Using Herbs For Animal Health

Many people are beginning to see that conventional drugs are healing their pets but are in fact only suppressing symptoms and in some cases making the animal sicker.

Enter; herbal remedies. Herbal remedies are different from conventional drugs due to the fact that the whole plant is used rather than isolating single active ingredients or trying to reproduce that single active ingredient synthetically. In traditional forms of herbal medicine , the choice of herbs depends upon the animal’s personality as well as its medical condition. In modern herbalism, there is greater emphasis on the natual chemical constituents of the herb itself.

As chronic disease and immune deficiency continue to rise in our pet, more and more owners are looking for more effective (and safer) ways of healing disease. Herbal remedies are a valuable tool in both preventing and treating the dis-eases and ailments that plague many of today’s pets.

The wolf and wild canids have inherent instincts that guide them in foraging for plants and herbs to aid with healing of any wounds or illnesses. The use of plants and herbs was actually observed from watching wild animals and applying it to human health. Since the majority of our companion animals are rarely able to forage for the herbs in their own environment, we can help them obtain optimal health and healing from discomfort and disease through the proper use of herbs when needed.

There are three main philosophies of herbal medicine:
1. Ayurvedic Medicine
2. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
3. Western Herbalism.

Ayurvedic Medicine originated in India and the Middle East. Herbal remedies in Ayurvedic medicine are chosen based on an individual’s metabolic type or “dosha,” as well as the symptoms or disease present.

Traditional Chinese Medicine addresses the body and healing in terms of the flow of energy or “chi or qi“ which is also reffered to as the “life force” of the individual. You will see references to dampness or dryness or heat or cold involved in different conditions, as well as yin and yang when studying Chinese herbal formulas.

Western Herbalism is the youngest of the three and has origins in the use of medicinal plants in Eruope. Like both Ayurvedic Medicine and TCM, the body is viewed as a whole and the herbs are used to stimulate healing from within, rather than simply suppressing symptoms.

Herbs can be found in a variety of forms including dried leaves, roots or flowers, tinctures, capsules and tablets. Herbs can also brewed into teas for administration both orally and topically. Tinctures may be alcohol or glycerin based. Some small dogs and cats can be sensitive to alcohol, so a glycerin base is sometimes preferred. Tinctures are often preferred for cats and dogs as they tend to be better absorbed. Some herbal formulas, however, cannot be practically formulated in this way and are more easily dosed as capsules or tablets.

Herbs can be used to treat specific illnesses or dysfunctions, matching the symptoms to the herbal treatment. An example of this would be the use of milk thistle for detoxification of the liver a specific herb used for a specific purpose. Some herbs are more valuable as adaptogens “ having a tonic effect that helps stimulate the individual animal’s intrinsic health and vitality. Siberian ginseng is a frequently utilized adaptogen for older or weakened animals. In many cases herbalists will utilize both types of herbs in treating a patient with chronic or acute illness. Adaptogens are also frequently administered to help prevent degenerative conditions, illness or immune deficiencies.

Please, keep in mind that the source of the herbs is important. Use herbs and formulas from reputable companies only since the potency of herbal remedies can vary greatly.

A few things to keep in mind when using herbal remedies:

Herbs take time to build in the system, so do not expect immediate results. It can take from several days up to a week or more to know if the herbal remedy is effective depending upon the severity of the issue being treated and the overall vitality of the animal.

More frequent dosage (i.e. 3 times a day), is typically more effective than a large dose once per day.The herbs need to remain and build in the animal’s system.
Suggested dosages may need to be adjusted depending on the individual animal’s response. If vomiting, diarrhea or other signs of intolerance occur; a remedy should be stopped for two days, and then ½ the original dose can be administered to see if the lower dose can be tolerated. If the animal does not respond to the initial dose, a larger dose may be necessary. A VERY GRADUAL increase to up to 50% above the original dose can be tried to see if results are improved.
This should be done with the guidance of a trained herbalist or with someone with a good knowledge of the herbs being using.

Begin only one remedy at a time. Do not add another remedy until you have well established if there is a response or are signs of intolerance from any other remedy being used. (Unless you are working with an herbalist or holistic veterinarian familiar with the remedies prescribed).

Herbs and natural remedies work best on an individual whose system is given the best possible conditions for health and healing including the healthiest and freshest (perferably a raw meat and bone diet) possible along with proper nutritional and digestive supplements such as digestive enzymes, essential fatty acids and adequate levels of essential vitamins and minerals.

< font color="purple">Publishers Note: Dr Jeannie offers a wide variety of herbal formulas and single herbs for your dog’s health at The Whole Dog.