Monday, July 4, 2016

Would you expect a homeopathic remedy at a potency of 30C to reduce your dog’s anxiety about loud noises like fireworks?

It’s the Fourth of July, so this evening people will be setting off lots of fireworks and scaring lots of dogs (and also cats). Would giving a homeopathic remedy help?

Heck no! It’s just magic. But I found an article from June 2015 at a web site called PrimallyInspired titled Natural Remedy If Your Dog Is Scared Of Fireworks Or Thunderstorms. It described giving your dog homeopathic Phosphorus at a potency of 30C.

When you look up Homeopathic dilutions at Wikipedia, you will find that C means diluting by a factor of 1 to 100 and 30C means repeating that process thirty times. It is also equivalent to diluting by 1 to 10 and repeating that process sixty times. That is a factor of ten to the sixtieth power, or

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times.

At that dilution there are no atoms of phosphorus left. It is just a placebo - the sugar pills or alcohol and water used as a carrier. By Charles Dicken’s terminology from A Christmas Carol, Phosphorus 30C should just be called The Ghost of Phosphorus Past.

I found another article from 2015 by Linda Miller at Dogs Naturally magazine titled Noise Phobia in Dogs: Homeopathic Solutions. It also recommended a potency of 30C, and along with phosphorus also mentioned:

Asarum (wild ginger)
Ferrum metallicum (metallic iron)
Theridion (from spiders)
Zincum metallicum (metallic zinc)

I would not expect iron or zinc at higher concentrations to have any effect either. That’s because they are used in piping and already should be present at parts per million levels in drinking water. For example, look at the detailed water analysis report from 2014 for New York City.

There also is a combination remedy from HomeoPet called Anxiety TFLN. (TFLN stands for thunderstorms, fireworks, and loud noises). Here in Boise it is carried by Zamzows. It contains:

Borax 6C and 30C
Chamomilla 6C and 30C
Phosphorus 6C and 30C
Rhododendron 6C and 30C
Theridion curassivicum 6C and 30C

Each of those ingredients supposedly is present at both 6C and 30C - a very peculiar idea called a potency chord. I discussed that idea back in a May 2, 2012 blog post titled  Is taking a liquid homeopathic remedy more like drinking lemonade or playing an accordion? In this case the 30C is fictitious and ten to the 48th power less than the 6 C (12X).

There actually was a double blind clinical trial of HomeoPet Anxiety TFLN. Results are in a magazine article in the Veterinary Journal from 2008 (Volume 177, pages 80 to 88) by Nina R. Cracknell and Daniel S, Mills titled A double blind placebo-controlled study into the efficacy of a homeopathic remedy for fear of firework noises in the dog (Canis familiaris). They concluded: 

“No evidence for the specific efficacy of homeopathy for the treatment of fear of noises was found in this study. However, significant improvements were reported with both the homeopathic and placebo treatments with approximately a 41–45% improvement in the behavioural signs of fear, an improvement seen in 68% of subjects and an approximate 10% complete recovery rate. Evidence from this study highlights the caution required when interpreting the results of uncontrolled treatment trials for the management of fear of noises in dogs. To find the true efficacy of a treatment it is necessary to compare results to that of a placebo under the same circumstances.”

What might really work? There is a medication called Sileo which was discussed on June 28, 2016 in New York Times article by Jan Hoffman titled A New Treatment for Dogs Scared by Thunder and Fireworks, and on June 29, 2016 in a Washington Post article by  Ben Guarino titled For dogs terrified of fireworks, new drug aims to take the edge off of the Fourth of July.

For a more general discussion, see a recent 5-minute YouTube video from the American Chemical Society titled Does Homeopathy Work?

The image of a woman with a magic wand was derived from an 1852 patent medicine label for Sybilline leaves found at the Library of Congress.

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