Bach Remedies and Animals
Bach Remedies and Animals
by Stefan Ball, Director at The Bach Centre
The Bach flower remedies were the creation of a remarkable doctor, pathologist and bacteriologist called Edward Bach. His research into vaccines in the early years of the 20th century received great acclaim but left him unsatisfied, and in 1928 he began to experiment with medicines made from flowers. He found that by targeting the personality and emotional states of individuals he was able to encourage positivity and balance in his patients. Often they felt better physically because their bodies were quite literally free to return to their natural state of health.
By the time he died in 1936 Dr Bach had discovered a complete system of 38 remedies, each aimed at a particular emotion or characteristic. Used in combination these 38 ‘primary’ remedies could treat more than 292 million different negative states. Since then his remedies have gone all over the world. They are sold in 70 countries to millions of people. Indeed, the combination formula Bach put together for emergency use is so well-known that people are sometimes surprised to find there is a whole system and philosophy behind the bottle of “Rescue” in their pocket.
Remedies and animals
Animals have emotions just like people, and Bach remedies can be as helpful to pets as they are to the rest of the family. Most stock remedies on the shelves are preserved in brandy, but once diluted to reduce the alcohol intake (see below) they are extremely safe. Even if you pick the wrong remedy you won’t make things worse, and many people get good results by browsing a web site with remedy indications for people on it, and taking their best guess as to how those descriptions might match their dog, cat – or donkey. Some typical uses of remedies in everyday situations would include:
- Walnut for problems with change, including new animals or people in the house, moving home, and changes of owner or routine.
- Mimulus for everyday fears of noise or of meeting strangers; also for shy, timid animals.
- The “rescue” combination for everyday emergencies.
Sometimes, however, this common-sense approach leads us astray – not because the remedies are more complicated when used on animals, but because we can easily misread what an animal’s behaviour means. We might give Holly to dogs that destroy our property when they are locked in alone. We might choose Vine for rabbits that bite anyone who goes near their hutch. These choices won’t make the situation worse, but they are unlikely to help.
We can’t ask our pets for an explanation of their behaviour. But we can ask some questions of ourselves, in particular:
- Are my pets from a social or solitary species?
- Are they predator or prey animals?
- Are they from a territorial, home ranging or nomadic species?
- As the owner, am I managing them appropriately?
- Are they allowed to act out most of their normal and natural behaviours?
Let’s look at the kind of answers we might get when we ask these questions.
Are my pets from a social or solitary species? – Tortoises, hamsters, snakes and a few fish species are solitary. But dogs, cats, horses, parrots, rabbits, guinea pigs and most fish and farm animals (cows, pigs, sheep, chickens) are all social species. The vast majority of the animal species on the planet are social – over 90%. Many of their negative emotions stem from being not allowed to interact with members of their own species and therefore remedies relating to isolation and friendlessness, for example, often need to be considered.
The commonest error here is the assumption that cats prefer to be solitary (and hence are Water Violet types). On the contrary, the domestic cat has been shown to have a rich social structure almost identical to that of the African lion.
Are they predator or prey animals? – Generally, prey animals tend to be more easily frightened than predators. Horses, rabbits, hamsters and many birds are prey animals. When their fear turns to fear-aggression, however, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate fear for what it is. Knowing that when a constrained horse or rabbit bites, it is doing so out of fear or terror leads one more readily to choose Mimulus or Rock Rose rather than assuming the bite betrays a domineering Vine tendency. (You can look up these and other remedies at www.bachcentre.com: Mimulus we have seen already; Rock Rose is for terror; Vine for domineering behaviour.)
Are they from a territorial, home ranging or nomadic species? – Fish, tortoises and some birds need lots of space because they are nomads and never return to a specific place of their own. Cats and dogs are territorial – this is the opposite – they return daily to a home base. Horses, pigs and sheep are mainly home rangers – this means there is no core home base but there is a general area that they tend to roam around in.
Generally speaking, the more territorial the animal, the more defensive it is. This is because territorial animals have something to lose. These behaviours are therefore rarely seen in tortoises and only occasionally in horses. Territorial and possessive responses (like dogs holding onto bones or balls) are driven by their not wanting to lose hold of something that is valuable to them.
As the owner, am I managing them appropriately? Are they allowed to act out most of their normal and natural behaviours? – Once you have answered the first three questions you should be able to answer these last two more easily. The way we control our pets is often the direct cause of behavioural deprivation – and consequently the direct cause of our pets’ negative emotions. A horse being managed in a solitary way in a stable will be unable to display social behaviours and unable to home range. A fish that is a prey animal, housed in the same tank as a predator fish, may display hardly any behaviour at all – it may hide under a rock all day. Here the negative emotion and the lack of a way out might be so extreme that Sweet Chestnut, the remedy for absolute darkness and anguish, could be indicated.
Remember that some pathological conditions may look very like behavioural or emotional issues, and without specialist advice we have no way of telling. Always have pets checked by a vet if there is any sudden change in behaviour, so as to pick up on any disease or injury that might require specific treatment.
How to give remedies to animals
Basically the dosage for animals is the same as for people – i.e. four drops from a treatment bottle, at least four times a day. This is fine for everything from a mouse to an elephant.
To make up a treatment bottle, buy an empty 30 ml dropper bottle from a pharmacist or other retailer. Buy the stock remedies you want to use, and put two drops of each selected remedy into the dropper bottle. Top up with bottled, still mineral water (this keeps fresh longest) and keep in a cool place.
The standard dose from the mix is four drops at least four times a day. There can though be difficulties doing this in the case of animals. Your horses might live in a field miles away from your house and place of work, so giving four doses a day is difficult. And there are legitimate worries over trying to give animals drops straight from a glass dropper – not least the worry that they might swallow the whole thing. This is why a number of different methods are used, such as:
- Adding stock bottle drops to water or food. (The normal recommendation is two drops of each selected stock remedy in a bowl for small animals, five or six drops in a bucket for larger animals. The larger amount is to make sure that any size drink the animal takes from a large volume of water will contain at least a minimum dose.)
- Using plastic droppers to give remedies.
- Giving remedies externally by dripping them on the paws of cats or rabbits so that the animal will lick them off.
From a remedy point of view, whatever method you use will work as long as the animal gets at least the minimum dose of remedy each time – i.e. the equivalent of four drops from a treatment bottle. There are other considerations, though. For example, your pet might be afraid of you, or of being touched, or just afraid of liquid being dropped onto it. The ‘paws and ears’ method should be avoided where this is an issue.
The Natural Animal Centre, which runs Bach Centre-approved level 3 courses on animals, teaches that best practice is to give treatment bottle doses on a treat, wherever possible, so that the process of taking remedies is stress-free and straightforward, and the animal feels more in control of it.
A note on sprays and pastilles
Dr Bach’s crisis formula is commonly sold in spray and pastille form. The spray can be useful, but the spray mechanism can be frightening to cats and some other animals, so spray the room before your nervous cat enters, rather than spraying once it is in the room.
The crisis pastilles sold under the brand name Rescue® are inappropriate for animal use. They can cause a small animal to choke, and the sweetener used (xylitol) is potentially life-threatening to dogs and cats and definitely lethal to rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs. Its effects on horses and other farm animals are currently unknown.
Helping animals that don’t belong to you
Many Bach users like to help other people’s animals as well as their own. In general the same considerations apply as above. Start with the five questions and work from there. There are, however, other things to bear in mind – in particular legal issues, personal safety and the welfare of the animal itself.
Laws on the health care of animals vary widely from country to country, but the one thing they have in common is that they were not written with the Bach remedies in mind. In most countries the law allows us to give complementary treatments to our own animals. We can also help wild animals, and usually help any animal in a genuine emergency. But in the UK, diagnosis and treatment of other people’s animals in a wide range of situations can be considered “an act of veterinary surgery” – and veterinary surgery, including diagnosis, can only legally be carried out by a vet. There is no evidence that selecting Mimulus for a neighbour’s frightened cat would come under this heading, but you need to be aware of the issue, especially if you have read the (incorrect) guidance in some books, which suggest that some Bach remedies can directly treat named medical conditions. Stick to everyday emotions – as Dr Bach did – and you will be using the system as intended and in its most helpful form – and avoiding legal issues.
The need for personal safety should be obvious. Some animals can be dangerous, especially to strangers, and especially when they are territorial animals on their home ground. You share a home and an understanding with your own household pets – but to the dog in your neighbour’s house you might be an unwelcome intruder who has no business being there.
Finally, there is the issue of the animal’s welfare. Animals can’t talk. Owners may not realise their pet is ill or injured or in pain, and if we try to help with remedies at that stage it could delay a proper veterinary inspection.
Fortunately there are simple ways of managing these problems so that we can offer remedies without compromising our own safety or that of the animal. Some rules of thumb are:
- Be very cautious regarding your own personal safety, and don’t make home visits.
- Don’t take on challenging or difficult cases without proper training.
- Make sure the owner has had the animal checked by a vet before you offer remedy advice.
- Keep your advice general and educational, and leave the actual selecting and giving of remedies to the animal’s owners.
The last point is good practice in any case, as the aim of working with a self-help system like Dr Bach’s is to help people use the system themselves. It should also steer you clear of any accusation that you are working as an unlicensed veterinary, when all you want to do is provide safe and gentle support.
For more information on anything to do with Dr Bach’s system see the Bach Centre’s web site www.bachcentre.com. If you are especially interested in working with animals – and after following the standard Level 1 and 2 courses to gain remedy knowledge – you might want to investigate the specialist Bach Centre-approved Level 3 course offered by the Natural Animal Centre. This course will teach you how to work with local vets and make accurate remedy selections, so that you can make working with animals a major part of what you do with the remedies. You will find information about that on the web site too.