Herbs for Horse and Pet Health

Why Your Animals Can Benefit From Natural Herbs

Dog in Field

Using Herbs To Help Your Animal's Health

The use of herbs to help promote the health and wellbeing of many animals, has been the case for hundreds of years. (Did you know that due to the efficacy of plants, many 'conventional' medicines are actually originally derived from plants?) You will sometimes hear the term "Phytotherapy", this is how modern herbal medicine is often described.

Although herbs are natural, it doesn't mean that they are not powerful. And so as with any complementary therapy, veterinary advice should be sought before using to ensure the safety and health of your animal.

Why Aromatherapy May Help Your Animal

Animals have a natural ability to self-medicate. In the wild if a horse felt ill it would find the plant or herb it needed, picking its own medication. Due to domestication, animals can no longer do this. Remember horses or any animal in the wild won't usually have a Vet to look after them!

A trained equine aromatherapist or zoopharmacognosy practitioner will offer various essential oils for the horse or other animal to inhale from their hands. The essential oil used will be dependant on which one the horse prefers.

Essential oils should not be taken internally, and apart from lavender should not be used neat - but either with a carrier oil (such as sunflower or almond), or in a water-based gel.

In general all essential oils have the ability to strengthen the immune system. And are detoxifying. Essential oils can be used as preventative treatment. Regular massage before and after exercising your horse, will encourage optimum performance, prevent injuries and increase bonding between you and your horse. Likewise this is the case for dogs too. If you spend time regularly massaging your dog. (Tip: Why not take a massage for dog-owners course to learn the best techniques for your dog? Please email me at info @ taranet. co.uk if you'd like help finding a course).

A trained equine aromatherapist /zoopharmacognosy practitioner will only work with the vet's referral or permission. An aromatherapist cannot make a diagnosis. There are also many Veterinary Surgeon's who do use aromatherapy in their practice. Get more information on this therapy at my Animal Aromatics advice page here.

Why Herbal Feed Supplements For Your Animal

Herbs can have a variety of effects including:
  • Antiseptic
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Sedative
  • Stimulant.

By being aware of each plant's properties, and being used carefully. The horse, dog, cat or other animal can be relieved of various symptoms or illnesses. With often few, if no side effects. (except feeling better of course!). Herbal healthcare is a very popular complementary animal therapy. And is often used as alternative medicine too.

There are various herbs and plants that can be used including - aloe vera, arnica, basil, garlic, seaweed, nettle, rosemary, tea tree, dandelion, rosehip and liquorice. Please find below an overview of some of the most popular herbal remedies. And how they can be used to help many animals (from pets to livestock):

  • Aloe Vera is related to garlic and has many properties, e.g. anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-viral and anti-bacterial - it can be used internally & externally. To learn more about Aloe Vera - please visit our Aloe Vera page.
  • Arnica is often used topically to soothe muscular aches and bruising, read more.
  • Basil has expectorant (think respiratory health!). And antibiotic/antiseptic properties.
  • Bilberry this plant is commonly used to help with eye health. Read more here
  • Blackberries, these don't just taste great. Use for helping horse and dog health. Read more at my blog
  • Chamomile for calming hyperactivity and relieving stress. Read more here.
  • Chasteberry is used for hormonal ailments - see my blog for more.
  • Dandelion is used to treat kidney or liver disorders, the root stimulates the liver and the leaves act as a diruetic. Read more at this advice page here.
  • Devils Claw is often used with horses as a natural alternative to bute, due to its reputed anti-inflammatory benefits, (read more in my blog).
  • Fenugreek contains many vitamins, read more about this in my blog post feature on Fenugreek.
  • Garlic is antiseptic, antibiotic and expectorant. The expectorant properties make garlic excellent for the respiratory system. The juice from a bulb of garlic can be used on cuts and bruises.
  • Ginger is often used for soothing digestive ailments, see more in my featured blogpost.
  • Hawthorn can help strengthen blood vessels without affecting blood pressure - read more.
  • Liquorice can be used as an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, antispasmodic and expectorant herb - find out more in my blog.
  • Meadowsweet is a herb reputed to help with digestive complaints.
  • Milk Thistle is often used to help with liver complaints. Read more here.
  • Nettles have a diuretic, astringent and stimulant use due to the formic acid (released when the nettle stings).
  • Peppermint has anti-spasmodic properties, can also help stimulate the digestive system and is thought to help reduce tension.
  • Raspberry leaves are thought to have tonic properties, to support the body's health generally.
  • Rosehip contains an ingredient which can have an anti-inflammatory effect, plus is a source of vitamin C. Read more
  • Rosemary is an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic plant - horses enjoy eating the leaves too.
  • Sage is an aromatic herb that's an "anti-catarrhal", read more in my blog post.
  • Sea buckthorn is fast becoming popular for animal health due to its nutritional value. Find out more at this advice page.
  • Seaweed (Kelp) is an excellent source of nutrients. Plus as it's rich in minerals it is a useful supplement for horses that have been on poor grazing. It is best fed as a gel and not in dried form - dried seaweed can often have too higher a iodine content. To learn more about Seaweed - please visit my Seaweed page.
  • Tea Tree is an antiseptic and mild disinfectant which aids healing, strengthens the immune system.
  • Thyme can assist with removing excess mucus or catarrh, see more in my blog post.
  • Yucca is a medicinal plant, whose extracts according to folk medicine, have anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory effects. It's used as a supplement (and within others) for both horses and dogs. See more in my blog post here.

Note: It is important to remember that feeding large amounts of various herbs at once is not beneficial and they should be fed with care as with any horse or animal feed. Additionally, some herbs can be dangerous when used in certain circumstances. The following herbs must not be taken internally and are only for use externally as Aromatherapy - Tea Tree, Lavender.

Please remember that no complementary therapy treatment can replace medical advice from a qualified physician. And professional veterinary surgeon advice should always be sought if your animal is at all unwell before using any herbal supplement or skincare. Although they're generally safe, do get professional veterinary surgeon advice if your animal is already on existing medication, to ensure there are no compatibility issues.

Get more information

Aloe Vera plant

Herbal Supplement Companies

  • www.foresthorse.com - books, tack, videos, grooming products and more that are gentle on us, our horses, and the planet
  • Global Herbs - Veterinary based herbal service
  • Hilton Herbs Ltd - 'The complete alternative' herbal mixes, homoeopathy, Bach Flower Remedies, external herbal balms & salves, and shampoos for dogs and horses. Postal Address: DOWNCLOSE FARM, NORTH PERROTT, CREWKERNE, SOMERSET, ENGLAND, TA18 7SH or TEL: +44 1460 78300
  • Horseshoe Herbals - Medicinal herbal formulas for horses. Many formulas including for sore muscles, calming and digestive, respiratory and immune system. Effective proven herbs used in formulas. Botanical conditioners. Available online.

About The Author
This article has been extensively researched and written by Suzanne Harris. Who is also the designer and developer of this site. A lifelong animal lover with a passion for ensuring animals can access complementary therapies for their health and wellbeing.

Dogs & Aloe Vera