Holistic Care of Sheep pt. 2
Copyright 2008 Alethea Kenney (email: allie@reedbird.com)
These articles are an attempt to explain what a holistic, natural view of raising sheep is and how to incorporate this into your farm, either in part or in full.   It is not a replacement for veterinary advice or medical care when needed but is useful to maintain health in a flock so that less intervention is necessary. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.  I’m always interested in further information, experiences, etc.
Homeopathics is a term that I have seen applied (mostly incorrectly) to a range of herbal and holistic modalities but for the sake of clarity, I will attempt to define homeopathy according to the tenets set down by the one who developed the system, Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who was disenchanted with the medical philosophy of his time period in the late 1700’s/early 1800’s  and began to look for alternatives.   He believed that disease was a result of internal susceptibility, the same imbalance discussed previously and as such, saw that medicines that could not touch the life force (vital force) could never really address that imbalance.   He developed a system of medicine based on what he called potentizing a remedy.   By taking a small drop of herb, mixing it with a set amount of inert carrier and then shaking (succussing) this mixture, he was able to imbue the remedy with the original vital force of the herb.   He found that by continuing to dilute a remedy and succussing  it at each dilution, he could make stronger and stronger remedies, able to work on the vital force to return it to harmony.   He tested his potentized remedies on healthy individuals.   The symptoms produced by the remedy in a healthy person were recorded in materia medica and then matched with ill people who had those same symptoms.   The remedy could then act to help heal the ill person.   The same system can be used for animals, the important part of homeopathy is to match the symptoms of the individual in its diseased state to a remedy.   Each individual will manifest a disease differently and so the same remedy may not apply to two different animals that have the same disease, according to modern medicine.   An example, a ram lamb has diarrhea and is off his feed, appears to be drawn up in the belly and feels cold to the touch.   A search through a homeopathic materia medica shows that the remedy Arsenicum album might be a good choice.   However, the ewe lamb in the next pen has diarrhea also but the discharge is yellow, explosive in action and the lamb has a slight rash along her belly.   This symptom picture corresponds better to Croton tiglium but a fecal exam shows both lambs have coccidia.   Homeopathy takes into account individual variations in diseases so one remedy does not fit all.   And although medicine says the symptoms are caused by the coccidia organism, homeopathy (and naturopathy) say the disease is really the result if the underlying susceptibility and must be addressed this way, not by wiping out a parasite but by correcting an imbalance.  In a flock situation, for ease of treatment, one remedy that fits the majority of symptoms of the ill individuals in the flock can be chosen and used.
 
The remedies themselves can be made of any substance, herb or  mineral, even ones that are toxic in normal amounts.   The reason these remedies are not toxic is the potentization and dilution.   A more in-depth look at the making of a remedy reveals this.  One drop of a tea of chamomile is diluted in 100 drops of water and then succussed to yield what is described as a 1C dilution.   If one drop of the 1C is taken and diluted in another 100 drops of water and succussed it is now a 2C dilution.   A standard dilution is 30 C and this would obviously be so diluted as to be almost nonexistent from a logical standpoint.   However, the effects come not from the amount of the herb, but from the vital force of that herb.  Science has difficulty explaining this and in America, this is seen as absurd because we tend to think “bigger is better”.   How could one dose of 200C dilution be effective?   But in reality, it is more powerful than the 30C by far and dilutions  are chosen based on severity of the disease.   The deeper and more chronic the disease, the higher the potency needed while superficial diseases may need only 6X (or dilutions in the 10’s).   For the most part, home use should not involve high dilutions and 30C would be the highest considered.   Although homeopathic remedies can be made at home using exactly the method described, most people now buy them or order them already prepared as small tablets.   Tablets can present a problem when dealing with animals, and the best way I’ve read and tried to dose an animal with a tablet is to dissolve the tablet in filtered water in a clean container and then use a syringe or dropper to place the water in the animal’s mouth.   Another option for a large flock in which many animals need treated is to place the liquid in a spray bottle and spritz the animals on the nose as they are run through a chute (all the remedy has to do is come in contact with a mucus membrane to be effective), this idea is taken from “Homeopathy, the Shepherd’s Guide”,  Elliott and Pinkus.  
 
What about dose?   Again, this is difficult from a logical standpoint.   In homeopathy, a dose is a dose.   One tablet is a dose for a human, a cat, a sheep or an elephant.   The important thing is not how many tablets but the dilution and the remedy chosen.   It is also not necessary or even advised to repeat doses often in most cases.   The general rule is, if an animal gets a dose and you see improvement (even a slight improvement, especially in the mental state) then do not repeat the dose until the animal either stops improving or starts to regress.   So in our example of the ram lamb with diarrhea, if we give one dose of 30C (although in an adult this is not really a critical infection, in a lamb it can be and should be taken seriously) of Arsenicum and the lamb appears to feel better, walks less hunched and sniffs at his mother, we say he is improving and we watch.   If he continues to improve throughout the day, do not repeat the dose at all.   But if in the afternoon he begins to droop, stops caring about anything around him and just seems depressed, repeat the dose.   However, if we give a dose and we see no effect, we can assume we probably chose the wrong remedy and need to reread the materia medica for alternate choices.   
 
The exception to this dose repetition is in a truly critical situation like a severe injury.   If a ram gets caught in the fence, struggles until he dislocates a shoulder and then limps over the a tree and lays down, we might try Arnica to help keep him from going into shock, to aid healing in tendons and muscles and prevent internal bleeding.   But since this could be critical and he might have ripped a blood vessel, as evidenced by his slowly paling gums and weakness, we could repeat the dose as often as every 15 minutes (or until the vet arrives!).   Giving Arnica is not a substitute for calling the vet for emergency care but can help stabilize the animal until help can get there.   It may also minimize the trauma and the healing time needed.   
 
Nosodes are a specific remedy (made exactly like the remedies mentioned above) created from a sample of the disease symptom, like a bit of diarrhea or the mucus discharge of a runny nose.   These are then used to in inoculate individuals not infected and to treat those already showing symptoms.   At first glance, this sounds a lot like vaccinating, but nosodes are made using a symptom of the disease, not the actual disease, and they are given the same way, via a mucus membrane or mouth, while vaccinations are injections into the animal of the actual disease or a synthetic version of it.   The best use of nosodes is in a farm situation where an epidemic is starting (it can be either coccidiosis, pneumonia or a more serious threat).   Nosodes allow the shepherd the option to treat the flock without the use of chemicals and antibiotics but under more supervised control since nosodes should be created in a laboratory situation and administered under supervision of a vet.   While you can in fact create them yourself and apply them, again, advice of a holistic veterinarian is the best option since chances are, you will be dealing with a serious disease outbreak.   Neither nosodes not regular remedies are a substitute for good health and farming practices and should not be used as such.
 
The very best thing you can do if you are interested in using homeopathy is to invest in some books and study them, unless you are blessed to live close to a homeopathic veterinarian.   One other point about homeopathic remedies is that because they are potentized vital forces, they can be negated easily with strong odors like moth balls, alcohol, perfumes and chemicals and must be stored, opened and dosed in areas where sharp odors are not present.   In humans, diet must be changed slightly so that sharp tastes and odors are avoided while using a remedy (such as coffee or mint-flavored drinks), toothpastes with sharp tastes, etc.   But in animals, this is not as critical provided you don’t give a dose and follow it with some oral medication.   Just be sure to avoid odors when opening the vials and dissolving the tablets.   Use filtered water to dissolve and containers that don’t still smell of dish soaps or chemical disinfectants.   
 
In all the modalities covered in these articles, the best situation is one in which you have a veterinarian studied in natural methods.   The second best situation is one where your vet is not adverse to trying new things and will help you monitor the animal while attempting to treat it using holistic methods.  The third and scariest option is to go ahead and treat the animal the way you want and keep in touch with the vet or other knowledgeable person.   Unfortunately, this is sometimes the only option available but in cases where an animal is not responding, is obviously in need of critical care or you just can’t say for sure, do not hesitate to use conventional treatments.   At least you will have a live animal and will have learned some from the experience.   And as always, prevention through maintenance of health by proper nutrition and freedom to pastures is always better.   In my experience, most veterinarians are not versed in alternatives but will at least monitor the animal so you will know when a situation is critical.   The examples above are not intended to be used as treatment advice and are given as one way to use homeopathics, some books and veterinarians use a slightly different method but the basic tenets are the same.   
 

By

Further Readings:
 
Elliott, Mark.   Homeopathy, the Shepherd’s Guide.   London: Ainsworths Homeopathic Pharmacy, 1993.
 
Hahnemann, S., Brewster, W. (Ed.).  (1996).  Organon of the Medical Art. Calif.: Birdcage Books.
 
Kent, J.  T.  (1979 ed.)  Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy.  Calif.:  North Atlantic