Herbs for Dogs: An Introduction

by janie knetzer

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This page is an introduction to an ongoing series dedicated to the use of herbs for dogs. As a huge believer that much of what we need to heal our body grows from the ground and not in a lab, this series will concentrate on the more natural applications of using plants and herbage for our canine friends.

The Benefits

Conventional wisdom can be hard to shake, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in taking unique approaches to issues like dog health. As we all know, conventional medicine for dogs usually includes some variety of suppression and invasive action.

This approach, much like the same approach in human beings, serves to handle the symptoms and discomfort of health concerns without digging deeper. The thrust of herbal medicine is to answer the “why” of certain illnesses.

At the core of the herbal approach is a holistic design on treating the totality of the patient, human or animal, and this means moving beyond treating the symptoms to understanding “the harmonious checks and balances.” Dogs have a need for continual nutrition in order to have the necessary building blocks of healthy, balanced, pain free living. Without these building blocks, the balance is off.

an introduction to herbs for dogs

Different Herbal Approaches

There are many different approaches when it comes to safe herbs for dogs. Different cultures bring different paths to wisdom to the table. For now, we’ll draw on three different approaches.

Ayurvedic Medicine

This style of medicine is generally associated with India and the Middle East. It focuses on metabolic body types, called doshas, and takes into account the entire constitution of an individual patient when designing healing approaches. Herbal treatments, dietary considerations and even meditation are all built in to the holistic approach.

Chinese Medicine

This approach is more than 7,000 years old and has a lot in common with Ayurvedic medicine. It treats the body as a series of channels or rivers of energy and deals in natural flow. Getting healthy through traditional Chinese medicine is a matter of getting rid of any blockages to the body’s natural flow or “life force” and restoring balance to the yin and yang. The yin and yang are opposites that cannot operate independently of one another.

Western Herbalism

Finally, the approach of Western herbalism takes its ingredients from European herbs and medicinal plants. This approach comes from a balance of other approaches and life philosophies, making use of the science and synergy of herbalism.

What to Know About Herbalism

the basics of using herbs in dogsHerbal remedies are remarkably easy to use, but there are some things you need to know before you embark on this path to healing.

For one thing, herbs are slower acting than other drugs. Many people are thrown off herbalism because the usual rapidity of conventional medicine is not present; the approach is more holistic and long-lasting in nature, which can exasperate our fast-and-ready culture.

Another thing to note is that there is an incredible wealth of knowledge and study on the subject. There is no easy or fast way to explain all the benefits of herbalism in one place, but cracking the shell is a good start Anything discussed in these articles is meant to serve as an introduction and as a way to get the ball rolling.

The field of herbs for dogs is an exciting and rich path. Along the way, we’ll explore the benefits and details of various herbs and holistic healing principles to get at the root of a more complete, loving approach to healing.


{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy May 3, 2013 at 10:01 pm

As always another great article. I enjoyed the one you did on the benefits of aloe as well. Thank you, and keep them coming.


janie knetzer May 4, 2013 at 1:55 am

Hi Kathy:
Thanks so much and I’m glad you enjoyed them!

Janie :o


sonja Miller February 6, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Have you heard of the herb Skullcap/ I am currently giving my old dog Dr. Harvey’s ortho- flex which it has this in it but what i have read contraindicated for dogs with liver disease. Can you clarify if this is safe or not?


janie knetzer February 8, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Hey Sonja:
Sorry for the delay. Regarding Skull Cap: The reports of liver damage from Skull Cap were most likely caused by products labeled Skull Cap, but included cheaper, less desirable ingredients including Germander and NOT the Skull Cap itself.

Sonja, I wouldn’t worry at all about the Skull Cap that’s included in Ortho-Flex. Plus, it’s most likely to include a small amount. Lastly, I know Dr. Harvey and his team and they would NEVER include any ingredients with the potential to harm a pet. So, to answer your question of safety; I believe Skull Cap is safe for your arthritic dog and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it on my own.

Hope this helps.

Janie :)


sonja Miller February 8, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Hey Janie,
I do like the ingredients in Dr. Harvey Ortho-Flex except that one so thank you for easing my mind with that. Have you heard of Nzymes for dogs the soy sprouts ans treats they claim works well with arthritis and her muscle wasting?


Kathy February 8, 2014 at 8:16 am

My dog had elevated liver enzymes and I used SAM-E and milk thistle with great results.


sonja Miller February 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I have mine on Milk Thistle as well and SAM-E but was giving her the Ortho- Flex for her hips but this herb Skullcap is in it and from what i have read can cause liver damage contraindicated in pets that already have it.I don’t want to give her something that will hurt her since i’m trying to decrease her enzymes. My baby has a hard time getting up and walking back end wasting so just trying to find something natural to give her. Has anyone heard of NZYMES the soy sprouts? Any in put on this product.


janie knetzer February 8, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Dr. Harvey’s Ortho-Flex is a premium product and again, I wouldn’t worry about the Skull Cap. It’s not the main ingredient. Refer back to my initial response. Yes, I know of NZYMES, but that’s not going to completely solve the decrease in liver enzymes. If you haven’t done so yet, please refer to my series on liver disease. I include supplements to help treat the disease as well as recipes to help with the wasting. Here’s a link for you:



janie knetzer February 8, 2014 at 5:11 pm

More good ideas Kathy!


Kathy February 8, 2014 at 3:33 pm

I don’t know anything about skull cap. But I personally wouldn’t give it to my dog until I found out if it would be safe. Check out the book hope for healing liver disease in your dog by cyndi smasal from the library. I found it to be helpful. Also I found that super milk thistle X liver cleansing formula by integrative therapeutics, inc worked best for my dog. I believe I found the best price on amazon. I checked with my vet and it is safe. It has milk thistle, artichoke, dandilion, and licorice in it. It worked better than just plain milk thistle. We got blood test done weekly to get her liver enzyme count and it really started to go down after switching to this (taken with he SAM-E).


Kathy February 8, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Also turmeric is suppose to be beneficial to the liver and I sprinkled it on my dogs food.


sonja Miller February 8, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Thanks Kathy for all your help i’m giving her the milk Thistle extra from Sundown Naturals but will look into the one on Amazon i’m sure is cheaper.


janie knetzer February 8, 2014 at 5:27 pm

Hi Kathy:
Turmeric is beneficial for many things. The key is to make sure you are buying quality, organic products.



Kathy February 8, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Good Luck Sonja, Keep us posted.


Kathy February 8, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Definitely. Always organic! This is off subject but I can’t find the flea spray you recommended. I remember it was a spray though. It was made for cats and dogs (different formulas for each). I need it for my cats.


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