There are some wonderful herbs that can help our smaller, furry, feathered or scaly family members. Giving them a gentle herb as a first course of action can save a trip to the vet. This can be a more relaxing way to deal with a health issue for your pet, not to mention a less-expensive way for you!
While our pets often seem just like us, they do have special health needs and cannot always take what we can. With that in mind, I’d like to share information about a few herbs that can come in handy for our pets and, barring any allergies unique to a specific pet, are safe and healthy for them.
Cats can benefit from pau d’arco and dandelion if they are itchy. Valerian root can really get a couch potato cat moving and, of course, they often love catnip herb. It is amazing how much cats love herbs. Cats are very different from us in some ways, so not all herbs that we can use are safe for cats, but goldenseal root for wounds and eye infections (mix with saline), licorice root for a variety of issues — from allergies to arthritis and more, and peppermint and rosemary help repel insects while soothing the skin.
Dogs are much easier, because they can take many of the same herbs we can, and dogs love herbs, too. Consider devil’s claw for joint pains, calendula for a variety of wounds and infections, and nettles for allergies. Mullein flowers in oil make a great ear infection oil for your average dog (and human) and the leaves are perfect for dry coughs, like kennel cough. A nervous dog will love German chamomile (unless they are allergic), but don’t feed this one to your feline friends. Dandelion is just as good for dogs as it is for cats, so don’t be afraid to add some powdered root to foods, or some fresh spring greens to the food bowl. Dandelion leaf does become increasingly bitter as it grows, so pick it early or mix in dried.
For our feathered friends, we can offer classic digestive herbs, such as coriander seed, dillseed and fennel seed. Lemon balm is another terrific herb that some birds find calming, while other birds find energizing. Sage and thyme, each well studied for their antimicrobial properties, are also beloved by many birds and can help fight various infections. Bee pollen has also been used by bird owners to bring a little energy to a tired pet.
Reptiles are another matter. The most varied group of pets, there are a few good herbs that most reptiles can take. Cloves seem to help many reptiles deal with parasites and bad digestion. Pau d’arco has a strong use among people, cats, and reptiles for fungus, parasites, cough and inflammation. Olive leaf, that high antioxidant herb, can be used by reptiles and people when colds and flu are making the rounds.
Of course, fish can benefit from bentonite clay. In fact, the way we came to first understand the cleansing benefits of bentonite clay was by watching the effect it has on goldfish. It makes them brighter and healthier.
How much can your favorite pet take? Well, that varies a bit, but as a general rule of thumb, look at what a dose would be for you and then divide your pet’s weight by 140. The number you get is the percentage of the adult human dose your pet would take. For example, a 35-pound canine would take about 25 percent of an adult human dose.
Herbs can be a wonderful way to help our animal friends live happier and healthier lives. Offering a sprinkle of clove, nettle or dandelion over a favorite food, or using a dropper to administer a few drops of tincture, can be a great way to incorporate herbs into a pet’s life. See a veterinarian when it makes sense, and try a little herbal remedy before making that appointment. It may make all the difference in your best friend’s quality of life.