Safe herbs for dogs

herbs-for-dogsSometimes at Land of Holistic Pets we get asked what exactly are ‘safe’ herbs to give to dogs.

For thousands of years humans have used herbs in cooking and medicinally.

In fact there are many safe herbs which help promote and maintain health in the body and strengthen or boost the body’s own immune system.

Herbs can give relief to underlying health issues and can even sometimes help relieve acute symptoms.

It is usual to take some sort of formulation of herbs for a particular condition like cancer or arthritis. Other formulations might aid digestion or help control skin or ear problems.

Different traditions have developed their own understanding and combinations of herbs. At Land of Holistic Pets we combine the best of eastern and western herbal traditions.

The ‘safe’ herbal formulations sold through the Land of Holistic Pets shop have all been carefully selected to address specific health issues. These include:

We also have tips to help you get your dog to take their herbal medicine.

Take a further look at our Introduction to herbs where we examine the wisdom of herbal pet care.

Polyvinyl Chloride, Vinyl or PVC and Dogs Toys

Give your dog a chance and remove any dog toys made with vinyl/PVC products from the house.

Owners need to be very cautious about the origin of their pets toys and what it is made from.

Products are all around us in our home – doors, windows,  drainpipes  and dogs toys, dogs feeding bowls and water dishes.

Chlorine is one of the main chemical building blocks but under certain conditions it produces one of the most toxic pollutants humans have yet created – Dioxins.

Dioxins cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, immune system damage and probably other that we have not yet found out!

These dioxins are the by-products of the manufacturing process of vinyl or if it is set on fire.

The story does not end there however because vinyl is usually a hard and brittle it requires the addition of other chemicals to make it soft, flexible, able to take colours and even scented.

To do this “phthalates” are added – pronounced with an “f” before “th” sound!

These chemicals do not actually bind to the PVC  and here is the rub – they move freely around it and also out of it!

Over the lifetime of the vinyl product, the phthalates will leach out of the product completely into, skin, mouth, water, air and earth – in fact anything which comes in contact with it. More so when heat or pressure is applied to the products.

Dogs just love chewing plastic, squeaky toys and in doing so, if they are vinyl, are probably ingesting these deadly chemicals as they go.

Not only do the phthalates affect the kidneys and liver, but they can seriously interfere with the reproductive system.

According to researcher Dr. Santillo at the Greenpeace Research facility these phthalates interfere with the chemical communication at the cellular level. He is of course referring to babies in the womb! Pups will no doubt be affected in the same manner.

A Danish report in 2006 looked at the health risks to pets from phthalates and the rate of transfer into and potential effects on dogs and cats. One observation they noted was that when swallowed, soft plastic toys very quickly became hard indication that the phthalates had leached out in a short space of time into the digestive tract.

China and India have become powerful players in manufacturing – hardly a day goes by that I do not get and email from some supplier offering dog toys, or cat feeding bowls, leads, packaging etc.  While EU legislation is place in for children’s toys, the same cannot be said for pet products.

Other additives in vinyl include:

  • Lead – used as a softener. affects the nervous system, causing behavioural and cognitive problems. Often in coloured products as well originating from the above mentioned countries.
  • Organotins – stabilisers that may affect the immune system and sexual development of cats or dogs.
  • Alkyl-phenols – used in the preparation of phthalates are well know for their ability to mimic the hormone estrogen.
  • Bisphenol-A – used as a stabiliser and helps to stop the vinyl breaking down. An estrogenic endocrine disrupter – linked to some cancers.

Yin and Yang of food for pets

In Traditional Chinese Medicine and other Eastern medicinal practices, diet is used in the prevention as well as treatment of disease.

The philosophies used are very different than the approaches used by Westerner practitioners who by and large view the symptoms as the problems and suppression of them, the cure.

The Eastern approach sees the symptoms as a result of another underlying problem. A bit like a Tsunami being a symptom but the earthquake the underlying cause.

In  Traditional Chinese Medicine, medicinal herbs are regarded as part of the diet when symptoms become apparent.

Food is not simply a source of calories and chemical compounds like protein, fat, and minerals for dogs and cats. Foods are looked at in how  they influence the pets  body as a whole: blood, fluid, individual organs and a body’s Qi (energy/life force).

One of the basics of  Traditional Chinese Medicine  is balance.

Each food has yin or yang properties to consider, and each food has a yin (cool, damp) and a yang ( hot, dry) constitution.

A diet should be designed to minimize imbalance in your dog or cat, not create further imbalance.

Balance is determined by Yin and Yang although both contain elements of each other. The white area is Yin with a Yang pair (black circle within the white area) The black area is Yang with a Yin pair (white circle within the black area).

It is not necessary to fully understand the principles of Yin and Yang to understand their influence in terms of diet.

Basically foods have a variety of effects on the body dependant on their Yin or Yang nature. Foods which heat the body are Yang, foods which cool are Yin. Thus we need to watch for balance in terms of not only Hot and Cold (Yang and Yin) but Dry and Damp (Yang and Yin).

In normal health the relationship between Yin and Yang is harmonious and dependent on each other.

Foods are broken down into many categories. Those being:

Direction – does the food influence Qi (energy), blood, or fluid upward, downward, inward, or outward. Skin problems for example are usually considered to be outward problems associated with excess body conditions. In simple terms, the body is pushing out the excesses through the skin.

Flavours – sweet (help digestion), sour (astringent/ drying) , pungent (spicy/ stimulate circulation, ie Garlic), salty (soften) and bitter- (aid digestion).

Meridians – how the food affects specific organs: spleen/ pancreas/ stomach (warming foods), lung/ large intestine (moistening foods), kidney/ urinary bladder (sweet), liver/ gall bladder (cooling foods).

Temperature which has to do with the way you feel after you have eaten – cooling as with salads,  warming as with oats, hot as with spices and neutral where there is no appreciative change.

And in addition, Traditional Chinese medicine attempts to achieve balance with the seasons
 – spring/summer (cleansing – why many skin problems only occur in these seasons)
 – and fall/ winter (warming/ nourishing).

Examples of cooling (Yin) foods:

  • Cooling Meats/Fish: Duck, Pork, Salmon
  • Cooling Grains: Millet, Barley, Wheat
Cooling Vegetables: Celery, Broccoli, Spinach, Cucumbers

Examples of warming  (Yang) foods:

  • Warming Meats:  Lamb, Red Meat, Shrimp
Warming Grains: Oats, Quinoa, Safflower
Warming Vegetables: Squash, Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans

Thus a proper holistic dog food or holistic cat food will pull together many of the facets above in order to produce a product which avoids excesses and seeks to balance the impact that the combined ingredients have on your pets body.