VETERINARY THERAPEUTICS

Veterinary medicine is theoretically divisible into eight branches, corresponding to the eight divisions set out in the Âyurveda. Thus, equestrian matters were divided into general surgery, general therapeutics, ophthalmology and otorhinolaryngology, care of foals (corresponding to Âyurvedic pediatrics), toxicology, fortifying treatments, demonology, and the use of aphrodisiacs. Apart from surgical interventions, therapeutics usually consisted of the administration of medicinal preparations by different routes and in various forms: mixtures of powders, decoctions, electuaries, ointments and snuff. The principle remedies cited by the texts were based on plants, but some substances of animal or mineral origin were also used. All these natural ingredients served to prepare thousands of remedies, often of very complex formulation. The complexity of preparations is explained by the care taken to combine ingredients in order to counterbalance, enhance or prolong the effects of some ingredients through the effects of others. There are basic preparations to which various other ingredients are added to adapt the treatment to a given species. For example, the passage in the Carakasamhitâ (Siddhisthâna, XI, 20-26) concerning enemas for elephants, camels, cattle, horses and sheep provides a basic formula composed of the following plants: Acorus calamus L., Glycyrrhiza glabra L., Piper longum L., Randa spinosa Poir., Saussurea lappa C.B. Clarke. A dozen other plants may be added to these basic ingredients for elephant enemas. For cattle preparations, addition of decoctions of Butea monosperma (Lam.) Kuntze, Cedrus deodara (Roxb.) Loud. and Terminalia chebula Retz. was recommended. Other plants were indicated for horse enemas, such as Baliospermum montanum Muell.-Arg. or Croton tiglium L. (26). For hippiatric purposes, various procedures were available for making horses sweat, in addition to the use of cauterisation techniques, bleeding and several kinds of enemas (18). Eight procedures for inducing sweating were used to treat diseases due to ‘wind’ and ‘phlegm’. Texts distinguish violent and mild sudorific agents for use in horses. The mode of use and the best time for treatment were specified. Cauterisation with a red-hot iron was reserved for conditions which could not be cured by nutritional means, ‘errhins’ or enemas. The cauterisation site, and the type and number of cauterisations depended on the particular case. Ample information was available on post-operative care and precautions for the days following intervention. Reference was also made to the use of caustics. The hippiatric treatises also describe the veins to be chosen for blood-letting in particular cases. There was also information on contra-indications, on feeding to ‘reconstitute’ the blood, and on remedies to be administered following major bleedings. The texts emphasise the benefits of medicinal butter oils for feeding, external applications and enemas. 

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