Information Regarding Pets and Herb Use
Answered by: Kerry Hackett
Question from: Faye Myshak
Posted on: March 13, 2007

I work with Alberta Agriculture & Food in Vermilion, Alberta and I would love to receive some information, pertaining to pets, on Burdock Root, Cat Nip, Milk Thistle Seed, Nettle Leaf and Red Clover. What I am looking for is what form each of them come in (Dry, Fresh, Root, Seed, Leaves, Whole, Powder or any other), possibly if you know price ranges; Availability (Seasonal, All year round); Suppliers; Nutritional Quality, Uses, Health Benefits and Palatability & Processing. If you have answers to any one of my questions I would really appreciate any information you could provide.

As I see you have submitted the same question twice I hope my answer here will suffice.

Unfortunately, answers to your questions are not as straight forward as you may have assumed. I will make a stab at answering as much as time allows (you have asked enough to take up an entire lecture!) and then recommend several texts for you to continue your research. To start: many herbs (including the ones mentioned above) can be employed in a number of forms, a number of media and a number of strengths depending on the specific situation and case history concerned. There are no "one size fits all" answers as far as herbal medicine is concerned. Therefore, my immediate answer to your questions is, "it depends". Certainly in a number of the above listed herbs an animal in the wild, left to its own devices, may eat the plant in its raw state. However, for the sake of convenience for an animal’s caretaker, a herbalist may prepare indicated herbs in a dried form to use as a tea, in a tinctured form (glycerite or alcohol), a pill/capsule form or even in a form to be used externally (poultice, fomentation, oil, salve, cream, etc.) Therefore the herb could be used whole, powdered, dried, fresh, etc. depending on the precise use required. Indeed, the part of the plant used in many cases also follows this logic. For instance, depending on the indicated need, one could employ Nettle (Urtica dioica) as aerial parts, seed or root; each of these being harvested at specific times of the year.

This brings me to your next question: availability. Again, it depends on what is required. Should you want to use fresh plants, different parts of the plants are harvested at different times of the year; indeed, different plants also generally appear at different times of the year in different parts of the world. Herb suppliers generally have dried herbs available all year round, but this is not always the case as herb availability is subject to the weather, environment, those harvesting (wildcrafters) or those growing (commercially grown), distributor agreements, endangered status, etc. Of course, all of the above would have an effect on price as well.

As far as books go, there are very few available on the use of herbs and animals. I would suggest you look at Juliette de Baracli Levy’s book , " The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat" to start as well as general herbal texts/identification books such as "The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants" by Andrew Chevallier, Peterson’s Field Guides of Eastern and Central Medicinal Plants" (unfortunately there isn’t one of these for the West) and "Plants of the Western Boreal Forest and Aspen Parkland" by Johnson, Kershaw, MacKinnon and Pojar.

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