Pet Corner: Holistic Natural Remedies for Animals

Trust Your Pet's Intuition When it Comes to Herbal Remedies

| January/February 1998

My first lesson in herbal medicine came from a small herd of deer feasting on mullein as winter fast approached the Kansas prairie. Standing in the sleet, their backs to the north wind, the deer acted as if their very lives depended on an adequate intake of mullein. Back then I didn’t know about mullein’s ability to protect the lungs from winter infections, but the deer seemed to understand this intuitively.

This intuition isn’t limited to wild animals. Domestic pets also have an innate sense of what they need to stay healthy, and one of the challenges that we pet owners face is helping our animal companions use this intuition.

Herbs offer a way to meet this challenge while helping you care for your pet’s health. It’s much easier to keep a pet well than to treat a disease, and herbs—along with ­plenty of exercise, a good diet, and lots of love—offer solid preventive medicine, supplying vital vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that fend off disease. But how does the newcomer to herbal medicine for pets begin? Based on my clinical experience, here are a few tips.

For a list of the holistic veterinarians in your state, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association, 2214 Old Emmorton Road, Bel Air, Maryland, 21015.

Cautious care

Herbs, like any drug, can be toxic, so it’s important to become familiar with those that can harm your pet, such as foxglove (Digitalis spp.). And each animal has its own physical limits; some animals may have allergies or health conditions that prohibit them from consuming certain herbs, while those same herbs won’t bother other animals at all. Cats, in particular, are highly sensitive to toxins.

For my part, I consider herbs that have been used medicinally for centuries—especially culinary herbs—to be safe when used in limited amounts as teas or sprinkled lightly on food. If you use herbs in a concentrated tincture or capsule form, check with a veterinarian familiar with herbs for the appropriate dosage and possible dangers.

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