Results from a small, rigorously designed, research study at the University of Bristol's Department of Clinical Veterinary Science have pointed the way towards a larger clinical trial of homeopathy for the treatment of atopic dermatitis in dogs.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is an itchy, chronic, skin disease that can affect humans and animals such as dogs. Twenty dogs were recruited to the study from the referral sample seen in the veterinary dermatology clinic at the University.
Dogs were diagnosed with non-seasonal atopic dermatitis and those entering the study had positive reactions to multiple allergens to confirm the diagnosis. Some dogs continued to receive conventional drugs. This category included dogs that had residual, stable and persistent pruritus (itching) despite receiving glucocorticoids, ciclosporin or allergen-specific immunotherapy.
The dogs were prescribed individualised homeopathic medicines by vet John Hoare. Two months after starting the treatment, the owners of 15 of the dogs reported no improvement. However, owners of the other five dogs reported pruritus scores that were at least 50 per cent improved compared to their pets' score at recruitment. One of the five dogs improved by 100 per cent and needed no further treatment.
The other four dogs that responded well in this first phase were then put forward into a blinded randomised trial in which they received their homeopathic prescription at some times and placebo at other times. The three dogs that completed this phase of the study improved more with the active remedy than with placebo, and owners were able to distinguish correctly which pill was which.
Dr Peter Hill, who was lead clinician on the study, said "These preliminary data indicate the need for a large randomised controlled trial of homeopathy in canine atopic dermatitis."
Dr Robert Mathie, Research Development Adviser at the British Homeopathic Association, who collaborated in the study, added "We hope that many of the country's veterinary schools and other specialist referral centres might participate in a multi-centre trial."
The team reports its results in the March 21 2009 issue of Veterinary Record (Volume 164, Issue 12).