Updated: Jul 2
3 years ago, we adopted a family dog from the local humane society. We chose 3-year-old Marley for his calm temperament, small size, and non-shedding coat. Marley is generally a low-key, quiet dog who spends most of his time sleeping and lying around. In the weeks after we brought Marley home, it became clear that he had come with some baggage.
A Fearful Past?
Since Marley was a rescue dog, his past history is uncertain. However, a few things seem apparent from Marley's behavior. His reconstructed past seems to include the following:
Marley had likely been left outside for long periods, so he was scared to go outside.
Marley was probably either abused by a man or witnessed a man abusing his family, as evidenced by Marley's suspicion towards men and over-protectiveness of women and children.
Marley was never socialized properly, as evidenced by his fear of other dogs.
Marley had been stressed by loud noises, such that he would hide and tremble in fear at every rumble of thunder or pop of bubble wrap.
Crate Training Fails
Having read a few dog training books, I planned to crate train Marley so that he could sleep in his kennel at night and be left in his kennel when left home alone for short periods. I had known other dogs who were crate-trained from puppyhood, and they seemed to genuinely love their kennels as a safe, cozy place to be. We trained Marley to go into his kennel with treats and rewards, and he settled into the routine for about 6 months. Marley was calm and relaxed in his kennel, and it seemed like it was going to work out just fine.
Over time, though, Marley started to exhibit signs of anxiety when he was in his kennel. He started to shred his doggie bed while we were away from home. When we returned home, we'd find Marley trembling, panting, and sweaty in his kennel. We started trying to leave Marley home alone as infrequently as possible.
Marley started creating a sleep-disturbing ruckus at night in his kennel. It didn't matter whether the kennel was in our room or the kids' room; Marley was no longer content to be in his kennel at night. So we abandoned the kennel for nighttime use and Marley got into the habit of sleeping with my son every night instead.
Separation Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Over the next few months, we tried to manage Marley's anxiety as best we could by taking him with us as often as possible when we left home. He slept contentedly with my son at night, and although he was stressed when left alone in his kennel, he would be fine once we arrived home. However, one weekend my kids and I went out of town with my mom, and Marley was left home with my husband. While we were gone, Marley was pacing around looking for us, and pacing around at night, too.
After we returned home, Marley seemed to be fine, but his level of anxiety when left alone increased and, even more problematic, he started having anxiety issues at night even though we were all home. Marley was no longer content to sleep all night in my son's bed, and would pace around panting during the night, running around the house and doing strange things such as trying to climb on my bedside table in his distress.
Night after night, Marley's panic attacks became more and more disruptive, and my husband and I were at our wits' end with having our sleep disrupted every night. We tried everything we could think of: letting Marley sleep in our room, sleeping in the back yard, gentle comforting, and stern reprimands. We were even starting to think that we might not be able to keep Marley, because every night he was preventing us from being able to sleep.
Homeopathic Treatment for Marley's Panic Attacks
Over the several months during which Marley was having his panic attacks, I had tried giving him a few different homeopathic remedies, but there was no improvement. I finally decided to try a remedy that I had thought of shortly after we rescued Marley from the animal shelter: Phosphorus. I had never given Marley Phosphorus because I didn't think it really matched his personality. Phosphorus is generally associated with an outgoing, sociable personality that loves to be the center of attention. Nonetheless, Marley had exhibited some classic signs for Phosphorus:
fear of thunderstorms
scared of being alone
drinking a lot of water all at once, and then vomiting it back up a few minutes later
trembling from fear
One more sign that Phosphorus might be a good match for Marley's panic attacks was the causation of his problems. Many homeopathic remedies are known to work well for ailments that stem from a specific event or trauma, and Phosphorus is known to work well for ailments that develop as a result of abandonment and grief. Marley's panic attacks started after being left home for the weekend, so Phosphorus was a good match for the causation of his panic attacks. I finally decided to give Marley a dose of Phosphorus to see if it would produce any improvement in his panic attacks.
I gave Marley one dose of Phosphorus 30c, and the following two nights he had the worst panic attacks ever. (This was a classic example of a homeopathic aggravation where the symptoms got worse after a dose, which means that the dose was too strong or the potency was too high). After those two bad nights, something amazing happened: the panic attacks stopped! Marley went several weeks with no panic attacks at all, either at night or when left alone at home. Just as is true when using homeopathic remedies for people, I knew that Marley should not have any further doses of Phosphorus while he was showing such dramatic improvement from the first dose.
A few weeks after the first dose, Marley started show signs of a relapse by having some small panic attacks. The relapse was a sign that it was time to give Marley another dose of Phosphorus. I gave him one more dose, which I made sure was extra-diluted because of the aggravation Marley had exhibited after the first dose. Following the second dose, Marley's panic attacks once again stopped. And they never returned.
It has now been over 1&1/2 years, and Marley has not had any more panic attacks regardless of whether he is left at home alone or even when he has been left at home with my husband for the weekend. Marley's panic attacks were cured with just 2 doses of Phosphorus!
Other Remedies for Panic Attacks
Although Phosphorus worked well for treating Marley's panic attacks, Phosphorus is isn't the remedy for all panic attacks. In homeopathy, the correct remedy is the one that best matches the individual's specific symptoms, and there are many other remedies that can work well for treating panic attacks. For instance, Aconite is known to work well for panic attacks that include the fear of dying, and Argentum nitricum is known to work well for panic attacks that include various fears (such as bridges, closed spaces, and heights) combined with a rushed feeling (speaking quickly, feeling like they are in a rush).
Homeopathy's individualization is a keynote of its success. A remedy that does not match the individual's specific symptoms will generally have no effect whatsoever, but the correctly-chosen homeopathic remedy can really work wonders! Thanks to just 2 doses of Phosphorus, we were able to keep Marley and he is now a cherished member of our family.
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