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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Herbs and Spices as Healthy Additives for Dogs

Guest writer - Karen Rosenfeld, Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer

Monday, 13 February, 2012


Humans have used herbs and spices to add flavour to their food and to treat ailments for thousands of years. So, it should not be surprising that there are many herbs and spices that are good for dogs. Holistic medicine for dogs includes the use of herbs and spices to treat and ameliorate ailments and diseases.

Herbs and spices can also be added to your dog’s food as part of a healthy diet. One of your dog’s best defenses against ailments and diseases is healthy immune system. A healthy diet supports a healthy immune system. Whole raw foods can be an excellent addition to your dog’s daily diet - fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, eggs, yogurt, herbs and spices. In addition to the health benefits, dogs do like the taste of many herbs and spices.

Herbs and spices should not be indiscriminately given to dogs. Some herbs and spices are very powerful and can have side effects while others are mild and less likely to cause issues. Before you decide to give a herb or spice to your dog make sure you know its use, side effects, toxicity (if any) and safe dosage.

On a daily basis, my dogs eat the following herbs and spices...Aloe Vera, Basil, Caraway Seeds, Flax Seed, Fennel Seeds, Garlic, Green Tea, Parsley, Rosemary, Turmeric and Ginger. These herbs are all non-toxic and beneficial for dogs, but like any other foodstuff should always be provided in a safe amount. You can refer to the dosage chart at the bottom of this article. While these herbs are non-toxic, they can interfere with conventional western medicines - this is discussed further below.

Here is a little information on the benefits of each of these herbs/spices…

Aloe Vera contains amino acids, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, vitamin A, C and E. It has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy agents and is an anti-oxidant. 100% pure Aloe Vera juice can also be taken internally to boost the immune system, help reduce the symptoms of allergies and to help the healing of wounds. Aloe Vera gel can be used topically to help wounds heal - 100% Aloe Vera Gel is best. Daily dosages for my dogs are as follows ½ tbs for my 4lb dog, 1tbs for my 8 lb to 25 lb dogs and, 2 tbs for my larger dogs 30 to 70 lbs.

Basil is rich in essential vitamins, minerals, phyto-nutrients, electrolytes and oils that are essential for optimal health. Basil is an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant. Basil is well known for its multiple disease preventing and health promoting properties. You can use fresh basil or dry basil.

Caraway Seeds are rich in dietary fibre, vital vitamins, and minerals, anti-oxidants (cancer and disease fighting). Caraway seeds are considered a warming herb - meaning they help the body stay warm. Caraway seeds are also good for muscle health (anti-contraction).

Cinnamon is an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-septic, warming and soothing, calming, carminative (anti-flatulent). Cinnamon is said to have one of the highest anti-oxidant levels of all food sources. Cinnamon can help remove the alfatoxins present in foods. Cinnamon is also good for keeping teeth clean and fighting bad breath. I use the powder form ( ground cinnamon).

Flax Seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, anti-oxidants, nutrients, minerals and vitamins that are essential for optimal health. Flax seeds also help pass toxins out of the body. There are two types of flax seeds - brown and yellow (golden), both are similar in nutritional value. Daily dosages for my dogs are as follows ½ tbs for my 4lb and 8lb dogs, 1tbs for my 10 lb to 25 lb dogs and, 1 heaping tbs for my larger dogs 30 to 70 lbs.

Fennel Seeds are rich in dietary fibre, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, rich in vitamins, minerals. They also help protect the body from infection, disease and cancer. Fennel seeds are good for the urinary tract. They also help in the absorption of foodstuffs - thereby helping to keep your dog’s teeth clean and helping with digestion.

Garlic You may have heard that garlic is bad for dogs. Well, garlic has been used for many years by holistic veterinarians. The confusion about whether garlic is good or bad seems to have arisen from confusion with its close cousin, the onion. Both garlic and onion contain thiosulphate, the substance responsible for causing ‘Heinx Factor’ anemia in dogs. However the amount of thiosulphate found in garlic is much lower than in onions, in fact the amount in garlic is barely traceable! The fear of garlic is a new one - propagated by rumour on the internet and not proven by any facts or study.

When garlic is ingested in reasonable amounts there are no harmful effects, only beneficial ones! Garlic is known for its antic cancer, diabetes, liver, heart, kidney disease fighting properties as well as its use as a natural flea repellent and dewormer for dogs.
Please do not add garlic in a mixed form to your dog's diet (i.e. garlic steak spice - this is not pure garlic and can make your dog very ill). When I refer to garlic I am talking about garlic in its pure form - garlic cloves. A safe dosage for garlic is 1 clove/10lbs of body weight per day. I use finely chopped fresh garlic, you can also use dried, ground garlic.

Ginger is an anti-coagulant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, carminative. Ginger also helps in the absorption of foodstuffs - thereby helping to keep your dog’s teeth clean and helping with digestion. Ginger also helps in treating nausea such as motion sickness. Ginger helps boost healthy blood circulation, so it is very helpful for a dog that is prone to vascular damage of the extremities. My Boxer, Robbie has very short fur and is particularly susceptible to vascular damage (i.e. frost bite of the extremities, including ears). In the winter I add about 1 tbs of finely chopped ginger root to his daily salad. You can also use dry, ground ginger.

Green Tea is rich in anti-oxidants and is helpful in fighting some cancers. It is also calming.

Parsley is high in fiber, rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals which help fight cancer and enhance the functioning of all organs. It also helps the body pass toxins and fights bad breath. Fresh Parsley is best but you can also use dry parsley.

Rosemary is high in fiber, rich in vitamins, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti fungal, anti-septic, disease preventing and health promoting properties. You can use fresh or dry rosemary.

Turmeric is high in fiber, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, rich in vitamins and minerals and offers protection against cancer, stroke, anemia, neuritis, memory disorders. You can use powder (most commonly available), crushed or fresh root. I use the powder form (ground turmeric).

Introducing Herbs to Your Dog’s Diet
My dogs have never had an allergic reaction to the herbs or spices that I give them, but just as with any other food stuff, some dogs may react to a herb or spice when other dogs will not. I always recommend that if you are going to introduce a new foodstuff to your dog, introduce only one new item at a time. Wait a few days before introducing the next new item. Allergic reactions can range from runny eyes and nose, sneezing, itching, swelling, diarrhea or vomiting.

When Should Herbs & Spices Not be Introduced to Your Dog’s Diet
Certain herbs and spices do not create a hazard by themselves; however, they can interfere with conventional medicines. If your dog is on any conventional medicines please make sure you consult your veterinarian before you introduce herbs or spices to your dog’s diet.

Anti-inflammatory (i.e. Rimadyl)
Cardiac drugs
Central Nervous System drugs

Chemotherapy drugs
Diabetes / Hypoglycemic drugs (i.e. Insulin)
Diuretics (i.e. Furosemide, Diazide)
Hormones (i.e. Thyroxine)

Herbs & Spices That Are Safe for Dogs
The following provides a partial list of herbs and spices that are safe for dogs.
Aloe Vera
Flax Seed
Green Tea
Milk Thistle
Oregon Grape
Red Clover
Slippery Elm
St. John’s Wort

Herbs & Spices that Are NOT Safe for Dogs
The following provides a list of some of the herbs that are harmful to dogs…
Tea Tree Oil (must only be used in diluted carrier such as almond or olive oil in a ratio of 50:50)
Ma Huang (Ephedra) use under supervision of a holistic veterinarian only.
Wormwood (a dewormer that should only ever be used under the supervision of a holistic veterinarian)

Daily Amounts Based on Dog’s Weight
The table below provides a general guideline for herbs/spices based on your dog’s weight. The information provided in the table is an extract from Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Dogs Care.

Dog’s Weight
(on dog's food once/day)
1-10 lbs
a small pinch
less than 1/4 cup, 1-3 times/day
1/2 capsule, 1-3 times/day
1-3 drops, 2-3 times/day
10-20 lbs
a bigger pinch about
1/4 cup, 1-3 times/day
1/2-1 capsule/tablet, 1-3 times/day
3-5 drops, 2-3 times/day
20-50 lbs
2 pinches-1 teaspoon
1/4-1/2 cup, 1-3 times/day
1-2 capsules/tablets, 2-3 times/day
5-10 drops, 2-3 times/day
50-100 lbs 10-
2 pinches-2 teaspoons
1/2-1 cup, 1-3 times/day
1-2 capsules/tablets, 3-4 times/day
20 drops, 2-3 times/day
Over 100 lbs,
up to 1 tablespoon
up to 1 cup 3 times/day
adult human dose
adult human dose

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