Thunder and Lightning, Very Frightening, or Not?

As homeopathy is a holistic method, I always take a patient's mental and physical states into consideration. Perhaps the most common mental disturbance in dogs is a fear of thunderstorms. Unless it is very severe or results in destructiveness, guardians generally consider this problem as not important or not relevant to the pet's health condition. They have often been told as much by veterinarians and behavioral specialists. Contrary to what many people believe, not all dogs have a negative response to thunderstorms. Actually, a large percentage don't even notice them. The most common medical therapies are tranquilizers and anti - anxiety drugs. A growing number of "holistic" practitioners are using herbs such as valerian and skullcap. Behavioral modification techniques are also employed.

Selecting the correct homeopathic remedy requires individualization. In an attempt to understand this process, let's take a closer look at the symptom "fear" of thunderstorms. A guardian considers a pet "afraid" of a thunderstorm when the animals displays a negative behavioral change during a storm. However, the pet is not always afraid of the sudden, loud noise. Some pets are sensitive to electrical charges while others react adversely to atmospheric pressure or humidity changes. In order to, differentiate, I look for other clues. For instance, a dog that is afraid of the noise will usually be afraid of other similar noises such as fireworks. The pet that is sensitive to electrical charges will usually show anxious behavior on the approach of the storm. Animals sensitive to pressure changes would react to storms without thunder. As you can clearly see on just this cursory examination of the symptom, all thunderstorm reactions are not the same. (Treatment, therefore, cannot be the same!)

Another important feature is how the individual behaves. Is he/she destructive? terrified? hiding? affectionate? escaping? self mutilating? When did the problem begin? after a vaccination? after an emotional shock? after some medication? The dog may have itchy skin, chronic digestive problems, liver or kidney problems, cancer, etc. yet the "fear" of thunderstorms could be more important in finding the curative remedy. The type, cause and degree of reaction tell about the animal's innate nature. This is crucial to a homeopath and can be the key to finding the correct remedy for a patient regardless of the primary health condition as perceived by the family. The innate nature of an individual stems from his/her personal genetic package. Researchers are finding that most if not all of one's personality and sensitivities are programmed into the genes. A remedy chosen based on genetic make up can modify how genes are expressed and strengthen the overall constitution. The result is an increased threshold to irritating stimuli and a decreased intensity of reaction. In other words, the dog will only react to severe storms and the reaction will be mild. In addition, other health issues will disappear unless they have reached the stage of being incurable. If the thunderstorm reaction is simply suppressed with herbs, drugs or strong behavior modification techniques, the constitution will be weakened and other problems, both physical and emotional, can arise.

Russell Swift, DVM, HMC