Pet owners who use alternative therapies for themselves often seek out similar remedies for their furry, feathered and finned companions—with the goal of healing rather than just suppressing symptoms. Instead of just giving Rover a cortisone shot for itchy skin or putting Fluffy on anti-anxiety medication for obsessive chewing, more pet owners are looking to books, holistic veterinarians and, yes, natural product retailers, for information on safe, effective ways to get their animals well.
That's why it makes sense for any retailer to have a thorough knowledge of two vibrational treatments commonly used in holistic animal care—flower essences and homeopathy.
Back in balance
Flower essences and homeopathy are based on the same premise—that people are more than just physical matter, and disturbances in energy can lead to physical problems that show up through symptoms. So, balance the energy and the person will get better. The same is true for animals.
"Using flower essences and homeo?pathy with animals is the same as using them with people—you can extrapolate from people to your animals," says Christina Chambreau, DVM, a holistic veterinarian in Sparks, Md., who employs both types of treatments.
Chambreau has successfully used vibrational treatments on a whole menagerie of animals. One client's horse, for example, had years earlier been in a traumatic trailer accident that left him terrified of loud noises, shiny objects and unfamiliar riders; one high-potency dose of the homeopathic remedy aconite resolved the problem. Another client's cat got irritable and started spraying furniture after a move to a new home, but two weeks of treatment with a combination of flower essences, including a mixture called New Beginnings, made by Meriden, N.H.-based Green Hope Farm, got him back to normal.
Both flower essences and homeopathy can be used for a wide range of ailments—but they are definitely not the same. Flower essences are subtler and sometimes need to be used for a long period of time, while homeopathic remedies pack a stronger punch and should start working right away.
"Flower essences are 100 percent safe— you can never cause harm with flower essences, so go to it and try them," Chambreau says. "But with homeopathy, you want to be more careful, and if there are any negative effects, stop the remedy immediately."
Tailoring treatment to pets
While it is true that vibrational treatments made for humans can be safely used on pets, several manufacturers make pet-specific products that might appeal more to your animal-loving customers. The products, usually combination remedies, are designed specifically to be user-friendly for pet owners and to address common health problems in animals—from separation anxiety to itchy skin to spraying.
Green Hope Farm, for instance, sells an animal wellness collection made up of 22 remedies that each contains 20 or more flower essences. The remedies target specific problems that plague pets. Flee Free is for situations in which an animal is under attack by pests, Abandonment & Abuse helps pets get over difficult pasts and Run & Play helps support healing from injuries or conditions that hamper joyful romps.
SpiritEssence, in Boulder, Colo., makes a number of flower essence combinations for animals, including Bully Remedy to calm domineering animals, Obsession Remedy to treat behaviors such as excessive grooming or licking, and Stress Stopper to help pets cope with situations such as boarding at a kennel.
The targeted combination remedies might make it easier for your customers to be sure their animal is getting the right flower essence, which can sometimes be difficult.
"Flower essences are an amazing therapy for pets," says Patricia Kaminski, executive director of the nonprofit educational and research organization, the Flower Essence Society. "But the main difference is that we cannot ask an animal, 'How are you feeling?' or 'Did something traumatic happen in your life?'"
Much like parents with their children, though, Kaminski says pet owners often have intuition about their furry friends that can be useful in choosing a treatment. But homeopathy, with its more than 2,000 remedies to choose from, can be much more complicated.
For that reason, Chambreau recommends suggesting that untrained customers who want to try homeopathy on their pets try one single or prepared combination remedy and carefully record the results. And, to make it easier, companies such as West Hampton Beach, N.Y.-based HomeoPet make homeopathic remedies specifically for pets to treat maladies such as coughs, urinary incontinence and hot spots.
But if a customer asks about using flower essences or homeopathy for a very complex problem—such as cancer or aggressive behavior in a dog, for example—it is always a good idea to have the names of a few local holistic veterinarians so you can make a referral.
"In certain cases, it's definitely best to consult a professional," Kaminski says.
Grasp the essence
Having a working knowledge of vibrational treatments and helping your customers to learn more, too, is key for the responsible sale of these products. Here are some tips from experts:
- Make sure your staff knows its stuff. If you do not have a staff member with a thorough knowledge of flower essences and homeopathy, send someone who works in your health section to a class. If you do have a knowledgeable staff member or two, ask them to read up on the use of vibrational treatments in animals.
- Have resources available for the customer. It is a good idea to have a selection of books and pamphlets on flower essences and homeopathy in general, but also stock some that are geared specifically toward animals. Chambreau recommends Bach Flower Remedies for Animals (Findhorn Press, 1999) by Helen Graham and Gregory Vlamis, and Homeopathic Care for Dogs and Cats: Small Doses for Small Animals (North Atlantic Books, 1999) by Donald Hamilton.
"Most successful retailers provide resources at the point of purchase that allow an interested consumer to look up a condition their pet has and to look up possible remedy options," says Peter Gold, spokesman for the National Center for Homeopathy.
- Offer a class or workshop at your store. Many holistic veterinarians or flower-essence practitioners will come to your store and teach customers—and your staff—the basics of using vibrational treatments for pets. Find a local holistic veterinarian through the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association at www.ahvma.org, or find a certified flower-essence practitioner at the FES Web site, www.flowersociety.org. Such a class just might draw a crowd.
Allie Johnson is a freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 3/p. 88, 92