Herbal Pet Remedies
Many pet owners are using herbal medicines and alternative remedies for their animals. According to vet Dr Rob Zammit, while some of these products can be very helpful, others are actually harmful to pets. Without professional advice and correct dosage rates, it is unwise to give medicines, herbal or otherwise, to your pets which have been prescribed or recommended for humans.
Following is a list of pet illnesses or complaints and some herbal or natural remedies which can prove to be useful in their treatment or control. For details on dosage rates see further information below.
- Car sickness – from when you first pick up your new pet, car sickness can be a recurring problem with some animals. Ginger tablets (for example Blackmore’s Travel Calm Ginger) are useful in the treatment of travel sickness in animals. Rob’s tip: Ask the breeder to give your new puppy ginger tablets before you arrive to take it home. The ginger will reduce the likelihood of the puppy being sick on the way home in the car.
(For information on using ginger for pets, see ‘Further information’ below).
- Diarrhoea – a useful herbal remedy for diarrhoea is slippery elm (for example Nature’s Own Slippery Elm tablets). Slippery elm coats the bowel and acts as a gentle calmative of the gastrointestinal tract. It is a good first aid for this sort of problem providing that worms, other parasites or a virus are not causing the problem. If any of these problems exist, the animal will require other medication or treatment.
- Behaviourial problems – a new herbal remedy for animals is called Chorela. It is supposed to stimulate the immune system and has proven helpful in treating dogs that lose pigment from their nose, and also dogs that have the nasty habit of eating their own droppings. Seek advice on this product from your vet or a naturopath.
- Skin problems – these plague dogs, cats and other pets throughout Australia and there are several herbal preparations that can relieve symptoms:Evening primrose oil, often given as an oral capsule each day, can help prevent many skin problems by providing essential oils to the skin.
Other medications are applied directly to the skin, such as tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil. It is essential that these oils are only applied at a diluted rate or they may kill the animal as the oils are ingested when the animal grooms itself and licks its coat. Note: Always use tea tree oils and eucalyptus oil that have been specifically prepared for animal use as these contain the oils in lower concentration and so are safe for your pet.
Garlic oil is also useful for some skin problems.
- Parasites – one of the oldest herbs used medicinally is garlic. It can be given orally to help control parasites such as worms in animals. You can use garlic capsules or add freshly chopped to food.
- Bad breath – fresh rosemary can help some dogs with bad breath.
- Arthritis – as your pet ages it can get arthritis just as humans do. Many of the herbal preparations developed for arthritis in humans can be helpful for treating arthritis in your pet. Arthritis products that have been trialled and evaluated for use on animals include: Seatone, which is made from New Zealand greenlip mussels. This medication is used all over the world but must be given for at least three months before improvement is noticed.
Shark cartilage has been used successfully for all sorts of joint problems and is beneficial to some animals with arthritic complaints. Seek advice from your vet or a naturopath before treating your animal.
- Cuts and abrasions – aloe vera is a useful, naturally occurring antiseptic derived from the succulent Aloe vera. It can be safely applied to a pet to help the healing of minor cuts or abrasions. Any thing major, particularly a burn or severe laceration, should be examined by a vet.
- Copper toxicosis – this is the name of a specific disease that affects the Bedlington terrier and some other dog breeds where the animal’s liver stores abnormally high amounts of copper. It causes heavy metal poisoning which results in permanent liver damage and, eventually, death. It can be controlled by prescription drugs but there are herbal alternatives which some dog owners have found to be helpful when combined with a correct diet: St Mary’s thistle or milk thistle (Silybum marianum) has proven to be beneficial in the treatment of copper toxicosis. One pet owner reports that after many months of treating her dog with St Mary’s thistle and feeding it a special diet as prescribed by a vet, blood tests showed that liver enzyme levels were reduced to just above a normal level. The dog owner believes the herbal remedy helped her dog.
Beetroot and carrot made up as a soup can be given daily as part of the dog’s diet as beetroot is recognised as a beneficial food for the liver. It appears to assist dogs with liver problems due to copper toxicosis.
Although there are many useful products some alternative medicines may not help and some can be harmful. Seek professional advice from your vet (some vets practice naturopathic medicine) or a qualified naturopath before embarking on such treatments even if it is only a minor ailment.
There are many books about herbal medicines including the following:
The Honest Herbal by Varro Tyler, which is highly recommended for information about all herbal remedies, (Pharmaceutical Products Press, an imprint of Haworth Press, $24.95). ISBN: 156024-287-6.
Note: There have been three editions of this book, the second edition (1987) was called The New Honest Herbal. The third edition (1993) is titled The Honest Herbal.
Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable and The Complete Book for the Dog both by Juliette de Bairacli Levy ( Faber & Faber, $19.95).
Note: While these books may be available at some bookstores and health food shops they are also available from The Fragrant Garden, Portsmouth Road, Erina, NSW, 2250. Phone: 1800 815 772 or (02) 4367 7322. (Mail-order available).
Keep Your Pet Healthy the Natural Way by Pat Lazarus.
Dr Pricairns Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard Pricairns. (Rodale Press.)
The A to Z of Natural Remedies edited by Amanda Sanderman and published by Blitz Addition.
The herbal products discussed above are available from most health food shops and some chemist shops.
For advice on herbal remedies for pets call Blackmore’s Naturopathic Advisory Service. Naturopaths can answer questions or direct you to a vet who offers naturopathic treatment. Phone: 1800 803 760.
For further advice contact the Australian Natural Therapists Association. Phone: 1800 817 577.