Adding herbs to your dogs diet
Caroline Hearn ~ Hedgerow Hounds
Thousands of years ago, animals relied on the medicinal power of plants to assist in the healing of many aliments. They were instinctively drawn to herbs, grasses, berries, seeds and roots in woodland and open ground to help everything from parasite control to intestinal discomfort, as well as valuable supplementation to their diet at certain times of the year.
Adding herbs to your dog’s meals can provide many health benefits. They offer a gentle, cleansing and balancing effect to the body, providing phytonutrients and fibre, which in turn support good gut bacteria.
Many of today’s dogs are not fortunate enough to be able to forage as their ancestors did so adding herbs, berries and seeds to the diet, particularly with a seasonal variation, can be hugely beneficial.
Here are some of my favourite herbs that are included in the Hedgerow Hounds herbal blends and why they were chosen.
Parsley: (Petroselinum crispum)
If you only have room to grow one herb in a pot, then parsley would be the one.
The most common varieties are curly and flat leaf and the leaf, stem and root can be used. The flat leaf parsley is more closely related to the wild species.
It is traditionally used to support digestive and urinary tract issues and as a breath freshener. It is high in antioxidants such as beta-carotene and lycopene which help fight inflammation and used to support arthritic conditions.
Parsley is rich in vitamin A, C, B1, B2, K, calcium, riboflavin, potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorous, fibre and chlorophyll.
Chamomile: (Matricaria chamomilla)
Is well known for its calming and soothing effects to the nervous and digestive systems. Chamomile flowers also make a useful tea which, when allowed to cool makes a fantastic skin and coat rinse to alleviate itchy or inflamed skin. Combines really well with calendula for this purpose also.
Rosehips: (Rosa Canina)
The ruby red rosehip covers the hedgerows from September to November and has traditionally been harvested for jams, jellies and syrups to be eaten over the Winter months and provide a welcome boost of vitamin C to fight off colds and flu. The red colouration is from carotenoids pigments known as lycopene and beta- carotene.
Rosehips are also beneficial for arthritic conditions particularly when combined with other anti-inflammatory herbs.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Traditionally used to lift the spirts and promote cheerfulness, and if you grow Calendula in your garden you will understand why, as it is the most glorious, vibrant orange colour. It is astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic in its action. Calendula makes a fantastic skin wash particularly when combined with chamomile.
Cats can be very sensitive to it, so it is not recommended to use either in their food or as a skin rinse.
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
The root of the marshmallow plant is high in a thick, slippery substance called mucilage. This makes it a wonderful soothing herb for any intestinal discomfort, reflux or a persistent cough. It is a very useful substitute for slippery elm which has sustainability issues at present.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
The leaf and root have affinities with the liver, gall bladder and kidneys and act as a gentle blood cleanser, laxative and bitter tonic. Bitter tasting ingredients promote salivation which in turn improves digestion. Traditionally dandelion would be used alongside burdock root for a powerful combination.
The leaves are a rich source of vitamin A, D, K, B complex, Iron, Manganese, Phosphorous, Potassium and the flowers are a good source of Lecithin.
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Rich in Iron, vitamin A, C, D and B complex, Silica, Calcium, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Beta-carotene and Potassium.
Only the tops of the nettles should be picked and used from early spring to around the end of May. As the plant matures it develops tiny crystalline particles which irritate the urinary tract and kidneys.
Nettles can be dried for a couple of days on paper in the sun or if the whole stem is cut, hang upside down to dry in small bundles and just use the leaves from the tips. Once dried you can crumble them easily with your fingers.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Fennel has a strong aniseed scent and grows large bulbs. The delicate, feathery leaves, seeds and bulbous root can be used and primarily taken to improve digestion, ease bloating, reflux, mild tummy ache and increase milk flow in nursing mothers. It is rich in vitamin C, A, calcium, iron and potassium.
Only pick and consume what you can confidently identify and forage away from roadsides and arable crops, which will undoubtedly have been sprayed with chemicals or exposed to pollutants.
Any nutritive herbs should not be used instead of seeking advice from a veterinary surgeon or veterinary herbalist.
More information can be found at www.hedgerowhounds.co.uk and on the Facebook pages @HedgerowHounds or Hedgerow Hounds Enrichment Garden.
Betsy’s Raw Food would like to thank Caroline for taking the time to write this blog specifically for us and our customers. We are so pleased to offer a selection of her herbal blends which you can easily add in to your dogs bowl at home!
Caroline has a long list of therapy and massage qualifications and she also writes articles about holistic health and nutrition for various magazines including Edition Dog, Labradors Forever and Healthful Dog. She has also written a raw feeding course for the ISCP of which she is an affiliate.
Diploma Sports and Remedial Massage level 4 VTCT 2002.
Certificate Holistic Medical Massage Jing Institute
Diploma International College Animal Therapy 2008
Diploma Canine Nutrition
Diploma Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Cert Myofasical Release & Canine First Aid
Complimentary therapy workshops including Acupressure, Raw Feeding & Tellington Touch.