Herbs are the base for many modern drugs, but many owners are reluctant to introduce herbal therapy for dogs. Even though herbal therapy has been used for centuries, reliance on pharmaceuticals seems to prevent discussion of natural treatments with the vet.
Herbs are not recognized as drugs, but herbal and natural remedies are used for a drug-like effect. Herbs could possibly cause the same reactions that prescription drugs can cause.
Herbs should never be introduced to a pet as a medical treatment before a medical diagnosis. Precautions must be taken when herbal therapy is used with other forms of treatment, as Western and herbal treatments can sometimes counteract. Except for extreme conditions and surgery, herbal therapy can be the only form of treatment needed to keep your pet healthy.
If the dog’s vet is not familiar with herbs, veterinary herbalists can be located with the online locater from the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association.
Initiating Herbal Therapy For Dogs
Introduce herbs to the dog one at a time. Some dogs like the taste of herbs. Fresh or dried herbs can be chopped or ground and sprinkled on their food.
Other dogs are not so easy to please. Find out the easiest way to get the dog to accept the herb by soaking the feed – in herb tea, sprinkle some of the chopped herbs on the dog food, or using it as a tincture. The dog will accept different herbs in different ways.
Herb Tea for Dogs
Professional lingo can be daunting. Infusion, tisane, and decoction are just herbalist words for plain old tea and can easily be made at home.
Boil one quart of water
- 8 tablespoons fresh herb or
- 4 teaspoons dried herb or
- 2 herbal teabags
Steep for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain; pour ¼ cup of the cooled tea over the dog food 2 or 3 times a day.
You can add small amounts of the tea to the water bowl instead if he seems to accept that better.
The tea keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days.
A tincture is made by soaking fresh or dried herbs in alcohol or glycerin. As alcohol can be toxic to some dogs, glycerin, while it makes a weaker tincture, is the safest way to extract the element from the herb. Glycerin is available in most health food stores.
- Fill a clean jar with the herb. Add enough glycerin to cover the herb.
- Tightly close the jar and keep it in the dark cupboard for a week or two, shaking the jar several times a week. The tincture should take on color from the herb. If not, store longer.
- Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth to remove the plant material.
- Bottle the strained tincture, label it, and store it in the refrigerator.
If using purchased tinctures or capsules meant for humans on your dog, read the dosing instructions for adults, which are aimed at a person weighing 150 pounds. If the dog weighs 15 pounds, the dosage would be 1/10 the adult dosage.
It’s best to start out with a small dose of herb and watch how the dog responds. It may take up to 30 days for the full effect to be seen. Adjust the dose to the results.
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