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Homeopathic Nosodes as an Alternative to Vaccines?
Dr. Dodds discusses homeopathic nosodes, which are often touted as alternatives to conventional vaccines.
Dr. Jean Dodds' Pet Health Resource Blog
Considered one of the foremost experts in pet healthcare, Dr. Dodds focuses on vaccination protocols, thyroid issues and nutrition.
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Homeopathic nosodes are often touted as alternatives to conventional vaccines. In fact, I often suggest the homeopathic nosode remedies, Lyssin, along with Thuja, to help blunt the effects of potential and actual adverse vaccine reactions. However, I do not recommend nosodes to prevent or treat infectious diseases. They do not generate measurable humoral immunity; the B-cell response we want to protect against infectious diseases. After long term use, some antibody may appear because the companion pet is exposed to the native virus, bacterium or parasite and mounts an immune response.
This is generally the point at which the nosode debate turns from objective to emotional. I empathize if you are concerned about adverse vaccine reactions, have had a companion dog or cat fall ill or even die from the adverse effects of vaccines. As we need to keep this conversation objective; I will review the few canine nosode studies that have been conducted.
Before I move forward, I want to clearly state that I promote a minimal vaccine protocol based on the infectious potential and severity rate of the disease, the effectiveness of the vaccine, the documented regional incidence and prevalence, and the duration of immunity. Also, the general principles discussed here apply to cats and other companion animal species, like horses.
The history of smallpox gives us perspective on nosodes and vaccines. The concept of immunity has been around since approximately 430 BC when survivors of smallpox cared for the afflicted. Around the 10th century AD, the Chinese reported taking smallpox pus from infected individuals, drying it and inserting it up the nose of those who never had the disease. In India, they would take pox laden blankets and wrap children in them.
The practice of inoculation (aka variolation) is believed to have started regionally around the globe before the 17th century. Inoculation is a derivative of the Latin word, inoculare, meaning “to graft”. Now we use the term more generally, but it originally was the subcutaneous instillation of fresh pus from one infected individual and transferred to another through a cut in the skin. During the 18th century, inoculation was gaining popularity throughout Europe and the American Colonies, and was statistically proven to be effective by Cotton Mather and Zabdiel Boylston, but was still met with skepticism.
The first accounts that cowpox provided cross-immunity to smallpox surfaced during the mid-18th century. Benjamin Jesty, a dairy farmer, applied the philosophy in 1774 to his family by purposefully inoculating them with cowpox.
It is unknown if Edward Jenner was aware of Jesty, but he had heard the comments about the cross-immunity of cowpox. Jenner was a scientist and probably more of a showman. In 1796, Jenner inoculated (still by grafting the skin) a boy with cowpox and renamed it “vaccination” (cowpox is “vaccinia” in Latin). In essence, he popularized the practice.
Concurrently, German Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, advanced the concept of nosodes, which are highly dilute biological preparations from an element of a disease or from diseased tissue and used to prevent disease.
The Difference Between Vaccines and Nosodes
Vaccines and nosodes sound the same because they both are derived from diseases but fundamental differences exist.
Vaccines are prepared in three steps:
1. An antigen is generated and grown. An antigen is a foreign or toxic substance that induces the immune system to produce antibodies against it.
2. The antigen is isolated from the cells used to create it.
3. The antigen is then mixed with adjuvants, stabilizers and preservatives. Adjuvants increase the immune response of the antigen; stabilizers increase the vaccine’s storage life; and preservatives preserve and also allow for the use of multi-dose vials.
Homeopathic nosodes are prepared in a totally different way to commercial vaccines. Their preparation does not include antigen, but involves serial dilutions of biological material usually by incremental factors of 100. The theory behind their development invokes transfer of the memory message of the vital force or energy from the infectious agent or other material to a diluent having polar identity. This diluent will not be capable of accepting the vital energy message unless it is shaken in a particular manner, termed succussion. The higher the dilution of fluid that is succussed, the more potent will be the nosode product. This dilution must exceed Avogadro’s number (moles) in order to assure that there are no longer any infectious particles in the resultant nosode. Thus, nosodes are safe but may not equate with protection against the intended infectious disease. In other words, they generally do no harm but may not work.
Vaccines are administered either by injection (shot) into muscle and subcutaneous tissue, orally or intranasally. They have also been used in bait to help immunize wildlife. A variety of vaccination protocols for dogs and cats exist; and national and international veterinary policy guidelines are available for immunizing dogs, cats and horses. My canine protocol calls for a distemper and parvovirus vaccine at 9-10 weeks of age, the same again at 14-16 weeks, and a final parvovirus only vaccination at 18 weeks. Then measuring serum antibody titers for those two viruses a year later, and then every three years, or more often, if desired. I prefer to give rabies vaccines 4 weeks apart from other vaccinations, and to wait until a minimum of 20 weeks and thereafter as specified by law. Other vaccines such as those for canine adenovirus-2 (hepatitis; cross-protects against infectious canine hepatitis), Bordetella, canine influenza, and canine coronavirus, are generally not essential, as they either immunize against diseases that rarely occur, or the diseases are mild and the vaccines are not fully protective anyway. For leptospirosis, and Lyme disease, which are zoonoses (can infect humans and other species), the need for vaccines depends upon the specific strain seen clinically (leptospirosis), and regional and situational circumstances. Please remember that misinformation, along with fear of exposure and infection should not be the primary determinant here, as any vaccine can elicit an adverse reaction!
Nosodes are given orally. My colleague, Dr. Charles Loops, states that nosodes can be started as early as start at six weeks of age. The dosing interval is every two weeks, then three weeks and monthly. Generally, the nosodes can be stopped at 6 months of age.
The question that arises about nosodes is whether they actually immunize animals or humans. As we’re not talking about vaccines here, the terms immunization and protection from infectious disease are not really applicable. While the individual given nosodes may remain healthy in the face of normal environmental/community exposures, this is not proof that the approach works. Only when individuals given nosodes, rather than conventional vaccinations, become ill with the infectious disease addressed by the nosode does one have evidence of nosode failure.
On a positive note, there is a large body of anecdotal evidence from veterinarians, allied health professionals, and the public at large – who use homeopathic nosodes against various infectious disease agents – indicating that their animals have kept healthy. These are not animals that are secluded and would be unlikely to be exposed to infectious diseases. Nevertheless, these reports do not scientifically prove that the nosode worked. Regardless, this is why I advocate a minimal vaccination protocol: to balance protection against deadly diseases yet preserve the integrity of the immune system.
My friend and holistic veterinary colleague, Dr. Susan Wynn, has researched the topic of homeopathy extensively. Her goals are to prove objectively when homeopathy is effective and then have the therapy gain acceptance within the mainstream medical world. She wants fundamentally to change the perception with positive action for the betterment of humans and animals.
In fact, with my encouragement, Dr. Wynn performed a controlled nosode study in the late 1990’s with Dr. Ronald Schultz. Her 1998 Journal of American Veterinary Association article discussed this and two other nosode trials.
Possibly the most referenced nosode study was conducted in 1985 by Christopher Day, a veterinary homeopath. He had found out about a kennel cough outbreak at a dog boarding facility in the United Kingdom.
- 214 – Sample size
- 62 dogs injected with Enduracell 7. According to the primary source dated May 9, 1990, by Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, in The London Gazette, the Enduracell 7 vaccine covered distemper, parvovirus, adenovirus-2 (hepatitis), parainfluenza and leptospirosis. Smith-Kline was the manufacturer at the time.
- 2 dogs given Intrac (Bordetella only) nasally.
- 150 dogs not vaccinated.
- All dogs were given 30c of nosode and then administered the nosode twice per day for 3 days.
- 92.5% – Kennel cough incidence prior to nosodes
- 44.3% – Kennel cough incidence after nosode protocol started (significant decrease)
- 51 – Previously vaccinated developed mild symptoms
- 1 – Unvaccinated dog developed mild symptoms
- No control group. A control group is a basic, standard protocol with any research study whether homeopathic or conventional.
- How was the vaccination history question posed? Was there a timeline or history requested? If no timeline was given or full history requested, the unvaccinated dogs might have been vaccinated years prior [although admittedly, kennel cough vaccines have a relatively short duration of immunity]. We also have no clue when the vaccinated dogs were individually injected.
- We do not know the ages of the dogs.
- We do not know their antibody levels to the disease prior to and after nosode exposure.
In general, vaccines against the core antigen of a virus usually cross-protect against any mutants that evolve, as it’s the envelope that mutates – canine parvovirus is a classical example as the current parvovirus 2b vaccines still fully protect against both strains 2 b and virulent 2c.
Further, it is widely recognized that the injectable kennel cough vaccines do not provide complete protection against the viruses and bacteria in this complex. Note that the intranasal and oral Bordetella vaccines induce the release of interferon, an immune e protective protein that inhibits viral replication, and thus protects against the other upper respiratory canine viruses. Injectable Bordetella vaccines do not release interferon.
Stray dogs – admitted to a municipal shelter – were given a canine distemper nosode to help prevent the spread of the disease. They remained in the shelter for eight days. After the fifth day, they were observed for clinical signs of distemper. The incidence of disease decreased from 11.67% to 4.36%. Again, no control group was used. Additionally, the immune history of these dogs was unknown.
Dr. Wynn and Dr. Ronald Schultz (University of Wisconsin; Principal Investigator of the Rabies Challenge Fund) performed the only controlled, albeit small, parvovirus nosode study.
- 13 – Sample size
- 5 – Unvaccinated control group; not given nosodes
- 1 – Contact-control dog for the nosode-treatment group
- 7 – Unvaccinated and given nosodes. Parvovirus nosodes given orally and in ascending potencies in a manner recommended by veterinary homeopaths.
- Control and experimental groups exposed to the 2a and 2b strains of canine parvovirus. The dose (1 X tissue culture infectious doses) was less than or equal to the viral challenge a dog would be expected to encounter in a parvovirus contaminated environment.
- Results: 5 out of 7 nosode treated dogs passed away; 5 out of 6 control dogs passed away.
- Study findings: Parvovirus nosode failed to provide adequate protection from infection or disease.
On a final note, whenever an alternative approach to conventional medicine is used, the client must be informed that it is an alternative, perhaps unproven modality, and that both oral and written informed consent should be obtained from the client to use any form of alternative, holistic or homeopathic therapy, including the use of nosodes. In the case of rabies vaccine, however, conventional vaccination is required by law and must be followed by all licensed veterinarians. Please remember that all vaccines, included those for rabies are stated on the label to be given to healthy dogs. he only exception to this requirement might be applicable on a case-by-case basis with appropriate justification for exemption or deferral from rabies booster vaccination. In these cases, rabies serum antibody titers are usually performed in order to document an acceptable level of protection in the event of exposure to rabies virus.
W. Jean Dodds, DVM
Hemopet / NutriScan
11561 Salinaz Avenue
Garden Grove, CA 92843
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Burns, Katie. " To Titer or to Revaccinate." To Titer or to Revaccinate. American Veterinary Medical Association, 15 June 2016. Web. 10 July 2016. https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/160701a.aspx.
Day, Christopher. "Canine Tracheobronchitis (Kennel Cough).” (2007): n. pag. Web. http://www.alternativevet.org/Clinical%20Trial%20-%20Dogs%20K-C%20WS009-07.pdf.
Dodds, W. Jean, DVM. “Myths About Thyroid Disorders, Vaccines in Pets.” Veterinary Practice News, 23 June 2016. Web. 10 July 2016. http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/myths-about-thyroid-disorders-vaccines-in-pets/.
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"Veterinary Product Licences Granted Under Part II of the Medicines Acts 1968 And 1971." The London Gazette; 9 Mar. 1990. Web. 10 July 2016. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/52133/page/8879/data.pdf
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Wynn, Susan G., DVM. "Vaccination Decisions.” Louise’s Pet Connection, n.d. Web. 10 July 2016. http://louisespetconnection.com/Articles/VacinationDecisions.html