Has anyone ever told you to drink some herbal tea when you’re under the weather? Although Western medicine has come a long way, natural remedies for various illnesses and ailments are still being used today for both humans and animals as preventative care and as treatment. If you like being proactive about your pet’s health, herbal supplements are a great way to help prevent problems before they start! But with any supplement, it is important to take breaks every few weeks to allow the body to rest and not get overloaded on nutrients. Keep reading to learn about several types of herbs that have amazing benefits for our canine companions.
Ginger is an herb we often use in baked goods, but it can have several benefits for dogs! This spice has been shown to relieve nausea and upset stomachs, act as an anti-inflammatory for joints, and even reduce the risk of heartworm. It can be fed as a dry powder as a meal topper for raw or kibble-fed dogs.
Turmeric is often used in Indian dishes such as curry, and has actually been used for various medicinal purposes in humans well before it was discovered to be beneficial for dogs. In dogs, turmeric can promote heart and liver health, act as an anti-inflammatory agent, provide natural pain relief, and promote digestive health. You can feed turmeric as a dry powder as a meal topper for raw or kibble-fed dogs, or make it into a paste, commonly known as “golden paste.” Dosage for dry turmeric is shown in the graphic below.
If you look closely, you can sometimes find kelp in different brands of pet food, and for good reason! Kelp, an underwater plant from the seaweed family, is packed with fully bioavailable amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. It is most well-known for its high iodine content, which helps support your dog’s glandular system and metabolism. Some of the other benefits of kelp include reduced itching and inflammation, improved digestion, and reduced plaque and tartar. It is best to follow the dosage guidelines on the package, but a good place to start with dried kelp is shown below in the graphic.
MILK THISTLE SEED
Milk thistle is an herbal remedy that has been used for over 2000 years for various health concerns, and studies suggest that the active ingredient in its seeds, silymarin, has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying properties. It has been shown successful in treating liver problems and promoting healthy kidney function, but caution should be exercised when adding to your pet’s meals. Moderate use of milk thistle is very safe, but there is experimental evidence that may suggest long-term ingestion of very high doses could suppress liver function. Always follow the instructions on the label when feeding, and feel free to take 1-2 week breaks from milk thistle when giving daily supplements. For dosage information, follow the instructions on the package for powdered or liquid milk thistle supplements. The usual recommended milk thistle extract contains 70-80% silymarin, and as general guidance, dogs should only receive 75-100 mg for every 10 pounds of body weight once a day.
A common seasoning for steak and pork chops, rosemary can have several benefits for dogs that many are unaware of. Rosemary helps the digestive system by reducing gas and “dog breath,” in addition to improving cardiovascular health by reducing cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). This herb has natural muscle-soothing abilities, and also has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. It can be served in a dry, powdered form as a topper on your pet’s normal food, or as a tincture - avoid giving any rosemary essential oils. Additionally, pets that have a history of seizures or that are pregnant should not be given rosemary. Dosages listed below are for rosemary tinctures, but can be applied to powdered rosemary as well.
A favorite scent and a common ingredient in calming pet treats, chamomile is best known for its anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing properties. Chamomile can be given orally to help relieve anxiety and inflammation in pets, either on its own or in the form of a calming treat or chew. The herb can also be applied topically to skin abrasions as a concentrated tea to help reduce inflammation. Chamomile can be fed as a dry powder on top of your pet’s food or in a calming chew that contains other herbs as well.
Basil is a common ingredient in Italian dishes, but can also be a beneficial addition to your dog’s bowl! Basil is anti-inflammatory, full of antioxidants that can help prevent illness, and supportive of a healthy gut and digestive system. This tiny herb is packed full of vitamin A and C, calcium, zinc, and iron, and can even be effective at reducing stress and anxiety. Basil can easily be added to your dog’s food in a dried form as a meal topper - be conservative with this herb when adding to your dog’s food - equal or less than ½ teaspoon is sufficient.
Although it doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves in the cooking world, parsley is actually a highly nutritious superfood in the dog world! Not only does it reduce the dreaded “doggy breath,” but it is also packed with vitamins and fiber. Vitamin C and A act as antioxidants that help support the immune system, while vitamin K promotes a healthy liver, acts as an anti-inflammatory, and maintains healthy blood clotting. Parsley has also been shown to help pets with arthritis, due to its high levels of vitamin K promoting fluidity in joints. Be sure to purchase the curly variety of parsley, feed in moderation, and do not feed the herb to dogs with kidney problems or pregnant dogs. The doses listed below are for dried parsley, and are intended to be fed once in a while (not every day). You can also mix parsley with coconut oil and freeze it for a healthy and tasty treat!
This lesser known herb can be a huge asset to those trying to improve their dog’s joint health. Licorice root is best known for its effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory agent, and can help speed the healing of joint injuries and reduce the need for steroids and other anti-inflammatory prescription drugs. This herb can also promote healthy liver function by enhancing cell and protein production - natural actions that are critical to liver repair and disease resistance. However, dogs with high blood pressure, heart conditions, or kidney disorders should not be given licorice root, as it can cause sodium retention and potassium loss like other cortisone-like substances. Additionally, it’s best to only supplement with licorice root for two weeks at a time with breaks in between. Licorice root dosages depend on individual needs, weight, and whether it is given in a powdered or tincture form. Dosage recommendations for powdered licorice root are available in the graphic below.
As you can see, herbs can provide enormous health benefits for our pups, and they are a great way to help prevent problems before they start. Always follow general dosage guidelines, but remember that every dog is an individual and your own pet’s needs can differ from another’s. Feel free to adjust the doses and types of supplements as your pet’s needs change, but remember to take breaks now and again to let your pet’s body rest and not get overloaded on various supplements. Too much of a good thing can sometimes cause digestive upset or diarrhea, and some herbs may not be suitable for some dogs who are prone to allergic reactions (e.g., chamomile might not be a good fit for dogs with plant allergies). But despite this, herbs are a great way to be proactive about your pet’s health, and although the benefits of supplements aren’t always visible immediately, that doesn’t mean they’re not working!