Pet Corner

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Trying to enhance pet reproduction, especially
for dogs and cats, may be a bit of overkill. In the first place,
animals seem to be able to reproduce and tend to their offspring
quite naturally — perhaps too well and too naturally. But more
importantly, our country is already overpopulated with far too many
dogs and cats.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that the 4,000
to 6,000 U.S. shelters euthanize 3 to 4 million unwanted dogs and
cats every year. Note that these figures do not include the perhaps
several million animals that are, for a variety of reasons,
euthanized each year in veterinary hospitals. (See “Should I Let My
Pet Have Puppies or Kittens?” on Page 15.)

Despite these morbid statistics, there may be some valid reasons
for trying to help certain animals have more of their kind, and a
number of herbs have long been used in both animals and man for all
types of conditions involving reproduction.

But before we begin, a few words about the general concepts of
herbal care for the reproductive system. First and most
importantly: Reproductive health and capability are not limited to
the gonads (testes and ovaries) or the hormones they produce;
reproduction is a whole-body experience. Robust health of all body
systems is necessary before the reproductive system can perform its
magic. A malnourished animal might not have enough energy left over
for the production of sperm in a male or for the ability to sustain
a pregnancy in a female. Common conditions that can adversely
affect reproduction include being overweight; diabetes; and
conditions of the heart, liver and urinary systems. It is always a
good idea to have a thorough vet check for any animal you plan to

The Hormone Connection

All of the hormonal systems, including re- production-related
hormones, are linked. For example, an animal’s adrenal glands are
actively involved in reproduction — in either a positive or
negative manner.

Excess production of glucocorticoids (steroids) from the
adrenals — seen during prolonged stress — can shut down sex hormone
production or cause abortion in pregnant females. On the other
hand, the adrenals actively produce some of the precursors of sex
hormones, and a healthily balanced adrenal function will enhance
reproductive performance.

In addition, hormones are intercon-nected with the brain and
nervous system, and oftentimes the nervous system needs to be
balanced in order to create an atmosphere conducive to
reproduction. Nervines and/or relaxing herbs, such as wild oats
(Avena sativa) or skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) can be just
the ticket for relieving anxiety and restlessness at breeding time
and during the birthing process. (Be sure to check with a qualified
practitioner before you administer any medication, including herbs,
during pregnancy.)

Reproduction is truly a matter of balance, and proper balancing
for maximal effect may be extremely complex. Male and female
animals will, as we would expect, be responsive to different herbs;
many herbs have multiple actions, making it difficult to predict
how they will react in any patient;, and individuals may respond to
specific herbs in entirely different ways.

Finally, as a rule, there is not much sci- entific information
on how herbs interact with animals’ reproductive systems. In many
cases, we’re extrapolating much of the information on herbs that
enhance reproduction from scientific data gleaned from the human
species. While we need to be somewhat careful in making these
crossover assumptions, it should not surprise us too much (nor in
my mind, cause us too much concern) that we do use information from
other species. Remember that we also use scientific data gleaned
from rats and guinea pigs to provide the information we use to dose
and treat humans.

Following are some specific herbs that might be considered to
help enhance the process of reproduction.

General Stimulant Herbs

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). Because ginkgo’s primary activities are
centered on the nervous system and the cardiovascular system, it is
an herb that might be indicated for the animal that doesn’t seem to
have the energy to reproduce normally.

Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is another herb that enhances
circulation and thus may be helpful for the animal that appears too
lethargic for reproduction. Ginger has been used for some (human)
female conditions related to the reproductive system. Caution
should be used during pregnancy.

Cayenne (Capsicum annuum) is yet another circulatory stimulant,
used as a spice, sprinkled over the pet’s food. Cayenne has the
added benefit that it seems to help transport necessary
biochemicals from one part of the body to another. Surprisingly,
many animals seem to enjoy its taste.

Reproductive-Specific Herbs

While herbs designated for the reproductive tract traditionally
are used for one gender or the other, many have crossover value for
both males and females, and most reproductive herbs have additional
activity to benefit other organ systems. Following are some

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) and blue cohosh (Caulophyllum
thalictroides) are both excellent herbs for the female reproductive
tract. Black cohosh’s primary use is as a normalizer and relaxant
for the female reproductive tract. Blue cohosh is an excellent
uterine tonic that may be used in any situation where there is
weakness or loss of tone, making it a good herb to use to help
prevent abortion. These two herbs work well in combination with
each other and with other herbs, such as dong quai (Angelica
sinensis) or motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca).

Damiana (Turnera diffusa), an herb found in Mexico and Central
America, has a long history of use throughout the world as an
aphrodisiac, antidepressant and tonic. Although scientific studies
on damiana are sparse, it supposedly acts as both a male and female
sexual stimulant.

Dong quai, often referred to as “female ginseng,” is a Chinese
herb that traditionally has been used as a general toning herb,
with specific activity for the female reproductive tract. It also
is reported to improve fertility in females.

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a Peruvian plant with a traditional
use in treating cancer and for enhancing sexual performance. It has
been shown to induce heat in female dogs that were previously

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca). Motherwort has two primary uses:
as a cardiac tonic and to support the female reproductive system as
a uterine stimulant. In humans, motherwort is used during the first
stages of pregnancy to prepare the uterus for childbirth, and it is
used again in the later stages of pregnancy to ease childbirth and
promote contractions.

Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) may be the most controversial of
the reproductive herbs. Wild yam contains phytoestrogens —
substances that, at least in theory, act as precursors to produce
estrogen compounds. Whether or not there are enough of the
biochemical precursors to adequately affect hormonal production as
yet remains to be answered, but there are many practitioners who
feel they see beneficial results in their female patients who use

Randy Kidd holds doctorates in veterinary med- icine and
veterinary and clinical pathology. After practicing traditional
veterinary medicine for 10 years, he opened Honoring the Animals, a
holistic practice in Kansas City, Missouri. Visit our website,, to order Dr. Kidd’s pet-care books.

Information provided in “Pet Corner” is not intended to replace
the advice of a qualified veterinarian.

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