A team of veterinary researchers in the United Kingdom recently reviewed the use and results of homeopathy for equine ailments including arthritis, headshaking, laminitis, and more.

"Homeopathy is a 200-year-old therapeutic method involving ‘preparations of substances whose effects when administered to healthy subjects correspond to the manifestations of the disorder (symptoms, clinical signs, pathological states) in the individual patient,’" wrote the researchers.

While 138 randomized controlled trials of homeopathy in human medicine have been conducted, fewer than 20 have been performed in all of veterinary medicine and not one has involved horses.

To gain insight regarding the kinds of problems that veterinarians in the UK treat via homeopathy and owner-assessed changes after homeopathy, the research team analyzed data collected during 777 consecutive homeopathic appointments performed by 12 homeopaths over a 12-month period.

All homeopaths were veterinarians and all had homeopathic qualifications.

In total, 777 appointments including examinations on 289 individual animals were included. The homeopathic veterinarians treated more than 100 different conditions, the eight most common of which were:

  • Arthritis;
  • Headshaking;
  • Laminitis;
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
  • Sweet Itch;
  • Dermatitis;
  • Sarcoidosis, and
  • Cushing’s syndrome.

At the time of the final appointment, owners assessed the impact of the homeopathy on a scale from -3 (major deterioration) to +3 (major improvement) compared to the first appointment.

For the 234 cases, a final score of +2 or +3 (moderate or major improvement) was reported in 86.7% of cases.

At the time of the final appointment, only 4.3% of horses with chronic conditions were receiving conventional medication and 17.1% were being administered another complementary/alternative medicine in addition to the homeopathic treatments.

The study authors did add that there are some limitations of the study due to the small overall number of horses treated and the small number of vets contributing to the database.

"Generalization of the present outcome data to a wider population of homeopathic veterinary experience should therefore be made with some caution. Nevertheless, the findings do provide a useful basis for targeting control research of suitable types of case," wrote the authors.

The study, "Homeopathic prescribing for chronic conditions in equine veterinary practice in the UK," was published in the Feb. 20, 2010, edition of the Veterinary Record. The abstract is available on PubMed.