June 28, 2013

The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and CatThe Complete Herbal Handbook For The Dog And Cat, Faber and Faber Ltd., Juliette de Baïracli Levy, 1955-92.

Levy’s The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat has become a classic reference for all herbalists and all those interested in the practices of natural rearing for their beloved dogs and cats. Her original book was written in a time when many of the recommended herbs were growing naturally in their wild state. But, sadly, this is no longer the case for many of them and they must be privately cultivated in order to provide fresh herbs for yourself as well as for your pets. Never-the-less, I find this book to be very informative and thought-provoking, providing a variety of ideas for a more natural and less-invasive way of approaching many ailments experienced by our four-legged friends.

Natural Herbalists

This book provides anecdotes and evidence for the effectiveness of the most natural herbal and nutritional remedies for many common dog and cat ailments. What I appreciate is that she helps the reader understand what is natural for our pets and how they are their own “amazing self-taught herbalists”. An example is a dog’s natural tendency to seek out and graze on what they need at the moment. Not only do they seem to know what they need instinctively, but they also appear to be able to gauge just how much they need to serve its purpose. She lists couch grass, cleavers, dandelion, lemongrass, fennel, mustard, strawberry, and borage as well as garlic, mulberry, and fig leaves as some of her hounds’ favorites.

Natural Diet

Also provided by Levy are recommendations and the underlying principle behind feeding a diet of natural and whole foods appropriate for our dogs and cats. She hopes her book will “help to prove that natural diet has a very large and effective influence on disease prevention.” She reminds the reader that “it is in the hands of the human owners as to whether an animal is to live its full life span in true and total health or to live a miserable life of sub health”. The purpose of food, Levy reminds us, is “to nourish, induce growth and to give health protection”.

She offers her thoughts and experience regarding the pros and cons of feeding a raw diet vs. cooked foods and also discusses varying types of meat as well as fish, grains, pulses, vegetables, dairy, fruits, and nuts. She also briefly discusses less-common canine foods such as eggs, honey, seaweed/kelp, and coconut. Water makes up about 70% of an animal’s body and this is lost during exercise, through the lungs and urinary tract. She reminds us that a constant supply of fresh water is essential to replenish what is lost.

Special needs

Levy provides a lengthy discussion of the natural care and feeding of pregnant and lactating females, puppies, as well as the care of cats. In her general notes about the care of animals in a natural way, she enforces the idea that an animal cannot thrive without fresh whole appropriate foods, plenty of appropriate exercise, an appropriate sleeping/bedding area, regular grooming, and lots of natural sunlight! Depriving an animal in our care of any of these can decrease their health and quality of life.

Remedies

Finally, she provides a detailed description of natural and herbal remedies for a variety of ailments, from some of the more common, to some that are not so prevalent in the present day. Fasting is also a natural instinct for most animals when ill or injured and Levy reminds us that we should allow this natural process while offering fluids and other support. Fasting allows the energy of the body to focus on healing an injury or fighting disease rather than on digestion. Forcing food upon a sick or injured pet can do more harm than good, she claims. In her book, you will find natural suggestions for such ailments as: Arthritis, diarrhea, vomiting, stings, bites, sprains, ear issues, skin issues, and many more.