Dogs with a common allergic skin disease, canine atopic dermatitis, will be taking part in a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies as conventional meets complementary at Bristol University's School of Veterinary Science.
Dr Peter Hill, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Dermatology at Bristol's Vet School is embarking on the trial that aims to settle some of the arguments about the practice of homeopathy. The trial is only possible due to collaboration with one of the UK's best-known homeopathic veterinary surgeons, Mr John Hoare, and Dr Robert Mathie, Research Development Adviser at the British Homeopathic Association and Faculty of Homeopathy.
The practice of homeopathy is currently under great scrutiny in both the medical and veterinary fields. On the one hand, conventional medical practice would dictate that the principle on which homeopathy is based has no grounding in science and amounts to nothing more than sheer fantasy. Any response to treatment is discounted as pure placebo effect. On the other hand, trained homeopaths maintain that their system, although not fully understood from a pharmacological point of view, yields genuine therapeutic results, often after conventional medicines have failed. Such views are supported by a small but growing body of published research.
During the trial, the dermatologists at Bristol's Vet School and Mr Hoare will be working in tandem. The dermatologists will be responsible for making the initial diagnosis and objectively assessing the response to treatment. Mr Hoare will be responsible for prescribing the homeopathic remedies, after evaluating the dog's symptoms and various aspects of its personality. The trial will be conducted in two phases.
Phase one, which is really intended to establish proof of principle, is an open clinical trial in which the main measure of assessment will be the level of itching. If this phase proves that homeopathy appears to be beneficial in some dogs, a more thorough, controlled, randomised clinical trial will be conducted in which both itching and the severity of dermatitis are objectively measured.
Dr Peter Hill, commenting on the trial, said: "It is hoped that these trials will provide clear evidence for or against the use of such treatment in dogs with this disease. One thing is for sure whichever side of the fence one lies, the results will be awaited with a certain degree of apprehension."
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