Podcast 147: 4 Herbs We Give To Our Dog
An herbalist’s dog is going to get some herbs in her dinner every now and then. Our dog Elsie sure does! Choosing herbs for dogs doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult, and there are a lot of them that can help a pup feel her best. In this episode we highlight four herbs we give to our own puppa:
- Seaweeds for nourishment, joint support, and immune resilience-building.
- Solomon’s seal for protecting joints & connective tissues, and reducing inflammation there.
- Pumpkin seed was a quick solution to a tapeworm problem Elsie had when we first adopted her.
- Chamomile is a go-to herb when she’s feeling anxious or unsettled.
We also briefly discuss nettle, Japanese knotweed, teasel, and catnip for related intentions.
Working with herbs for dogs effectively depends on knowing the herb’s basic qualities, actions, and affinities – these are all very similar whether it’s a human or a canine taking the herb. In our Holistic Herbalism Materia Medica course, you’ll get the deep-dive info on 90 amazing herbs. Then you’ll be able to work with them confidently and skillfully, for yourself – or for your pets!
Hi, I’m Katia.
And I’m Ryn.
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcast. Here we are. This is our second episode of 2021. This is episode 147 overall.
No, isn’t it 150?
Well, there were some that we didn’t number, because they were replays.
Well, 147 original.
Original episodes for you, yes.
Yeah. That’s pretty good. We are here with our beautiful dog, Elsie, who has…as soon as I said that she just picked her head up. And she was like me, or are you talking about me? She’s had a good, hard romp outside catching the frisbee, and now she is happily laying on the floor with us. And that is good, because today we want to tell you about four herbs that we give to our dog Elsie. And before we do that, we want to tell you, and also we need to tell you, that we are not doctors.
Nor veterinarians. We are herbalists and holistic health educators.
Yeah. The ideas we discuss in our podcast do not constitute medical advice for you or for your puppers. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the U.S. And these discussions are for educational purposes only. Everyone’s body is different, and every dog’s body is different. So the things we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but they will give you some good information to think about and some ideas to research further.
And we want to remind you that your good health is your right, and it’s your own personal responsibility. So that means that the final decision, when considering any course of therapy, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician or a veterinarian, is always yours.
Yes. You can make these choices together with your puppa. Okay. So.
I would like more dinner.
No, I don’t think that’s a good idea, Elsie.
So yeah, so really, we’re just going to chat about a few plants that we work with Elsie pup on occasion, and we’ll talk a little bit about why. So this is not your comprehensive herbs for dogs or herbs for pets material. There’s really a lot to say, you know. Herbs are good for animals of all kinds, whether it’s dogs, cats, birds, lizards, whatever you can think of. And there’s really a lot to be done and to learn there. So this is just a little taste.
Seaweed & Minerals
But I would say that these are probably the most common herbs that Elsie works with. Although one of them is less common these days, because she got over that problem. But let’s stop the mystery and jump right in and start with seaweed. Because seaweeds are actually the single most common herb that Elsie works with. I like to put seaweed in her dinner every night and every morning..
Yeah. Both times. So we keep seaweed around in a few different forms. But the ones we’ve been giving Elsie have been cut and sifted. Kind of like you just have your leafy herbs in your jars from the herbs suppliers and herbs shops. So we put some into her food. We put some into our own food, really making dinner, and just a sprinkle of chopped seaweed.
Yeah. Not much. Like really like a pinch or sometimes two pinches.
One of those pinches where you have like three or four fingers involved.
Yeah. It’s not a tablespoon of seaweed. It’s like literally just a sprinkle on top. But a little bit of seaweed in every meal means that Elsie is getting minerals that she might not ordinarily get. So, in the wild dogs would get minerals from their water supply, which is not happening for domesticated dogs, because the water is filtered. And water filtration is good, because it’s not good to have crud in your water. But one problem with really aggressive water filtration is that it does demineralize the water. So, if you have like reverse osmosis or any other kind of water filtration system in your home, then that water is not mineral rich like it would be if your dog was just drinking out of a stream. Which Elsie does love to do, but doesn’t get to do every day.
Right. Yeah. And dogs in the wild would also get a lot of mineral content from eating the bones of little tasty creatures that they would encounter on their travels.
And although we do try to give Elsie bones pretty regularly, a dog in the wild would be eating bones every single day. That would just be a part of like every time they eat. They would be eating bones and parts of the animal that they were eating that they don’t have access to in a domesticated diet.
Yeah, including connective tissue. And we give Elsie bone broth. That is actually one of the methods that we’ll use to give her a lot of herbs. With the seaweed here, we have been able to just sprinkle it right on the food. And the food we give her, it’s wet food.
Yeah, like human grade cooked food. It’s some meat, usually some egg and some kind of vegetable, maybe some kale, squash, green beans, occasionally some broccoli. She likes broccoli the best actually. But it’s like food that you could just eat also. It’s regular human grade food. But even that, it still isn’t complete. Just because a dog in the wild doesn’t just eat ground pork or ground beef or ground whatever. They eat the whole mouse or whatever it is that they’ve caught. One other place that animals get minerals in the wild is from dirt. So we’ve got to think about how to humans get minerals. Well, we get minerals from our plants in many cases. But how do our plants get minerals? They get minerals from the soil. Well, how does the soil get minerals? The soil gets minerals because rocks break down over time. And so by the way, if you have removed all the rocks from your garden, and you’re not adding minerals to your garden, then the vegetables that you’re growing in your garden do not have as high of a mineral content as you would like them to have. So even though rocks are not good for mechanical tillers, for my gardening effort, I would prefer to till, or just not till it all, but till by hand without a tiller tool. And then leave all the rocks in the garden. But at any rate dogs in the wild would be getting minerals the same way that plants do, because every time they eat they would be getting a little bit of dirt. And in the wild that dirt has a high mineral content because it is mixed up with rocks and whatever.
Yeah. And it would have a high microbial life content as well, you know?
So, seaweed is replacing some of those minerals that she would normally be getting in other ways in her diet. And even though she gets good food and human grade food without a lot of fillers, it’s still is not going to have the mineral content that she really needs. So seaweed.
Yeah, seaweed. And the seaweed is also helping to support joint health and connective tissue health. That’s something that we observe with the seaweed where it has a lot of these constituents called glycosaminoglycans or GAGs. I suppose gags. But those are compounds that are found in seaweed, and are kind of unique to seaweeds and macroalgae. But they’re very similar in some ways to glucosamine or chondroitin or these constituents that are found when we cook up connective tissue and make a bone broth. And these are elements that are going to support the growth and the recovery of connective tissue. So that’s nice to get a kind of bonus support there.
And that’s particularly important for our dog in particular, because Elsie is a very athletic dog who will catch a Frisbee literally for 10 hours straight. And likes to jump high to catch it in the air. Sometimes will flip when she catches it. And she’s like seven now. She’s like a gymnast dog, and we need to make sure that we’re doing extra work to support her joint.
Right. Yeah. She really needs a good romp every day. And she’ll go hard.
Yeah. She’s still the fastest dog in the dog park on most days, even at her age.
Yeah. So seaweeds are supporting there. And then one other thing, and with this one, well, let’s say it. So seaweeds, they also, from those polysaccharide contents that they have, they support immune health. So this is pretty well documented in lab studies and human studies and so on. I have to admit, I haven’t seen one about dog immunity and seaweeds. But they’re mammals. They’re really similar in their physiology to us. And the way that these go to work for us inside our bodies, you have to imagine it’s going to be about the same in a dog. But anyway, you know, it’s all around good for her. It’s nutritive. It’s supportive to the joints. It’s probably got a little extra bonus help for the immune function there, certainly to keep inflammation in check.
Now, you might be thinking, well, Katja, well, Ryn, what about nettle? Couldn’t you give Elsie nettle? We could. But Elsie tends to run a little on the dry side. And with her joint, you know, she doesn’t have a particular joint problem. As she gets older we do notice she is very athletic. And we do see a little bit of sports kind of not injury, but like impact on her joints overall. And so in general we would prefer in her case…Oh, and the other factor I wanted to say here is that she also has a lot of tension in her body. And some of that is muscular, because she is very athletic, very gymnastic. And also some of that we see it in her personality. We see it in her guts too, that she’s just wound a little bit. And so if we were to give her nettle, that wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would be drying. And in general, if we’re going to choose a high mineral herb for Elsie, we would really prefer one that comes out on the moistening side, and gets the bonus also of some joint support going on. So if you have a dog who tends towards dampness, who tends towards a lot of like water retention or is like maybe, you know, is kind of like, well, how would I know if my dog retains water? The same way that you do as a human. Maybe they are a little overweight, but also they’re puffy, not a lot of tone in them, not a lot of tension in your dog. Your dog is kind of a puddle. Our cat Glory would like to be included in this conversation, and she just threw a pen at the microphone.
Sorry about the giant smash.
So, if your dog is kind of a puddle, and that’s how you could define your dog, then maybe nettle would be a more appropriate herb. Or you could certainly go with both. But that would be the sort of situation where I’d be thinking about nettle instead of seaweed.
Solomon’s Seal & Joint Health
Yeah. All right. Let’s stay in the kind of realm of joint health and inflammation and athletics for a moment here, and talk about our next herb, which is going to be Solomon’s seal. So Solomon seal isn’t one that we’ll give to Elsie every day. The seaweed, we pretty much have been every day for a while now.
Every meal, yeah.
You know, and again, it’s small amounts each time but consistently. The Solomon’s seal is one that we’ll bring out for Elsie when she’s kind of got a little sprain or a strain going on.
Yeah. She gets sports injuries just like humans do. Sometimes she jumps really spectacularly and maybe kind of comes down a little on the wrong paw. And, you know, it happens to her just like any athlete.
Yeah. Or sometimes we’ll take her out for a day of romping and it might be kind of a different physical challenge. I’m thinking of times when there’s a spot by the seaside that we really like to visit. And this is not like white sandy beaches. This is like the piles of craggy boulders. And you just kind of clamber all over them for your day. And we love to do that. And Elsie likes it too, you know. She’ll jump from rock to rock. She pretty quick over uneven terrain and everything. But it definitely challenges her muscles differently than the daily romps at the park. And you can see her being a little stiff in some new spots.
Yes. The next day she’s kind of like a little creaky when she gets up.
Yeah. Yeah. So on days like that, that’s when we’ll give her Solomon’s seal. And with this one we prefer to deliver it in a broth. So we’ll have cut and sifted Solomon’s seal. We’ll make a bone broth. Put in some seaweed, you know, put in gristle bones and all of that. But then we’ll put in a solid handful of Solomon’s seal in it. And let it cook down for a couple hours. And then we’ll take that broth and just put a splash of it, you know, a ladle full right onto her dinner. And stir it right in. And she eats that up, and that’s how she gets her dose.
Yeah. And, you know, there have been times that we have put Solomon’s seal right into the dinner. But honestly Solomon’s seal does really benefit from cooking it, cooking it in water specifically. So putting it in broth, and if you can’t put it in broth then at least…like, because you’re, I don’t know, traveling or whatever…just put it in a little bit of boiling water to kind of like rehydrate it, soften it. And then once it’s cool, go ahead and put the water and the roots themselves right in. Fresh root would be fine too, but we don’t have that. Like if you happen to grow tons of Solomon’s seal, and you just have access to fresh root, that’s fantastic. Just pop it right in there. But our Solomon’s seal population is not large enough yet to do that.
Yeah. I do know some folks who will work with tincture. Take a dropper of tincture or the right amount for the size of the creature, and put that into the food and stir that in. We never really felt delighted about that.
No. Animals don’t process alcohol very easily. And so I’d rather avoid that whenever possible.
Yeah. And, you know, we’ve got it around. So we just like to put it right in the food that way, or make a broth and get it in. So Solomon’s seal, if you’re not familiar with this plant, this is like our number one herb for connective tissue inflammation and injury and creakiness and tension excess as well. And all of that can come from a hard workout or from challenging muscles and tendons and ligaments in new ways. This herb can also be helpful if you just have an older dog who’s got arthritis, has some creaky joints, or has the tension in the hips. A little bit of Solomon’s seal broth in the food every day, that should really help to support lubrication in those joints, to support fluid movement through those connective tissues.
Plus when you do it in the broth, you’re also getting all that collagen and the connective tissue broken down for them. A lot of people like glucosamine and chondroitin as a supplement for their animals. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s lots of data about it. But honestly it is more bioavailable, both to humans and to pets, if it comes from the broth itself and even still in that delivery mechanism.
Yeah. And if it was a more long-term thing, then there are a couple other herbs that you might include to put in there with your Solomon’s seal. If you’re going to be making this, then you may also put in some Japanese knotweed, for instance. That’s another herb that really supports connective tissue. In certain circumstances you might also include teasel root there. That one’s particularly good for maintaining muscle integrity specifically. So a little less focused on the joints there, but a little more on the muscle itself.
Yeah, and integrity in particular. If you think about teasel, it’s very springy. It is a plant with a lot of tension in it. And so this can be helpful when you have a pup who maybe is having like hip dysplasia or hip issues where the joint kind of pops out pretty frequently. And again, I’m not saying this will cure like an elder dog’s hip problems or something like that. That’s definitely not what we’re going for her. But in terms of just being supportive, making the whole situation a little easier to manage, it will be very helpful for that. Very helpful in that case.
Pumpkin Seeds & Tapeworms
Yeah, indeed. Okay. so let’s see. Next one, probably let’s talk about the pumpkin seeds.
Yes. He came to us see is a rescue dog. Oh, wait, wait, wait. Before I do that, rescue dog just made me think of it, because I was going to say everybody should rescue a dog, because it’s pretty wonderful. But what I wanted to say before that was everybody should plant Solomon’s seal because it’s pretty wonderful. So Solomon’s seal is a very easy to grow plant, just ridiculously easy. And it will grow in a wide variety of climates. The only thing that it really is picky about is that it wants to be in the shade. So if you have a tree in your yard or like a shady area of your yard that is shaded most of the time, like the shady side of the house or something like that, you can grow Solomon’s seal. And honestly it doesn’t take a lot of care. It’s not a challenging plant to grow. It just wants to be not dried out. It doesn’t need to be soggy, but it doesn’t want to be dried out. And it wants to have mostly shade. And Solomon’s seal in the wild is at risk. But, cultivated Solomon’s seal is just every bit as good. And it’s super, super easy to do so. I really think that we need like a new generation of Johnny Appleseed, and let it be like Samantha Solomon’s seal. I don’t know. And just planting Solomon’s seal everywhere, everywhere, everywhere that you go. So even if you know that you’re not going to live where you live forever or something, just go ahead and plant it anyway. Because it’ll be there for the next people, and that’s fantastic. Okay. So pumpkin seed.
Yeah, pumpkin seed.
So when we adopted Elsie she had come up from the South. This is fairly popular in New England, because there aren’t enough dogs to adopt in New England as there are the number of people who would like to have dogs as pets. And because there are too many dogs in the south and not enough people to adopt them. There are multiple organizations who will transport dogs from the south to the north. So they have like foster programs. The cats are really, really wanting to be involved here. They have foster programs to help adopt dogs and you can find them on Petfinder and just the various adoption sites. And then, you know, you Skype with the dog, and you talk to the people who have been fostering it. And then they just bring it up for you, and then you have your wonderful dog. And so that was the case with Elsie. And when she got here, she had a lot of trouble with tapeworms. And she was fairly healthy overall. They had done a really good job. But just tapeworms kind of can linger and can be hard to manage.
Yeah, it wasn’t impacting her energy or her behavior in any particular way. You know, she would just sometimes do a poop. And then there would be this little dancing bits of kind of looked like rice, except that’s definitely wiggling. All right. So that would happen every now and again.
Yeah. And sort of something that goes along with that is…these two things often kind of go in tandem is that your dog will eat poop when it is out. And for Elsie, she was a connoisseur of goose poop, which is abundant in New England. And so these were challenges that we were still working on when she came to us. And I tried like all different kinds of things to manage the tape worm. And the thing that I found to be most successful was coarsely ground pumpkin seeds. And most successful in many ways. They very quickly dispatched with the tapeworm, and they were very acceptable to Elsie. So, you know, garlic can be helpful, and turmeric and other things, but they have strong flavors.
Yeah, we did try a little bit of those mixed into the food and powder. She put up with it. She became like more reluctant the longer that that went on in the dinner. She would be like, oh, again, really? But with the pumpkin seed, so we would grind them up just in a little grinder. And it wasn’t a lot each time. It was like a quarter.
A quarter cup. Yeah. A quarter cup and just sprinkled it on top of her food. And she was like, no problem. She didn’t mind at all. It’s kind of nutty guys. It’s not bad.
Yeah. That didn’t really seem to bother her. So, I mean real simple thing, but yeah. If you have a pup with tapeworm situation, give it a try. It can’t hurt and real simple.
And really we haven’t dealt with that since she was two. Like we dealt with it that first summer when she first came, and then it wasn’t so bad over the winter. And the second summer we still were kind of clearing out the remnants of it. And then since then, no problem.
Chamomile & Calmness
Yeah. All right. Simple. An herb that we give Elsie, I’d say, a little more frequently is chamomile. Yeah, chamomile. And this one, I think I can remember the first time we were really serious about giving her chamomile. And it was after the neutering operation.
Yeah, when she got spayed.
I always get those mixed up.
Yeah. She got spayed. And they said, well, she has to lay still for like a week. And we were like, have you met our dog? Are you crazy? Like that’s not going to happen. And so we were like, what can we possibly do to get her to lay still?
Well, so what we ended up doing was putting chamomile into her food. And again, this was really just as simple as that. We would take about a quarter cup of dried chamomile flowers. Stir them right into her wet food dinner. And they would kind of saturate for a moment, and then we would just put it down for her. And she would eat it right up.
Yeah. And she really does. So now she’s about like 50 pounds or maybe 40, 48 or 49 pounds. And if we give her chamomile, we give her between a quarter cup and a half a cup of the dried flowers. And sometimes literally I can just dump them on top and it’s fine. And sometimes they need to be a little bit soaked in broth. It really did get her through that recovery phase, so that she would feel calm and a little snoozy, and allow herself to just heal. But these days we do it a lot when there are thunderstorms or if there’s going to be fireworks.
Yeah. We’ve lived in various neighborhoods around the city over the years. And some of them were very much the fireworks for like the whole week or two up to the 4th of July. Not so much this past year, but definitely previous years, a lot more explosions in the neighborhood. And that always really got her anxious and unhappy. So, we would kind of preemptively be like, all right, we know they’re going to start going off once the sun goes down. Let’s give you chamomile in your dinner this evening. And yeah, that always helps.
She also really is very uncomfortable when there’s strong wind. Or even if there isn’t thunder and lightning, like a strong wind with strong, heavy rain.
Kind of shaking the house a little bit.
Yeah. Like this isn’t a hurricane, but it’s impressive. And here in coastal New England, we get that several times.
You get a good nor’easter on occasion.
Yes. And several times through the summer too. And so those are times when she just really, it’s almost like relief for her when she’s so antsy. She’s so antsy. She can’t settle in anywhere. And then it’s like, hey, how about a chamomile snack? And I’ll even just, like even if it’s not dinner time, I’ll be like, you need some chamomile. And I’ll put like a little bit of broth and like a quarter serving of a meal, and then almost as much chamomile. Stir it all up together. And it’s like she just breathes a sigh of relief. And she’s like, thank you. Thank you. Now I can lay down.
Yeah. If your dog doesn’t want to eat the chamomile flowers just right on the food or in the food, then just put it in broth. Just treat the broth as if it was the boiling water you’d make your infusion with. Steep the chamomile in there. Strain it out. Mix that fluid right in. It’ll still taste meaty and be super appealing in that way and everything. But that will definitely draw those constituents out and get them into your puppa. So, yeah, that’s how we do it. All right. I’ve got a little bonus one here. Because we often talk about chamomile and catnip together, and this is actually no exception. So what happened with this one was we have several cats here in the house. And I’ll often give everybody a little catnip just because, you know, cats need herbs too. And they’re not quite as interested in the whole array of plants as dogs tend to be, or accepting of them. But they do like catnip for sure. So I try to get them some every day. And I’ll kind of walk around to each cat and give them a little pinch of call it human grade catnip, I guess.
Yeah. Like literally just the catnip right straight out of our apothecary.
Yes. Medicinal power catnip. But I’ll give everybody a little pinch. And I noticed that Elsie would watch me do this. And so I was like, all right Elsie, lay down. And what we’ll do often when we’re giving her like a little bit from our dinner is we’ll have her lay down and put a little bit right on her paw. And she has to wait and look at it until we say, okay. And then she can eat it up. So I was giving the catnip to everybody. And I would say all right Elsie, lay down, and put a little catnip right on her paw and have her wait. So like build some suspense. And then she’s like, okay, I really want it. And then I’d say, okay, you can have it. And she’d lick it all up and kind of look at me like why are you giving me dry leaves? What’s the deal with this?
That was not bacon.
Yeah. But she also kind of looks like, okay, I participated. You know, like she gets to be part of the group. She’s not left out. And I think that that actually matters to her.
I think so too.
So now it’s just a habit every time. Anytime everyone’s getting catnip, then Elsie gets some.
Honestly, honestly, I do think that she likes it. I do think that it…
Because she licks it up. She’ll get all of it. She won’t leave a little pile of leaves on the ground. She’ll go back for it.
Yeah. And I do think that it settles her in a somewhat different way than chamomile does. Like chamomile is stronger on dogs than it is on humans. And it does kind of knock her out a little bit. She doesn’t like totally fall over and fall asleep, but she definitely is like very chill. And catnip doesn’t knock her out. Yeah. But there is still a noticeable, like, maybe contentedness.
Well, she certainly whines less. So there has been an occasion when Elsie’s been just a little antsy and I’m like, I’m sorry. I need to stay at this computer for another hour or so. And you just have to get through this thing and be like, all right, have a little catnip. Just, just hold on. And that’ll usually give her that bridge, you know, until it’s time for the next break. And we can run around the house a few times. Yeah. So again, just a sampling of some plants that we work with our own dog. And we think that lots of dogs could benefit from.
And really like the most common ones. You don’t have to do like super strong things for animals. They respond really, really quickly and well to gentle herbs.
Yeah. I guess I should say these are all plants that we’ve also suggested to students and to clients. I’ve had a few clients that the session was for the animal. And a lot of this same stuff came up for the joint health, for the nutrient boost, for the anxiety relief and everything. So yeah. Tried and tested. Definitely worth experimenting in your own furry friends. Cool. Well, that’s it for this week. We’re going to be back next time with some more Holistic Herbalism podcast for you.
Until then take care of yourselves, take care of each other, take care of your pets.
Scritch their ears.
And drink some tea or get some tea into the dinners for everybody.
Yeah. All right. See you later.
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