Herbs for Animals

My favorite tonic herbs for the aging dog include:

Dandelion, which enhances liver function and is a diuretic

Echinacea, a general immune-system balancer

Ginger, which boosts a lethargic digestive system

Hawthorn, a cardiotonic that helps the aging heart

Milk thistle, a liver-function enhancer

Nettle, a gentle, whole-body tonic

Sarsaparilla, a male rejuvenator and immune-system enhancer

Saw palmetto, a male rejuvenator that is especially good to help avoid prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement)

Some of the culinary herbs even have antioxidant activity. These include:

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Dr. Kidd's Guide to Herbal Dog Care

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Ginkgo is our primary antiaging herb. It acts on two major systems of the body: the nervous system and the cardiovascular system. Ginkgo has proved effective in treating Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and senile dementia. (In animals, senile dementia associated with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms is referred to as cognitive dysfunction or dimming mind syndrome.) Ginkgo enhances both long-term and short-term memory in puppies and old critters alike. This popular herb improves circulation and has good antioxidant activity. Studies also indicate that ginkgo is often effective as treatment for age-related hearing and vision loss, dizziness and vertigo, and tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary contains bioactive ingredients that help prevent the breakdown of the chemical acetylcholine in the brain. A deficiency in acetylcholine is believed to be a contributing factor in senility in general and Alzheimer’s disease in particular. Rosemary is also an important antioxidant.

Flaxseed Oil (Linum usitatissimum)

Flaxseed oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, the good fats that reduce triglycerides and cholesterol (the prime fatty arterial blockers) and prevent blood clots.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Turmeric is the yellow component of curry powder, and it stimulates the liver's bile production. This herb is a potent antioxidant. Turmeric is also heart healthy, acting as a blood thinner (which prevents clots) and helping to prevent excess cholesterol accumulation.

Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)

The green variety of tea contains flavonoids and polyphenols, which are a type of flavonoid that may be a more powerful antioxidant than vitamins C and E. Green tea is oxidized for a shorter period of time than black tea; practitioners don't think the black variety has the same health benefits.

Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)

A traditional herb of both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, gotu kola has antioxidant activity that protects the body from damage by free radicals. The herb is particularly useful for stress-related disorders and memory problems. Rufus and I (and the rest of our aging family) are just beginning to try gota kola, so you should consult a local holistic practitioner to see if it will benefit your dog.

from Dr. Kidd's Guide to Herbal Dog Care by Dr. Randy Kidd, D.V.M., Ph.D

Herbal Healing for Pets

I will begin by stating that you should not attempt herbal healing for your pet unless you have a good understanding of what is ailing your pet. And a good understanding of the healing herbs. Don't guess.....check with a veterinarian first! There are now a lot of holistic/natural vets out there - call around and see who you can find. This advice is not meant to replace the diagnosis and advice of a licensed veterinarian. That said, I will share with you the herbal treatments that we use on my ranch. Most are simple, safe, and effective.

Remember first and always that cats and dogs and other small creatures have much shorter digestive systems than us human caretakers. Fresh herbs are not digested as they are in humans. Therefore, the tincture form of an herb will work better for them. An acceptable alternative would be a stronger herbal tea than you would use for yourself. Doses need to be compatible with your pets weight - small amounts for small animals, large amounts for large animals. When in doubt, consult a holistic or natural healing veterinarian. Administering several doses throughout the day, rather than one big dose once a day will speed the herbs into your pet's system and boost the immune system much faster. And as with ourselves, no herb should be given to any animal on a continuous basis. Like ourselves, their bodies will begin to build an immunity, and once that happens, that herb becomes useless medicinally.

A good rule of thumb for any herbal remedy for your pet is two weeks on, one week off. That gives the body time to work on its own, and gives you time to determine if the herbal treatment needs to be continued. There are exceptions to this rule, as with all rules, as in herbs that take a while to build up in the body to be effective. Don't give herbs you wouldn't take yourself, internally or externally. Just about any herbal remedy that you use for yourself can be adapted for use for your pet - just remember to use tinctures whenever possible, stronger teas when necessary.

For overall general good health, as with ourselves, you should of course look to diet. There are many natural diets being recommended today for all sorts of pets. Do a little research, or preferably a lot, into the natural dietary needs of your pet. Raw meat added to the diet of a cat or dog, natural carnivores, can often clear up a lot of mysterious ailments, as can the addition of fruits and vegetables. If you feed a commercial diet, feed the best you can afford, and add to it when you can. For pet birds, there is a lot of debate about diets these days - seed vs. pellets. Neither is a complete diet in itself. Fresh fruits and vegetables are necessary for the overall good health and nutrition of a pet bird. For many finch species, live food in the form of various insects is a requirement. This is where your research into proper diet for each animal is so important. Years of healthy life can be added to your pet when diet is properly looked after!

When you are changing your pet's diet, do so gradually. Add one new item at a time, and space out those additions. That way if there is a negative reaction, you can quickly pinpoint the culprit. Not every food agrees with every animal.

Sunlight is also necessary for the health of your pet. Sunlight helps the body convert the nutrients in the foods you feed into the necessities for their systems. In place of sunlight, use full-spectrum lighting, like Vita-Lites, or an equivalent. These are ideal for your indoor pets, such as birds and reptiles and amphibians.

Here are some herbal remedies for those common problems:

A strong tea of Eyebright, used as a wash, is perfect for irritated eyes on all pets. Also administer orally to boost the internal mechanisms to fight infection from the inside. Alternatively, you can make a saline solution. Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt in 1/2 cup boiling water. Add 1 drop of Goldenseal extract to 1 tablespoon of the saline solution, once cooled, when you are going to use it....it shrinks swollen tissues and disinfects.

The common cause of itching is due to fleas and flea bites - some animals are actually allergic to the flea bites, compounding the problem. Brewer's yeast is often recommended, 1 teaspoon or tablet per day, as a deterrent. A word of caution here - some animals are allergic to the brewer's yeast, or react to it with dry patches of skin that itch just as bad as the fleas do. If you use brewer's yeast, keep an eye out for these sorts of skin problems to develop, and discontinue the brewer's yeast if necessary. A good remedy for those dry itchy skin patches is tea tree oil, rubbed over the patch. The bitter taste will discourage the animal from digging at his skin, and the oil works well to heal the dryness. DO not use it near the eyes or genitals, however. Aloe is also good for those dry patches. Another method is to put a slice of raw cucumber over the "hot" spot, holding it there for a few minutes, and then rub aloe or tea tree oil over the area.

The shampoo you use, or the flea collar you use, may actually be causing the itching. Bathe the animal in an all natural shampoo, preferably something that has aloe in it, and find an alternative to that flea collar!! Would you wear chemicals around your neck? Neither should they!

You can make an herbal dip for your pet as follows: 2 cups packed fresh peppermint, pennyroyal, or rosemary; 1 quart boiling water; 4 quarts warm water - - Prepare an infusion by pouring the boiling water over the herbs and allow it to steep for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and dilute it with the warm water. Saturate the animal's coat thoroughly with the solution, allowing it to air dry. Use at the first sign of flea activity.

If the itching persists, and fleas or poor diet are not the culprit, use a mixture of Licorice Root, Dandelion Root, and Cat's Claw in equal drops of each tincture for two weeks. The licorice is a natural cortisone, and will help to jump-start the immune system.

To get rid of fleas in your carpet, after removing pets from the room, sprinkle Borax over the carpet and rub it in. Wait a while, then vacuum as usual. This is a safe, non-chemical method of flea control. Reapply the Borax once a week until the problem is gone.

Fresh aloe is an excellent application for those strange cuts and scrapes we can never figure out how our pet got. It is a natural antiseptic, and will keep the area moist until the cut can heal. Another good product is Bag Balm, available at feed stores everywhere. It keeps the skin moist and pliable, so that the skin can repair itself, and new hair can grow back. It prevents scarring when the area can be kept moist, but not wet. (Hint: Bag Balm, when rubbed into your cuticles, can also help you grow strong fingernails!). Alternatively, you can clean the wound with a wash of Goldenseal, and apply aloe or other herbal treatments that are your favorites.

First you must lance the abscess. I mix a betadine solution with water until it looks like tea, and then fill an eyedropper with the solution and squirt it into the hole. Do this several times per day, at least three. The important thing is to clip the fur away from the abscess and don't cover it with any bandage, or it can't drain properly. It has to heal from the inside out. If it is extremely deep, you may need a vet to put a drain in it. I also begin to administer antibiotic herbs orally, to help fight any infection that may occur. Another course of action is to use chamomile in the wound to prevent infection. I have had a lot of success with these methods, which my vet recommends. However, I also know that if it doesn't begin to clear up within a week, I need professional help to combat the infection.

Does your pet get carsick when you take him for trips? Try giving a few drops of ginger root extract prior to the trip to settle his tummy. If it is a long trip, you may want to administer the ginger again halfway through the trip.

Does your pet clear the room without barking? Two courses of action can be taken to give relief on that front (or should I say "behind"?!). One is to give a tablespoon of plain yogurt mixed into their food once per day. Another method is to give a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in the food daily. Try one method, and give it time. If it doesn't work, then try the other. If the problem persists, look into his diet.

Give a tincture of equal drops of echinacea and Goldenseal. If the illness persists after two weeks, try a combination of different herbal antibiotics after careful diagnosis by your vet. If the animal recovers quickly, continue giving the herbs for a few days after, to aid in healing completely.

I generally give a capsule of garlic oil in the food once per week. It helps keep the biting insect critters away, and helps keep the immune system healthy.

When a pet is dehydrated, due to illness or injury, you can give them Pedialyte, available in the baby food section of any grocery store. Alternatively, you can substitute Gatorade. However, the sugar content in Gatorade is rather high, which is not good for long term use with our pets. If using it, cut it in half with plain water. There are also powdered electrolyte solutions available in most feed stores that work just as well, and are less expensive. Electrolyte solutions given in place of water for the first 24 hours will also help new pets that were shipped to deal with the stress of shipping.

If your pet is suffering from ulcers, give him two drops each of Calendula, Comfrey, Knotgrass, and Nettle twice per day. Couple this with a bland, easy to digest diet until the ulcer has healed.

To raise an orphan, first find some goat milk - the fresher the better - to use as the replacement for mother's milk. Goat milk is high in butterfat content, and is infinitely better to use than those powdered replacements found in stores, and miles ahead of cow's milk. This applies for human babies, as well. Many a colicky baby has had their stomach soothed with goat milk.....and goat milk is usually easily used by those considered lactose-intolerant.

Goat milk can be found in your health food store, and often in your grocery store, but the very best source is of course directly from the goat. Find a dairy goat farmer in your area. The prices will be better, too! We have raised everything from puppies and kittens to colts and calves on goat' milk, and have observed or experienced none of the weight-gain problems or vitamin deficiency or immune deficiencies that occur often when using substitutes. Remember to feed the milk warmed. For puppies and kittens, it is often helpful to rub the face and anal area with a warm swab, to stimulate their system, much as the mother does after the baby feeds from her. Once per day, add a little spirulina to the milk. It boosts the immune system, so needed in orphaned babies, and provides many necessary vitamins and nutrients.