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    Herbs to Promote Health

    Without balanced nutrition, the use of herbal medicines in the holistic care of your animal is a waste of time, money and plants. (Tilford et al 2009)
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    The importance of a good diet cannot be emphasized enough. It is the key to good health and is the number one method in preventing disease. Herbs serve as a helping hand to good nutrition. According to author of, Herbs for Pets, if the body lacks nutrients, herbs are a pointless addition to the diet. For herbs to be of benefit, they need to stimulate the energy and building materials from good quality nutrients. For example, the herb Echinacea can assist the immune system by stimulating what is already in place from good nutrients. Echinacea is an excellent herb to give cats and dogs at the onset of an illness such as sinusitis and flu symptoms.
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    There are a vast array of herbs that can be of benefit to the health and longevity of our cats and dogs, however not all herbs are safe to use on a long term and continuous basis. For example, the herb Goldenseal should only be used short term. Goldenseal acts to inhibit pathogens that come into contact with the mouth, gut and urinary tract. It is an anti-inflammatory. Seven days is the advised amount of time to give this herb, as after this time, it can cause excessive salivation due to a chemical called Berberine. (Tilford et al 2009) Another example is garlic. It is a relatively safe herb to add to our pets diet, however in large amounts over an extended period, it can cause anemia (Goldstein et al 2005).

    Veterinarian and author, Dr. Goldstein, suggests that when purchasing herbal remedies, they should be from a reputable source, human grade with standardized formulas, which guarantee purity and potency. Formulas should be extracted from organic herbs using minimal alcohol for preservation. (Goldstein et al 2005)

    According to Tilford (Animal Herbalist and Author), a safe and long-term herbal supplement that can be added to cat and dog food is a combination of Nettle, Dandelion leaf, alfalfa, powdered flaxseed and spirulina. Mixed in equal parts, half a teaspoon can be added to a cats daily diet. This combination of herbs complements the diet with protein, vitamins A, B, C, E, K, omega 3 fatty acids and minerals including calcium, iron, phosphorus and magnesium. I presently add this mix to my cats diet, however I use four times the amount of freshly ground flaxseed to maintain bowel health, skin and hair. Flaxseeds should be freshly ground (use a coffee grinder) as it spoils very easily.
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    Very popular herbs for cats and dogs include:

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    Echinacea for immune support, a short term use herb that should be given at the onset of symptoms.
      -Goldenseal inhibits pathogens, anti-bacterial, short term use, commonly used in combination with Echinacea.

      -Milk Thistle assists to detoxify the liver, it is an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant.

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      Flaxseed (crushed) is rich in essential fatty acids, assists bowel movement and improves skin conditions.

      -Aloe Vera soothes the intestinal tract with its alkalinizing effect, it is an anti-oxidant, has antibacterial properties and is an overall tonic.

      -Garlic assists to rid the body of internal parasites (difficult to give to cats as most hate the smell and taste). Odourless garlic powder is the easiest to add into food in very small amounts. I sprinkle this into my cats food only once or twice a week.

      -Slippery Elm soothes the mucous membranes, assists gastrointestinal upsets. Taken with aloe vera juice, this really helps with our own digestive problems and our pets.

      -Ginger is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and digestive aid however I find it difficult to give to my cats as they really dont like the taste of this.

      -Dandelion leaf * a natural diuretic, it flushes the kidneys and cleanses the liver. A weak dandelion leaf tea can be added to drinking water as a mild kidney detoxifier.

      -Alfalfa* high in nutrients, an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory.

      -Parsley* a natural diuretic, treats anaemia, freshens breath.

      -Yucca to ease and assist arthritis and stimulate the appetite.

      -Mullein to assist upper respiratory infections & inflammation.

      -Nettle is high in nutrients, it assists with allergies as it has an antihistamine effect.

      -Chamomile an anti-inflammatory, assists digestion, a relaxing and soothing herb.

      -Rosemary is calming, relaxing, antispasmodic and a cardiovascular tonic.

      -Borage seed oil* an anti-inflammatory, treats the liver and is an overall cardiovascular tonic

      -Hawthorn increases renal circulation without increasing blood pressure.

      -Ginkgo dilates and improves tonicity of nephrons (in the kidneys), improves the central nervous system including senility by improving blood flow to the brain.

      -Burdock root is a long-term liver and blood tonic, diuretic and anti-inflammatory.

      -Turmeric is a potent antioxidant, stimulates bile production, thins blood and is known to prevent cancer.

      -Devils Claw reduces inflammation, eases osteoarthritis & stomach upsets.

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      Astragulus is a very safe herb used as an immune system strengthener, a liver detoxifier, good to fight viruses and respiratory problems and is palatable to cats.
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      Four of the most popular, palatable and safe herbs*, which can complement our pets health on a regular and long term basis and be added to the intake of minerals, vitamins, EFAs and other nutrients are:

      -Alfalfa powder
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      Borage seed oil
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      Nettle
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      Dandelion leaf
        Alfalfa contains a huge array of nutrients, which includes 50% protein, trace minerals, fibre, vitamins including A, B1, B12, C, D, E, K. Alfalfa is high in chlorophyll, which makes for an excellent antioxidant. Alfalfa is considered to be one of the best treatments for arthritis, rheumatism, gout and other inflammatory diseases. It is excellent in the care of older animals, as it does not irritate the stomach. Its alkalinizing effect reduces acidity in the gut and urinary tract. (Tilford et al 2009) Regarded as a safe, regular use herb, Alfalfa is often fed to animals that need to increase weight. (Messonnier 2001)
        Alfalfa can be combined with dandelion, yucca and licorice for overall health. (Tilford et al 2009)
        In regards to safety, Alfalfa powder is not a problem. However, the seeds can cause blood disorders due to a chemical L-canavanine. Animals who are allergic to pollen may also be sensitive to alfalfa. (Messonnier 2001)

        Borage seed oil is readily available in capsule form that can be added to the regular diet of cats and dogs. Borage has huge amounts of essential fatty acids, in particular, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA, an omega 6 fatty acid, is effective in assisting the liver, cardiovascular problems, inflammatory diseases and in treating itchy, dry skin. As GLA is critical in the production of prostaglandins, borage seed oil is an important addition to the diet. Prostaglandins are compounds essential for countless metabolic functions. As the body does not produce its own GLA, it must be obtained from a dietary source. (Tilford et al 2009)
        According to author of Natural Health Bible for Cats and Dogs, Borage Oil is often recommended to stimulate the adrenal glands. It can also be of use as an expectorant when suffering from bronchitis. It is also important that, due to omega 6 oils (including borage oil) being pro-inflammatory compounds, that omega 3 oils (fish oil) should be added to the diet for their anti-inflammatory effects. (Messonneir 2001)

        Flaxseed is also another highly recognised essential fatty acid. However, unlike fish oil and borage seed oil it contains linoleic acid (LA). As LA needs to be converted into GLA to be of benefit, a specific enzyme is required to carry out this process. Unfortunately, the enzyme required to convert LA into the more useable form GLA is not active in most cats and dogs. Due to this inability to achieve the full value of flaxseed, I add borage seed oil to my cats diet, as it is an active form of GLA, which is of great benefit to the health of my pets.
        One consideration that should be noted in regards to borage oil, are substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (also known as amabiline), which can be toxic to the liver. Therefore, borage oil supplements should be certified free of these alkaloids. (Livestrong.com 2011)

        Nettle contains a natural source of 30% protein, vitamins A, K, C, D, B complex and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, iron and magnesium. Obtaining nutrients from herbs such as nettle means that a vast array of nutrients can be obtained without stressing the system. All the nutrients are highly absorbable, without overworking the liver and kidneys. Nettle is an anti-inflammatory. It contains natural histamine, which may work as an anti-allergenic. (Tilford et al 2009)
        In regards to long term, regular use, Nettle is more than 99% free of any side effects. Studies with animals have shown Nettle to be very safe. The only precaution is, if the pet is taking anti-inflammatory or blood sugar lowering medications, nettle should be avoided. (Messonnier 2001)
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        Dandelion leaf has a mild diuretic action, flushing the kidneys whilst also discouraging bacteria from settling in the urinary tract. As a result, this action prevents the formation of urinary tract stone formation. Dandelion also cleanses the liver and improves digestion. (Allegretti et al 2003)
        When the body is not eliminating its waste products efficiently, it leads to heart failure, arthritis, gallbladder disease, kidney stones and pulmonary edema amongst other diseases. Pharmaceutical diuretics tend to rid the body of what it doesnt need; however, such drugs also tend to rid the body of molecules it does need. As dandelion leaf contains a rich source of potassium, it replaces what is lost in urination. (Tilford et al 2009)
        Whilst the leaf of the dandelion is a nutrient and diuretic, the root serves as a liver tonic, assisting in bile production, constipation and arthritis. (Messonnier 2001)
        Dandelion is a safe, regular used herb for cats and dogs. However, dandelion should not be used if the animal is being given pharmaceutical diuretics. (Messonnier 2001)

        Besides dandelion, Parsley is also an excellent (milder than dandelion) diuretic. Parsley also assists the effects of arthritis, it treats anemia and fed in a pulped fresh form, it freshens breath. It has antiseptic qualities and can assist as a diuretic in the early onset of renal failure. Its main uses are for gastric and urinary disorders. However, parsley should not be used if the kidneys are inflamed. Parsley contains an array of nutrients including 22% protein, vitamins A,C,B,K, fibre and minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. It is readily available fresh, and can be pulped and added into the regular diet. (Tilford et al 2009)
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        As most literature recommending herbal supplements for cats and dogs do not always indicate dosage size, I have devised my own fool proof method in calculating dosage for my pets. As all herbal supplements provide dosage for the adult human, simply divide that recommended amount with the weight of your pet. I know my cat is approximately 10% of my weight so I divide the dosage for him by 10.


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