The Healing Power of Bees… yes bees. How Sweet it Is!

Once again I am reminded of how simple, and how readily available some of nature’s greatest medicines are.  My Aussie-Chow mix was diagnosed with insulinoma; and insulin-producing malignancy that robs the body of glucose, leaving my poor girl tired, weak and prone to seizures unless I keep her blood glucose levels up through frequent feeding of small portion meals every four hours.  This is a tough disease that I will undoubtedly write more about later, but today I want to share something else that has transpired in the course of keeping Sasha comfortable. As if her insulinoma wasn’t enough, she developed an abscess on her right elbow, presumably from a cactus spine or other foreign body that became infected, maybe because of her depressed immunity, but definitely in a big way.  Hot compresses and a dose of belladonna 30c (homeopathic) followed by merc 30c (another homeopathic) brought the abscess quickly to a head.  It broke loose and started draining within just a few hours.  Now, her swelling is down and draining appears complete, but my beloved companion was left with a gaping hole, one inch wide and DEEP, with the elbow joint visible.  This is an area that simply cannot be sutured— healing must occur from the inside out, and may take months.  The protocol:  keep the wound well irrigated, clean and draining.  But healing is S-L-O-W.   Naturally,being what some call an “herbalist guru”, I started looking for the best approach, in addition to the antibiotic my vet prescribed.

Sasha has limited time left in this world, and I want to see her dabble in a creek just one more time, so I want the wound to heal as fast as possible, without added risk of sealing bacteria into the wound— something we must be careful with when addressing wounds with vulnerary (speed healing) herbs like calendula or aloe.  What have I come up with?  An exotic herb from the far reaches of an aboriginal rainforest?  Nope.  With help of friend and advisor Evelyn Kass-Williamson DVM,  I came up with honey.  That’s right— the delicious bee vomit that we love on our toast, cereal, and anywhere else one wants to put it to cure a sweet tooth!

There are accounts of using honey for open wound management as early as 2000 B.C.  Honey is a widely recognized treatment in human medicine, but has arguably not been used to its fullest potential in veterinary medicine. I’m putting some on my girl as soon as find a good raw, preferably Manuka honey (the best; from New Zealand), or one that I am certain is not contaminated with herbicides or other contaminants.  Ill keep you posted on my progress, but for now read this fascinating article by Phil Zeltzman, DVM, published in Veterinary Practice News, March 2015.   Read Article

Natural Pets TV Episode 4, with Greg Tilford

Episode 4 topics include:
Who to work with and trust when it comes to natural, holist health pathways and solutions. Tthe increase in integrative and holistic vets. Research being done and available on natural care. The roles of herbs in health maintenance. How To support what the body at what it is naturally designed to do. Herbs as alternatives, supportive and replacements for conventional drug and much more.

Herbal Home Remedies… relief may be closer than you think!

With new herbal products popping up like weeds on store shelves everywhere it can be difficult to decide which ones are right for you and your pet.    There are herbal remedies for immune system support, cardiovascular health, worms, fleas, nursing bitches, and dogs with urinary problems. Products with cute and clever labels (most of which tell us nothing) are appearing on the shelves of health food stores, pet stores, even in mainstream supermarkets.  Some are very effective while others are nothing more than gimmicks which serve no other than to take your money.

Fortunately, whether you know it or not, many of the most effective herbal remedies are already at your fingertips.  In fact they may be as close as the kitchen cabinet.

Even the most experienced herbalists (myself included) sometimes fail to look in the kitchen when the need for an herbal remedy arises.  “Kitchen herbs” seem lackluster— they are not as trendy or sexy as plant medicines with long, exotic-sounding names.  Perhaps they just don’t appeal to the mental image of a wise old medicine woman carefully harvesting odd-looking berries from a dark, primeval forest.   Nevertheless, some of the most useful and safest herbs for animals are stored in our kitchens.  Here are a few of my favorites…


dill    Dill is very good for relieving nausea and flatulence, especially when such maladies are secondary to a sudden change in diet— such as when puppy decides to swipe a tamale from your foolishly unattended dinner plate.  The effectiveness of dill in this capacity is largely attributable to the plant’s numerous volatile oil constituents, which combine to have an anti-foaming action in the stomach, much like many over-the-counter anti-gas remedies. The highest concentrations of these oils are held within the seeds of the plant, but the dried leaves and stems (the stuff you likely have in the kitchen) can be used too.   If your dog is belching something which is suspiciously reminiscent of what was supposed to be your dinner, and the problem appears to be getting progressively (and menacingly) worse, make a tea by steeping one tablespoons of dill seed in 8 ounces of very hot water.  After the tea has cooled, strain it and try direct-feeding 2 ounces of the liquid to your companion.  If your dog doesn’t like the flavor, try adding the tea to his drinking water— or if need be, disguise it as “yummy people food” by mixing it with some clear, low sodium broth instead of water.

A sprinkling of ground dill seed on the food may bring about symptomatic relief as well, but the liquid option tends to be more effective.


fennel seeds isolated on white background

fennel seeds

Fennel seed represents another option for relief of gastric discomfort.  A cooled tea works very well for this purpose— one teaspoon of the dried seeds in eight ounces of boiling water, steeped until cool.  The tea can be fed at a rate of two to four tablespoons for each 20 pounds of your pet’s body weight, or it can be added to his drinking water, as generously as he will tolerate.  A glycerin tincture also works very well, and allows the convenience of a smaller dosage for finicky animals— 10-20 drops (or more precisely, up to 0.75ml) per twenty pounds of the animal’s weight, as needed.

Fennel is high in vitamin C, A, calcium, iron, and potassium, and varying amounts of linoleic acid. It is an especially good nutritional adjunct for dogs with chronic indigestion, which cannot be attributed to a specific disease entity.  Fennel also helps increase appetite, and freshens the breath by minimizing belching and through its antibacterial activity in the mouth.Fennel also has estrogen-like properties that may explain why the herb has been used for centuries to increase milk production in nursing mothers.  Some herbalists believe that fennel may help alleviate urinary incontinence in spayed dogs, by acting upon hormone imbalances that contribute to the problem.


Rosemary isolated on white

Rosemary is an extremely useful herb.  At the top of its of medicinal attributes are nervine, anti-depressant, antispasmodic, and carminative properties that combine to make rosemary an excellent remedy for flatulent dyspepsia and other digestive problems that are secondary to general nervousness, excitability, or irritability. The rosmarinic acid  contained in the plant is also believed to have pain-killing properties, especially in situations where pinched nerves are suspected.  In such instances 0.5 ml. (about 1/8 tsp.) of the tincture can be given orally, as a starting dose, for each 20 pounds of an animals body weight, up to three times daily.

Rosemary is also useful as general cardiovascular tonic, where serves to moderate and improve heart function  n  and strengthen capillary structure.

A cooled rosemary tea (two tablespoons to a quart of water) serves as a very good, pleasant smelling rinse for itchy skin, and because of the ursolic acid, rosemarinic acid, carnisol and other antibacterial constituents it contains, the rinse can be very effective for relieving the symptoms of various bacterial infections of the skin. For itchy skin and fleas, cooled rosemary tea can be poured into the coat as a soothing, healing, flea-repellent rinse.

Rosemary also has excellent antimicrobial properties inside or on your companion’s body.  Scientific studies have shown that it is active against various types of fungi, as well as numerous Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, including Staphylococcus albus, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Vibrio cholerae, and corynebacteria.  This makes it useful in antibacterial skin and eye rinses, minor cuts and burns, and for fighting infections of the mouth, throat, and the urinary and digestive tracts.

Rosemary essential oil is thought to stimulate the nervous system, and may have a worsening effect upon epileptic seizures.  Although rosemary in its natural, herb form only contains a small amount of essential oil, it is probably best to avoid this herb altogether if your companion is epileptic.  If applied in concentrated form, the volatile oils in rosemary may cross placental barriers and can effect uterine contractions.  Therefore, rosemary is not appropriate for use during pregnancy.


Leaves of Sage plant herb in macro with rain drops

Sage is an excellent remedy for infections or ulceration of the mouth, skin, or digestive tract.  Most of its antimicrobial activity is attributable to its content of thujone, a volatile oil that is effective against wide variety of harmful bacteria.  In the mouth, a strong sage tea or tincture is useful for treating or preventing gingivitis, as well as infection that may be secondary to injury or dental surgery.

For mild bacterial or fungal infections, sage tea can be added to drinking water. Make it by steeping one tablespoon of the dried leaves in a cup of near-boiling water.  Stir the mixture frequently until it has cooled to lukewarm.  Strain out the plant material, but don’t discard it if you are treating a localized gum infection — It can be used as poultice by applying the wet herb directly to the affected area.  If your companion doesn’t like the taste of sage tea, try sweetening it with a little honey (which has its own healing properties as well).  The sweetened tea can be fed at rate of one fluid ounce per 20 pounds of your dog or cat’s body weight, twice or three times daily.

Used in the form of a rinse, sage tea is useful for bacterial or fungal infections of the skin, and is especially wonderful when mixed in equal parts with rosemary and thyme teas. .

Thymeflrs   Most of the medicinal activity in thyme is attributable to the volatile oilssss, thymol and carvacrol. Thymol is a very good antiseptic for the mouth and throat; useful for fighting gingivitis.  In fact, thymol is used as an active ingredient in many commercial toothpaste and mouth wash formulas.

Combined with thyme’s infection-fighting qualities are antitussive and expectorant properties—making the herb useful for raspy, unproductive coughs that are secondary to fungal or bacterial infection.  As an antispasmodic, thyme helps eases bronchial spasms that are related to asthma.  A glycerin tincture, or an alcohol tincture that has been sweetened with honey, serves well for most internal applications— one-quarter of a teaspoon (1ml) for cats, or the same for each 30 pounds of your dog’s body weight, fed as needed up to twice daily.  A cooled tea will work too, provided it has been brewed with near boiling water to draw out the volatile oil constituents.  One teaspoon for dogs, 1/4 teaspoon for cats—fed directly into the mouth two to three times daily.   For infections of the mouth or as a preventative against gingivitis, the tincture or a very strong tea can be directly applied to the gum lines or infected sites with a swab.

On the surface of the body, thyme tea skin rinse (1 tablespoon of the herb steeped in one quart near boiling water) is useful for various fungal or bacterial infections of the skin, especially if combined with equal parts of chamomile tea— yet another kitchen herb that is so incredibly safe and useful it deserves its very own article! —GT

Natural Pets TV Episode 3

In this episode, Heidi Nevala and I discuss the roles of herbs in daily health maintenance. How To support what the body at what it is naturally designed to do. What are Nutritive herbs, Tonic herbs and Remedial herbs (how they differ in what they do). Herbs as alternatives, supportive and replacements for conventional drug and much more.  –GT

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Natural Pets TV, episode 2

Join me, Greg Tilford and Heidi Nevala for Natural Pets TV – Episode 2 – Preventing and Confronting Chronic Illness in Animals, using herbs, diet and other natural modalities,  where we discuss concepts of the human-animal relationship, and how our behaviors affect their health.  In this episode I voice my perspectives on exogenous chemicals in the environment and their impacts upon animal health.  I also talk about convenience pet foods, vaccinations, the emotional environment, second hand smoke and much more.  This is a very important segment of this series, as you will be introduced to the uncomfortable realities of how bad human behaviors such as smoking, overuse of chemical pesticides and harsh household cleaners, and feeding of convenience foods can lead to irreversible chronic illness in our pets.  DONT MISS THIS ONE! —GT


Natural Pets TV, Starring herbalist Greg Tilford has Launched!

I am very happy to announce that I have completed taping 16 episodes of Natural Pets TV, which will air every two weeks on Roku Network’s Pet World Insider channel, and simultaneously on the Pet World Insider YouTube Channel.   This is a program that showcases experts in the natural pet world sharing knowledge, expertise and experience with pet parents who want to do better for their pets.
The experts share discuss a wide variety of issues, topics and questions surrounding the natural pet world. Each episode focuses on a different aspect of pet body systems, issues, concerns and how to address them naturally, proactively and reactively. The foundation of health and wellness can greatly be strengthed with natural, holistic and common sense approaches to your pets care.

Episode 1 topics include:
The concept of holistic wellness and holistic thinking. Where it all begins, changing the ways we think, Animal needs vs. human needs, Addressing symptoms vs. supporting wellness, Diet, The big picture: what we do, and we do for them affects us all, Green pet care and Keeping a pet care diary


Garlic….Is it Safe for your Pets?

June 20, 2016

The issue of garlic toxicity has become a recurrent topic of discussion in the animal supplements industry— mainly because most of what is stated in the toxicology/poison center databases (including ASPCA and others) , none of which include discussions of inappropriate dosing or what constitutes misuse.  This, coupled with the fact that the FDA and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)  list garlic as “generally regarded as safe” for consumption in both humans and animals, has created a great deal of confusion about this wonderful herb.

Fresh garlic isolated on white, clipping path included

Of over 350,000,000 doses of garlic that have been fed to dogs, cats and horses, only 8 cases of serious adverse events have been reported.

So to clarify….

The first thing to keep in mind is that toxicity is always dose dependent.  Virtually everything we, or our animals ingest can be toxic if consumed in two much excess.  Garlic is no exception.

While it is true that gross misuse of garlic can lead to a serious, sometimes life-threatening condition known as “Heinz body anemia”; a condition that causes an acute deformity of red blood cells and a reduced ability to transport blood oxygen, the circumstances required to reach that side effect generally involves continuous feeding of excessive amounts of garlic (or onions), with total disregard of many lesser side effects— such as nausea/vomiting, flatulence, diarrhea and lethargy.  In other words, one would have to continue feeding the herb in gross over abundance, while disregarding many other obvious symptoms of toxicity.  One study I have read claims that a healthy 30 pound dog would have to eat 5 ounces of raw onion of garlic per day, likely for several days, before manifesting Heinz-body symptoms.  After that the feeding would still have to continue— despite the retching, farting and/or diarrhea— to reach a lethal level.   And in most cases, the blood will repair itself to normal structure and functions after feeding is terminated.

Of course this isn’t to say that some dogs or other animals (humans are not excluded) may be hypersensitive to the herb.  But, to add even more “true life” perspective to the issue, I recently pulled adverse event data from the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) Adverse Event Reporting System; the most advanced system of its kind in the world.  Even big pharma can’t compare.  NASC requires all of its manufacturer members— about 90% of the entire animal supplements industry— to upload each and every ingredient of every product formula they manufacture and sell, into the NASC-AER system.  That’s over 1400 ingredients in all!   Each manufacturer is also required to report each and every adverse event they learn about into the system— ranging from a simple case of drooling or diarrhea, to death.  Each ingredient is quantified by its percentage of the formula, dose form of product (liquid tincture, powder, gel caps, etc) recommended minimum and maximum dosing amounts, and the animal types for which each product is intended.

In the case of garlic, here is what I found:  Over the course of 28 years approximately 350,000,000 doses of garlic have gone into the mouths of companion animals, including dogs, cats and horses,  all with a wide variety of health conditions.  Of this number, only 700+/- cases of minor adverse events have been reported (eg gas, vomiting) and only 8 cases of serious adverse events requiring veterinary care have been reported.

One of the greatest attributes of garlic as an herbal medicine and health supplement is that only a scant pinch is required to provide the antioxidant, liver supportive or immune enhancing activities that make garlic so valuable.  Like most herbs, common sense equates directly to garlic’s safe use.  Provided you follow the label directions of a reputable supplements provider and never feed more garlic than is recommended, toxicity should never be an issue.    —GT

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How to Cure a Cat’s Anxiety

anxious kittyThere is more than one way to tame a housecat.  Those who follow this blog may be already aware that the use of herbal calming formulas may work to temporarily take the edge off of the fidgety feline (see “Herbs for the Anxious Dog or Cat”, May, 2009).   But there are other options too, especially if something is known about what may be going on in Kitty’s head.

In an article published July 31, 2015 in New York Times Magazine, “How to Cure a Cat’s Anxiety”, author Malia Wollan cites impulse-control problems, phobias, anxiety, violent outbursts and compulsive disorders as some of the underlying problems that may contribute to  anxiety in cats. In the short article,  E’Lise Christensen, a veterinary behaviorist with practices in Manhattan and Denver tells us, ‘‘Unfortunately, you cannot put a cat on a couch and say, ‘Tell me about your mother’ ” . (‘‘Think of us as animal psychiatrists,’’ she says.)  Still, you can treat the kind of underlying feline psychological distress that leads to biting, scratching, moping and urinating outside the litter box.   —- GT




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Jerky treats leave nearly 600 dogs dead in ‘mysterious outbreak’, FDA says

Dear Readers…  The following article, which was published by Fox News last October,  should serve as a strong reminder of how important it is to take  your companion animal’s diet into your own hands.  While its likely that foul play and greed will be found  at the root of this terrible crisis, waving an accusatory finger in the direction of China won’t solve anything.   The problem does not begin there, but with our own behavior— both as consumers and responsible animal guardians.    Cheap treats only serve to satisfy our budget needs and our laziness— for a few bucks more, the people that have lost their beloved companions could have made jerky at home. 
In my work with Animal Essentials, the job of sourcing quality ingredients is never ending.  The decision of what goes into our products (and what doesn’t) rests with how well we can validate the quality of the ingredients we use .  If quality and purity can’t be 100% assured, we won’t use it.
In 2007, several hundred dogs died as a result of food that was adulterated with melamine— a chemical used by bad guys to create a false analytical positive for protein in food.  The most troubling revelation I gained from that crisis was that it could have been prevented by manufacturers in the USA, who never tested their China-sourced product ingredients for an adulterant that we have known about for decades.  Unfortunately, in the current case of deadly jerky treats officials still don’t know what they are looking for.   So, does this mean that all pet food ingredients from China are bad?  Certainly not— I assure you that there are plenty of crap ingredients to be had from USA sources too!  The answer is prevention.  Get to know the companies that stand behind the products you buy—  or better yet, make your own treats!     —-GT

Federal health officials are warning pet owners to be cautious about feeding their dogs jerky treats as they continue to investigate a treat-related illnesses that has left nearly 600 dogs dead and sickened more than 3,000 others.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday issued an alert to consumers about the illnesses and deaths tied to jerky treats from China. Officials say the exact cause of the illnesses remains unknown…. Read More of the Article

Cat Domestication Traced to Chinese Farmers 5,300 Years Ago… Who Says Cats aren’t Man’s Best Friend?

Dec. 16, 2013  Science Daily— Five-thousand years before it was immortalized in a British nursery rhyme, the cat that caught the rat that ate the malt was doing just fine living alongside farmers in the ancient Chinese village of Quanhucun, a forthcoming study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed.

“At least three different lines of scientific inquiry allow us to tell a story about cat domestication that is reminiscent of the old ‘house that Jack built’ nursery rhyme,” said study co-author Fiona Marshall, PhD, a professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Our data suggest that cats were attracted to ancient farming villages by small animals, such as rodents that were living on the grain that the farmers grew, ate and stored.”  Read More…