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.

The Role of Diet in Dog Epilepsy

I read an article recently which suggested that “an emerging trend in human healthcare is the focus on the link between diet and disease.”

The author of course missed the fact that Hippocrates (c. 460 BC – c. 370 BC) raised the issue. “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”.

Here we are in the 21st century and only wakening up to this simple fact, that diet not only influences health but can cause disease.

Another very interesting little snippet is that out of the 30,000 or so edible plants thought to exist on the planet, eleven of them account for 93% of human consumption – corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, millet, sorghum, beans, barley, rye, oats and cassava.

As far as human beings are concerned very little has changed since man first started to cultivate food. Also, the animals raised for food today are the same ones that were domesticated for that reason in Stone Age times.

What has this got to do with epilepsy in dogs you might ask, but the history of human and dogs diets are almost one and the same thing since dogs were domesticated.

Dogs are scavengers and when left to their own devices will find food in whatever available form.  This is how I believe they came to be domesticated in the first place. Looking for food, man recognized a need and a use – the bond was created and satisfied the needs of both – man and dog.

Dogs diet then started to mirror that of the provider – man.

Subsequently, dogs experienced similar health issues that man experienced simply because the diets of both were locked.

The real problem is that man and dog have stuck with the same or similar food products and as choice has increased it is only at the expense of quality.

The industrial revolutions brought highly refined foods to all but at a price.  Diligence is required to avoid certain foods and in particular, highly processed foods contain a variety of the basic food making them harder to detect and eliminate.

Nutritional Deficiencies and Seizures

It has been recognized that there  are a number of specific nutritional deficiencies in both humans and canines that are known to cause or aggravate seizures.

Until recently some proponents of the raw diet blamed the cooking of food and its ‘apparent’ destruction of the nutrients as being the problem.

Modern approaches are leading us to a better understanding and the cause appears to rests with the damage done to the digestive system by certain foods. Particularly the duodenum and jejunum- the first parts of small intestine after the stomach.

The villi are the tiny, finger-like projections that absorb nutrients and some foods destroy these rendering humans and dogs alike, unable to absorb vital nutrients which in turn  provokes the seizures.

Causes of Damage to the Villi

Four foods known to cause villi damage are corn/maize, soy, casien and gluten.

The gluten comes from the gluten grains- wheat, barley, and rye.

Casein comes from cow’s milk/ dairy  products.

Adhesives are made from these four foods. Powerful, industrial-strength glues are made from soy, casein, and gluten whereas corn is used for paper/cardboard products. The glycoproteins which make up these foods  adhere to tissues and damage it.

Glycoproteins that we derive from foods are now called ‘lectins’. There are good and bad lectins in food with the most damaging coming from the same four foods listed above.

We now know that these lectins are central to autoimmune disease like thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type-1 diabetes, lupus, and more.

Brain Stimulator

Glutamate is one of the principle neurotransmitters in our brain. Too much and we or our dogs get too excited.

Thus excessive glutamate can lead to over-stimulation of neurons and result in seizures, reduced pain threshold, sleep disorders, emotional disturbances and so on.

Glutamic acid is the parent protein in MSG (mono sodium glutamate).

MSG is used as a neuro-stimulator, acting to sensitize the open-ended nerves in our taste buds so that food will taste better. MSG is a known trigger of seizures, as is its sister amino acid, aspartic acid, the parent protein in the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet). Both amino acids are neurostimulators  stimulating our sense of taste.

Wheat gluten is 25% glutamic acid by weight. Casein protein in dairy products  is 20%  while soy protein has much more glutamate than either of these two. Corn contains the least amount but it can do more harm to the intestinal villi in susceptible individuals, leading to malaborption of essential nutrients and worsening food allergies.

The toxic effect of corn is now a hot topic with people interested in autism.

Conclusions – Diet and Supplements.

The first foods to eliminate are the gluten (wheat, barley, rye), casein ( dairy products), soy, and corn. This stops further damage to the intestinal villi. It may be advantageous to also cut out chicken since they are often fed on corn.

Eliminate the other sources  of glutamate like peanuts, soy’s closest cousin,  all beans  (except green beans) such as  garbanzo, lima, black, kidney, and navy. Lentils are another source of glutamate.

Consider supplementing with calcium, iron, iodine, B complex, vitamin C, and trace minerals but only once you have followed the above – the body should now be able to  properly absorb them.

Taurine  is an essential amino acid made by dogs but requires the essential amino acids of Cysteine  and Methionine in order to produce it.  It appears to be released by the hippocamous during seizure activity. It is not known exactly why this happens and some suggest as  protective measure by the body while others suggest that it just part of the process. As such taurine supplementation may be worthwhile for some dogs.

Magnesium – supplementation has been successful in some dogs but should not be used if renal failure is evident.

by George Burns (Article first appeared on Burns Pet Health US.)