Monthly Archives: February 2014

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)

Mushrooms for dogs and cats

PART 1: What are Some Ways to Keep Your Dog’s Immune System Healthy ?

As a vet, I see sick animals on a daily basis. Lately, many of my clients have asked what I recommend to strengthen their pets’ immune systems with alternative medicines, such as herbs and supplements. Prevention is the best medicine, and although we can’t control all the environmental factors, we can provide proper nutrition, routine annual exam and bloodwork, proper exercise, weight control, and add-in nutraceuticals (probiotics, herbs, omegas, etc.) for support.

Just like humans, it’s important to keep your dog’s immune system strong. You and your family may be taking supplements or herbal remedies to support your body, especially during the cold and flu season.

Natural, whole-food nutrition is the cornerstone to a healthy immune system. You can incorporate nutrient-packed fruits and berries into your dog’s diet all year long for an antioxidant boost. Good sources, as mentioned in this super foods article, include raspberries, blueberries, bananas, and pitted cherries. Unless they are locally-sourced in season, it is best to use frozen, no sugar added berries for optimal nutrition. Most dogs enjoy the crunch of a frozen berry or banana slice as their daily treat!

For your dog, herbs like Astragalus, Echinacea, and Ginseng are all very beneficial in aiding immune function. These herbs are often included in over-the-counter canine dietary supplements. Some formulas are designed with a specific purpose in mind, like Echinacea to support dogs with seasonal upper respiratory tract infections, while others are designed to be an over-all immune system regulator.(1)

Types of mushrooms, such as Maitake, Shitake, Cordyceps, and Reishi, also have multiple benefits. Mushrooms may be beneficial for canine cancer cases and boosting weak immune systems.(2,3) The mushrooms mentioned above are generally safe and can be given at the same time as many conventional medicines.

If your dog is receiving chemotherapy treatments, some herbs should not be used with certain drugs or can be discontinued two days before a chemo treatment and restarted four days after. If your dog is suffering from an acute infection, be careful with herbal products. If a patient has a fever, herbs that stimulate the immune system may not be ideal. I recommend consulting with your holistic veterinarian or veterinary herbalist before starting nutritional supplementation with patient receiving chemo treatments.

Supplements can be administered in a variety of ways. Some are in pill form, while others are in soft gel form or liquid. If you need your dog to swallow a pill, it’s best to disguise it (whole or crushed) in a tiny bit of tasty food, such as cheese or peanut butter.

Immunity support supplements can be given for a multitude of reasons, including recovering from surgeries, struggling with food and environmental allergies (atopy), a variety of skin conditions, asthma, lung infections, inflammatory bowel disease, ear infections, and birth. Any dog with a weak immune system that is struggling with recurring and chronic infections can benefit from an immunity support supplement. Always consult your veterinarian before giving supplements to pets that have active infections and discontinue their usage if the signs of disease get worse or if any side-effects like vomit/diarrhea or anorexia occur.

Although the benefits of using alternative medicine to keep your dog’s immune system healthy are endless, remember that these remedies aren’t a quick fix! Building up the immune system takes time, 3-6 months in some cases. Be patient and you will see the rewards of holistic medicine’s benefits in time.

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


  1. Reichling, J. et al. Echinacea powder: Treatment for Canine Chronic and Seasonal Upper Respiratory Tract Infections. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd. May 2003; 145(5):223-31.
  2. Konno, S. Potential Growth Inhibitory Effect of Maitake D-fraction on Canine Cancer Cells. Vet Ther. Winter 2004;5(4):263-71.
  3. Silver, R. Integrative Oncology: Blending the Best of Conventional with Evidence-Based and Supportive Complementary Therapies. 2013 Holistic Veterinary Medicine Club Symposium Proceedings.

Astragalus membranaceus for kidney disease and IBD

In veterinary medicine, we are often faced with chronic diseases like cancer, skin diseases, immune-mediated diseases and more. Treating chronic diseases with conventional medicine often is frustrating, unrewarding and the outcome is seldom positive long term. Alternative medicine is able to offer another view on a case and another possibility for treatment after conventional medicine and its specialists have lost hope. The goal of this review is to evaluate some literature about Astragalus membranaceus, sometimes used in Western herbal medicine formulas, for the treatment of protein-losing nephropathy (PLN) and briefly touching on its potential usage in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Astragalus membranaceus is also known as Huang Qi in Chinese herbal medicine. The root is usually harvested from 4 year old plants and is the part most often used for medicinal purposes (Ehrlich 2008). Astragalus is part of the Fabaceae family (Leguminoseae or legume family). In TCM, it is believed to enter the lung, spleen and heart meridians and is considered to be a sweet and warming herb.

Dr Cindy Lizotte blog

It has been around for centuries and is often used with other herbs to help amongst other things: to stimulate the immune system, reduce side-effects of chemotherapy, act as a restorative tonic and also has an adaptogen (Abrams et Al. 2011). In Western Herbal Veterinary Medicine, according to Dr Barbara Fougere (2007), it may be used for geriatric support, congestive heart failure, early heart failure, chronic infection, immune deficiency, renal disease and cancer. Yu et al. (2007) establish the safety dosage range at 5.85-19.95g/kg for beagle dogs. No obvious toxicities nor side-effects were noted.  Finally, it is interesting to note that standard operating procedures have established astragalus, so this may help us find suppliers we can trust (Yang 2006).

We know that IBD and PLN are suspected to  be caused by multiple factors like underlying food allergies, immune mediated issues or underlying genetic predisposition (AKC 2011). So, one wonders if astragalus could be used in a Western Herbal formula for its combined effects on the bowels and its effects on the kidney. This brings us to research done on astragalus membranaceous in regards to its effects on the kidneys.

An article talks about a meta-analysis of randomized and semi-randomized clinical trials to evaluate Astragalus in diabetic nephropathies in 1804 people (Li et al 2011). They concluded that the role of this herb is profound in diabetic nephropathy. In another study, two independent assessors, basically came to the conclusion that astragalus is able to reduce albuminuria, reduce fasting blood glucose, reverse hyperfiltration of the glomeruli and also managed to ameliorate pathological changes in rats that had early diabetic nephropathy (Zhang et al. 2009). Another study performed, using benazepril as the control group, showed that animals receiving astragalus improved more in comparison to the controlled groups (Zhang et al. 2007).  A research study done on rats using astragalus and angelica sinensis assessed their combined impact on nephrotic syndrome (Wojcikowski et al. 2006). It seems that both enalapril and this combination of herbs was able to decrease proteinuria,  decrease triglycerides, lower expression of collagen type III and IV, lower laminin, lower fibronectin, and blood urea nitrogen levels. In rabbits this time, a study was done to evaluate the injury done to renal tubules by high energy shock waves. It showed that astragalus has a strong protective effects on free radical-mediated renal tubular damage. Also, it showed that these effects were superior to verapamil (Li et al. 2006). Denzler et al. (2010) recently published a study where they used botanogenomics (or herbogenomics) to evaluate astragalus and other herbs. They confirmed its impact on cytokines and also its renoprotective effects. But, more interestingly, they also identified the presence of  lipopolysaccharides in astragalus. It seems that these lipopolysaccharides are naturally present in medicinally prepared extracts of astragalus. Their conclusion was that astragalus induced genes involved in a strong, generalized proinflammatory response. They stipulate that this response may be responsible for the antimicrobial activity associated with astragalus.

In regards to using astragalus for IBD, there are some research about Astragalus and its potential in the treatment of diarrhea related to colitis through its action on cytokines (immunomodulary effects) in rats (Ko et al. 2009). They concluded that Astragalus given orally or locally injected seemed to have a protective effect against experimental colitis. It has immunomodulary effects on the colon which in turn help alleviate signs of diarrhea in colitis. Also, another study supported the fact that astragalus has activity on the bowels and mostly on the jejunum of dogs. It seems to be able to strengthen movement and muscle tonus gastro-intestinal tract (Yang 1993).

Another study showed that, in combination with angelica sinensis,  it has a role of prophylaxis on the infection of cryptosporidium infection in immunosuppressed mice by improving their immune status (Zhang et al. 2008). A study performed on colitis in rats demonstrated that this herb seems to have anti-inflammatory actions by its anti-oxidative effect on the colon, so their conclusion was that this herb seems to have a therapeutic potential and also may be beneficial as a preventive measure (Ko et al. 2005).

In conclusion, the main goal of this review was to evaluate the possibility of using  astragalus for concurrent PLN and IBD disease in regards to its multi-systemic effects and its impact on the immune system. Astragalus seems to be able to decrease proteinuria, increase serum albumin, decrease weight loss by sparing muscle protein, improve overall renal function, may slow down the progression of renal disease and may help prevent damage to the kidneys.

In regards to IBD, astragalus may help reduce inflammation in the colon, acts as an adaptogen, have immunomodulatory effect and anti-oxidant effects on the bowels. It is definitely an interesting herb to study and to consider incorporating in a Western Herbal formula for the treatment of concurrent IBD and PLN. With our conventional medicine minds, we often don’t think outside the box, instead we set limits on what we want to learn and we forget that there is a lot of stuff about medicine that we don’t know. There are yet many diseases to be cured, many treatments to be found, so why limit our medicine by the constraints imposed on us by our previous learning or previous studies?

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

Abrams Tracee Rae, Julie Conquer, Steven Dentali, Michael Goble, Jill M. Grimes Serrano, Dana Hackman, Paul , Richard , David KieferAdrianne Rogers, Erica Rusie-Seamon, Catherine Ulbrich, Mamta Vora, Wendy Weissner, Jen Woods. Natural Standard Professional Monograph.
American Kennel Club, Protein Losing nephropathy.
viewed may 26, 2011
Denzler , Karen L., Robert Waters, Bertram L. Jacobs,Yvan Rochon,and Jeffrey O. Langland, 2010, Regulation of Inflammatory Gene Expression in PBMCs by Immunostimulatory Botanicals.
viewed may 28 2011
Ehrlich Steven D. 2008, Astragalus, University of Maryland Medical Center.
viewed may 27, 2011
Fougère B., Wynn Susan, Veterinary Herbal medicine, Mosby Elsevier, 2007, p.479.
Ko JK, Chik CW.2009, The protective action of radix Astragalus membranaceus against hapten-induced colitis through modulation of cytokines. Cytokine. Aug 47;(2):85-90. Epub 2009 Jun 17.
Li M, Wang W, Xue J, Gu Y, Lin S. 2011, Meta-analysis of the clinical value of Astragalus membranaceus in diabetic nephropathy. J Ethnopharmacol. Jan 27;133(2):412-9. Epub 2010 Oct 13.
Li X, He D, Zhang L, Cheng X, Sheng B, Luo Y. 2006, Urol Res. A novel antioxidant agent, astragalosides, prevents shock wave-induced renal oxidative injury in rabbits. Aug;34(4):277-82. Epub 2006 Jun 17.
Wojcikowski K, Johnson DW, Gobe G. 2006, Evidence Lacking to Support Use of Certain Herbs for Chronic Kidney Disease. J Lab Clin Med.;147: 160-166.
viewed may 28 2011
Yang CQ, Zhanc LP, Sun MS, Zhao YH.Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2006, Standard operating procedure for Astragalus membranaceus. Feb;31(3):191-4.
Yang (article in chinese), Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1993, Effect of Astragalus membranaceus on myoelectric activity of small intestine. Oct;13(10):616-7, 582.
Yu SY, Ouyang HT, Yang JY, Huang XL, Yang T, Duan JP, Cheng JP, Chen YX, Yang YJ, Qiong P. 2007, Subchronic toxicity studies of Radix Astragali extract in rats and dogs. J Ethnopharmacol. Mar 21;110(2):352-5.
Zhang J, Xie X, Li C, Fu P. 2009, Systematic review of the renal protective effect of Astragalus membranaceus (root) on diabetic nephropathy in animal models. J Ethnopharmacol. Nov 12;126(2):189-96.
Zhang YW, Wu CY, Cheng JT. 2007 , Merit of Astragalus polysaccharide in the improvement of early diabetic nephropathy with an effect on mRNA expressions of NF-kappaB and IkappaB in renal cortex of streptozotoxin-induced diabetic rats. J Ethnopharmacol. Dec 3;114(3):387-92. Epub Aug 19.
Zhang XL, Yu XH, Tang XY, Song BH, Ling H, Liu YW, Wang ZL.(in chinese); Zhongguo Ji Sheng Chong Xue Yu Ji Sheng Chong Bing Za Zhi. 2008, Prophylactic immunization of dangguibuxue decoction against Cryptosporidium infection in immune suppressed mice  Jun 30;26(3