BELFAST — When talking with Kaetheryn Walker, a homeopathic practitioner for animals, it doesn’t take long for the subject to turn to vomit and diarrhea.
Mind you, it’s not that she finds such bodily evacuations any more pleasant than a layman pet owner would — it’s just that those fluids yield a plethora of diagnostic clues for patients who can’t say, “Doc, it hurts when I do this.”
Walker has compiled remedies for those and other conditions of ailing and injured animals in her book “Homeopathic First Aid for Animals,” which was released this month in America and abroad by Healing Arts Press in Vermont.
The 216-page book discusses traumas such as back injuries, bleeding, bruises, burns and broken bones. It also covers ailments that lead to vomiting, diarrhea and urinary problems.
Each chapter provides a “trouble-shooting” chart that lists symptoms and remedies. For example, in the chapter on eye conditions, Walker describes seven variations of eye inflammations — severe swelling, sties, watery eyes, etc. — each of which is treated with a different remedy.
“I wanted to talk about the most common animal health problems,” Walker said on a recent Saturday after signing books at the Azure Dragonfly in Belfast. “I’ve listed the most common homeopathic remedies, whether it’s for a horse, dog, cat, rabbit or whatever. I could have written three times as much if I had included all the possible conditions animals can experience.”
Walker defined homeopathy as “the use of minute amounts of minerals that stimulate the immune system to self-heal.”
“Not everyone who picks up this book will know about homeopathy,” she said. In treating and diagnosing conditions, true homeopathy looks not just at physical symptoms but also at a patient’s emotions and state of mind. “Healing emotional states is one of the things homeopathy is famous for,” she said.
But because emotional assessment of animals is a tricky business for the layman, her book is devoted mainly to diagnosing physical symptoms. “You have to look at the objective things first,” she said. “Subjectives are harder to see.”
Still, Walker advises pet owners to regard their animals as having emotions and a memory of good and bad experiences, and to be alert to mood changes.
The 41-year-old Walker has long had an interest in animals. Although she was only 3 years old at the time, she recalls that a family dog named King once saved her life. He previously had been owned by the U.S. Army in the Korean War and was trained to save lives, she said. One day Walker wandered out of her yard and ran out into the street into oncoming traffic. King came up behind her and pulled her to the side of the road.
She also recalls a time when she was small and her cat was ill and dying. “I remember thinking, `Why don’t the big people in the house do something?’ ” she said.
She began taking veterinarian courses at the University of Maine’s Orono campus in the 1970s, but found the course work too limited, or too specific. Using the analogy of becoming an auto mechanic, she said veterinarian education would have prepared her to become, say, a specialist in Mazda repair. She wanted the breadth of being a machinist — a natural healer.
She dropped out of the Orono program and began taking workshops with Christina Chambreau, a homeopathic veterinarian in Maryland. At the same time she started to look for a college or university with a program in animal homeopathy and found none were offered. However, she did discover that Goddard College in Plainfield, Vt., would allow her to write her own curriculum, and she eventually earned a bachelor’s degree there in alternative animal therapy. In 1994 she received a master’s degree in veterinarian homeopathy from the same school.
She now practices homeopathic animal therapy from her Belfast home that she shares in part with Mrs. Cat, Acacia and Tigger, her three cats.
Walker stresses that the remedies she offers in her book are for situations that are non-life-threatening for animals.
In her book, she offers five simple rules for helping any animal in the event of an accident. 1) If it’s working, keep doing it. 2) If it’s not working, stop. 3) If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do anything. 4) When in doubt, call a veterinarian. 5) Call a veterinarian anyway.
Walker includes stories and anecdotes about treating animals for specific conditions. She likens the process to Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery. Once Walker was called by a distraught friend whose cat had been hospitalized for about a week. It was showing no signs of getting better and the vet bill was not getting any smaller. Walker visited the cat and immediately felt waves of intense heat coming from its body. She knew that was one of the symptoms of a stomach obstruction, such as colic. The cat’s stomach had been X-rayed, and when Walker looked at the pictures she noticed a triangle shape in one area. She prescribed a mineral called belladonna, which is a much-diluted form of deadly nightshade. When the cat subsequently became “unstopped,” Walker discovered the triangle was the corner of a plastic bread bag the feline had consumed as a result of its illicit penchant for stealing bread.
Kaetheryn Walker will present a workshop and autograph books at Silo Seven in Bangor on Jan. 10, 1-3 p.m.