Plants have been used for food and medication by humans for themselves and their pets for centuries and the refinement of their use into the conventional medicines that we know today is relatively recent. Many commonly used drugs have evolved from plant-derived compounds however the pharmaceutical industry, keen to promote the use of its products, is less keen to acknowledge their humble origins!
There is widespread scepticism regarding herbal medicine amongst the medical community with proof of effectiveness deemed to be anecdotal rather than evidence-based using a scientific method. Many medical professionals consider herbalism to be at best a waste of money and at worst downright dangerous but, as with most things in life, there is a happy medium which needs to be adhered to.
In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the use of herbal supplements for companion animals as their owners become more conscious of some of the side-effects of conventional medication. Often these same pet owners are making efforts to improve their own diet and health and see no reason why the benefits of these lifestyle changes should not be extended to their animals as well.
However there are some considerations to take into account before using an herbal product to ‘treat’ a particular problem. Any pet owner should always consult a vet if they believe their animal is unwell as only the vet is qualified to make a diagnosis and propose treatment. There may be instances where conventional medication is the only way to maintain an animal’s quality of life, however on these occasions it may still be possible for herbal products to be used to support allopathic treatment.
Herbal supplements are generally available in either dry (powder or tablet) or liquid (tincture) form and are designed to be added to normal feed. It generally takes from several days to a few weeks (in the case of ‘dry’ supplements) for the herbs to be absorbed by the animal’s system, however all pets are individuals and some will respond more quickly to others. Most herbal supplements can be used with conventional medication however advice should always be sought from your vet.
Some of the commonest problems with companion animals can be treated very effectively using herbal remedies. Digestive issues are common with domestic petsand can be caused by diet, environment, stress or parasites. Herbs such as Slippery Elm can be combined with Marshmallow and Valerian to help maintain a healthy and efficient digestive system and plants such as Cleaver, Liquorice and Milk Thistle can be used to support normal liver and kidney function for pets on conventional medication.
Mobility is another major issue with many pets, particularly as they age. Herbs commonly used to maintain optimum mobility would be Devils Claw root, Meadowsweet herb and Wild Yam, for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. They are often combined with herbs such as Hawthorn and Bilberry to ensure effective blood circulation.
Stress and anxiety, whether due to environment, past history or breed, can be helped using herbs such as Valerian, Vervain and Chamomile. There is significant anecdotal evidence to support the use of Skullcap in combination with Valerian to help pets suffering from epilepsy. Immune function can be optimised using herbs such as Echinacea and Gotu Kola and these herbs are particularly useful for animals whose immune function is compromised by long-term medication or chronic illness.
So you can see that there are many instances where herbal medicine can be used very effectively to optimise pet health however not all supplements are born equal. Source supplements for your pet from a reputable specialist manufacturer who can provide palatable quality tried-and-tested products, ideally formulated by a qualified Medical Herbalist. Follow recommended dosage carefully and if in any doubt contact the supplier’s Helpline or if you have concerns about your pet’s health contact your vet.
For more information on the herbal feed supplements and healthcare products that Hilton Herbs produce for animals please visit the website.