Addison Dogs
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A community pawing it forward.

Western Herbs (continued)

“Herbal medicine is the oldest form of medicine,” says Bob Ulbrich DVM.  “Herbs have been a mainstay of medicine until recent times.” 

In the eighteenth century, explains Ulbrich, it was discovered that the chemical digitalis could be extracted from the foxglove plant.  This allowed controlled dosing of a beneficial, but often-deadly plant.  This discovery is where modern pharmaceuticals were born and traditional herbalism was left behind.

However, the art and science of herbalism was not lost altogether.  Today there are many holistic vets and practicing herbalists using herbs for their medicinal and nutritional properties.  In fact, Jo Powell, Herbalist and Holistic Health Educator describes herbalism as her “primary method of care.”  She works to achieve wellness primarily with herbs and incorporates other holistic modalities as needed. 

Some acute situations respond very well to herbs too. “Ginger is great for motion sickness,” says Hawkins. Give it to your dog in capsule or tincture form before car rides, to keep that queasy feeling at bay.

Even conventional vets are educating themselves and adding herbs to their treatment protocols.  Chuck Hawkins, DVM says he incorporated herbs into his conventional practice three years ago.  He discovered “herbs are slower acting and generally safer than many medications.”  He often uses them in conjunction with other treatments, both holistic and conventional.

Even though herbs are often gentler and safer than many modern medications, the results can be quite dramatic.  Ulbrich has seen remarkable things occur with the use of herbs, including “incurable heart disease that became cured with just the use of hawthorn.”  Hawkins relates a case of cataracts that was cured with the herb bilberry. 

While these cases are fairly specialized, many herbs have more varied and broader benefits.  “Garlic has over 200 different uses,” says Ulbrich.  “It’s a tonic, astringent, immune booster, antibiotic, helps clear the digestive tract…garlic can be fed every day.” 

Mary Wulff-Tilford, Professional Herbalist and co-author of All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets” recommends versatile chamomile “to make into a tea for upset tummies [or] to soothe and calm thunderstorm fears.”

The ever-present weed dandelion is also a helpful herb.  Ulbrich says “it’s been shown that dandelion is just as potent as furosemide (the prescription diuretic Lasix) without having some of the side effects such as potassium depletion, because dandelion also has very high levels of potassium, so it replenishes any potassium that is flushed out in the urine.  It’s also good for the liver [and] a blood cleanser.”   

Some acute situations respond very well to herbs too.  “Ginger is great for motion sickness,” says Hawkins.  Give it to your dog in capsule or tincture form before car rides, to keep that queasy feeling at bay.

Wulff-Tilford suggests using “cayenne pepper to stop bleeding in an emergency.  It can be applied directly to a wound…such as on a cut footpad, or a toenail.”

Adrenal shown on dog.

Powell recommends “Clark’s Rule” if you are unsure of how to reduce an adult human dosage appropriately for a dog.  With Clark’s Rule, divide your dog’s weight in pounds by 150.  This gives you a percentage.  You then give your dog that percentage of the stated adult dose.  For example, if your dog weighs 50 pounds, divide 50 by 150.  This gives you 33 percent.  If the adult dosage of a tincture were 30 drops, you would give 33 percent of that, or 10 drops to your 50 pound dog.

It’s always a good idea to consult with your vet before giving herbs in any dosage to your dog.

When using herbs internally, there are several ways to administer them.  Powell often adds fresh or dried herbs directly to the dog’s food.  Wulff-Tilford prefers a glycerin tincture or extract given directly in the mouth.   She also suggests making a tea with fresh or dried herbs, mixing it with some broth and letting your dog drink it.  The method you use depends on the herb and how your dog is willing to take it.

Teas and poultices also are great ways to use herbs externally.  Ulbrich suggests a rosemary tea to help with “flaky, eczema-type skin problems…rinsing the skin with an infusion of rosemary can be very, very soothing.” 

Mary Wulff-Tilford, Professional Herbalist and co-author of "All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets” recommends versatile chamomile “to make into a tea for upset tummies [or] to soothe and calm thunderstorm fears.

“When you are buying herbs off the shelf, be sure to get good quality,” says Ulbrich.  “Discount herbs won’t really give you the same [results] as well-processed herbs.” 

This is one of the reasons that Hawkins recommends working with a professional when using herbs.  Besides being immersed in the practice on a daily basis, professionals have access to the highest quality products available. 

If you are interested in using herbs to support your dog’s wellness, your best bet is to begin working with a professional.  You also can explore herbalism through books or classes. 

The most important thing to remember is that like prescription medicine, herbs can be powerful.  They may be the right answer to what’s ailing your dog, however like prescription medicine, if used inappropriately some herbs have the potential to be harmful.   

Herb/Medication Interactions: 
Herbal Remedies: Effects on Clinical Laboratory Tests


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Milk Thistle
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Traditional Chinese Medicine
Flower Essences
Tellington T-Touch

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What Is Addison's Disease
Medications & Lab Results
Complementary Therapy


If you are thinking about using herbs and/or supplements for your dog, please discuss it first with your veterinarian or seek the help of a qualified holistic veterinarian. If your dog is already on one of these therapies, inform your veterinarian that is caring for your addison dog. The use of herbs or supplements may influence prescribing of medications and the results of certain laboratory tests.



All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets
 by Mary Wulff-Tilford &
Gregory L. Tilford

Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats : Your A-Z Guide to Over 200 Conditions, Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements
by Shawn Messonnier

Veterinarians Guide to Natural Remedies for Cats : Safe and Effective Alternative Treatments and Healing Techniques from the Nations Top Holistic Veterinarians
by Martin Zucker