According to an article published in the American Veterinarian magazine¹ in January 2019, veterinarians tend to be conservative in their use of herbs, even though recent studies conducted at the Universities of Colorado and Cornell showed that these products were generally safe and effective in treating some specific conditions.
Dr. Pendergrass, who wrote the paper, cites Stephen Cital’s lecture at the 2018 ChicagoLand Veterinary Conference. At this conference, S. Cital commented that the most common use of herbs in veterinary medicine was to reduce pain, but he also discussed the other applications where could be useful for our pets:
- Autoimmune diseases: One disease in which herbs can be effective would be idiopathic tremor syndrome, quite common in white coated dogs, which causes a generalized tremor throughout the body. S. Cital said dogs with this syndrome that had been treated with herbs had eliminated the use of prednisone, a corticoid commonly used to treat this condition.
- Neurological diseases: Herb is proving effective in the treatment of refractory epilepsy, that is, epilepsy that does not respond to conventional treatments, especially in children.
- Cancer: In vitro research is demonstrating the effectiveness of herbs in stopping the growth of several types of cancer cells, including gliomas and prostate cancer. Herbs may enhance the therapeutic benefits of chemotherapy and even improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy in animal studies.
- Intestinal inflammation: The abundance of herbs in the gut suggests that phytocannabinoids may reduce inflammation in diseases such as Crohn’s disease. The Silicon Valley Veterinary Specialists (SVVS) in San Jose, California, where Stephen Cital works, have found that herb is also effective in animals suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.
- Kidney diseases: Anandamide, a CB1 agonist, is present in the kidneys of dogs, cats and humans.
One of the problems veterinarians face when using herbs as a therapy is selecting the right product as a treatment, as each disease needs a different ratio of herbs. As discussed in the article, high concentrations of herbs do not necessarily mean that the product is right for every disease.
Furthermore, the combination with other drugs can inhibit or increase concentrations in the blood. For example, phenobarbital increases the concentration of herbs and itraconazole, ketoconazole, omeoprazole or fluoxetine, to give examples of known drugs, decrease it.
Vets who do not use herbs confirm some of their benefits
The use of herbs as a therapy in veterinary medicine is still in its infancy. According to a survey conducted among different Spanish veterinarians who do not usually use herb extracts on a regular basis, only 23.5% claim to have used a product with herbs in their patients. Of these, almost half did so at the request of the pet owner.
And what was their experience? Almost 75% of the veterinarians who had used it, answered that they had also been able to verify the anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, antispasmodic and analgesic properties of herbs that were being demonstrated in humans.
A reduction in symptoms has also been observed in the initial phases of the Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in dogs. This syndrome is a degenerative disease similar to Alzheimer’s that is often seen in older dogs.
The most common symptoms are disorientation, alterations in the sleep/wake cycle, decreased activity or, conversely, increased anxiety or restlessness and alterations in appetite.
Almost all of the veterinarians consulted reported no side effects from herb use and an increase in mental activity in senile dogs.
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