I write a lot about how you and your family can benefit from herbs for health and life in general. For many of us, our families extend to include our furry friends too. Since we want to do the right thing by them it seems only right that we include herbs into their lives too.
Herbs can be included in their diet, just as we would add to ours for health and wellbeing. We can make products to entertain, deodorize, clean and pamper our pets and it is not hard to do.
Now I know that Debs likes to dig deeper into herbal knowledge, she doesn’t just want a bit of entertaining fluff. So before I give you some recipes and ideas, we better cover some of the more serious aspects of herbal pet care.
For instance aromatherapy, this is proving hugely popular in the human world. However, aromatherapy is not just for people. It can be used successfully for many of our pets’ health complaints. Of course the dosage is not the same as for people. Just imagine your poor dog’s amazing sense of smell going crazy at such concentrated scents. Using the incorrect dosage of these very powerful oils can have dire consequences for your dear friend.
To make matters even more confusing, essential oils you can use for dogs you may not be able to use for cats. Cats are a whole new ball game. So, as much as I said that you can treat your pets at home and that it is not hard to do, you first have to know what is right for YOUR pet. Just as every human individual is different, so is every pet. Breed, size, age and previous health concerns all matter when considering the right remedy for your friend. The best bet is to first consult a professional who can advise you on the type and dosage before using any essential oils or other herbal remedy on your animal.
Do be careful of the dilution as they may kill the animal when the oils are ingested by grooming and licking. If you are unsure of the rate of dilution use products that have been specifically prepared for animal use as these contain the oils in lower concentration and so are safe for your pet.
One more serious note and then we can have some herbal fun, I promise. Garlic! Garlic is a fabulous all rounder. Antibacterial, anti fungal, antibiotic, antiviral, it pretty much covers most the anti’s you’ll ever need. Now you probably already know (if not…..tsk tsk) that your dog/cat/horse must not eat onions (leeks, chives, etc). Garlic and onions belong to the same family, Allium.
But there are also an awful lot of folk remedies for animals based on garlic.
So, only a couple of days ago my puppies had to have a check up and while there I bailed up our Vet and quizzed him on this dilemma. He explained that Allium species plants contain sulphur compounds that can cause stomach irritation. Allium poisoning can result in damage to red blood cells causing anaemia. So when I pointed out all of the success stories of garlic he actually agreed that garlic is quite brilliant for many things. His believe is that garlic contains less of the offending compound; hence small doses are tolerated quite well. He also pointed out that garlic will NOT keep fleas away. We fought about that one a bit, because there are heaps of people who swear by garlic as a dietary flea repellent.
The bottom line here, in my opinion, is what should always be the bottom line for all natural remedies, DON’T OVERDO IT! A little goes a long way, and just because it is natural does not mean it is harmless.
There are so many herbs you can use on animals that it is impossible for me to mention them all. However, dandelion, burdock, neem, yarrow, rosemary, chamomile, echinacea, astralgus, ginger, alfalfa, wormwood, rue, tansy and comfrey are some of the herbs that can make a great herbal difference to your pets’ lives. Combine them with a natural diet and letting them run and play, and you will have covered all the bases for a happy, healthy animal.
Now that I have scared you out of ever using anything remotely herbal for your animals, I shall move on to the fun stuff of actually making things.
Even the best kept pets will be exposed to fleas at one time or another, which is where a homemade flea remedy comes in handy. If you have some tansy on hand you can directly rub crushed leaves into your pet’s hair. You can wash your dog’s coat with a strong rosemary infusion, which is also good for washing bedding and collars.
Mix 1 teaspoon each of dried rosemary, crushed fennel seeds, dried wormwood and dried rue. Comb sparingly into your pet’s coat.
Herbs to Soothe the Frightened Beast
There are quite a few animals that suffer from nerves. Skittish at the thought of travel or jumping at loud noises, it does not matter if it’s a horse, a cat, a dog or a hamster, a nervous animal causes a great deal of anxiety. Herbal treatments to calm frightened pets can be made from the same herbs that work for humans.
Chamomile tea – a few drops for the hamster, a tablespoon for the cat and up to 3 tablespoons for the dog – soothes the nerves, eases digestion, fights intestinal parasites and improves appetite. Cats are also particularly partial to valerian which works wonders with anxiety. Try a dose of 3 or 4 drops of valerian tea added to food or drink.
I am sure that by now everyone who owns a cat knows that they enjoy catnip. It gives them a serious buzz and a catnip toy entertains them for hours. You can buy hollow toys made for this purpose, or you can sew up little sachets so all you have to do is stuff it with some dried catnip.
There is much you can do for your furred and feathered friends. You can make your own worming treatments (not under 6 months old), you can keep lice away from birds – many of the human remedies work for animals as well but in much different concentrations. Always tell your vet if you are using home remedies when treating your pet in case of any interactions with prescribed treatments.
Raised with herbal traditions passed down by her grandmother in her native country Germany, Anke Bialas has expanded her knowledge and application of herbs in unconventional ways, saying “Even a little bit of nature goes a long way.”
With a firm believe that herbal health can fit into even the most conventional home, she makes all things herbal appeal to everyone.
Anke is known for her practical, everyday approach to herbal health which led to her writing the Herbology At Home series of guides. These guides provide a convenient reference for both the seasoned novice and those new to herbs and natural health.
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