Part of the mission of Earth’s Natural Clay is to educate people not only about calcium bentonite clay, but also about other natural health topics. Our customers are not only interested in natural health for themselves, but for their pets as well. In our blog post Holistic Pet Health: Six Herbs for Pets, we highlighted herbs that can be used with pets to cleanse the blood, strengthen the heart and boost liver functioning, among other benefits. In this post, we share Dr. Randy Kidd’s recommendations on using herbs SPECIFICALLY for puppies and kittens.
When cats and dogs are kittens and puppies, there is a perfect opportunity to teach them to use and even enjoy the flavor of herbs. This is important because as with people, herbs can be vital to their health and well-being as they grow older and throughout their lives.
One of the best ways to introduce puppies and kittens to herbs’ healing powers is to play with the animals outside. It’s a great way to get them grounded and connected to nature. Encourage them to roll around in the weeds and learn the smells and sensations of plants. Yard weeds that are actually healthful include dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), cleavers (Galium aparine), chickweed (Stellaria media) and plaintain (Plantago spp.) Of course, avoid prickers and thorny weeds as well as known poisonous plants such as poison ivy, oak and sumac.
Tonics and Nervines
A tonic refers to an herb that is used to tighten, toning strengthening and feeding tissues directly. Their aim is to improve digestion in order to improve function as a whole. They are used to promote overall health viewed from Western herbal medicine. In Eastern herbalism, tonics are used to strengthen and build and can be specific to what they’re strengthening and building.
A nervine is an herb that works on the nervous system including the brain, spinal cord, nerves and neurons. Nervines are used to create balance and accord and not generally looked to for stimulation. Rather, nervines are relaxants that ease anxiety and tension.
Herbs to Grow for Pets
Consider planting an herb garden for your pets to enjoy while they’re young. Oats (Avena sativa) is super easy to grow and one of the best herbal nervines. Ideally, start them from seeds in a small patch or flat that is protected. Let the oats grow to several inches, at which point it can be set out for your pets to enjoy. Oat grass is a nervine and is highly nutritional. Its nervine properties are great for balancing a new puppy’s or kitten’s mindset in a new home.
Other herbs to consider planting around the yard include Echinacea (Echinacea spp.), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), catnip (Nepeta cataria), valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Ideally, plant some herbs where your animals can both nibble on and roll in them (depending on their size). Where feasible, plant additional stands in an out-of-the-way place where your pet doesn’t go so that there is excess harvest to dry and use over the winter. A word of caution around catnip: this herb from the mint family is not only invasive, but is extremely desirable to cats and can bring unwanted visitors into the yard. Plant with caution.
Tonic Herbs for Pets
Following is a list of tonic herbs to consider using with puppies and kittens:
- Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Hawthorn berry (Crataegus spp.)
- Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Milk thistle seeds (Silybum marianum)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
- Red clover (Trifolium pretense)
- Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus).
This information is not intended to help treat a sick pet with therapeutic doses of herbal medicines. If your pet is ill, bring them to a holistic veterinarian or holistic pet practitioner. The best and easiest way use herbs with pets is to use the entire herb – leaves, stems, roots and flowers. They can be used either fresh or dried. Puppies’ and kittens’ young bodies can be especially sensitive to biochemicals. Tinctures and some herbal capsules could have concentrated levels of plant biochemicals that may be toxic to babies yet suitable for grown animals.
By contrast, whole plants (or their roots) often have mild levels of dozens of biochemicals that work in harmony to wake up systems in the body gently. This interaction also helps to offset any possible harmful side effects. To be safe, mix small amounts of ground or macerated whole plants into your puppy’s or kitten’s food. Start small and add every few days. Observe them and provided all is well, increase the frequency.
One precaution when using whole herbs with puppies and kittens is that many herbs have a slight diuretic effect. Keep this in mind if you are trying to housebreak a puppy. In addition, consider limiting the intake of diuretics such as dandelion until the puppy is housebroken.
Getting Your Pet to Take Herbs
Just as with people, herbs are an acquired taste. Some people love a particular flavor and others can’t stand it. Animals are the same way and with a little trial and error you can find herbs that your puppy or kitten can grow to love.
Try sprinkling the herb on top of food to start with. Kittens and cats in particular are finicky and may need a little more coaching. Try hiding the herbs in some wet food or piece of soft cheese. For puppies, try mixing them in peanut butter or a chunk of raw meat. Another alternative is to mix a small amount of herbs in cooked oats and then add that to their food. The oats will provide additional fiber as well as the nerve-calming effect of the herb.
Herbs can be added to liquids before giving to animals. Brew a mild herbal tea and pour over or mix in their food. Herbs can also be steeped in meat broth. Oils can be infused with herbs. The key is to find oil your baby enjoys. Put several teaspoons of an herb into several ounces of flaxseed oil in a brown or blue glass jar. Let this sit for several days in the refrigerator. When ready to use, stir the oil well and pour a small amount over the puppy’s or kitten’s food. Leave the herbs in the oil – do not strain them out. Use just 1/2 teaspoon of oil per 10 pounds of animal.
Getting your puppy or kitten exposed to and enjoying herbs while they’re young can serve them well throughout their life. Since the suggestions here are not therapeutic levels, they are more likely to stimulate or “wake up” their little bodies. In this sense, there is very little likelihood for causing harm. Choose one herb in this post and try it out with your little one.
Kidd, Randy, D.V.M. “Herbs for Puppies and Kittens.” Herbs for Health March/April 2003: 24 – 25. Print.
Clark, Demetria. Heart of Herbs Certified Herbalist Program. Print.
Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 2003. Print.