It’s hard to say if Garfield started the stereotype of the mischievous, anti-social cat, but he certainly reinforced it, and to be fair, there’s some basis in truth.


While some cats are friendly and cuddly, many others spend their days in dark enclosed spaces and prowl the house at night.


“A lot of cats lead nocturnal lives,” says Myrna Milani, DVM, an author and veterinary scholar in the fields of pathology and anthrozoology.


If your cat usually spends its day hidden, that’s generally fine and normal, Milani says. The problem arises, however, when social cats suddenly start hiding. This behavior is often indicative of stress, fear, a medical issue, or some combination of these.


Continue reading for tips on identifying problematic forms of hiding behavior in cats and what you can do to resolve the underlying issue.


Allow Your Cat to Warm Up to Visitors

One of the primary causes of stress in cats is a change in their environments, and one big change that often induces hiding is the addition of a new person to the household.


Whether this is in the form of a temporary visitor or a permanent resident, cats are naturally inclined to assume a new person is a threat to their territory. (The same goes for the addition to a new animal.) As such, you might find your feline hiding or marking areas with her scent.


Milani says it’s important to give a cat time to adjust to the change and accept the new person on her own terms. “The worst thing you can tell the new person to do is play nice and ‘kissy face’ with the cat,” she says.


Instead, short-term visitors can sit near the hiding spot and let the cat come to them, maybe coaxing her out with a treat or a toy that will boost her confidence and make her feel more like predator than prey.


Milani suggests longer-term visitors or new permanent residents rub themselves all over with a dry towel or washcloth. Then, leave the towel in the middle of the floor overnight and allow the cat to explore the scent on her own time and at her own speed.


The cat should start feeling more comfortable the next day, though if the towel has been peed on, “That’s a message, and you need to keep being patient,” Milani says.


Try to Normalize a New Environment


Another cause of this type of stress is a move. It might take your cat a while to adjust to the new house, and that’s made worse, Milani says, the more you change things around. Trying to give your cat normalcy in a new house—whether that’s setting up her cat tree by a window or avoiding clutter with empty boxes—will help your cat adjust.


“I know it’s not what people who move want to hear, but the best thing you can do for a cat after a move is to unpack everything and settle in as quickly as possible,” she says.


Give Your Cat a Safe Space


It’s not uncommon for cats to be fearful of visitors or changes in their environments or routines. Fear in cats is often marked by prey behavior, which includes running away and hiding.


Dilara G. Parry, a certified cat behavior consultant, says “safe spaces” are an easy way for the owner to make sure that the hiding that’s taking place is healthy and safe.


“A sturdy cardboard box, turned on its side with a nice blanket placed inside, can be an alluring hiding space that is safe,” Parry says.


Milani adds that cutting a cat-sized hole in an upside-down cardboard box is another great DIY safe space because the cat can face the opening and know nothing is coming up behind her.


Monitor Your Cat’s Behavior Changes


Hiding behavior in cats could signal an illness or serious medical condition, and owners need to pay attention when this behavior emerges and is out of the ordinary.


Milani says if a cat begins hiding, it’s paramount that the owner monitors the cat’s eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating. She recommends blocking off the bathroom to the cat and marking his water dish with a marker so you know exactly how much water is being consumed every day.


Other easily observable signs of an illness or condition that’s forcing hiding are discharge from the eyes or nose, limping, and non-specific diarrhea.


Make an Appointment With Your Vet


If your cat is suddenly hiding, and seems more antisocial than normal, a visit to the veterinarian is recommended to rule out any medical issues. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


“Sometimes, the first indication to the guardian that their cat is sick is hiding behavior,” Parry says. “I have seen this in cases of urinary blockage, which can quickly turn fatal if untreated, so I definitely urge guardians to take hiding behavior seriously, especially if it is not ‘par for the course’ for that particular cat.”


Growing Your Own Medicinal Herbs

Growing Your Own Medicinal Herbs

Lemon Balm

Before horses were domesticated, they roamed free and kept themselves healthy by grazing on a large variety of plants and herbs. They used their deeply-ingrained instincts to seek out the plants they needed to maintain their health. A wealth of herbal knowledge was acquired by ancient herders who spent their lives watching the animals in their charge seek out certain plants at different times according to their needs. This information was handed down through many generations.

The Benefits of Having your Own Garden

Cut and dried herbs can be very expensive to purchase, but they are often very easy and inexpensive to grow yourself. Growing an herb garden for your horse will give you the ability to harvest fresh herbs whenever you need them. The herbs can be dried and stored for later use, or made into tinctures or extracts that can be given orally or added to various equine grooming and health products.

Many herbs offer wonderful health benefits for horses when added to feed rations, or by allowing the animals to graze on the fresh plants. Herbs can be a beneficial addition to hoof oils, poultices, wound, skin and coat products, and insect repellents. Planting herbs around the barn can also repel insects. Garlic, geraniums, lavender, rue and wormwood planted near stables and pastures can help control overpopulations of bothersome bugs. Also useful for repelling insects are eucalyptus, citronella, lemongrass and tea tree – these herbs are often used in all-natural insect repellents and applied externally to help repel flies, mosquitos and other pests.

Top 8 Herbs for Your Garden:

  1. Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)

Aloes are semi-tropical succulent plants. They can be grown outdoors in climates where there is no chance of freezing (USDA Zones 10 to 11). Aloe vera is relatively easy to grow indoors if given sufficient light. If grown outdoors, it should be planted in full sun or light shade. The plant is fairly drought-tolerant, but some water should be provided. Watering should be minimal in the winter when the plant becomes somewhat dormant. In the summer, the soil should be soaked and allowed to dry completely before watering again.

Parts used: Juice or gel from the leaves.

Use: The gel soothes itchy dry skin and heal burns and wounds.

Cautions: This plant should be used externally only. Do not let horses ingest it, as it is a strong purgative.

  1. Arnica (Arnica montana)

This perennial herb is native to continental Europe. It is also known as leopard’s bane, mountain tobacco, and mountain arnica. Arnica montana is a member of the aster family, and is closely related to the sunflower and daisy. The plant reaches heights of 12” to 24”; it is hardy and can be grown successfully in Zones 4 to 9. It grows best in full sun, but can do well in partial shade. The stems carry single yellow/orange flowers from mid-spring to the end of summer. The plant can be slow to start from seed but can be propagated by division or from cuttings.

Parts used: Roots and dried flowers.

Use: Apply it externally for musculoskeletal injuries such as sprains, strains, bruises and sore muscles. Arnica stimulates blood circulation and specifically stimulates the action of white blood cells to relieve congested blood and trapped fluids from bruised tissues. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial qualities can help reduce pain and swelling and improve healing. It is an excellent addition to hoof treatments to prevent and treat bruised soles and sensitive hooves.

Cautions: The plant contains some toxins and should not be taken internally. Arnica may also be toxic when used on open wounds for long periods.

  1. Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Also known as pot marigold, calendula is an essential part of your medicinal garden. It can grow to almost 24” in height, displays bright yellow/orange flowers, and prefers full sun or partial shade.

Parts used: Flowers.

Use: Entire flower heads can be used in preparations for healing cuts, scrapes, burns, insect bites and irritated skin. Calendula has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is my first choice for the topical treatment of wounds.

Cautions: Do not give internally unless under the supervision of a qualified herbalist.

  1. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

An annual with small, daisy like flowers, chamomile is native to Europe and naturalized in North America. It is a relative of the sunflower and has a sweet characteristic smell. Chamomile seeds are among the few that need light to germinate, so growing can be a delicate process. Chamomile can be planted outdoors by broadcasting the seeds and mixing them very lightly with soil after all chance of frost has past. Seeds can also be started indoors and then transplanted outside after a hardening-off period. Once the plants are established, chamomile is very hardy. It prefers full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

Parts used: Fresh or dried flowers.

Use: Chamomile has anti-inflammatory, relaxant, analgesic (pain relieving), anti-fungal, anti-allergy, tissue-healing and antibacterial properties. The German Commission E has approved chamomile for external use in supporting skin care and inflammation, with several clinical trials supporting its efficacy. Chamomile is used for burns, ulcers, wounds, skin sensitivity and for enhancing coat appearance. Its anti-inflammatory action can be attributed to the natural chemicals alpha bisbolol and chamazulene contained within the flower; they have the ability to inhibit arachidonic acid metabolism. Chamomile’s ability to relieve pain may be due to a prostaglandin-inhibiting action.

Cautions: In rare instances, chamomile may cause an allergic sensitivity in susceptible individuals.

  1. Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis)

This perennial herb originated in Europe. Comfrey is a hardy plant that can grow in a wide range of climates. It does best in USDA Zones 3 to 9, but will grow almost anywhere. Comfrey is most easily propagated from root cuttings and needs three-foot spacing for proper root development.

Parts used: Root and main rib of leaf.

Use: Applied externally for contusions, sprains, wounds, burns, and inflammatory skin disorders. Comfrey decreases healing time and acts as a mild analgesic.

Cautions: Should not be used internally without the guidance of a qualified herbalist.

  1. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis)

Like arnica, the dandelion is another plant in the Asteraceae or aster family. Often considered a weed, dandelions actually have some amazing health benefits. They are a wealthy source of many nutrients including vitamins A, B, C, D, potassium, calcium, manganese, sodium, sulfur and choline. You probably don’t need to do much to grow dandelions and will very likely find them growing on their own.

Parts used: Whole plant, leaves, flowers, roots.

Use: The dandelion stimulates liver function and bile production, as well as pancreas and kidney function. It is highly beneficial to the digestive system as a whole. Dandelion cleans the blood and stimulates excretion processes. It makes an excellent spring tonic and can be a great plant for horses to graze on during rehabilitation and conditioning. Dandelion is a very effective diuretic, and is also used for rheumatism, arthritis, laminitis, and as a mild laxative.

Cautions: Because many people consider dandelions a weed, exercise caution when harvesting them or allowing horses to graze on them – be sure they have not been treated with pesticides.

  1. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

Another member of the aster family that’s also known as coneflower, Echinacea is native to the central and eastern United States. It adds color to the garden, blooming with purplish-pink flower heads accented by a raised disk center. It is best to plant Echinacea in spring or fall. It’s very tolerant of heat, humidity and dry conditions. This plant attracts butterflies to the garden.

Parts used: Mostly roots, and seeds/flowers.

Use: Echinacea has immune-dilating, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It is used to increase white blood cell production in the blood and helps clear infection from the body. Can be given dried or as a vinegar extract.

Cautions: Echinacea is possibly contraindicated in cases of autoimmune diseases and cancer.

  1. Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

More than 25 species of mint are grown around the world. Peppermint is distinguished by its square stem with a reddish hue. It prefers partial shade but will grow in full sun. Because it spreads vigorously by underground runners, you may prefer to grow it in containers so it doesn’t take over your garden. Peppermint is usually not grown from seed, but propagated from roots or runners.

Parts used: Leaves

Use: Peppermint can be added to horse feeds to make them more palatable. It has a beneficial effect on the digestive system and helps soothe the GI tract. The oils in peppermint can also be added to skin and coat products to alleviate and cool dry itchy skin.

Cautions: No known contraindications.

Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections

By Integrative Vet Care

Urinary tract infections (UTI) are frequently seen in small animal practice. They are estimated to affect up to 5% of all dogs, but are far more common in female and older dogs with diabetes.

Signs of a UTI include difficulty urinating, bloody or cloudy urine, increased urinary frequency along with decreased volume, accidents in the home, strong odor, vomiting, lethargy and increased water consumption. UTIs are caused by bacteria, with Escherichia coli (E.coli) being the most common. Other bacteria implicated in UTIs include Enterococcus, Klebsiella, Staphylococcus pseudintermedius and Pseudomonas.

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for UTIs, and include cephalosporins, aminoglycosides, tetracyclines, fluoroquinolones and chloramphenicols. This has unfortunately resulted in increased antibiotic resistance among a variety of canine isolates, including E.coli.

Complicating the issue is that many UTI bacteria are present as a biofilm. A biofilm is a community of bacteria surrounded by a protective extracellular polymeric matrix consisting of a variety of compounds, including polysaccharides and glycoproteins. The biofilm matrix provides a physical barrier that protects the bacteria from the effects of antibiotics as well as the host immune system. The matrix is also porous enough to allow for the exchange of fluids and nutrients, resulting in an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. Several studies have shown that the antibiotic-sensitivity profile of biofilm bacteria is very different than that of non-biofilm (planktonic) bacteria. In fact, biofilm bacteria may be more than 1,000 times more resistant to antibiotics than planktonic bacteria.

Traditional antibiotic culture and sensitivity testing of UTIs involves culturing a urine sample and exposing the resulting bacteria to a variety of antibiotics. A problem with this approach is that these bacteria are not grown as a biofilm. As a result, the test population does not accurately reflect the form of bacteria in the patient, and incorrect antibiotic sensitivity profiles are often obtained. In addition to being ineffective, continued use of the incorrect antibiotic promotes widespread antibiotic-resistance in bacteria.

The BecSCREEN assay has been developed to determine antibiotic-sensitivity profiles specifically for biofilm bacteria. In this assay, the bacteria are first grown as a biofilm and then exposed to a variety of antibiotics and concentrations. The end result is a test that determines the antibiotic sensitivity of the bacteria as it would naturally exist in the UTI. This approach may allow for a more accurate antibiotic sensitivity profile and more effective treatment. Additionally, by treating the infection with the proper antibiotics, the possibility of antibiotic-resistant strains emerging is reduced.

As we learn more about UTIs and the dangers of acquired antibiotic resistance, the need for assays that more accurately test the effectiveness of antibiotics on bacteria as they naturally appear becomes obvious, and provides us with better treatment and improved quality of life for our patients.


Collecting Urine from your pet

by HomeoPet | Feb 26, 2018 | Natural pet health

Getting a urine sample can be a simple or frustrating experience depending on how accommodating or shy your pet is, but a little know how can make for a much easier and more pleasant experience.  For a homeopathic vet, the information gleaned even from the collection process can be very helpful in coming to a suitable treatment.

So ‘how?’; ‘how much?’; ‘when?’ and even ‘why might you need to collect your pet’s urine?’

Lets answer ‘when’ first.  

A urine sample is best obtained first thing in the morning, with the patient having been kept indoors overnight with free access to water. In some cases water restriction is necessary, but only on your vet’s say so – never restrict access to water without veterinary instruction.  For example, a kidney patient can die from the consequences of water deprivation.   Another advantage of an early morning urine sample, especially, if you live in a town or city, is that you are unlikely to become of too much interest to the neighbours as you follow your pet around with a scoop or saucer!

Next to ‘how?

Collecting urine from dogs

For dogs, take them out on lead (so they can’t get too far away from you, unless you have awfully long arms or a polystyrene cup attached to a broom handle). Male dogs usually cock their leg and urinate on a regular basis, especially over the competitions’ sprinklings. Then it is just a matter of placing a urine sample collector or pre-sterilized dish (such as a margarine container or other flat plastic food container) in the stream of urine to collect the sample. Proper urine sample containers are available from a local chemist, drug store, pet store or your veterinarian. Alternatively, the dish needs to be cleaned and sterilized by washing in boiling water. Special urine collection scoops and vials can be bought, but are in many cases unnecessary for initial samples. Avoid the use of vitamin containers or containers with similar contents as contamination can alter the results.

For bitches, the situation can sometimes take more work. You need to have her on a lead and you must wait for her to start passing urine before putting the saucer underneath. If you attempt to put the saucer underneath a bitch before she starts, whatever chance you had of collecting the urine sample is gone! Some bitches will hold on for days if disturbed before starting to urinate. Yet once a bitch starts urinating they can rarely stop before you get a sample!

Collecting urine from cats

For cats, a whole different set of rules apply and the litter tray rules supreme for sample collection at home. You will need to provide a clean, sterilized litter tray with no cat litter in it. The litter tray should be slightly tilted to one end so that the urine runs away from any faeces the cat may also do in the tray. You can put in commercially produced plastic pearls (see photo left in pack and right in litter tray), or shredded plastic, but this is not as easy to get in these days of paper shopping bags. What I do is roll up the plastic and use scissors to cut strips off the roll, which looks just like shredded paper. Then I shake the cut plastic strips apart to make fluffy, sterile, non-absorbent litter, which for some reason almost all cats will use, especially if they are locked in a room with a lino floor.

If the bathroom is normally used as your feline’s toilet room, then be sure to put about an inch of water in the sink and bath so kitty doesn’t decide to use one of these giant litter trays!

As I was originally writing this article and had duly told my client all the things to remove from the bathroom, only to discover the cat had started using the potted plants in the bathroom as the ideal replacement litter tray – once removed a sample was forthcoming, so you really need to think like a cat, when setting up the room.

What is heartworm disease?

What is heartworm disease?

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets in the United States and many other parts of the world. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects dogs, cats and ferrets, but heartworms also live in other mammal species, including wolves, coyotes, foxes, sea lions and—in rare instances—humans. Because wild species such as foxes and coyotes live in proximity to many urban areas, they are considered important carriers of the disease.

Dogs. The dog is a natural host for heartworms, which means that heartworms that live inside the dog mature into adults, mate and produce offspring. If untreated, their numbers can increase, and dogs have been known to harbor several hundred worms in their bodies. Heartworm disease causes lasting damage to the heart, lungs and arteries, and can affect the dog’s health and quality of life long after the parasites are gone. For this reason, prevention is by far the best option, and treatment—when needed—should be administered as early in the course of the disease as possible.

Cats. Heartworm disease in cats is very different from heartworm disease in dogs. The cat is an atypical host for heartworms, and most worms in cats do not survive to the adult stage. Cats with adult heartworms typically have just one to three worms, and many cats affected by heartworms have no adult worms. While this means heartworm disease often goes undiagnosed in cats, it’s important to understand that even immature worms cause real damage in the form of a condition known as heartworm associated respiratory disease (HARD). Moreover, the medication used to treat heartworm infections in dogs cannot be used in cats, so prevention is the only means of protecting cats from the effects of heartworm disease.

How is heartworm disease transmitted from one pet to another?

The mosquito plays an essential role in the heartworm life cycle. Adult female heartworms living in an infected dog, fox, coyote, or wolf produce microscopic baby worms called microfilaria that circulate in the bloodstream. When a mosquito bites and takes a blood meal from an infected animal, it picks up these baby worms, which develop and mature into “infective stage” larvae over a period of 10 to 14 days. Then, when the infected mosquito bites another dog, cat, or susceptible wild animal, the infective larvae are deposited onto the surface of the animal’s skin and enter the new host through the mosquito’s bite wound. Once inside a new host, it takes approximately 6 months for the larvae to mature into adult heartworms. Once mature, heartworms can live for 5 to 7 years in dogs and up to 2 or 3 years in cats. Because of the longevity of these worms, each mosquito season can lead to an increasing number of worms in an infected pet.

What are the signs of heartworm disease in dogs?

In the early stages of the disease, many dogs show few symptoms or no symptoms at all. The longer the infection persists, the more likely symptoms will develop. Active dogs, dogs heavily infected with heartworms, or those with other health problems often show pronounced clinical signs.

Signs of heartworm disease may include a mild persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after moderate activity, decreased appetite, and weight loss. As heartworm disease progresses, pets may develop heart failure and the appearance of a swollen belly due to excess fluid in the abdomen. Dogs with large numbers of heartworms can develop a sudden blockages of blood flow within the heart leading to a life-threatening form of cardiovascular collapse. This is called caval syndrome, and is marked by a sudden onset of labored breathing, pale gums, and dark bloody or coffee-colored urine. Without prompt surgical removal of the heartworm blockage, few dogs survive.

What are the signs of heartworm disease in cats?

Signs of heartworm disease in cats can be very subtle or very dramatic. Symptoms may include coughing, asthma-like attacks, periodic vomiting, lack of appetite, or weight loss. Occasionally an affected cat may have difficulty walking, experience fainting or seizures, or suffer from fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Unfortunately, the first sign in some cases is sudden collapse of the cat, or sudden death.

How significant is my pet’s risk for heartworm infection?

Many factors must be considered, even if heartworms do not seem to be a problem in your local area. Your community may have a greater incidence of heartworm disease than you realize—or you may unknowingly travel with your pet to an area where heartworms are more common. Heartworm disease is also spreading to new regions of the country each year. Stray and neglected dogs and certain wildlife such as coyotes, wolves, and foxes can be carriers of heartworms. Mosquitoes blown great distances by the wind and the relocation of infected pets to previously uninfected areas also contribute to the spread of heartworm disease (this happened following Hurricane Katrina when 250,000 pets, many of them infected with heartworms, were “adopted” and shipped throughout the country).

The fact is that heartworm disease has been diagnosed in all 50 states, and risk factors are impossible to predict. Multiple variables, from climate variations to the presence of wildlife carriers, cause rates of infections to vary dramatically from year to year—even within communities. And because infected mosquitoes can come inside, both outdoor and indoor pets are at risk.

For that reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends that you “think 12:” (1) get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and (2) give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.

What do I need to know about heartworm testing?

Heartworm disease is a serious, progressive disease. The earlier it is detected, the better the chances the pet will recover. There are few, if any, early signs of disease when a dog or cat is infected with heartworms, so detecting their presence with a heartworm test administered by a veterinarian is important. The test requires just a small blood sample from your pet, and it works by detecting the presence of heartworm proteins. Some veterinarians process heartworm tests right in their hospitals while others send the samples to a diagnostic laboratory. In either case, results are obtained quickly. If your pet tests positive, further tests may be ordered.

When should my pet be tested?

Testing procedures and timing differ somewhat between dogs and cats.

Dogs. All dogs should be tested annually for heartworm infection, and this can usually be done during a routine visit for preventive care. Following are guidelines on testing and timing:

·         Puppies under 7 months of age can be started on heartworm prevention without a heartworm test (it takes at least 6 months for a dog to test positive after it has been infected), but should be tested 6 months after your initial visit, tested again 6 months later and yearly after that to ensure they are heartworm-free.

·         Adult dogs over 7 months of age and previously not on a preventive need to be tested prior to starting heartworm prevention.  They, too, need to be tested 6 months and 12 months later and annually after that.

·         You need to consult your veterinarian, and immediately re-start your dog on monthly preventive—then retest your dog 6 months later. The reason for re-testing is that heartworms must be approximately 7 months old before the infection can be diagnosed.

Annual testing is necessary, even when dogs are on heartworm prevention year-round, to ensure that the prevention program is working. Heartworm medications are highly effective, but dogs can still become infected. If you miss just one dose of a monthly medication—or give it late—it can leave your dog unprotected. Even if you give the medication as recommended, your dog may spit out or vomit a heartworm pill—or rub off a topical medication. Heartworm preventives are highly effective, but not 100 percent effective. If you don’t get your dog test, you won’t know your dog needs treatment.

Cats. Heartworm infection in cats is harder to detect than in dogs, because cats are much less likely than dogs to have adult heartworms. The preferred method for screening cats includes the use of both an antigen and an antibody test (the “antibody” test detects exposure to heartworm larvae). Your veterinarian may also use x-rays or ultrasound to look for heartworm infection. Cats should be tested before being put on prevention and re-tested as the veterinarian deems appropriate to document continued exposure and risk. Because there is no approved treatment for heartworm infection in cats, prevention is critical.

What happens if my dog tests positive for heartworms?

No one wants to hear that their dog has heartworm, but the good news is that most infected dogs can be successfully treated. The goal is to first stabilize your dog if he is showing signs of disease, then kill all adult and immature worms while keeping the side effects of treatment to a minimum.

Here’s what you should expect if your dog tests positive:

·         Confirm the diagnosis. Once a dog tests positive on an antigen test, the diagnosis should be confirmed with an additional—and different—test. Because the treatment regimen for heartworm is both expensive and complex, your veterinarian will want to be absolutely sure that treatment is necessary.

·         Restrict exercise. This requirement might be difficult to adhere to, especially if your dog is accustomed to being active. But your dog’s normal physical activities must be restricted as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, because physical exertion increases the rate at which the heartworms cause damage in the heart and lungs. The more severe the symptoms, the less activity your dog should have.

·         Stabilize your dog’s disease. Before actual heartworm treatment can begin, your dog’s condition may need to be stabilized with appropriate therapy. In severe cases of heartworm disease, or when a dog has another serious condition, the process can take several months.

·         Administer treatment. Once your veterinarian has determined your dog is stable and ready for heartworm treatment, he or she will recommend a treatment protocol involving several steps. The American Heartworm Society has guidelines for developing this plan of attack. Dogs with no signs or mild signs of heartworm disease, such as cough or exercise intolerance, have a high success rate with treatment. More severe disease can also be successfully treated, but the possibility of complications is greater. The severity of heartworm disease does not always correlate with the severity of symptoms, and dogs with many worms may have few or no symptoms early in the course of the disease.

·         Test (and prevent) for success. Approximately 6 months after treatment is completed, your veterinarian will perform a heartworm test to confirm that all heartworms have been eliminated. To avoid the possibility of your dog contracting heartworm disease again, you will want to administer heartworm prevention year-round for the rest of his life.

What if my cat tests positive for heartworms?

Like dogs, cats can be infected with heartworms. There are differences, however, in the nature of the disease and how it is diagnosed and managed. Because a cat is not an ideal host for heartworms, some infections resolve on their own, although these infections can leave cats with respiratory system damage. Heartworms in the circulatory system also affect the cat’s immune system and cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Heartworms in cats may even migrate to other parts of the body, such as the brain, eye and spinal cord. Severe complications such as blood clots in the lungs and lung inflammation can result when the adult worms die in the cat’s body.

Here’s what to expect if your cat tests positive for heartworm:

·         Diagnosis. While infected dogs may have 30 or more worms in their heart and lungs, cats usually have 6 or fewer—and may have just one or two. But while the severity of heartworm disease in dogs is related to the number of worm, in cats, just one or two worms can make a cat very ill. Diagnosis can be complicated, requiring a physical exam, an X-ray, a complete blood count and several kinds of blood test. An ultrasound may also be performed.

·         Treatment. Unfortunately, there is no approved drug therapy for heartworm infection in cats, and the drug used to treat infections in dogs is not safe for cats. Nevertheless, cats with heartworm disease can often be helped with good veterinary care. The goal is to stabilize your cat and determine a long-term management plan.

·         Monitor your cat. Heartworm-positive cats may experience spontaneous clearing of heartworms, but the damage they cause may be permanent. If your cat is not showing signs of respiratory distress, but worms have been detected in the lungs, chest X-rays every 6 to 12 months may be recommended. If mild symptoms are noted, small doses of prednisolone may be administered to help reduce inflammation.

·         Provide veterinary care. If the disease is severe, additional support may be necessary. Your veterinarian my recommend hospitalization in order to provide therapy, such as intravenous fluids, drugs to treat lung and heart symptoms, antibiotics, and general nursing care. In some cases, surgical removal of heartworms may be possible.

·         Maintain prevention. A cat that has developed heartworm disease has demonstrated that it is susceptible to heartworm infection, and both outdoor and indoor cats are at risk. It’s important to give your cat monthly heartworm preventives, which are available in both spot-on and pill form. Preventives keep new infections from developing if an infected mosquito bites your cat again.

The age of the dog is just one factor affecting the success of heartworm treatment. When making a diagnosis and administering treatment, veterinarians consider the dog’s overall health and the severity of his symptoms, as well as the results of X-rays and laboratory test results. Older dogs with long-term heartworm infections may have damage to their lungs, hearts, livers, and kidneys that can complicate heartworm treatment. To ensure the best chance of success, it is vital to follow your veterinarian’s instructions carefully. This includes severely restricting the dog’s activity, as exercise during the treatment period is the leading cause of complications.


After treating a dog with melarsomine injections, adult worms may continue to die for more than a month following this treatment. Heartworm antigen testing is the most reliable method of confirming that all of the adult heartworms have been eliminated. Although many dogs are antigen-negative 16 weeks after treatment, it can take longer for the antigen to be completely cleared from some dogs. Additionally, even though melarsomine is highly effective, a single course of treatment may not completely clear all dogs of infection (the American Heartworm Society protocol calls for three separate injections of melarsomine.  Consequently, in most cases, a dog that is still antigen positive at 4 months should be rechecked 2 to 3 months later before determining whether there are still adult heartworms remaining, and a second treatment course may be required.