How to Safely Use Herbs for Pets

While assimilating a pet into your world, any pet owner will tell you that it comes with the benefit of companionship, love, and affection.  So, it is no surprise that, for the most part, pet owners consider their pet to be a member of the family.

And as a member of the family, we need to be attuned to their mental and physical well-being.  Just a few millennia ago, our pets were hunters and scavengers and were naturally drawn to healing plants. So, it is only natural to incorporate herbs and natural plant-based resources into their health regimen, for internal use and for external blends applied through a carrier oil to soothe both internal and external issues.   And liquid tinctures are, by far, the easiest way to administer herbs to animals.

Before discussing the benefits of tincture herbs for pets, it is important to note that there are some herbs that should never or rarely be given to animals and proper dosage should always be considered.  You will find a list of some herbs, plants, and trees to avoid at the end of this article and a dosage formula, to help you calculate the proper amount your pet should take internally.  You should always start with a small dose to see how your pet reacts to the herb, then gradually increase to the proper dosage.  It is always advisable to consult your veterinarian and take into consideration any health conditions or prescribed medications that may currently affect them.

Healing Skin and Wounds

Because our pets still have a natural instinct to hunt and scavenge and to protect their territory, it can sometimes get them into trouble.  For wounds or rashes, there are several herbs that can be beneficial in the healing process and can be taken internally or applied for external use.  While garlic and onion are not recommended for pets or horses, (long-term use could lead to anemia), the properties of Comfrey Leaf, Comfrey Root and Calendula Flower can dramatically heal wounded tissue.  For abrasions, Echinacea and Goldenseal work well. Blackberry Root can be used as an astringent. For insect bites, apply vinegar, lemon juice or Rosemary Leaf.  Eczema responds well to Nettle Leaf.

Aches and Pains

As our pets age, arthritis and joint conditions are quite common.  Perhaps the most widely used medicinal herb to treat joint pain and inflammation is Turmeric, but Boswellia, Cinnamon Bark and Hawthorn
Leaf and Flower
can also be beneficial.   Turmeric gets its color from curcumin, an orange-yellow pigment. It is a perennial herb that belongs to the ginger family and is gaining recognition for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant impact. It has more antioxidant properties than vitamin E, increases bile
production and flow and protects the stomach and liver. It is the perfect addition to your pet’s food regimen.

Aside from the comfort of knowing you are using natural herbs to improve the quality of your pet’s health, diet can have a tremendous impact on their wellbeing. But there are also herbs like Rosemary Leaf, Parsley Leaf, Nettle Leaf, Feverfew Leaf and Boswellia, that can offer relief naturally.  You can read more on these herbs to find which ones would work best for your pet.  Always start with a small dose and increase to proper dosage until you see noticeable relief in your pet’s movements.

Anxious Behavior

Anxiety is a growing concern for pets, and particularly dogs, left alone for long periods of time. As we reopen and return to normal life, it is important to remember that they have gotten used to having us around more and may have a difficult time adapting to their new alone time.  Dogs, by their very nature, are pack animals.  As their owners, you and your family are their pack.  And one of you is the alpha of the pack, no less. 

So, it is not surprising, when you walk through the door after a long day, there is physical evidence of boredom or anxiety, like a garbage can buffet or chewed shoes.  But there are some calming herbs that can be used to take the edge off naturally.  Skullcap, Valerian Root, Rosemary Leaf and Rue and
all work well to soothe anxiety without affecting sleep patterns.

Respiratory Relief

There are several herbal remedies for lung, respiratory and asthma conditions common in some pets. Elecampane Root can ease asthma and Thyme, Elderberry Flower or Sage Leaf can soothe a cough.  Thyme also contains vitamin K, iron, manganese, calcium and dietary fiber. Its primary active ingredient, thymol, helps inhibit the growth of fungus and bacteria. This herb also contains a variety of flavonoids which increase its antioxidant properties.  Parsley Leaf is one of the most concentrated food sources available. It’s rich in vitamins A, C and K, iron, folate, a variety of minerals and volatile oils, including myristin, which is thought to inhibit tumor formation, especially in the lungs. It also contains histidine, an amino acid that has also been found to inhibit tumor growth.

Digestive Solutions

Herbs also work well to soothe, heal and balance your pet’s digestive system.  Catnip Leaf , a member of the mint family is best known for eliciting a state of euphoria in cats, it also stimulates appetite, aids digestion, helps calm nervous animals and encourages restful sleep. Catnip contains chromium, iron,
manganese, potassium, selenium and other nutrients, including vitamins A and C. It’s also recognized for its ability to support the gastrointestinal system. This herb stimulates bile flow and helps break down fats.  Dandelion Leaf is a richer source of vitamin A and the root encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract. Dandelion also contains vitamins C, E and K, as well as calcium, fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and zinc.  Dandelion also helps supports
liver function and the cardiovascular system, promotes healthy teeth and bones and acts as a blood tonic. Ginger Root is recognized as the best anti-nausea herb and is well tolerated by companion animals. It acts as a digestive tonic, relieving stomach aches and intestinal gas. It also stimulates the digestive juices and helps expel worms.

 Slippery Elm Bark is multifaceted.  It is good for the very young, old or weak, both cats and dogs. It coats and heals inflamed tissues and is used for the stomach, ulcers, bowels, kidneys, constipation, diarrhea, dysentery and colitis and contains vitamins A, B, C and K, as well as calcium, magnesium and sodium.
You can use it externally for wounds, burns, rashes or insect bites, and internally for the lungs, coughing, vomiting and stomach and bowel disorders.

Having a pet is much like having a child.  You love them unconditionally, regardless of their physical or emotional flaws; and you want to do your best by them.  Herbs can increase the quality of your pet’s life, both physically and emotionally, and their life expectancy, by soothing maladies and wounds, controlling chronic ailments and improving their mental well-being. 

Dosage for Animals

In general, the dose for herbs for dogs are similar to human doses per kg of total body weight.  

For dogs divide the dog’s weight by 150. For instance, if the dog weighs 30 pounds.  30/150 =.20 or 1/5th
the dosage.  Example:  If the adult dose is 10 drops, a 30-pound dog would take 2 drops.  Cats need much less per pound of body weight 3 drops of tincture, twice daily is a safe amount.

Mice, rats, rabbits and guinea pigs a single drop of herb tincture off the end of a dropper twice daily is adequate. Common herbs used for small animals are Sheep Sorrel and from the mushroom family, Red Reishi, Shitaki
and Maitaki mushroom extract have been used for long term infections.

Herbs can be put in water or food, but directly in the mouth, if possible, provides the fastest absorbency.

Herbivorous animals such as horses, sheep and cows can much more easily be overdosed on herbs (compared to cats and dogs), as their ability to fully digest the active ingredients are far greater. This is true of horses to a lesser extent than cattle, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs etc., so caution is required.

Dangerous Garden Plants for Dogs & Cats

Herbs, Vegetables, & Edible Plants

Borage                                               Bay Leaf                                               Cannabis

Cocoa                                                Chamomile                                           Chives and Scallions

Epazote                                             Garlic (small quantities is ok)             Hops

Lavender (in large quantities)         Leeks                                                    Lemon Verbena and Lemon Grass

Mace                                                  Marijuana                                             Marjoram

Mint (in large quantities)                 Onions & Shallots                               Oregano

Rhubarb                                             Sorrel                                                  Tarragon

Tomato Plants                                    Lavender (in large quantities)

Flowers, Vines, &

Amaryllis                                            Asparagus Fern                                   Autumn Crocus

Begonia                                              Laceflower                                           Bleeding Heart

Buttercup                                            Castor Bean                                        Chrysanthemum

Clematis                                              Cyclamen                                             Daffodil

Foxglove                                             Geranium                                             Gladiola

Hosta                                                  Iris                                                         Ivy

Larkspur                                             Lily                                                         Lily of the Valley

Monkshood                                        Morning Glory                                       Periwinkle

Primrose                                            Star of Bethlehem                                 Sweet Pea

Tulip/Narcissus                                   Wisteria                                                 Yarrow

Trees & Shrubs

Apple Tree                                         Apricot Tree                                              Bead Tree

Burning Bush                                    Cherry Tree                                             Hydrangea

Oleander                                            Peach Tree                                              Plum Tree

Winterberry                                        Holly                                                        Yew

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