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Herbs for pets

Herbs for Pets

Animals have a long-standing affinity for herbs. In fact, some speculate that humans first learned about herbalism from watching animals. (Ever see a cat eat grass in order to vomit up a hairball? It’s not a pretty sight, but it’s smart — the feline is self-medicating on plant life.) Treating an animal with herbs isn’t exactly straightforward — you have to take the size of your pet into account, decide what ails her, be patient while the herbs take effect, and be careful to avoid allergic reactions and toxicity.

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How To Get Your Pet to Take Herbs

• Sprinkle bulk dried herbs directly on your pet’s food. This method gives your pet the benefit of the entire herb. And many practitioners believe that putting the herb directly on the tongue stimulates the “oral activating factor” that triggers the immune system, leading to maximum healing.

• Remember to start with very tiny dosages, and don’t continue herbal therapy indefinitely; over time some herbs can be taxing to an animal’s liver.

• Make an herbal tea or infusion to put on your pet’s food or to give her with a dropper.

•  Pack the powdered herb in capsules. This is a good option if you can’t get your pet to otherwise take the herb. Capsules work best for larger animals, though, because they tend to pass right through smaller pets.

• Make an herbal tincture (liquid extract) by soaking the herb in glycerin. While tinctures are usually made with alcohol, it may be preferable to use glycerin for your pet’s tincture to avoid toxicity problems (birds and cats are especially sensitive to alcohol). Besides, animals prefer the sweet taste of glycerin.

pets• Use a topical application to soothe and protect an area. To make an ointment or salve, simply steep the herb in olive oil or coconut butter and apply. For a poultice, make a paste of mashed plant material and water or oil and spread on affected area; wrap with gauze to hold in place. Similarly, you can make a fomentation by placing gauze on an area and then pouring an infusion onto the dressing. This works for castor oil or mustard packs, and is an especially good way to treat fungal infections. Keep in mind when you apply any topical ointment that some animals (like cats) will lick the area, so you’ll need to make sure that the herb is safe for ingestion.

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How Much Herbs To Give Your Pet

petsYour pet may be much more sensitive to herbs (and other substances) than you are, so be careful and conservative when giving him herbs. Also keep in mind that when dosages are small, toxic amounts of some herbs can be easily reached. What’s a good dosage of herbs for a pet? Veterinary herbalists suggest that you “give them to effect.” Easier said than done, but you won’t go wrong if you start slowly, with very low doses in proportion to your pet’s body weight (compared to a human dosage). Then—after a week or two—add or taper off the amount. (Keep in mind that herbs take effect gradually.) That first dosage could be anywhere from a small pinch to one tablespoon of bulk herbs, a dropperful to a cup of tea, a half capsule to 2 capsules, or 1 drop to 20 drops of tincture. Give your pet the proper dosage two to three times a day, and introduce only one or two herbs at a time, so you can tell if he has any adverse reactions to a particular plant Taking a break every now and then from an herbal therapy (for a couple of days every week or so, for example), may help you tell if he’s responding to the medicine. It can also help reduce any long-term toxicity problems.

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ASK THE EXPERTS

nettle leafMy dog’s eyes sometimes get inflamed and bloodshot. I see that eyebright is recommended, but how do I administer it?
Eyebright, nettle leaf and chamomile will all soothe your pet’s eyes and are gentle enough to use in a compress. Simply make an infusion (strong tea) of the dry herb and water, then strain through a tea strainer or cheesecloth and cool to room temperature. (To make the infusion, use about 1 tablespoon of the herb in one cup of water and steep, covered, about ten minutes.) Dip a piece of gauze into the solution, and apply to your pet’s eyes. He’ll likely enjoy it and let you hold it there for a few minutes; if not, just dab his eyes with the tea
occasionally.

How will I know if my pet is allergic to an herb?
Keep an eye on your pet after you give her a remedy, especially if it’s something new to her. If she show a loss of appetite, vomits, has diarrhea, or any skin rash or itching, stop the treatment. (If the symptoms continue anyway, talk with your veterinarian.) To test for an allergy beforehand, you can gently rub a small amount of the herb on your pet’s skin, and then watch for any signs of irritation

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