Astragalus for Dogs and How to Use It Correctly

by janie knetzer

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In this article we’ll touch on the MANY benefits of astragalus for dogs and discuss how you can use it as a safe treatment option for your four-legged friend.  This is an exceptional herb that I’ve used often over the years for my own dogs.

Astragalus is actually a member of the pea family with divided leaves and small flowers and pods. The herb has been cultivated throughout much of the world, but it originated in China.

In that it has been used for thousands of years as a piece of traditional Chinese medicine, its commercial value is considerable and it has been marketed heavily in combination with other herbs.

It is a perennial that blooms from spring to the early summer. Mature roots, at least three years old or older, are the parts of astragalus used in medicinal applications.

The primary medicinal applications of astragalus include as an anti-inflammatory, as a hypotensive to lower blood pressure, as a blood cleanser, and as a hypothyroid to mildly depress functioning of the thyroid. It is also generally used to boost resistance in dogs due to its high antioxidant components.

how to use astragalus for dogs

Therapeutic Use

As mentioned, the mature roots of astragalus are used in treatment options as infusions or tinctures. There are many commercial options of the Chinese supplement astragalus available as well.
astragulus 10 immune builder for dogsastragulus 10 for dogsOne of the primary (and most popular) uses of astragalus is it’s ability to greatly improve immunity. This helps strengthen the dog’s body against any viral infections, particularly those in the respiratory or circulatory system.

I personally used and recommend Seven Forests Astragulus 10 which is in my opinion one of the best!  My dobie Jenna was on this for years after being diagnosed as being hypothyroid, and having kidney and liver problems. Use this dosage as a guide: My 75 pound dobe received: 1 tablet in the morning and 1 in the evening.

  • Astragalus also stimulates T-cell activity and raises white blood cell counts, boosting the body’s defenses against disease and illness by improving the function of the liver.
  • Astragalus strengthens kidney function, making it a favorite treatment in early states of infection and/or kidney disease or renal failure.
  • Also recommended for dogs with cancer.
  • Astragalus has been used in some applications to boost energy levels in debilitated dogs and human beings, which is a big plus for those taking on serious diseases like cancer and looking for a way to formulate some functional balance. Astragalus can be used to help regulate the body’s levels and help alleviate stress put on the system by disease.

Preventative Measures

Using astragalus is generally considered quite safe, but some species of it are toxic to grazing animals. Roots, powders and preparations should only be purchased from reputable dealers like Seven Forests! Astragalus is considered a category 1 herb which means it is a safe “food” herb.

There is also a concern over selenium in some soils, as a higher concentration of it can be found in some soils where astragalus grows. If you plan on planting your own astragalus, it’s best to have your soil testing for selenium before you get started.

Not recommended for dogs with auto immune disorders such as Hypothyroidism or diabetes.  A safe alternative in this case would be Red Ginseng.  Read the comments below for dosage for the red ginseng.

Reasons to Use

don't give up on older dogObviously the most popular reason to use astragalus is as an immune booster. It is available in most health food stores and can be rather easy to grow on your own if you’re into that sort of thing.

For those interested in the easier path to health, there are quite a few immune boosting products on the market that include a healthy dose of astragalus for dogs, but the best option is using a product like the one I mentioned earlier.

References: Herbs for Pets by M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford, Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats by CJ Puotinen, Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats by Shawn Messonnier, DVM, Veterinary Herbal Medicine by Mary Wynn, DVM

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

sonja May 17, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Hi Janie,
Thanks for the article very interesting.I have an older dog with liver issues more than kidney but she also is hypothyroid. She is on thyroid meds at this time so is there anything else good for liver and kidney to give her since this herb isn’t good. I wasn’t going to treat the thyroid at this time but she is so lethargic and skin and ear issues aren’t good.

Sonja

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janie knetzer May 18, 2013 at 4:11 am

Hi Sonja:
I’m not sure if you read my initial response, but I’ve changed it and I think that this might be more appropriate for you.

I would personally like to see you consult a holistic vet who could really guide you here. First, I can’t recommend to you enough that you place your girl on a freeze dried food such as Oracle or Grandma Lucys (if she’s not already). These foods are excellent for dogs with kidney and liver issues due to the water content. Or, you can opt to purchase my new cookbook which includes easy recipes for dogs with these conditions. I’m not trying to sell you Sonja, but I want you to know what’s available for your girl. The right diet is critical for your old girl right now.

Regarding an alternative for Astragulus, “Ginsing” is probably a better option for your girl since she has an auto immune issue. You also MUST make sure she’s on a good form of fatty acids like this one which is also good for the heart and a good source of probiotics. Both of these products are essential for your dog’s issues.

Janie

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sonja May 18, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Janie,
Thanks for the reply and i am trying home cooking for her but she isn’t into it much. Appetite not the best.I am not sure what to do as far as taking her off the thyroid meds, i am very close to my vet but i don’t think it will fly very well. Her BUN is 45 and her ALKP is 1623. Have you heard of Denarmarin used for dogs with liver issues?

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janie knetzer May 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Sonja:
I would NOT take her off of her thyroid meds – EVER. That’s not really an option. The probiotics and fatty acids will help with the skin and ears that are probably symptoms related to the thyroid issue. Again, look to a good form of ginsing. But, right now you have to get her to eat — that is so very critical. What does she like?

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sonja May 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Janie,
She does like chicken especially on the grill or any kind of fish, hard boiled eggs. I have tried scrambled that hit and miss.

janie knetzer May 18, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Yes, I have heard of Denamarin for liver issues, but never used it. I’ve always tried to stay closer to natural alternatives. Remember, when home cooking, you must give your old girl a multi vitamin as well if your not including all the vitamins and minerals individually in the meal.

Have you read my articles on liver disease? If not, please do. There’s a link for the series in the right hand column. You’ll see it. I have to run, but if you have any additional questions, post them and I’ll get back to you later. ~Janie

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sonja May 18, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Hi Janie,
I will try one of the mentioned foods above as i am not having much luck with home cooking. I do have her on fish oil 1200mg 2x daily and vitamin e 800mg daily. As far as the probiotics, i need one with digestive enzymes as well. I make kefir and add that to her food when she will take it. I would love to find a holistic vet but unfortunately where i live there aren’t any and not any close by either so i do a lot of research on line and help from people like you to guide me as the best way to help my little girl.

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janie knetzer May 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Sonja:
Just a quickie before I run, Sam-E is an excellent option for your girl. I’ll check back with you later.

Janie

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janie knetzer May 18, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Hi Sonja:

This is a good product that I use for my dogs. It contains both plant enzymes and probiotics. You can check it out on Amazon.

I would recommend checking into Sam-E which is an over the counter version of prescription Denamarin. I would also include milk thistle in her diet as well. If she doesn’t like all the pills mixed in her food, then pill her yourself and leave her food alone.

Since she likes the grilled chicken and hard boiled eggs, I would try including them in the foods that I mentioned above. But if she’s real particular, then you may have to find a way to make her own individual routine that works just for her, but includes everything she needs. Including a meat source like you already are is very important. Initially I recommended Ginsing as well, but because she may have borderline kidney issues, I think you’re better off with a whole green food. Please see the following list okay.

Lets break it down:

  1. One of the foods I mentioned
  2. Include a good meat source like you already are or use Wellness Ninety Five Percent
  3. Give her an egg DAILY
  4. Give her a multi vitamin
  5. fatty acids
  6. Sam-E
  7. A whole green food is very important for her Sonja
  8. Milk Thistle
  9. Thyroid meds

Hopefully, I didn’t miss anything….

Janie :o

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sonja May 18, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Hi Janie,
Thanks so much for all your help very much appreciated. I hope the vitamin e isn’t to much that is what my vet prescribed and actually i could give 400mg 3 x daily if i wanted. I do have barley grass that i sneak in her food but sometimes she won’t eat it if she smells it, very picky.The ginseng is that the Korean Red? Also, my vet mention Cushings disease but not 100% sure.

janie knetzer May 19, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Hi Sonja:
I’m sorry for the delay in getting back to you. It would be the red Ginseng in place of Astragalus for your dog who is hypothyroid. Again, be very careful where you buy your herbs. I like and recommend Starwest Botanicals which I use myself. They carry both the dried herb and the tincture.

Dosage would be as follows:
Dried herb: 25-300 mg/kg twice daily
Tincture: 1:2 or 1:3 — 0.5-1.5 ml per 20 lbs diluted or combined with other herbs and supplements. So, dilute 1 part tincture to 2 or 3 parts filtered water or you can simply combine it with the other herbs.

I hope this helps.
Janie

sonja May 21, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Janie,
Have you ever heard of Holistic Select digestive remedies for pets? It has digestive enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics in it. Looking at this at chewy.com. The one you suggested is a pill or do i put in her food.

Gigi May 18, 2013 at 12:28 am

Thank you very much, I needed this urgent. My dog has been operated on mast cell cancer and is taking medication which is affecting her liver and her platelettes, I need urgent this product, because her kidneys are in danger also, but most is the liver.
Thank you again for this information.

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janie knetzer May 18, 2013 at 4:03 am

Hi Gigi:
I’m glad I could help and I hope that your girl recovers just fine. I would keep her on the Astragalus 10 (Seven Forests) indefinitely.

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janie knetzer May 22, 2013 at 2:10 am

Hi Sonja:
The one that I recommended from Animal Essentials is actually a powder and has both plant enzymes and probiotics, but no prebiotics. I’ve never heard of the holistic selective digestive remedies for pets, but I checked it out for you and I’m not a fan of Eagle Pack products – PERIOD and I don’t like the rice bran as a digestive aid.

Janie

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sonja May 22, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Janie,
I ordered what you suggested but curious on the Sam e there are so many products and varying dosages. I thought Sam e was all the same. She weighs 34 lbs some say the 200mg one is good up to 35lbs others say 10mg per pound.

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janie knetzer May 23, 2013 at 6:31 am

Hi Sonja:
It’s probably going to vary depending on the amount of SAM e in the tablet. For instance, one product including 100 mg of SAM e gives a dosage of 2 tablets daily for your size dog, but if the SAM e included is 225 mg then this drops to 1 tablet for your size dog. It should vary more on mg than anything and not on manufacturer. I hope this helps. This brand has good reviews on Amazon but I can’t find the dosage for that particular brand. I’m not sure if this helps or not.

Janie
P.S. Keep me posted how she’s doing okay Sonja.

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sonja May 28, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Hi Janie,
Hope you had a nice Memorial day. Anyways, i ordered the Grandma Lucy’s dog food and she will not eat it not sure why any suggestions on what else maybe good. I thought of maybe a topper to add to it to entice her. I’ve had to puree the food and syringe feed.

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janie knetzer May 28, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Hey Sonja:
Is she used to eating kibble only? Sometimes the texture of the food throws them off. If you didn’t do this already, I suggest adding the Wellness Ninety Five Percent to it which is a topper and is 95% meat – very good for her. Then try and add more of the Wellness 95% first and eventually add more and more of the Grandma Lucy’s daily. See if that helps. If she’s a meat eater, this might do it! Let me know your thoughts. Also, try scrambling some egg and adding that long with the Wellness to the Grandma Lucy’s. Yumm, good stuff!

Janie

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sonja May 28, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Hi Janie,
Will try adding the Wellness to her food if i can find it around here but i’m sure someone has it. She has always eaten kibble but some days won’t touch that. She will eat at times my husbands homemade chicken noodle soup. I’ll try the eggs as well since she love her eggs. Thanks

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janie knetzer May 29, 2013 at 5:11 am

Hey Sonja:
You’re very welcome. And, if you can sneak some fresh blue berries into the mix of Grandma Lucy’s – do it. Try and give her a little variety. Mix up the Wellness Meat (turkey, beef, chicken). Try rotating and switching the meat with sardines (packed in water not oil).

I know you mentioned that the vet gave her a vitamin to take. But, vitamin B like this one (Heart Gems) can be a big help. Vitamin B is soooo important for the heart, brain, energy, muscles and enzyme process and can help stimulate eating (not always, but it can). I used to give Jenna the Heart Gems (one daily for her at 75 lbs.). Or you can try a liquid B complex. You gotta watch the brands. NOW is a good brand Sonja.

Is she maintaining her weight?
Janie

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sonja May 29, 2013 at 11:13 am

Morning Janie,
I think i have the pickiest dog of all and i could cook a full meal for her and she will never touch it she sniffs everything. I’ll try the blueberries as well. I found Merrick 95% meat but no wellness can i use this?Let’s see last night i gave her the Grandma Lucy’s mixed with chicken from the grill ate the chicken left the other so then gave her Taste of the wild an egg and deer steak not a thing left in her bowl go figure. Her weight is maintaining at 34 lbs. She does has Cushing’s Disease too so my poor old girl is a mess. I’ll look into the B vitamin complex. I really do appreciate all your help.

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janie knetzer May 29, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Hi Sonja:
Okay, well let’s not try and force her to eat what she doesn’t want too. I’m sorry that you wasted your money on the Grandma Lucy’s; not every dog likes it.

If she likes the Taste of the Wild, egg and deer steak – then that’s okay. It sound like your girl is true carnivore. Using the Taste of the Wild as a base food since we know she likes it; lets feed her that as the base adding other ingredients like you did with the egg and the deer steak. Keep it diverse if that’s what she likes, but I want you to ALWAYS add the egg. We want to make sure that the protein sources she’s getting are hiqh quality like they are (not necessarily more protein – but better proteins).

Give her less of the Taste of the Wild and more of the other ingredients and see how this goes. I know you appreciate my help Sonja. :o Let me know okay.

Janie

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