Many of you know my dog Abby or have seen her when you’ve come into Herban Wellness. I have taken her to a holistic/natural veterinarian since day one, because I apply the same principles to my animal companion as I do to myself. Start with the foundations: healthy diet, exercise, minimal exposure to toxins. Then I move to support from nutritional and herbal additions when needed. Finally, I only use pharmaceutical or surgical interventions when absolutely necessary.
I have incorporated herbal remedies into Abby’s routine as needed for flea treatment and prevention, for minerals and skin health, for calming her (or attempting to) when she’s anxious during a storm or fireworks, and in the last few years, anti-inflammatory and joint support as she gets up in years. I have also helped other dog and cat parents (and horse caregivers also!) find appropriate herbal remedies for supporting organs such as the liver, kidneys, and adrenal glands. Herbs can help greatly with seasonal and skin allergies, skin inflammation and irritations, and other chronic issues you may find your pet facing.
Now, I often do say how I am more comfortable in using herbs with dogs because they have less sensitive systems overall than cats, and also they are easier in general to administer natural remedies to. I have no qualms forcing a couple of milliliters of herbal tincture/glycerite into Abby’s mouth for acute situation, like when she somehow contracted kennel cough one winter. She was completely healthy in one week, which even her holistic vet was quite impressed with. I gave her lung, cough, and immune herbs that I would use for humans, and I got them in her several times a day. I also can easily disguise herbal and nutritional powders and tinctures in her food.
When choosing herbs for dogs, cats, and horses, I always check my herbal pet resources to make sure the herbs I’m considering can be safely used. My favorite quick-reference guides are by a holistic veterinarian who practiced for decades and wrote two books: Herbal Cat Care and Herbal Dog Care, respectively, by Dr. Randy Kidd, and The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care by CJ Puotinen. These generally give guidance on dosing as well, since that’s important and is generally determined by the weight of the animal when it comes to dogs and cats. Liquid extracts are easy to dose by the drop, where powders can be added by the part of a teaspoon. Some people also make herbal teas and mix them with the food.
Some of my favorite herbs for pets:
Turmeric – yep, a good anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant, just like for humans. Quantity ranges from 1/8 – 1 tsp per day for the powder and 10-30 drops for the tincture.
Kelp – mineral-rich and nutritive, this sea plant is beneficial for skin and fur health, and is generally added to food anywhere from 1/8 – ½ tsp of powder.
Alfalfa – high in minerals and chlorophyll, this herb is also used for reducing overall inflammation in dogs and cats, 1/8 – 1 tsp/day of powder.
Nettle leaf – high in minerals and chlorophyll and supportive to kidney and urinary tract health, ¼-1 tsp/day or 5-30 drops for the tincture or glycerite.
Chamomile – calming and soothing to the nervous system, while anti-inflammatory to the GI. Give 5-30 drops of the tincture or glycerite. Or ¼-1/2 cup chamomile tea.
Burdock root – helps gently detoxify the system and is particularly useful for skin issues and for healthy digestive and liver function. 1/8 – 1/2 tsp of the powder or 5-30 drops of the tincture.
Neem leaf – excellent for the health of the skin, as well as being an antifungal and antibacterial, and a flea preventive internally as well as topically. 1/8 – 1/2 tsp of the powder twice/day.