Herbal Therapy and Nutraceuticals for Dogs and Cats
By: Dr. Ilana Smolkin, DVM | Nov 1, 2016
Dr. Ilana Smolkin talks about how herbal therapies and veterinary nutraceuticals can be used in combination with traditional medicine to treat dogs and cats. Topics covered in this video include, herbs that can be found in the home, nutraceuticals, Chinese herbs, eastern medicine, western medicine, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, ginger, turmeric, herbal treated conditions, Cushing’s disease, gastrointestinal conditions, anxiety, sleep disorder, skin conditions, reducing side effects of traditional medications and drugs. Also discussed is inflammatory bowel disease, steroids, prednisone, regulation of herbal supplements, natural chemicals, and tea tree oil.
Hi, I’m Dr. Ilana Smolkin for healthcareforpets.com. I’m here to talk about herbal therapies and nutraceuticals for your pet.
Herbal therapies and nutraceuticals are becoming more and more common in both human and veterinary medicine. Herbal therapies can be what we consider Western herbals and those are things that you may even have in your spice cupboard or your tea rack. Things like camomile, fennel, turmeric and ginger for example. Chinese herbs are another sort of branch of herbal medicine. Nutraceuticals is a term that kind of encompasses anything that’s “natural” that’s used to help you or your pet. There’s a little bit of overlap between that and the herbals but often I think of nutraceuticals as things like your omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, things like that aren’t a true herb, they’re not really a plant extract but again something that can help support your pet’s health that’s not a drug.
Lots of conditions can be treated herbally. I’ve seen great success in practice with Cushing’s disease and being able to treat them with herbal therapies and gastrointestinal conditions so diarrhea, vomiting or just poor digestion in general, skin conditions, and even temperament issues so anxiety and sleep disorders so those sorts of things can be treated with herbals as well. A lot of these conditions can use herbals primarily although sometimes herbals are then mixed up with traditional medicine or Western medicine to try and get that better effect. So, for example, IBD often will still need steroids with treatment but herbals can sometimes make those take effect quicker, sometimes get us off the steroids faster or sometimes we see patients that have kind of basically reached as far as they can go or a plateau with traditional medicine and we can’t quite get them back to their great health and herbs can help take them there the rest of the way.
Although I see more and more herbal therapies being offered online or at pet stores, I think there’s a few points that are really, really important for us to keep in mind.
One, depending on what country you live in, regulation not quite there yet as far as herbals go so you want to make sure you’re getting herbal supplements from a really reputable source because we need to make sure that what you’re getting is what you’re getting. Is there really that herb in there? Is there that amount in there? It hasn’t been substituted out for something else? Because herbs can be dangerous if the wrong one is taken. For example, here in Canada, the regulatory body for herbs even distributed through a veterinary clinic is still optional for companies to buy into whether they want to or not.
Another important point and something I hear absolutely every day in practice is that its natural therefore it’s safe. That’s not true. Think of arsenic, arsenic is a natural chemical that’s found in the cherry. I don’t want to take any arsenic, do you? No. So just because something’s natural does not make it safe. You need to discuss what supplements you’re giving to your pet, with your healthcare, with your veterinarian or with someone who has training.
Not every veterinarian is going to have training in this so they might need to take some time to do some research or to refer you to someone that does have this type of training. Another great example that I see is tea tree oil. People use that on themselves all the time and love to use it for wound healing but it’s actually toxic to the dog and I’ve seen some pretty bad complications from its use in the dog.
Natural therapies can also interact with a medication that your pet might be on. Sometimes herbal medicine or natural therapies can lessen or damper the effect of that medication or sometimes it can heighten it and potentially make it up to a toxic level. So that’s why a discussion with your vet is so important so that they know exactly what you’re giving.
Now I absolutely don’t want to scare people because I love herbal therapies and since I started this training and doing this herbal therapy, I’ve really been able to heighten the kind of conditions they treat and it gives me other options when we’ve kind of run out of ideas with Western medicine or potentially come to a roadblock in our diagnostic process. Maybe we know there’s kidney disease but we can’t get it any further than that and even with referral they couldn’t figure out exactly what’s going on. Well just because we can’t find the specific drug that might help, sometimes supporting that system with an herbal therapy can be really helpful and I’ve seen great success with that. But again, for the best care for your pet it’s important that this is done with a healthcare professional and that you don’t take matters into your own hands or that you find a veterinarian that is trained in that because it can be different between humans and animals.
To find a veterinarian that’s trained, there’s lots of options out there, there’s certain licensing bodies or organizations that you can go to to try and help find a practitioner that is registered and licensed because what’s most important to us is your pet’s health here at healthcareforpets.com.
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