More and more owners are starting to incorporate herbal pet care into their dogs’ diets and lifestyle, either as preventive medicine or to treat a number of ailments. “I think that as owners gravitate towards leading more organic lifestyles themselves, this trickles down to the lifestyle they strive to provide for their pets,” says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, a licensed veterinarian certified in both veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbology. “Hence the growing interest in acupuncture and herbal pet care supplements—used either in lieu of or in conjunction with conventional Western therapies.”
Herbal Pet Care Supplements for Ongoing Support
So, are herbs good for dogs? Like humans, dogs sometimes need a little help to get through the day. If your dog is feeling a little under the weather, dealing with the aches of getting older or experiencing tummy trouble, herbs can help him feel better and get back to optimal health.
For example, if your dog suffers from allergies, you can try something like Animal Essentials Seasonal Allergy Herbal Formula Dog & Cat Supplement, which contains nettle leaf, licorice root and other herbs that can provide seasonal allergy relief. Stinging nettle has been used for centuries in humans to treat hay fever and allergies, and to reduce inflammation, so it’s no surprise that it is one of the herbs that is good for dogs.
If you have a senior dog, you can try natural pet care products that support senior health. Animal Essentials Senior Support Herbal Formula Dog & Cat Supplement contains milk thistle to protect the liver, ginkgo biloba to enhance brain function, and dandelion root to promote normal digestion.
Herbsmith Sound Dog Viscosity Joint Support Powder Dog & Cat Supplement is a good herbal pet care supplement for joint health. This formula combines glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, hyaluronic acid and four herbs to help maintain joint fluid, cartilage and connective tissues and to reduce inflammation.
Herbs to Treat Specific Ailments
Certain herbs and nutrients are an ideal choice for natural pet care if your dog is recuperating from an illness or surgery. Milk thistle, for example, has been known to restore liver function, while spirulina can improve the immune system. There are many studies confirming the health benefits of milk thistle, a weed with powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help with liver disease, liver damage and gallbladder disorders. You can find both of these herbs in Dr. Harvey’s E-Mune Boost Herbal Dog Supplement.
Are Herbs Safe for Dogs?
Administering Herbal Pet Care Products
Herbal supplements come in many forms and types, and there’s usually no “best option” regarding effectiveness. “I prescribe herbs in capsule, powder or tablet form, as I find that these are the most readily ingested and digested,” Dr. Barrack says. Some pets have no trouble swallowing a tablet hidden inside a piece of food, while others are masters at finding and spitting out any pills—in which case, they would do much better with powder or even liquid supplements.
Choosing the Right Supplement Safely
Natural pet care supplements should always be thought of as medications, as they are used for medicinal purposes, according to Dr. Barrack. Some herbs can have side effects or can be too harsh for a dog whose health is already compromised.
Talking to a veterinarian is always important before you start providing herbal pet care. “It is especially important to consult with your veterinarian regarding all herbs and medications to ensure they are working synergistically and not against each other,” Dr. Barrack says. “Some herbs can be contraindicated with specific Western medications; hence, proper knowledge is paramount,” says Dr. Barrack. While side effects are often minor when giving your pet herbal supplements, he might experience appetite changes and/or gastrointestinal upset, so consulting with your vet is important to know how to address those issues if they come up.
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer who has written for National Geographic, DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo! and Marie Claire. Diana has lived in five countries and taken her rescued dogs along to each one of them.