It can be all too easy to take the health of our canine and feline companions for granted until something goes wrong. Because they have no way of coming out and telling us when they aren’t feeling well, it often isn’t until something is very wrong that we humans finally take notice.  And while modern veterinary medicine is phenomenal when it comes to acute care, there is often not a lot to offer when addressing the more chronic conditions that many of our pets develop as they age. 

The good news is that the world of herbs has as much to offer our pets as it does for us, especially if we take a more preventative mindset towards our furry companions’ health. A daily dose of nutrient rich herbs can easily be sprinkled over their food, mixed in with some nut-butter for a special treat, or added to their drinking water. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to invest in your pet’s future health and well-being.

The following is a basic blend of nutritive herbal tonics that you can mix in your pet’s food on a daily basis. On top of providing a plethora of essential vitamins and minerals, the herbs in this formula benefit nearly every system in your pet’s body; they help to support proper digestion and detoxification, build a healthy immune response, and nourish the nervous system so your pet can be more resilient in the face of stress. The formula can easily be customized to your pet’s needs, and you can add in soothing digestive tonics like calendula for a dog or cat prone to digestive upset or a calming herb like skullcap for a pet prone to anxiety. 

The important thing is to start now. Giving them the best chance for a long and healthy life is about what you do today. However, as always, please consult your veterinarian before introducing any new elements into your pet’s diet.

The herbs in this formula are: 

ASTRAGALUS (Astragalus membranaceous) — Astragalus is a Chinese root known for its strengthening properties; helping to support your body’s natural resistance to disease, enhance tolerance to stress, and improve energy levels in those who are depleted.  Note: if your pet is suffering from an acute illness, it is best to discontinue this herb until they have passed the acute stage. 

NETTLE LEAF (Urtica dioica) — The leaf of this prickly plant is a nutritive powerhouse that strengthens kidney function and supports a healthy histamine response , particularly if the freeze-dried leaf is used. 

OAT (Avena sativa) — The seeds of the oat, harvested before they fully mature (known as the milky stage), act as a nutritive tonic for the entire nervous system, supporting healthy cognitive function, calming anxious feelings, and helping to stabilize mood. 

DANDELION LEAF (Taraxacum officinale) — The leaf of this common lawn invader is packed with vitamins and minerals, supports healthy kidney and liver function, and helps to support healthy digestion. It is one of the most complete plant foods on earth.

FLAX SEED (Linum spp.) — Flax seeds are well known for their high levels of essential fatty acids, so important to cardiovascular and brain health. They also help to lubricate and soothe the digestive tract.

To make the formula, simply mix together equal parts of the powdered or finely cut leaf of each of the herbs listed above and provide 1 tsp per 25 pounds of weight (i.e. for a 50-pound dog, use 2 tsp, etc.) at feeding times. If you have a picky eater on your hands, mixing this into some nut-butter or tuna will almost always do the trick. 

Writer Danielle Charles Davies holds a Bsc in Herbal Science from Bastyr University and completed the two-year clinical training program at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism in Montpelier, VT. Her writing has appeared in Taproot, The Journal of the American Herbalist Guild, and Kindred Magazine, among others. She lives in Northern Michigan with her husband, two dogs and eight ducks. She blogs at www.bluemoonkitchen.com.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.