When my Basenji, Diesel, first started itching terribly, like many, my first thought wasn’t to look for alternative treatment. I wanted to do the right thing, so I initially went to my vet for advice. Things worked up to a point, but the cause of and the solution to itchiness can be complex and the drugs used to combat it quite harsh, so we ended up exploring different options for Diesel as an individual dog with his own unique health requirements.  

Itch, scratch, repeat!

Diesel was just over a year old when he began to constantly itch. He ended up scratching and biting himself so much that he started to develop hot spots and fur loss in these areas. As the problem was showing no sign of going away, I took him to my vet. On our first visit in February 2017, he was prescribed Piriton which didn’t stop him itching.

On the second visit two weeks later, my vet recommended a blood test to see if Diesel had any allergies. While we waited for the blood results, the vet prescribed the much stronger Apoquel which is indicated for the control of pruritus (itchy skin) associated with allergic dermatitis and control of atopic dermatitis in dogs of at least 12 months of age.

The blood results subsequently indicated Diesel was allergic to certain foods, which could be controlled, and lots of things in the environment, which I didn’t have control over. After me asking loads of questions, the vet eventually said that there was absolutely nothing they could do, apart from giving him Apoquel, possibly for life.

Research – was there an alternative to long term strong medication?

I must say the results of him taking Apoquel were instant. He stopped scratching and biting, and it was such a relief to see him much more comfortable in himself.  But I REALLY wasn’t happy giving him a drug long term without knowing anything about it. So, I decided to do some research and was horrified with some of the possible side effects. I know everything has side effects, but I wanted to see if there was a way to avoid him being on this drug for life, particularly as he was only a year old.  

And more research ~ finding a vet with more options to offer Diesel

It wasn’t long before I decided to take Diesel off Apoquel, but not without looking into other options. Sure enough, the itching came back. However, I had already booked in with a homeopathic vet to see what they suggested to help poor Diesel. Before I consulted the new vet, I investigated what their training involved and was reassured to learn that homeopathic vets undergo exactly the same training as all vets and then go on to acquire additional qualifications and experience in homeopathy. In fact, there are vets specialising in other areas of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) too such as acupuncture or herbal medicine. I also discovered that homeopathic vets look at the animal as a whole and that Diesel would be treated as a unique individual dog with his own set of health issues. Drugs would not be ruled out, but there was a chance that something gentler, but just as effective would work. 

Diesel’s first visit to the homeopathic vet ~ getting the whole picture

We had our first appointment with the homeopathic vet in June 2017.  I was told to bring all Diesel’s medical history with me and to expect the appointment to last for up to two hours. The vet asked me loads of different questions about Diesel. It was clear why they asked some questions, but others seemed less obvious. In fact, this was their way of building up a truly detailed picture of Diesel whilst also referring to his medical history.

The vet concluded there could be a link between Diesel’s itching and a severe case of gastroenteritis he suffered in October 2016 when he’d had injections and other medication on each of three visits to the vet over a short space of time. Based on this, along with all his backstory, the vet decided to treat Diesel for leaky gut, particularly because of all drugs he’d been given for the gastroenteritis.

Those food allergies ~ trying the raw option

The vet also said we needed to find out what foods were causing the allergies he had as well as treating the itching. This was done by feeding him a single raw protein i.e. rabbit then chicken and so on for three months each time to see how he reacted and to identify the food he is able to tolerate. This was the only practical way to achieve accurate answers. We were also given advice on what we needed to add to his food. This included at least 30% steamed or juiced vegetables and pulp, B vitamins, probiotics (such as raw goat’s milk or Kefir) and flaxseed or coconut oil.

Homeopathic support

He was also given the homeopathic remedy Pulsatilla 30c daily to help with his itching. I was told to email back in three weeks with an update.

Pulsatilla nigricans or Pasque Flower

Astonishingly, his itching had reduced to 30% within these three weeks, and by the sixth week, it was down to only 10%. At this point the vet told me to give Diesel the Pulsatilla30c every other day until I’d finished the prescription. Throughout this time, I kept a photo journal (see below) and to this day I wouldn’t believe the huge improvements in the pictures if I hadn’t seen his progress for myself.

I’ve carried on seeing the homeopathic vet with my boy and have learned such a lot on this journey into homeopathy. I am still surprised by how well it works. In fact, it has worked so amazingly on Diesel, it has transitioned into my life! I have bought myself a couple of books and homeopathy first aid kits for myself and friends.

Titre testing and worming

Moving to more holistic veterinary care wasn’t the only change we made for Diesel.  Instead of automatically having his annual booster injections, I get him titre tested. This is a blood test to assess antibody levels. Diesel’s results have come back with full immunity for Hepatitis, Parvovirus and Distemper so there has been no need to re-vaccinate. I also get regular worm counts done instead of automatically worming. In 1 1/2 years he’s never had worms. In the summer, I’ve successfully treated him with neem oil for fleas and ticks.  

As a result of all these changes, not only has Diesel been itch-free, he has not been given unnecessary drugs or chemical treatments for the last two years. 

Supporting CAM4animals

Having been so impressed with Diesel’s treatment, I have become part of the CAM4animals group which promotes and supports fully integrated veterinary healthcare.  Whilst this campaign embraces the appropriate use of conventional medicine, it particularly wants to highlight that complementary, alternative and conventional all have a crucial role to play in integrated veterinary care. It’s important that modalities such as massage, hydrotherapy, homeopathy and acupuncture are permitted under veterinary supervision to optimise the health and wellbeing of our pets, and that new vets should be encouraged to enter these fields of veterinary medicine.

“In my experience, my homeopathic vet can be trusted to make the right choice for my dog and should be able to carry on doing so”

More information

Details about homeopathy and other treatments can be found in the modalities section of the website. A list of vets with training in homeopathy is found on the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons, BAHVS, website.

Ann Kirpalani has been a supporter of CAM4animals from the start and regularly shares our work on social media. Diesel has been joined by Bella, another Basenji.

A version of this blog first appeared in the Basenji Club of Great Britain’s magazine in 2018.

Disclaimer – Where blogs have been created by a guest author, CAM4Animals has reproduced this in good faith but cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies of information in it or any use you make of this information

The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website