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Herbal Medications For Dogs

Despite the fact that the aromatic plants are the basis of most medicinal drugs, it is important to note that herbal medication is at variance with the traditional remedies. Unlike in the instance of the traditional medications, herbal remedies utilize different parts of a complete plant rather than segregating the solitary dynamic elements contained in the herbs. It may be mentioned here that in the instance of the conventional study of herbs or herbalism, the selection of the herbs vary according to the dog's traits as well as the canine's health situation. On the contrary, in the case of contemporary herbalism, medical practitioners give more importance to the chemical ingredients contained in the herbs.

It is interesting to note that since the earliest days of evolution of life, animals were quick to realize the fact that consuming some specific kind of plants had a positive impact on them. They also became aware that ingestion of these specific vegetations made them experience better health. For instance, the dogs devour grass with a view to bring on vomiting and get rid of any noxious substance that they might have consumed.

Although the conventional study of herbs came into view and progressed in all pre-historic human civilizations, classical herbalism was documented most effectively in the primeval Hindu scriptures, especially the Vedas, approximately 5,000 years in the past. In fact, Ayurveda or the natural system of medicine practiced in the Indian sub-continent for over 5,000 years, considers all factors while treating an ailment. This system of herbal therapy also utilizes the herbs used in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and informs us through fables the manner in which the animals initially helped the humans to find out the therapeutic significance of different herbs. History says that the conventional study of herbs thrived in ancient Europe too and the Persian and Islamic medical doctors supplemented the subject.

Later, when people from different European nations disembarked in North and South America, Africa as well as Australia, their knowledge of herbs or herbal medicine was enhanced when they learnt about the therapeutic value of the medicinal plants used by the local inhabitants. In fact, when the epidemic of flu first broke out in the European settlements in America, the patients were frequently administered sage or Salvia officinalis and boneset or Eupatorium perfoliatum. Although pharmaceutical companies have engulfed much of the medicinal market now, even now herbs continue to be a crucial element of most conventional medications for treatment of all humans as well as animals throughout the globe.

It is worth mentioning here that the aromatic plants or herbs are extremely adaptable and multipurpose and various preparations can be made with them. Herbs may be used fresh or dehydrated and administered in several methods such as tea or tincture, infusions or ointments, poultices or compresses. The different herbal preparations have their specific benefits and shortcomings and one needs to do some exploration on the subject to determine the preparation that would suit your dog's medicinal requirements best.

It is advisable only to administer such herbal products to dogs that have been specifically prepared for them. For instance, compared to tablets, it is always better to use tinctures for curing dogs as the canine's petite digestive tract can readily soak in this form of herbal preparation. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that the majority of animals have an aversion to tinctures prepared with alcohol and hence it is better to administer tinctures with vegetable glycerin base. Tinctures based on vegetable glycerin are sweet to taste and have a flavor similar to that of corn syrup.

Looking at the world of herbs, one would be surprised to know that there are hundreds and thousands of herbs used by people belonging to different cultures or civilizations across the globe and it is virtually impossible to chronicle all of them. Hence, as an alternative to endeavoring to prepare a list of the different herbs found and used worldwide, here is a shorter listing of some basic and helpful aromatic plants that are comparatively simple to trace as well as utilize.

Here are a few tips that may help you in procuring the right herb that best suits your dog's medicinal requirements. It is important to know the source or place of origin of the herb while purchasing any of these aromatic plants. Moreover, it is also imperative that the buyer ascertains that the herb is original and not blended synthetically. At the same time, as far as possible, make sure that the herb has been cultivated organically and harvested naturally. And while administering the herb to your dog, first find out the prescribed dosage of the herb for the particular condition in a full grown adult and give much less than that to the canine.

Always remember that if your dog is suffering from a serious condition that may prove to be hazard to the animal's life, consult a veterinarian before administering any herbal medication to the canine. It is essential to consult a veterinarian or an herbal medicine practitioner before using any herb on your dog. This is all the more imperative if an herb is known to have adverse effects following its use. It is important to note that herbs cannot and should not replace the conventional medicines, but may used effectively as a supplement and support to the traditional form of medication. Normally, herbs are not administered to patients in any urgent situation. On the contrary, herbs are generally used to treat chronic or incessant conditions where there is no binding on the time for curing a patient.

Aloe (Aloe vera)
The aloe vera is a fragile and luscious herb that generally thrives best in tropical type of weather, but finds it difficult to stay alive in other climes. In fact, there are several chefs who grow aloe vera in pots at a corner of the kitchen that receives maximum sunlight with a view to have an effective remedy at hand in case of any burns. The aloe vera leaves enclose a substance similar to jellies that is effective in comforting the skin inflammation owing to as insect bites, trivial burns, lick granulomas ( petite accumulation of granulation tissue caused by constant contagions) as well as hot spots. Aloe vera possesses anti-bacterial characteristics and hence can be used during surgeries to induce the curative process. Another advantage of aloe vera is that when it is applied externally on animals, they will refrain from licking that part of the body owing to the herb's astringent flavor.
Administering aloe vera on an effected part of the body is simple. You just need to cut a leaf, take out the juice enclosed and apply it externally. It is important to note that the aloe vera may also be administered internally basically as a laxative. As the internal application of aloe vera may lead to acute stomach troubles, it is always advisable to use the herb externally or consult a herbal medicine practitioner before administering it internally to cure any condition.
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
The burdock is distinguished for its effectiveness in cleaning the body of all toxic deposits when used over a period of time. Therefore, burdock is also reputed as a ‘blood purifier'. Owing to its ability to flush out all toxic wastes from the system, burdock is highly effective in healing arthritis as well as liver and kidney disorders. People residing in localities where the use of pesticides and chemicals are excessive should think about using burdock as dietary add-ons for the pet dogs. When burdock is added to a dogs' diet, it helps in sorting out the lethal contaminants found in the atmosphere from their system. In addition, burdock is also very effective in curing unceasing skin disorders like eczema.
For those who are unacquainted with the herb, burdock is not only an effective, but also safe aromatic plant and can be administered without any apprehension of adverse effects or any degree of toxicity. Instead, the herb helps in eliminating toxicity. What is more interesting is the fact that even most dogs like the flavor of burdock and eat it willingly. One may procure fresh burdock roots at the local health food stores, chop them and put these in his or her dog's food. Alternatively, dehydrated burdock roots are also available and may be mixed with the dog's food.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Calendula, also known as the pot marigold, is beneficial for keeping the skin well toned as well as treating and alleviating skin irritations. The herb effectively restrains infection and creams and lotions prepared with calendula may be used to heal minor skin inflammations like poison ivy, insect bites, wounds as well as insignificant burn injuries. It is essential to ensure that the wounds are unsoiled and free from any contagion before applying calendula on them as the herb is very effective in treating skin disorders and mending ruptured skin quickly.
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
In Latin, coltsfoot literally denotes ‘cough dispeller' and has been an important ingredient in most cough syrups for hundreds of years. In fact, coltsfoot is an effective remedy for producing and getting rid of phlegm. The herb is also anti-spasmodic in nature helping in controlling spasms. The herb may be used for effective treatment of infections in the respiratory system, deep gasps that also takes pneumonia and kennel cough into account. What is of most significance is that coltsfoot not only hold back cough signs, but also assists in cleansing the body of the causes for the ailment. It is worthwhile to mention here that many nations have limited the use of coltsfoot as the herb encloses hazardous alkaloids. Hence, it is essential to take the advice of a competent herbal medicine practitioner if one considers using coltsfoot for some time.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Like calendula, dandelion is distinguished for its ability to cleanse the system of toxic wastes. Basically, dandelion or Taraxacum officinale is a universal wild plant found in the lawns. The herb has multipurpose use as it is very effective in cleansing the blood circulatory system and assisting the body to get rid of toxin and noxious substances. In addition, the herb is useful in helping the body throw out the toxins from the liver and kidneys while maintaining the potassium intensity of the body. The herb is also an effective durative that increases the outflow of urine. Dandelion also controls the movement of bowels. If anyone does not use pesticides or chemicals in their gardens, he or she may straight away collect the herb from their garden and add it to their dog's diet for desired results.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Apart from being an important spice used by cooks worldwide, garlic is a valuable herb that helps in inducing the functioning of the liver. The numerous benefits of using garlic includes getting the body rid of toxins, lessening free radicals or reactive atoms or molecules in the body that may lead to cancer, improve the immune system and also function as a germ eliminator. It has been found that garlic is also effective in reducing high blood pressure and enhancing the digestive system. This is in addition to the herb's ability to help the body to stay away from tumors as well as micro-organisms like parasites, viruses and fungus. Many herbal practitioners also use garlic as a natural deterrent for flea. As in the instance of burdock, people having dogs as pets may use garlic in the canine's diet a number of times every week. The herb may be used fresh or as a dehydrated powder. It is important to note here that it is not beneficial to use any herb in excess and this is also true in the instance of garlic. It is advisable to use garlic in restraint as it has been found that extended and excessive use of the herb is likely to lead to anemia.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Distinguished for its ability to alleviate nausea, ginger is often administered to people suffering from vomiting tendencies as well as motion sickness. In case your dog happens to suffer from carsickness, it is advisable to give him a capsule enclosing powdered ginger root at least half an hour before you embark on a journey. Ginger is also effective in healing indigestion as the herb is known to be an excellent stomach comforter.
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)
Over the centuries, hawthorn has been used conventionally as an astringent (a substance that draws tissue together) to heal diarrhea as well as other disorders. However, present day herbal medicine practitioners mainly use hawthorn as a heart tonic with a view to induce the circulatory system, control the blood pressure as well as lower arrhythmia or irregular heart beats. Hawthorn's ability to repair the muscles of the heart makes the herb an effective medication for dogs suffering from cardio-vascular problems as well as congestive heart failure.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.)
Also identified as the ‘great detoxifier', licorice is a valuable herb that possesses several properties such as being anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic and also anti-viral. It is important to note that licorice is also capable of enhancing the functioning of the kidneys as well as the internal secretion system. Owing to licorice's ability to soothe the irritation and swelling as well as the mucous membranes, many herbal medical practitioners recommend the herb for colitis (inflammation of the colon), gastritis as well as diverticular ailments. Here is a word of caution. The herb should never be administered to animals suffering from heart disorders, particularly quick heart beats or high blood pressure.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
The milk thistle belongs to the sunflower family and is distinguished for its usefulness in healing any condition related to the liver. As the liver is burdened with the enduring task of getting the body rid of wastes and toxins, at times, especially during any stress, the organ also requires some support in carrying out its functions effectively. For instance, when a dog is administered any treatment like chemotherapy, a vaccination or anesthesia, the amount of toxic materials goes up in the animal's system and in such cases using milk thistle helps in cleansing the system more effectively. In fact, when the intensity of toxic materials is high in the system, milk thistle helps in protecting the liver. All said and done, majority of the herbal medicine practitioners are in favor of using milk thistle only when it is required and not simply as a liver tonic or medicine to stimulate the liver. Substantiating their view, these herbalists point out that haphazard usage of milk thistle may adversely affect the liver. In addition, it must be ensured that the herb is never administered to a pregnant dog.
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Parsley is effective not only in restraining cancerous growths, but also a useful tonic that enhances the performance of all organs of the body. In addition, the herb is also effective in cleansing the blood stream as well as the liver of all waste materials and toxins. In the case of humans as well as in dogs, parsley helps in doing away with bad breath. All these properties of parsley make the herb an ideal dietary supplement for your dog.
Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
Raspberry is generally considered to be a tonic or stimulant for the womenfolk. This is mainly owing to the fact that the herb is very effective in reinforcing the walls of the uterine as well as calming down spasms. In fact, raspberry is a commonly used herbal nutritional supplement for pregnant bitches and many veterinarians recommend the use of the herb throughout the pregnancy period of the bitches with a view to maintain the health of the uterus and also induce fast milk production by their mammary glands.
Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva)
The bark of the slippery elm tree has been identified by herbal medicine practitioners to be a crucial remedy to cure inflammation of the colon, diarrhea and several other swelling and irritation of the intestines. The herb is effective in calming down the moist lining of the intestines containing mucus-secreting cells and is also beneficial in healing disorders of the respiratory and urinary tracts. The herb is extremely useful for dogs having very susceptible stomachs, especially those who have severe effects following even an insignificant change in their diet.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Herbalists have used valerian for hundreds of years for the herb's sedative features. In fact, valerian is a normal tranquilizer that helps in alleviating pain, contractions of muscles and even palpitations. Administering a very small dosage of valerian often helps in soothing the nerves of a terror-stricken or nervous dog. You may administer the herb to your dog before any situation that might give rise to anxiety to your pet, for instance prior going on a long drive or visiting a veterinarian. Researches have also established that usage of valerian is useful in lessening seizures in animals suffering from epilepsy. It must be noted here that administering a higher dosage of this sensitive herb may lead to intestinal problems. In addition, valerian should never be given to animals that are about to bred.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is an ordinary flower found in abundance along the roadside, but has numerous remedial properties that make it a valuable herb in curing several conditions. The yarrow is a very effective diuretic and helps the body to get rid of all waste materials and toxins by enhancing the urine outflow. At the same time, the herb is beneficial for alleviating irritation and swelling and has a calming effect on the mucous membranes or the moist lining of the organs comprising mucous-secreting cells. While yarrow is effective in blood clotting, the herb is widely recommended for curing fevers and infections.

How traditional forms of medicine function

Unlike in the modern-day allopathic treatment where same medicines are prescribed for the same disorder among all people, the conventional forms of medication, such as the herbal healing, lays emphasis on the characteristics of an individual suffering from an ailment. For instance, the Ayurvedic form of medication insists on the equilibrium of the ‘energies' or forces both contained by as well as exclusive of the body. Ayurveda depends on the five basic elements - ether, air, fire, water and the earth. This form of traditional medication states that these five basic elements are present in three ‘doshas' or energies and they are present in all persons, animals, food and environment in different measures. Ayurveda further stresses on the fact that as all animals have a distinctive composition of these ‘doshas' or energies, it is essential to keep in mind their arrangement of ‘doshas', age and the time of the day while healing their ailments by the use of herbals. As a result, this form of traditional medication offers different treatments for the same ailment in different animals.

It is interesting to note that the conventional study of herbs or herbalism in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is also similar to that propagated by Ayurveda and both these forms pursue a common prototype. Both Ayurveda as well as the Traditional Chinese Medicine illustrate an illness as a ‘pattern of disharmony' or an imbalance between the energies within and without the body. Going by the Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are various kinds of herbs that are used for perspiring, vomiting, draining downward, thawing, cleansing, lessening, harmonizing and some also with tonic or stimulating actions and each of them are used depending on the combination of yin and yang of the patient as well as that of the herbs with a view to reinstate the harmony in the body. For instance, the herb ginseng is considered to function as a stimulant to the yang inclination of the body that is said to be male and forceful. Hence, according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine, the herbal medication is basically tailor-made depending on the requirement of each individual animal.

In most cases, herbal treatments are usually exercised to rectify the functions of the body and are administered in small sequences. There are many dogs that are averse to ingesting fresh or dehydrated herbs mixed with their diet and in this case they are provided with tablets prepared with herbs. Using herbal medicine for dogs may often be counter-productive. For instance, when certain herbs are applied externally on people, they prove to be useful for the skin, but when they are applied outwardly on dogs, the animal is likely to lick off the medicine thereby contaminating itself. Hence, it is advisable to make your dogs get into Elizabethan collars before applying an herbal medicine on them externally.

Preparation of herbal medicines

There are many plants which are wholly important from the medicinal point of view, while only some parts possess therapeutic value in other plants, shrubs and trees. Again, the parts of plants that are of medicinal value may be prepared in various ways. While infusions, tinctures, decoctions, teas and tablets are prepared with herbs for ingestion, ointments, lotions, creams, poultices, compresses and infused oils are prepared from herbs for external use.

It may be noted that tinctures, infusions and decoctions are best and most reliable herbal preparations for dogs as these are prepared from aromatic plants that are known to be harmless when ingested by the animals. The coarse parts of the plants like the barks, roots and berries are boiled in water to prepare decoctions or herbal drinks. After boiling the herb in water for some time, the liquid is rinsed and drunk either hot or cold. On the other hand, to prepare a tincture, soak the herb either in water or alcohol for some weeks and rinse it before storing the liquid in dark bottles and cool dry places. Normally, a tincture can be preserved for two years and taken whenever the need arises. Herbal infusions are basically prepared like tea by boiling the leaves and flowers of medicinally important plants in water and usually taken hot.

The utilities and benefits of herbs

To protect themselves from the predators as well as other natural hazards, plants produce certain compounds. While these chemicals are essential for the survival of the plants, they are also useful for other living things such as humans and dogs. For instance, the most popular herb worldwide, garlic encloses more than 200 different chemicals and many of these are beneficial for dogs too. As mentioned earlier, garlic has many properties and they include lowering blood pressure, facilitating the disintegration of waste substances from the cells, and also functioning as a moderate repugnant for fleas. On the other hand, leaves of the ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) plant enclose materials known as flavonoids. These flavonoids are very efficient in hunting down as well as neutralizing the free radicals (reactive atoms or molecules) found in the body. Similarly, another herb known as Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is useful in controlling the intensity of sugar in the blood and also influences the adrenal glands (secreting cell mass of the kidneys).

Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera) is a very popular herb in Ayurvedic herbalism and is known for its ability to enhance the hemoglobin as well red blood cell content and thereby counteract anemia. Similarly, the oil of cedar (Cedrus) is effective against disease-bearing micro-organisms as it is said to possess anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and acaridical (eliminating mites) properties. The oil hauled out of neem (Azadirachta indica) seeds is also known to possess anti-bacterial features and scientific studies have established that it also helps in restricting ringworms. As mentioned earlier in this article, researches have demonstrated that aloe vera possesses analgesic, anti-microbial as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Interestingly, when aloe vera was tested on horses, it was found to invigorate the immune system too.

It is interesting to note that several herbal medicinal products have been developed to heal deadly diseases like cancer. For instance, the herb Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) encloses a substance known as vincristine that has been found to be useful in minimize tumor growths in specific categories of cancer. Initially, when vincristine was available only as a concentrated solution extracted from the plant, it was a very costly herb. However, preparation of artificial vincristine in the laboratory has made it cheaper and accessible for treating white blood cell cancers in dogs.

Preparing infusion with herbs

Here is how you can prepare an infusion with peppermint leaf or Roman chamomile flower at home. Infusions prepared with these herbs are antiseptic in nature (helpful in controlling infections) and produces an instant calming effect in conditions such as open wounds and skin contagions. These herbal infusions are also useful in alleviating moderate gastro-enteric disorders.

To prepare an infusion with either peppermint leaf or Roman chamomile flower, first boil some water in a clean and sterilized cup. Pour the boiled water in another vessel and heat one teaspoonful dehydrated or two teaspoonful of fresh herb in the cup. When the herb is heated, fill three-fourth of the cup with the previously boiled water. Cover the cup and allow the herb to permeate in the boiling water for approximately 10 minutes. Next, strain the liquid and store it in a covered cup in a cool dry place for use whenever necessary.

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