Chinese Herbal Medicine for pets!

Chinese Herbal medicine’s goal is to try and restore balance of energy (Qi), body and spirit to your pet in order to maintain its health. Unlike conventional medicine who’s goal is to treat a specific problem or disease, Chinese Herbal medicine tries to approach diseases in a more holistic way.


Herbs, unlike conventional drugs, have different modes of actions. For example, antibiotics usually have one specific goal, to kill bacteria. Herbs may have different types of actions at the same time. So, an herb, unlike a conventional drug is made up of different constituents so it could have an antibacterial effect to kill bacteria. But, at the same time, it may have an adaptogen affect in order to allow the body to adapt to stress. Most often your veterinarian will pick an herbal formula that fits your pet’s presenting Chinese Medical Pattern which he or she will assess after making an exam, taking an history, assessing the symptoms and using tongue and pulse analysis.

Herbs like conventional drugs may have side-effects and some may be toxic. Therefore it is always important to consult with a veterinarian trained in herbs. Side-effects like diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia are uncommon but can happen. Usually, these side-effects are self-limiting and calling your veterinarian if any of these or other side-effects happen is suggested. Your veterinarian may have you lower the dosage, discontinue administration of the herbs for a short time or change the herbal formula completely. Always consult your veterinarian before making any changes to the dose prescribed. Sometimes, the initial dosage given to your pet will be lower then the normal recommended dose, but this is done in order to make sure that your pet tolerates it in order to avoid possible digestive side-effects. Our recommendation is to always follow the directions written on the prescription labels by your veterinarians.

There are different type of herbal preparations, some come in liquid form like tinctures, some can be given as teas, some come in tea pill form and capsules or even pill form like conventional drugs. Because there have been issues with contamination of herbal products in the past and  because there is a lack of safety regulations in Canada, we advise you to use only products bought from a veterinarian professional. Be wary of on-line cheap products, because quality and safety are not assured.

Dr Cindy Lizotte is a member of the Veterinary Botanical Medical Association (VBMA). As a member of the VBMA, she shares their views and believes that in the interests of safety that any herbs should always be prescribed by a qualified practitioner. Furthermore, we at Integrative Veterinary Care, try to always source our herbs and natural products from companies listed on the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) website in order to insure quality control and the safety of the products we sell. It is not a requirement by Canadian laws, but as we care for the safety of the clients and pets we serve, we try to adhere to highest possible standards of quality for the product lines we carry.

To administer the herbs, you can try to hide them in your pet’s favorite treat or mix them in with soft food. Some people hide the pills in cheese, peanut butter (tiny amount), sweet potatoes and other types foods.  In some cases, adding some water or heating up the food may help mask any herbal smell. Some clients prefer to simply open the pet’s mouth and insert the pills in the back of their throat. In case of liquid tinctures, you can buy empty capsules and fill them up with the liquid and administer the capsule hidden in food. Each pet is different and different tricks maybe tried to see which one works best for you.

We should see an improvement in your pet’s health within two weeks of starting the herbs. Some herbs are more for long term use and may take longer to promote health. For long standing problems, expect it to take more time to improve health. For acute problems, expect faster relief for your pet. Re-establishing your pet’s health in a case of a chronic problem will require patience and it may take adjustments in dosage or formulation of the herbs. Rome was not built overnight and in chronic situation, it will take time, so patience is required.

Usually, your veterinarian will suggest a recheck with your animal in two weeks after starting the herbs. If as a client you have any questions, feel free to email-us and we will do our best to assist you.

Written by Dr Cindy Lizotte, DVM, MBA, CVFT (CHI institute), CVA (IVAS), Grad Dip Vet Western Herb Med (CIVT) Cert CVHM (IVAS)

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