Helpful Herbs For Dogs

by Dr. Jeannie Thomason

In the wild, animals learned early on that eating certain types of vegetation (herbs) made them feel better.

Herbs are nature's medicine chest - all natural and when the correct herb for the diagnoised ilness or "dis-ease" is used in moderation, they are healing and health promoting.

Herbal remedies differ from conventional drugs in using parts of the whole plant rather than isolating single active ingredients. In traditional forms of herbalism, the choice of herbs depends upon the dog's personality as well as its medical condition. In modern herbalism, there is greater emphasis on the chemical constituents of the herb itself.

Many veterinarians have become more receptive to the medicinal benefits that some herbs have and they are increasingly encouraging the use of them for the treatment of various conditions.

Right up front I want to state that prevention is always better than cure and it is well known that nutrition is a major factor in maintaining good health. Don't ever rely on herbs or any other natural modality to be the magic, end all, be all cure.

As medications, herbs can be helpful for a variety of chronic problems however, as medications, they can also have side effects and interact with other medications. Please, if you are new to the use of herbs or are uncertian what your dog's symptoms are telling you is the underlying problem, seek guidance from a veterinary naturopath, animal herbalist or qualified holistic veterinarian knowledgeable in the use of herbs.

Herbs can assist greatly when an animal's body is in a toxic or disease state. Herbs are a great, natural source of vitamins, which include antioxidants, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, fiber, proteins, sugars, carbohydrates, chlorophyll, trace elements, essential fatty acids and other beneficial compounds. And because the Creator has produced them, they are naturally the best "medicine" available to us.

Medicines and/or vitamins created in the lab are synthetic and those found in live, whole foods do not contain unnatural substances like preservatives, artificial colors, sugar, starch, coal tar and other harmful additives and fillers that are found in some supplements and are more bio available to our pets, the liver knows how to metabolize them.

I highly recommend herbal vitamins or medicinals in liquid form ( extracts / tinctures / tea ) for quick healing. The herbal fluids go through to the blood stream quickly rather than through the digestive system / stomach if it were in powder or tablet. (You can also break open the capsules and add to hot water to steep your own tea)

Some common conditions and herbs that may help

Motion sickness: ginger
Hot spots: black or green tea, unrefined, organic apple cider vinegar compresses
Allergies (general): burdock, tang kuei
Urinary tract infections: corn silk, cranberry
Wounds: aloe, comfrey, chamomile - applied topically
Upper respiratory infections: echinacea, oregon grape root
Immune suppression: astragalus, reishi, shitake
Arthritis: boswellia, devil's claw
Liver disease: milk thistle, artichokes, turmeric
Conjunctivitis: eyebright, tea compresses (topically)
Diabetes: gymnema, bitter melon

Common herbs that are potentially dangerous for use in animals if not used under supervision of an herbalist

Pennyroyal (can very toxic to dogs and cats)
White Willow bark (salicylates may be toxic to cats)
Tea Tree (can be VERY toxic to cats and small dogs)
Ma Huang (cats have idiosyncratic reactions)

Herbs That Boost Immunity

Although very popular in the last few years, the potential of echinacea as the truly beneficial herb it really is, has yet to be fully understood by most. For several generations, Native Americans knew of the power of this plant and other herbs in treating or preventing many different ailments.

Echinacea is best known for its' immune enhancing ability, but has proven very effective in many other areas as well

Chinese astragalus root, Astragalus membranaceus, is widely used throughout the Orient as a tonic food and medicinal plant. Research has shown that this root and its extracts are powerful stimulators of the immune system.

Astragalus stimulates virtually every phase of immune system activity. It increases the number of "stem cells" in the marrow and lymph tissue, and stimulates their development into active immune cells which are released into the body. Research documenting this also demonstrated that astragalus could promote or trigger immune cells from the "resting" state into heightened activity. Another study on an astragalus-based Chinese remedy demonstrated "the tendency to stimulate immune response" without suppressive effects. Long-term use (for 35 days) heightened the activity of spleen cells. The remedy also decreased negative side effects of steroid therapy on the immune system. The author recommended using it in combination with steroid therapy "to alleviate the adverse effects" of the steroid.

Red Clover

Red Clover has a rich history as a cleansing herbal tonic. traditionally used in springtime to promote general health and to revitalize the spirit. Red Clover helps to calm coughs, reduce skin inflammations, and improve general health. This herb contains many of the essential B and C vitamins.

Herbalists have long prized this herb for it's traditional use as a blood purifier, expelling toxins from the bloodstream. Primary chemical constituents of Red Clover include phenolic glycosides (salicylic acid), essential oil (methyl salicylate), sitosterol, genistiene, flavonoids, salicylates, coumarins, cyanogenic glycosides, silica, choline, and lecithin. Red Clover also contains vitamin A, vitamin C, B-complex, calcium, chromium, iron, and magnesium. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have found anti-cancer properties in this herb.

For further information on herbs I recommend the following books:

Juliette de Bairacli Levy

Mary Wulff-Tilford & Gregory Tilford

It is unwise to assume that herbs alone can be used to treat ill-health in our pets. Most veterinary naturopaths, herbalists and holistic veterinarians will recommend a change in diet/nutritional support in addition to herbal therapy. This integrated approach is designed to give the animal patient the greatest amount of comfort combined with the gentlest and most supportive treatments.

For a consultation with Dr Jeannie please download the Health History Questioniare.

NOTE The information on this site is based on the traditional and historic use of herbs as well as personal experience and is provided for general reference and educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or promote any direct or implied health claims. This information is and products are not intended to replace professional veterinary and/or medical advice

This article is the sole property of Dr Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason and The Whole Dog. It cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the expressed written consent of the author.

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