Herbs for Dogs: An Introduction

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In the coming weeks, I’d like to share a bit of information about herbs for dogs. This series will concentrate on the more natural applications of herbs for our canine friends, with information coming from sources like Herbs for Pets by M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford.

The Benefits of Herbs for Dogs

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 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.

Information from this series will come from a host of sources, including Herbs for Pets – M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford (Bowtie Press, 1999).

{ 25 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.

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janie knetzer May 4, 2013 at 1:55 am

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

Janie :o

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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?

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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 :)

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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?

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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.

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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.

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janie knetzer February 8, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Sonja:
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:
http://www.yourolddog.com/7109/natural-liver-disease-treatment-for-dogs/

Janie

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janie knetzer February 8, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Sonja:
The IMU Plus is very expensive, but it helps to build muscle. It’s whey protein and I chose this particular brand to share with my readers, because it was a little less expensive. Don’t give just use any whey because many are loaded with sugar, etc. and you don’t want to give a sick dog anything loaded with sugar
.

Janie

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sonja Miller February 8, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Janie,
I hate to sound stupid but what is IMU never heard of it.

sonja Miller February 8, 2014 at 6:47 pm

Janie,
Thanks for all your help my poor baby has so many issues kidney, liver, Cushing’s disease, muscle wasting, arthritis and chronic ear infections. I am trying so hard to make sure all these issues are addressed and giving her what she needs. . I do feed her Sojo’s fruit and veggie grain fee pre- mix and Grandma Lucy’s Pureformance grain free freeze dried pre- mix. I give her Grizzly Salmon oil as well daily.

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janie knetzer February 9, 2014 at 3:57 am

Sonja; tell me more about the chronic ear infections. How often does she get them and what are you using to treat them? What else is she eating Sonja (treats, supplements, etc.)?

Janie

janie knetzer February 8, 2014 at 5:11 pm

More good ideas Kathy!

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sonja Miller February 9, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Morning Janie,
Angie has had ear issues since we rescued her 3 yrs ago and she is deaf due to untreated ear infections is what i was told. She gets these quit often even though i clean her ears twice daily with a medicated ear cleaner from the vet and have tried the raw vinegar and water as well. I am using Vetericyn right now to see if this seems to help. I almost lost her a year ago to an ear infection called Vestibular Disease but she made a full recovery. My vet has treated her with oral and ear antibiotics . I Feed her chicken, Turkey and partially cooked Venison, fish, tuna, eggs as her protein and as far as treat i make my own i make them liver treats and no wheat flour just rice flour.Supplements Milk Thistle extra, SAM-E and was giving a lot of the supplements in Dr. Harvey but quit since i have been giving her his.I also was giving her Vit E daily 400iu but i read that is way to much so stopped that.Oh and she is on herb called Si Miao San for Cushing Disease. He liver enzymes were 1600 and have dropped them to 250 so happy with that but her muscle wasting in her back end is so sad to see. I don’t know how to stop the progression any supplement that would help?

Sonja

Sonja

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janie knetzer February 12, 2014 at 3:18 am

Hi Sonja:
So sorry for the delay. Believe it or not, but I couldn’t get into my blog for two days. Anyway, regarding the ear infections, PLEASE don’t give your old girl any more antibiotics to treat ear infections. They are actually a double edge sword, causing more problems while doing little good at this point. One product that I absolutely love and it’s the only one that I now recommend for dogs with ear problems is called Zymox. They offer two different formulas. One with cortisone and one without. If I were you, I would try the one without cortisone first; if it doesn’t work, try the other. I use it on my own dogs and the reviews are excellent on this product. However, DO NOT CLEAN THE EARS FIRST. MAKE SURE YOU USE THE ZYMOX WITHOUT CLEANING THE EARS BEFORE HAND.

That’s great news about her enzymes dropping. Unfortunately, there are no individual supplements that will stop the wasting. It’s a matter of a complete diet, combined with her daily walks. If possible, you might want to try the recipes I recommended for liver disease at the link I shared in a previous email. Those recipes combined with the whey protein (if you can afford it) I discussed will help to rebuild her muscle Sonja. I know this is a lot to take in; I’ve been there many times.

Instead of an individual probiotic supplement, I would love to see you add Dr. Harvey’s E-Mune Powder. This is an excellent product that includes a whole green food, astragulus which is a must when fighting disease and turmeric. Your girl will benefit from this tremendously.

I hope this helps Sonja.

Janie

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

Janie

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Kathy February 8, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Good Luck Sonja, Keep us posted.

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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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janie knetzer February 8, 2014 at 5:48 pm

Organic for us as well! Here’s the link for the flea spray that I use for my dogs Kathy. Last year was a rough year for fleas and unfortunately, we still have to treat the yard with chemicals. The natural treatment doesn’t work as well as I would like it too.

So, I still treat the yard with the chemicals, but use the natural treatment on my dogs and that seems to work well.

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Kathy February 8, 2014 at 6:48 pm

What do you think about using food grade Diatomaceous earth as a flea powder?

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janie knetzer February 9, 2014 at 4:00 am

Hi Kathy:
I shy away the Diatomaceous Earth as a direct flea powder for my dogs. It dries the skin a great deal. I don’t put any type of powders on my dogs at all. That’s what Diatomaceous Earth does, it completely dries out the parasite draining it of all moisture.

Janie

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janie knetzer February 9, 2014 at 3:55 am

Sonja: IMU Plus is made by Nutricology and it’s a high quality whey protein. Here’s a link for it over at Herbs Pro with details about the product. Again, it’s pricey, but cheaper than the one that I used.

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