Herbs can be a great addition to your dog’s health and wellness plan.
They can be especially useful for small issues or as part of a first-aid kit. While there are many herbs that are perfectly safe to use with dogs, a few stand out because of their potential for treating several issues quickly, easily, and safely.
Here are four herbs every pet owner should add to their pet's care and why.
Milk thistle, or silymarin, has been used for centuries to treat liver disease in people with amazing results—and with good reason. Turns out this plant with large prickly leaves might be just as good for our furry companions as well. “Milk thistle is used to drain the liver and it’s pretty effective,” says integrative veterinarian Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM. “Great to use for detox after using chemicals for parasite prevention (fleas, ticks, heartworm) or any time liver enzymes may be elevated or there is liver stress.”
Milk thistle is also great for animals with other diseases such as diabetes or Cushing's Disease, which may affect the liver.
Milk Thistle | istockphoto/datmore
Valerian is a good calming herb with few side effects, according to Morgan. “It might be useful prior to travel, storms, or fireworks,” says Morgan. Because valerian root has mild sedative effects and can cause drowsiness, it shouldn’t be given to puppies, elderly dogs or dogs with serious health issues unless your veterinarian approves it first.
Some medications, including anesthetics, anti-epileptic and anti-fungal drugs can also interact with valerian root, making them stronger and potentially causing side effects, according to Morgan. If your dog is taking prescription medication, make sure you consult with your vet before using valerian root.
Valerian | istockphoto/AYImages
Witch hazel can be applied directly as a tea or liquid or made into a compress to treat cuts, hot spots on the skin and ear issues, according to Morgan. Witch hazel can also be applied on insect bites or inflamed skin to soothe the area and decrease itching.
The key to using witch hazel properly is to pick the right product. Commercial witch hazel preparations often contain alcohol, so they shouldn’t be used around the face or somewhere where your pet can lick it off. Instead, search for vegetable glycerin-based witch hazel, which is non-toxic. Even then, don’t use more than you need—just applied on the skin using a gauze square that’s slightly wet but not soaking.
Witch Hazel | istockphoto/Anolis01
Ginger is a great anti-nausea herb for dogs, just as it is for people. If you’re planning on taking your pups on a road trip or if they have an upset tummy, just a little bit of ginger can make a huge difference. “Ginger can be made into a tea or biscuit,” says Morgan. A simple homemade doggie cookie with a tiny bit of ginger added to it can be a great snack before a car ride to avoid nausea and stomach discomfort.
When in doubt or if you’re not sure how to properly use herbs or are worried about side effects, talk to your vet. They will be able to guide you on the proper dosage, warn you of potential interactions, and let you know if there’s a different herb that might be better suited to your pet’s needs.
Ginger | istockphoto/egal
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and avid adventurer. She's gone hiking in Siberia, snorkeling in Thailand, and canoeing in the Mekong River. She also loves caves and has been known to get lost in one or five around the world. Diana's work has been published in the Discovery Channel website, Yahoo!, Popular Mechanics, and more. You can read more of her work on her website at www.dianabocco.com