Lew Olson's newly revised edition is filled with an abundance of new topics and information. Whether you are new to home feeding or a seasoned raw feeder, have a senior dog or a new puppy, a pregnant mom or a toy breed, this book presents all the information you need to make the best nutritional decisions for your dog.


Herbs for Dogs and Cats

By Estelle Hummel • June 2003 Newsletter
This month we bring you the first of a two-part article on herbs and the benefits they bring to our canine and feline friend. This first part will describe what herbs are and how they can aid in the health of our dogs and cats. In July, we will conclude the article with explaining how herbs differ from pharmaceuticals and what the appropriate dosages are. We would like to give special thanks to Estelle Hummel, founder of the Coyote Springs Company and manufacturer of Tasha's Herbs, for writing this article and giving us permission to reprint it and present it to the B-Natural’s audience.

One hears more and more about the use of herbs and herbal formulas for dogs and cats. However, as is the case with most natural health solutions, herbs don’t receive as much media attention (information or advertising) as do the widely marketed animal feed and processed supplements market. What follows are some common questions about herbs for dogs and cats.

Note: Herbal supplements should be only a part of a proper health support modality.
Q. What is an herb?
An herb is any plant material that may be used by the body to heal itself, to strengthen itself, to balance itself. Experiences gained through the ages and from many cultures tell us which parts of which plants do what for the body. It is interesting to note that animals in the wild tend to seek out the plants that their bodies need. An herb is any plant material that may be used for whole body health and balance. The body is often self healing and seeks a healthy balance. We must first trust it in that respect and then help it along. Think of herbs as an enrichment of healing possibilities.
a) Can serve as tonics and builders that strengthen organs, glands and tissues in specific parts of the body, like strengthening the heart, or aiding digestion;
b) Assist in the healing process by helping the body to eliminate toxins, thus helping to take care of the problem the symptoms are expressing, for example, they may stimulate physiological processes like the emptying of the bowels or bladder or cleansing of the liver.
Medicinal herbs have been used for healing by humans and other species for tens of thousands of years and are the major health remedy used by most of the peoples of the world. The health of the entire body is enhanced through the use of herbs. Herbal formulas contain many of the necessary nutrients required by the body and work synergistically with the body’s chemistry to nourish and heal.
Many people in other countries still consider a food many of the plants we consider as herbs. Take for example, the nettles plant. It is picked in the spring before flowering and is included in soups and stews by many people in Europe. Nettles is rich in vitamins and minerals and revitalizes their bodies after a long, dark winter. Most people in the U.S. consider nettles a pesky weed to be shunned.
Herbs are great natural source for many important things: vitamins, antioxidants, minerals enzymes, amino acids, proteins, sugars, carbohydrates, chlorophyll, trace elements, and essential fatty acid. Herbs are balanced and easily assimilated by the body to maintain or improve health. Additionally, herbs are used for healing. Keep in mind though, that some herbs are relatively strong, can be toxic, and should be monitored by a skilled herbal practitioner or veterinarian herbalist.
Herbal medicine has most to offer when used to facilitate healing in chronic ongoing problems. Some herbs show an affinity for certain organs, body systems or even specific types of tissue. They work as specific tonics or nutrients for the areas involved.
We often use formulas (a group of herbs) because when treating chronic illness with herbs it is extremely important to treat the entire body since the illness may be simultaneously affecting many systems of the body at various levels. Formulas offer a further synergistic effect. For example in the case of skin disorders; the cause is usually multifaceted. The body can have a tendency to have the skin disorder from birth, and in addition can be made worse by toxicity (environmental pollutants and pesticides as well as poor quality and toxic ingredients in the food), immune deficiency (congenital, poor quality food/lack of nutrition), vaccinations (inducing immune disorders in susceptible animals) and suppressed disease (remains of inadequately treated condition that never was cured which may exhibit itself in skin eruptions or internal organ problems.) This formula would need herbs to cover detoxifying, immune support, skin support, etc.
Not all plants are medicinal or nutritionally helpful. Many are toxic to the body. But we’ve learned about those that are helpful and not over thousands of years. All natural substances are not inherently safe. Rely on the professional herbalist or holistic veterinarians for counsel on using strong, questionable herbs for treatment. All animals can exhibit an allergic reaction to any plant, food, etc. and can exhibit idiosyncratic reactions; an unpredictable negative response in sensitive individuals.
Q. Can herbs aid in the health of dogs and cats?
Herbal formulas can be of great benefit to the health of humans, as has been established by thousands of years of use. So why not give our animal companions the same holistic healing opportunity? There are exceptions, of course, but most of what applies to human use of herbs translates to use by cats and dogs. Extensive study as well as consultation with herbalists and veterinarians has enabled us to make those translations.
Keep in mind that the organs, glands and tissues of our companion animals need the same high quality nutrition that we need. So a superior diet reinforced by medicinal and nutritional herbs can be just as beneficial to cats and dogs as they are to humans.
Just as we can use them for ourselves to prevent health problems with the related suffering, heartache and costs … so too can dogs and cats. And herbs can softly, safely help the body address the basis of their health problems just as they can for humans.
In fact, our companion animal diets are usually not very well rounded and therefore there is an even greater need for dietary supplements, and herbs are an excellent source, to augment the limited diets of most cats and dogs.
Herbs for dogs and cats are natural and normal. As an example, long ago animals chewed the bark of the white willow tree or ate a plant called meadowsweet when they had musculoskeletal pains. Domestic and wild animals still go to plants, like willowbark or burdock root, naturally when they need medication and internal cleansing.
Even though the same herbs can generally be used safely for dogs and cats as for humans, there are some exceptions. (As there are exceptions for individual people.) For example, cats are highly sensitive and some herbs affect them differently than the herb would a dog or a human. It is important to note that willowbark, which is of benefit to dogs and people, is actually toxic to cats, as is any herb containing salicin. And onion, as well as garlic in large doses, has been known to cause a type of anemia in cats. So, there is a practical need for herbal formulas designed separately for dogs and for cats.
Herbs can do the same thing for dogs and cats as they do for humans. In fact, dogs and cats, when left to their own devices will select certain plants to help them with their health. Using herbs and herbal remedies for our animal friends gives us back some of the power in caring for our animals’ health and well-being, just as we do for ourselves.
Stay tuned for the July 2003 B-Natural’s newsletter where we will feature the second part to this wonderful article!
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