Dear Daisy Dog and Christopher Cat: A new veterinarian who recommends homeopathy recently joined the veterinary practice I use. Homeopathy doesn't make sense to me; I can't see how adding minuscule amounts of substances to water can have any effect. What do you think of it?

Daisy and Christopher respond: Last month, the European Academies' Science Advisory Council (EASAC) issued a statement about veterinary and human homeopathic products.

EASAC reviewed "the excellent science-based assessments already published by authoritative and impartial bodies" and stated that "the claims for homeopathy are implausible and inconsistent with established scientific concepts."

EASAC concluded that homeopathy is no more effective than a placebo.

A placebo is a substance that appears identical to the medication being tested but contains no active ingredient. Sometimes a beneficial effect occurs after placebo administration, either because of the power of suggestion or because the body is so good at healing itself that the condition improves on its own.

To be considered effective, a medicine must provide more improvement than the placebo tested at the same time, and homeopathic treatments do not.

EASAC also discussed toxicity associated with some homeopathic treatments, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's reports earlier this year of severe adverse reactions, including infant deaths, due to homeopathic teething products that contained belladonna.

Moreover, EASAC voiced their concern that using homeopathic treatments in the human and veterinary medical fields may delay the use of therapies proven effective.

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Dear Reggie Rat: My rat, Seymour, has little bumps on his underside that would look like nipples if he were a female. One of the little bumps is attached to a firm, lumpy mass. What are the little bumps and the larger mass?

Reggie responds: Male mammals, including rats and humans, have nipples and mammary (breast) tissue. So it's likely the little bumps you see are Seymour's nipples.

Males also can develop mammary tumors, and it's possible the larger mass is a tumor.

Mammary tumors occur more often in females, though up to 16 percent of cases involve males. Mammary tumors grow rapidly, becoming quite large in weeks.

Research shows that rats offered free access to food have a higher incidence of mammary, pancreatic and pituitary tumors, compared with rats fed restricted amounts of the same diet.

Most mammary tumors are benign, but 20 to 25 percent are malignant. These cancers spread to other parts of the body slowly, so surgical removal of the tumor is the treatment of choice.

Early spaying decreases risk of mammary tumors in female rats. Dietary restriction to prevent obesity also helps lessen tumor incidence.

Have your veterinarian examine Seymour to determine what his mass is and recommend treatment.

Ask the Vet's Pets appears Friday in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com.