Herbal Pain Control for Pets

by Linda Vognar

Herbal medicine is an ancient healing practice: Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal formulas were recorded thousands of years ago. Even today 70 percent of the world’s population uses botanical medicine to cure and alleviate disease. So it is not surprising that plant medicines have also been used by animal caregivers for millennium.

If you have a pet with arthritis, hip dysplasia, or one of the many bone or joint problems that cause chronic pain, your animal friend may be faced with limited mobility and poor quality of life. Plant-based medicines, as well as massage therapy, physical therapy, spinal manipulation and acupuncture may be a gentler, more holistic solution than commercial veterinary pharmaceuticals.

The list of plants that can relieve pain is long: most common remedies include devil’s claw, boswellia, ginger, turmeric, corydalis, yucca and meadowsweet. Some of these herbs can probably be found on your spice shelf!

Devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) is a plant used in traditional African medicine to treat arthritis. The tuber of the plant is used in extracts, decoctions and tinctures. Human studies have shown it to be effective for treatment of low-back pain, where it works to suppress the release of inflammatory substances. Devil’s claw is wild-crafted (harvested from the wild) and is a threatened species in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata), or Indian frankincense, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Found in India, Boswellia is gaining popularity among Western herbalists. The active form is often prepared as an extract of resin collected from the sap of the Indian olibanum tree. Studies show boswellic acids reduce inflammatory markers and improve motion in 71 percent of dogs with arthritis. When used with ashwagandha, another Ayurvedic herb, it has been demonstrated to be as effective in pain control as commonly used Western arthritis drugs (NSAIDS).

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and its sister herb turmeric (Curcuma longa) are kitchen herbs that are often found in Ayurvedic and Chinese medical formulas for arthritis and abdominal pain. Their effects are heightened when combined with boswellia. Tumeric alone has also been shown to be comparable to commercially marketed anti-inflammatory drugs and with no known side effects.

In folk medicine, where it is thought to reduce muscle spasm, corydalis (Corydalis ambigua) is often used to treat back pain, menstrual pain, arthritis pain and traumatic pain. Corydalis root grows throughout the world and can be used as a dried herb, ingested as an infusion (tea), or applied as a tincture. Chinese formulas commonly use this herb in powdered form for pain control.

Yucca (Yucca filamentosa) found in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, is a native remedy for pain. Derived from a desert plant, the stalk, leaves, and root are prepared as poultices or baths for external application. Flowers can be used in salads or boiled and eaten as vegetables. Pods can be roasted or ground into flour for bread making. Yucca is also often dried or made into a tincture to mix into drinks. It has also been added to commercial pet food to produce “odorless” feces!

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is the first plant used for commercial production of salicin, precursor to the common and potent anti-inflammatory aspirin. Meadowsweet is found wild in northern and southern Europe, North America and northern Asia. The flowers, flowering tops and roots can be made into an infusion but should not be given to cats due to their sensitivity to aspirin.

Finally, for best results, all herbal remedies for pets should be used in consultation with trained veterinary herbalists. Herbs are potent medicines, and when you and your veterinarian proactively seek options for pain management, you can improve your animal friend’s quality of life and happiness immeasurably while minimizing or eliminating the side effects of commercial pharmaceuticals.

Linda Vognar, a Chippewa Valley resident, is a veterinarian who specializes in small animal intergrative medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine. A graduate of University of California, Davis and Chi Institute of Chinese Veterinary Medicine, Reddick Florida, she currently sees patients at Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital.  Website: www.Acupuncture4Animals.com

It’s All Connected!

by Dr. Margaret L. Meier (Radle) DVM, CVSMT, CAVCA, CIVCA

“Veterinrary spinal manipulative therapy (VSMT)? Is that like chiropractic for animals? How come I didn’t know this was available?” These are questions I face every day in my veterinary practice. As readers of Second Opinion, we are all familiar with chiropractic care for ourselves and our beloved family members. However, what many of us don’t realize is that this care is also available for our beloved animal companions.

Animal chiropractic traces its history back to Dr. Sharon Willoughby and the late 1980s. Dr. Willoughby held dual degrees as a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) and a doctor of chiropractic (DC). Dr. Willoughby began to teach fellow licensed veterinarians and chiropractors the science and skills necessary to treat animals with veterinary chiropractic. As the popularity of veterinary chiropractic grew, unfortunately so did the number of people who were taking advantage of the unsuspecting public. These individuals claimed to be veterinary “adjustors” who had little, if any, qualified training. As a result, a certification process was developed by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA), focusing in North America, as well as the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA).

The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association was organized by a collaboration of licensed veterinarians and chiropractors “to ensure the public and the animal chiropractic profession that those candidates who pass written comprehensive and clinical examinations are suitable for certification in the field of animal chiropractic.” The AVCA recognizes four post-graduate programs in animal chiropractic, and these schools are listed on their website. The IVCA “endeavors to establish consistently high standards of veterinary chiropractic through approved educational courses, certification examinations, and the membership code of conduct and standard of proficiency.” Having your animal evaluated by one of these certified professionals is the best way to ensure that your beloved companion receives the best animal chiropractic care possible.

During your animal’s chiropractic examination, the doctor will evaluate many things, including the way your pet walks (gait analysis), the overall health of the nervous system, and the motion and static palpation of the joints of the spine and limbs. During this process, areas of reduced mobility in the spinal column will be diagnosed as a vertebral subluxation complex (VSC) and, if deemed appropriate, an adjustment to this area will be performed. Adjustments must be done to individual joints one at a time. According to the AVCA, “a chiropractic adjustment is defined as a short lever, high velocity controlled thrust by hand or instrument that is directed at specific articulations to correct vertebral subluxations.” These subluxation complexes result in secondary neurologic involvement that decreases the body’s ability to function at optimum levels, resulting in dis-ease.

Some indications for animal chiropractic care include lameness; changes in behavior or the moods of your animal; pain in the neck, back, or tail; injuries from slips, falls, and accidents; and chronic health problems that do not resolve as expected. In my experience as a veterinarian certified by the AVCA, I have treated a variety of animals with varying conditions, including dogs, cats, horses, and cows. I have even treated a guinea pig and a racing pigeon. If you are uncertain if your animal will benefit from veterinary spinal manipulative therapy, I would recommend contacting a certified doctor near you. To help you locate these professionals, the AVCA and IVCA websites include a listing of veterinarians and chiropractors that have been awarded certification by their respective programs.

VSMT, or animal chiropractic, is a manual therapy used for a wide variety of health and performance problems. It is important to remember that this treatment modality is not a replacement for traditional veterinary medicine and surgery. Rather, when used in conjunction with traditional diagnostic tests such as the physical exam, radiographs, and blood work, the best treatment options for the patient can be determined. In addition to conventional and animal chiropractic care; other complementary modalities may be considered, including physical therapy, acupuncture, and massage therapy.

Dr. Margaret L. Meier (Radle) is a 1996 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, School of Veterinary Medicine. In November 2005, she received her certification in veterinary spinal manipulative therapy from Healing Oasis Wellness Center; and in December 2007, she completed the requirements necessary for certification by the AVCA, of which she is currently a member. Dr. Meier (Radle) became a certified member of the IVCA in December 2011. She currently practices at Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo Valley. Visit www.animalwellnesscenterofbuffalovalley.vetstreet.com. She can be reached at (715) 926-3836 during regular business hours.


1. “Veterinary Chiropractic,” Michelle J. Rivera and Pedro Luis Rivera, DVM, Veterinary Technician, May 2000, pp. 301–304.
2.  American Veterinary Chiropractic Association website. www.animalchiropractic.org
3.  International Veterinary Chiropractic Association website. www.ivca.de/eng/index.php?ueberuns
4. www.ivca.de/eng/index.php?wasisteineblockade
5. www.avcadoctors.com
6. www.avcadoctors.com

Pet-Friendly and Earth-Friendly

Your family gets an A+ in being green and using natural products, but does that include Fido and Fluffy? People leave a large carbon footprint, but dogs and cats also leave a carbon footprint—er carbon pawprint. However, even pet products are going greener all the time. A visit to your local pet store will turn up more and more eco-friendly items for your pet, so you can award your cat or dog with an Earth-conscious treat, or bed, or other product. Here are a few great products to look for.

Double D’s B’s Dog Shampoo Bar

A Wisconsin-made product, this doggie shampoo bar is chocked full of such natural ingredients as cotton seed, olive, palm, sunflower, coconut and castor oil; soy; jojoba; shea and beeswax. Other ingredients include lemongrass, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender and pennyroyal essential oils. Find more on Facebook or call (608) 365-1346.

Purr & Simple Biodegradable Cat Litter

Are you looking for Earth-friendly cat litter? This Purr & Simple litter, made from nutshell byproducts, is low dust and silica free. Best of all, it is biodegradable and, after you clean out the doo-doo, you can add it to your compost bin! Purrfectly biodegradable. See www.purrandsimple.com.

Harry Barker Bamboo Dog Bowl

Your dog can now eat in style with this bamboo dog bowl, made from sustainable resources such as bamboo fiber and rice husks. If that’s not enough, it’s also lead and cadmium free, so no icky stuff will get into your pet’s yummy din-din or water. Check it out at www.harrybarker.com.

NPR Driveway Moments: All About Animals (2 CDs)

Regular: $22.95; Sale: $18.95

Meet a dog who’s addicted to toads, a chatty parrot who tells the truth, and the Stupid Pet Tricks coordinator for the Late Show with David Letterman. Visit the Wait Wait petting zoo and welcome three orphaned hummingbirds home. Heard on National Public Radio, these are the kinds of stories people stay in the car to hear to the end—even if they’re parked in their driveway with the motor running. Some are funny, some are heartrending, all are captivating. 1 1/2 hours.

Could Parasites Be the Culprit in Your Health Mystery?

by Michael J. Court

I have overcome my own health challenge of an unknown source and lived to tell about it. The answer I found to my mystery health problem was pretty easy once I found the underlying cause—but it took some detective work to find it.

Giving back to others has always been important to me. I enjoyed working hard at my clinic and participating in triathlons for fun. During short-term mission/relief work in Africa, I picked up some free-loading parasites, but I didn’t realize I had. These intruders began attacking from the inside, eating away at my body, and creating a disaster far greater than their own size. My health began to decline at an alarming rate, and eventually I could barely walk around the block. As most people would when experiencing such things, I began researching probable causes and nutritional solutions, but nothing I did worked against my invisible enemy. I spent a thousand dollars seeing a traditional physician and was told simply that I had a fever—a disappointing dead end. By a stroke of luck, however, I soon discovered the saving grace of nutrition response testing, performed by a doctor in Minnesota. This gave me hope that I might be able to reverse the crippling symptoms that were ruining my health and threatening my career.

The nutrition response testing system was different than any other healthcare method I had studied. The parasites I was suffering from did not wait for the test results to come back before they began taking over my body. I had to act fast. By using this treatment, my body was able to combat the effects of the egg-laying parasites quickly, and my health was restored. My personal results encouraged me to take a bold career move;  I decided to become an advanced clinically trained nutrition response testing doctor myself. I observed that some patients who suffered from conditions that were parasite-related had never left the country, so they aren’t just an issue if you travel. Parasites are all around us, lurking and waiting for a host to bond with and become extra baggage, if you will.

“You may be the unsuspecting victim of the parasite epidemic that is affecting millions of Americans. It is an epidemic that knows no territorial, economic, or sexual boundaries. It is a silent epidemic of which most doctors in this country are not even aware.” — Anne Louis Gittleman, a nutritionist, international speaker and the author of Guess What Came to Dinner?  Parasites and Your Health

Anne Louis Gittleman is a nutritionist, international speaker, and the author of Guess What Came to Dinner? Parasites and Your Health. She states: “You may be the unsuspecting victim of the parasite epidemic that is affecting millions of Americans. It is an epidemic that knows no territorial, economic, or sexual boundaries. It is a silent epidemic of which most doctors in this country are not even aware.” This is frightening news for most Americans, with their anti-bacterial soap and a wealth of cleaning products in their cupboards, which they think will keep them healthy.

Some clinicians, like Dr. Oz, believe that 80 to 90 percent of all Americans are probably affected by parasites. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies parasite infestation as among the six most dangerous diseases. Many symptoms people struggle with on a chronic basis may in fact be associated with exposure to parasites, such as digestive irregularities, but these parasites may also be the cause of chronic fatigue, anemia, lymphatic swelling, arthritis, recurring rashes, and a general low-energy level.

If you have been exposed to animals or undercooked food, there is a good chance you may have parasites. Many people are able to fight off parasite infestations if their immune system is operating at a peak level, but sometimes even then, the invading opponents can overwhelm a person’s immune system. The best ways to avoid parasite-related health issues are 1) to wash your hands after coming in contact with potential sources like animals, 2) to wash all fruits and vegetables with proper cleaners, and 3) to thoroughly cook your foods. It is also important to maintain a proper balance of good bacteria in the gut and avoid sugary foods. Parasites, as humans, love sugar!

There are numerous ways to naturally handle a parasite problem. If you suspect a parasite-related issue, a thorough analysis by a traditional healthcare provider can get you started on the right path. The frustrating thing, however, is that of the more than 1,000 different kinds of parasites, only about 50 are detectable by standard medical testing. Using alternative health measures can also be helpful in identifying 950+ parasitic organisms that escape standard detection. Each patient that I see has unique problems and varied underlying causes that require a completely personalized program, which may take some time but is ultimately quite thorough. If you can’t find the cause of your life-limiting health condition, maybe parasites are the enemy you’ve been trying to ID. Take action to remove these invasive intruders from your body today. It’s time to start living your life with restored health and without the extra baggage.

Dr. Court is a naturopath, chiropractor, and health educator. He promotes local health events and wellness fairs and writes on a variety of topics related to wellness. He may be reached at Chippewa Valley Wellness at (715) 723-2713 or on the web at www.cvwellness.net.