Herbal Healing for Pets
I will begin by stating that you should not attempt herbal
healing for your pet unless you have a good understanding of what
is ailing your pet. And a good understanding of the healing herbs.
Don't guess.....check with a veterinarian first! There are now a
lot of holistic/natural vets out there - call around and see who
you can find. This advice is not meant to replace the diagnosis and
advice of a licensed veterinarian. That said, I will share with you
the herbal treatments that we use on my ranch. Most are simple,
safe, and effective.
Remember first and always that cats and dogs and other small
creatures have much shorter digestive systems than us human
caretakers. Fresh herbs are not digested as they are in humans.
Therefore, the tincture form of an herb will work better for them.
An acceptable alternative would be a stronger herbal tea than you
would use for yourself. Doses need to be compatible with your pet's
weight - small amounts for small animals, larger amounts for large
animals. When in doubt, consult a holistic or natural healing
veterinarian. Administering several doses throughout the day,
rather than one big dose once a day will speed the herbs into your
pet's system and boost the immune system much faster. And as with
ourselves, no herb should be given to any animal on a continuous
basis. Like us, their bodies will begin to build an immunity, and
once that happens, that herb becomes useless medicinally.
A good rule of thumb for any herbal remedy for your pet is two
weeks on, one week off. That gives the body time to work on its
own, and gives you time to determine if the herbal treatment needs
to be continued. There are exceptions to this rule, as with all
rules, as in herbs that take a while to build up in the body to be
effective. Don't give herbs you wouldn't take yourself, internally
or externally. Just about any herbal remedy that you use for
yourself can be adapted for use for your pet - just remember to use
tinctures whenever possible, stronger teas when necessary.
For overall general good health, as with ourselves, you should
of course look to diet. There are many natural diets being
recommended today for all sorts of pets. Do a little research, or
preferably a lot, into the natural dietary needs of your pet. Raw
meat added to the diet of a cat or dog, natural carnivores, can
often clear up a lot of mysterious ailments, as can the addition of
fruits and vegetables. If you feed a commercial diet, feed the best
you can afford, and add to it when you can. For pet birds, there is
a lot of debate about diets these days - seed vs. pellets. Neither
is a complete diet in itself. Fresh fruits and vegetables are
necessary for the overall good health and nutrition of a pet bird.
For many finch species, live food in the form of various insects is
a requirement. This is where your research into proper diet for
each animal is so important. Years of healthy life can be added to
your pet when diet is properly looked after!
When you are changing your pet's diet, do so gradually. Add one
new item at a time, and space out those additions. That way if
there is a negative reaction, you can quickly pinpoint the culprit.
Not every food agrees with every animal.
Sunlight is also necessary for the health of your pet. Sunlight
helps the body convert the nutrients in the foods you feed into the
necessities for their systems. In place of sunlight, use
full-spectrum lighting, like Vita-Lites, or an equivalent. These
are ideal for your indoor pets, such as birds, reptiles and
Here are some herbal remedies for those common problems:
A strong tea of eyebright, used as a wash, is perfect for irritated
eyes on all pets. Also administer orally to boost the internal
mechanisms to fight infection from the inside. Alternatively, you
can make a saline solution. Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt in
1/2 cup boiling water. Add 1 drop of goldenseal extract to 1
tablespoon of the saline solution, once cooled, when you are going
to use it....it shrinks swollen tissues and disinfects.
The common cause of itching is due to fleas and flea bites - some
animals are actually allergic to the flea bites, compounding the
problem. Brewer's yeast is often recommended, 1 teaspoon or tablet
per day, as a deterrent. A word of caution here - some animals are
allergic to the brewer's yeast, or react to it with dry patches of
skin that itch just as bad as the fleas do. If you use brewer's
yeast, keep an eye out for these sorts of skin problems to develop,
and discontinue the brewer's yeast if necessary as soon as one of
these symptoms appear. A good remedy for those dry itchy skin
patches is tea tree oil, rubbed over the patch. The bitter taste
will discourage the animal from digging at his skin, and the oil
works well to heal the dryness. Do not use it near the eyes or
genitals, however. Aloe is also good for those dry patches. Another
method is to put a slice of raw cucumber over the "hot" spot,
holding it there for a few minutes, and then rub aloe or tea tree
oil over the area.
The shampoo you use, or the flea collar you use, may actually be
causing the itching. Bathe the animal in an all natural shampoo,
preferably something that has aloe in it, and find an alternative
to that flea collar!! Would you wear chemicals around your neck?
Neither should they!
You can make an herbal dip for your pet as follows: 2 cups
packed fresh peppermint, pennyroyal, or rosemary; 1 quart boiling
water; 4 quarts warm water - - Prepare an infusion by pouring the
boiling water over the herbs and allow it to steep for 30 minutes.
Strain the liquid and dilute it with the warm water. Saturate the
animal's coat thoroughly with the solution, allowing it to air dry.
Use at the first sign of flea activity. This remedy will need to be
repeated everthree to four days, but it is totally safe.
If the itching persists, and fleas or poor diet are not the
culprit, use a mixture of Licorice Root, Dandelion Root, and Cat's
Claw in equal drops of each tincture for two weeks. The licorice is
a natural cortisone, and will help to jumpstart the immune
To get rid of fleas in your carpet, after removing pets from the
room, sprinkle Borax over the carpet and rub it in. Wait a while,
then vacuum as usual. This is a safe, non-chemical method of flea
control. Reapply the Borax once a week until the problem is
Fresh aloe is an excellent application for those strange cuts and
scrapes we can never figure out how our pet got. It is a natural
antiseptic, and will keep the area moist until the cut can heal.
Another good product is Bag Balm, available at feed stores
everywhere. It keeps the skin moist and pliable, so that the skin
can repair itself, and new hair can grow back. It prevents scarring
when the area can be kept moist, but not wet. (Hint: Bag Balm, when
rubbed into your cuticles, can also help you grow strong
fingernails! It is also excellent for those very chapped lips we
get in the wintertime). Alternatively, you can clean the wound with
a wash of goldenseal, and apply aloe or other herbal treatments
that are your favorites.
First you must lance the abscess. I mix a betadine solution with
water until it looks like tea, and then fill an eyedropper with the
solution and squirt it into the hole. Do this several times per
day, at least three. The important thing is to clip the fur away
from the abscess and don't cover it with any bandage, or it can't
drain properly. It has to heal from the inside out. If it is
extremely deep, you may need a vet to put a drain in it. I also
begin to administer antibiotic herbs orally, to help fight any
infection that may occur. Another course of action is to use
chamomile in the wound to prevent infection. I have had a lot of
success with these methods, which my vet recommends. However, I
also know that if it doesn't begin to clear up within a week, I
need professional help to combat the infection.
Does your pet get carsick when you take him for trips? Try giving a
few drops of ginger root extract prior to the trip to settle his
tummy. If it is a long trip, you may want to administer the ginger
again halfway through the trip.
Does your pet clear the room without barking? Two courses of action
can be taken to give relief on that front (or should I say
"behind"?!). One is to give a tablespoon of plain yogurt mixed into
their food once per day. Another method is to give a tablespoon of
apple cider vinegar on the food daily. Try one method, and give it
time. If it doesn't work, then try the other. If the problem
persists, look into his diet.
Give a tincture of equal drops of echinacea and goldenseal. If the
illness persists after two weeks, try a combination of different
herbal antibiotics after careful diagnosis by your vet. If the
animal recovers quickly, continue giving the herbs for a few days
after, to aid in healing completely.
I generally give a capsule of garlic oil in the food once per
week. It helps keep the biting insect critters away, and helps keep
the immune system healthy.
When a pet is dehydrated, due to illness or injury, you can give
them Pedialyte, available in the baby food section of any grocery
store. Alternatively, you can substitute Gatorade. However, the
sugar content in Gatorade is rather high, which is not good for
long term use with our pets. If using it, cut it in half with plain
water. There are also powdered electrolyte solutions available in
most feed stores that work just as well, and are less expensive.
Electrolyte solutions given in place of water for the first 24
hours will also help new pets that were shipped to deal with the
stress of shipping. This is especially important with reptiles,
amphibians, and birds of all types.
If your pet is suffering from ulcers, give him two drops each of
Calendula, Comfrey, Knotgrass, and Nettle twice per day. Couple
this with a bland, easy to digest diet until the ulcer has healed.
When your pet suffers from stress or anxiety, try a combination of
the extracts of Oats, Valerian, and Chamomile. Rub a little
lavendar oil near the animal's muzzle, or place some on a cotton
pad in the pet's bed or in his sleeping area. And remember that if
you are stressed, the animal will be too, so sniff a little of that
calming lavendar for yourself as well.
To raise an orphan, first find some goat milk - the fresher the
better - to use as the replacement for mother's milk. Goat milk is
high in butterfat content, and is infinitely better to use than
those powdered replacements found in stores, and miles ahead of
cow's milk. This applies for human babies, as well. Many a colicky
baby has had their stomach soothed with goat milk.....and goat milk
is usually easily used by those considered lactose-intolerant. Goat
milk can be found in your health food store, and often in your
grocery store, but the very best source is of course directly from
the goat. Find a dairy goat farmer in your area. The prices will be
better, too! We have raised everything from puppies and kittens to
colts and calves on goat's milk, and have observed or experienced
none of the weight-gain problems or vitamin deficiency or immune
deficiencies that occur often when using substitutes. Remember to
feed the milk warmed. For puppies and kittens, it is often helpful
to rub the face and anal area with a warm swab, to stimulate their
system, much as the mother does after the baby feeds from her. Once
per day, add a little spirulina (powdered) to the milk. It boosts
the immune system, so needed in orphaned babies, and provides many
necessary vitamins and nutrients.
Raspberry leaf administered daily throughout a pet's pregnancy
(mammals) will help tone the uterus and aid in the healing of the
uterus after birth, as well as help to stimulate milk production in
Milk thistle and turmeric is the preferred treatment for this
disease, and most liver ailments, in most pets.
Powdered slippery elm bark is useful for treating diarrhea,
vomiting, and sensitive stomachs for pets.
One teaspoon (less for very small animals, such as ferrets) of cod
liver oil dribbled over the pet's food once or twice per week will
give a thick, shiny coat, as well as provide many nutrients needed
by your pet's body.
1/4 teaspoon for every 15 pounds of animal, given two to three
times weekly, helps to slow the aging process. It will also restore
hormone balances, regulate the digestive tract, and calm the
symptoms of common allergies. Give bee pollen daily during times of
stress, illness, or disease to give a boost to the body.
Giving 1000 mg to 2000 mg per day for three months to puppies from
large breeds can help prevent hip dysplacia. Give 500 mg to 1000 mg
daily to ease arthritis in dogs and cats. 500 mg each day can
prevent urinary tract symptoms and problems for cats.
A WORD OF CAUTION:
Do not give white willow to cats or kittens. Many felines are
allergic to salycin, the active ingredient in both white willow and
the drug that is derived from it, aspirin. Substitute
meadowsweet as a pain reliever instead.
Does your horse suffer from laminitis, founder, or heaves? If so,
there is a way to treat them with herbal medicines and natural
therapies. Contact me for more information.
I would like to thank the New Zealand Holistic Animal Therapists Association
for their printing of my article Herbal Healing for Pets (from this page)
in the First Quarter 2000 edition of their magazine! I am honored!
I would also like to thank The Chamomile Times for their use of this
article for their Herbs for Pets issue, December 2000.
Information within this article is for informational and educational purposes
only, and is not meant to diagnose nor treat. Seek guidance from a health care
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