Treat Pets with Herbs: Safe Effective Alternatives for Pet Ailments
Oct 31, 2013 01:58PM
By Diana Pereira
Fido has ear mites or an upset digestive system, and immediately we reach for the nearest product that promises to get rid of our animal companion’s ailments; but at what cost? There is an alternative that will help to heal Fido or Fifi without the side effects of conventional veterinary medicine.
Most herbs that are commonly used in veterinary medicine are much gentler than most drugs, yet they still demand respect. Many times feeding our pet a nutritionally sound diet and adding supplementary herbs, depending on the individual pet’s needs, will be enough to prevent most ailments.
To boost immune support and for overall good health, try adding a general herbal dietary tonic consisting of spirulina, nettle, dandelion leaf, alfalfa and ground flaxseed to a pet’s daily diet. This formula can be fed to any canine by one teaspoon daily and any feline by one-half teaspoon daily and will supply large concentrations of easily absorbed protein, vitamin C, B complex, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, and is much less expensive than most supplements in capsule form.
Although many animals do enjoy riding in vehicles, there are those that suffer from acute nervousness and anxiety when they have to be transported to any new place. For these times, herbs can be helpful for gently calming the animal. In circumstances where fear and anxiety prohibit an otherwise passive animal from relaxing, valerian may induce just enough sedation to allow napping. If the animal’s anxiety is causing them to hiss, spit, bite or make other demonstrations of potential violence, a dose or two of passionflower, lemon balm or catnip may help defuse the situation.
If nervousness is causing trembling or hypersensitivity to touch and sound, skullcap or oat straw, combined with either valerian or passionflower, can be very effective. However, before reaching for valerian or any other herb, try giving the pet a few drops of Bach’s Rescue Remedy, as this may be all they need to calm down.
It’s normal for a healthy animal to vomit or get diarrhea on occasion. Dogs and cats may intuitively induce vomiting by eating grass or other plants. This action serves to cleanse the stomach. Sometimes digestive upset does not remedy itself and needs the aid of the pet’s caretaker. In this case, if the animal is experiencing chronic diarrhea, vomiting or constipation but shows no other signs of illness, try changing their diet. Often, when a pet is placed on a natural diet, adding in probiotics or digestive enzymes, the symptoms will diminish greatly or disappear altogether.
If not, then the first course of remedial action is to aid in the elimination of excess gas and help reduce pain and spasms in the stomach and colon. Chamomile, fennel, dill, catnip or peppermint are all good choices for this. If also dealing with inflammation or acid indigestion, slippery elm, marshmallow root, goldenseal and nettle will come to the rescue. If a parasitic, bacterial, or fungal infection is part of the problem, consider combining goldenseal tincture equally with licorice tincture (1 ml for each 20 pounds of body weight, twice daily). This will inhibit the invading microbes while speeding the healing of digestive mucosa.
The standard symptomatic approach to diarrhea is to inhibit the entry of fluid into the intestinal tract, which is usually accomplished through the use of astringent herbs such as uva ursi or white oak bark. These quickly shrink the intestinal membranes, prohibiting the release of excess fluid, and firm up the stool. These should only be used for the duration of two or three days at a time, though. Gentler astringents to try first include plantain, slippery elm or raspberry leaf. When assisting an animal with constipation, strong laxatives such as senna, aloe or cascara sagrada should only be used when all else fails. Try yellow dock first, strengthening its effects with the addition of liver tonic herbs such as dandelion root.
Is the pet shaking their head or rubbing their ears on everything in sight? Ear problems are most commonly found in the form of bacterial or fungal infections, mites, fleas or foreign objects lodged in the ear canal. Mullein flower, garlic oil and Oregon gape root are all strong antimicrobials with a strong affinity toward the inhibition of mites and pathogens that may cause ear problems. The slippery, oily mucilage of marshmallow root provides soothing relief and a protective, antimicrobial barrier on inflamed tissues of the outer ear. For a multipurpose ear oil that is antimicrobial and anti-parasitic, combine equal amount of oil infusions from mullein flower, Oregon grape root, garlic and marshmallow root. Put six to 12 drops of this oil on any affect areas of the earflap or ear canal.
Elderly animals sometimes have chronic problems as a result of poor or incomplete nutrition and may need some herbal aide in strengthening their body systems. Nothing can compare with spirulina or other forms of blue-green algae for tonic nutritional support of an aging body. Astragaus is a general tonic that provides immune system support while also strengthening the animal’s resistance to stress. To support liver and digestive functions, the addition of liver stimulants such as dandelion or burdock root is highly recommended. Marshmallow root, fed fresh, dried, or in any form of low-alcohol liquid, aids in the passage of stool by providing a protective, anti-inflammatory and lubricating barrier to the intestinal mucosa.
To increase urinary efficiency and help strengthen mucous membranes in the urinary tract, a tea of dandelion leaf, nettle, cleavers or parsley leaf can be added to the animal’s drinking water every day. Oat straw serves as an excellent nervous system tonic that can be fed daily to help improve and regulate nerve transmission. Blood circulation and neurological functions of the brain can be assisted and sometimes improved with the use of ginkgo, gotu kola or peppermint. Aches, pains and loss of mobility that result from joint and connective tissue degeneration may be relieved with supplements of horsetail or yucca root. In cases of arthritis flare-ups, licorice, devil’s claw or boswellia may bring symptomatic relief. Cardiovascular efficiency can be supported with daily supplementation of hawthorn berries. If circulatory impairment is evident in the legs, ears or tail of the animal, ginkgo, yarrow or cayenne may be of assistance.
Diana Pereira is co-owner of Esther’s Garden of Healing, in Navarre , who has traveled a long health journey resulting in herbal knowledge that can be applied to persons and animals alike. For more information find Esther’s Garden on Facebook or email at [email protected].