Herbs and Spices for Dogs and Cats

Updated on June 2, 2021

Can I Add Herbs and Spices to my Dogs' and Cats' Raw Food Diets?

How boring would your pasta sauce be without herbs or spices? Herb or spice – the term used to classify many of the items listed in this resource may seem like nit picky semantics, and in rare cases, both classifications apply to one plant. Herbs are usually the leafy parts for plants and can be sweet or savory in flavor. Spices are seasonings obtained from parts of a plant such as fruits and seed, bark, dried buds, stigma, roots and rhizomes and resin used in food for flavor, color or as preservatives. Where we could not find or validate definitive classification details, we grouped these items under supplements. We have classified the contents as close as possible for you.

Herbs and spices have long been used to treat and prevent ailments in pet parents (huumans), and apart from smelling good and adding an extra something to your cooking, certain herbs provide both medicinal and nutritional value to your fur kids. Many pet parents are aware of the value of using echinacea for something like a cold, slippery elm for an upset stomach and calendula to soothe scratches or skin irritations. However, few pet parents have further researched the use of herbs for nutritional value as part of their dietary framework(s). The reality is that herbs can pack a big nutritional punch and can be also used to supplement your fur kid’s diet.

The great thing about deriving vitamins from herbs is that the body is better able to digest and use vitamins and minerals that come from plant sources as opposed to those that come from synthetic and processed sources! What about the science supporting this notion? Here is some good news;- there is increasing evidence from behavioural and chemical ecology that non-nutritional resources (example, herbs), have a significant effect on the health of wild animal populations, both through deliberate self-medication, (a new area of study called [zoopharmacognosy]) and dietary preventive medicine (or prophylaxis).

  • Zoopharmacognosy: The Use of Medicinal Plants by Animals by Eloy Rodriguez & Richard Wrangham (SpringerLink)
  • Zoopharmacognosy, Self-Medication in Wild Animals, Rajasekar Raman and Sripathi Kandula (SpingerLink)

Indigenous healers often claim to have learned by observing that sick animals change their food preferences to nibble at bitter herbs they would normally reject. Field biologists have provided corroborating evidence based on observation of diverse species, such as chickens, sheep, butterflies, and chimpanzee. The habit has been shown to be a physical means of purging intestinal parasites. Lowland gorillas take 90% of their diet from the fruits of Guinea pepper (Aframomum melegueta [WikiPedia]), a relative of the ginger plant, that is a potent antimicrobial and apparently keeps shigellosis and similar infections at bay. Current research focuses on the possibility that this plant also protects gorillas from fibrosing [cardiomyopathy] which has a devastating effect on captive animals.

Sick animals tend to forage plants rich in secondary metabolites, such as tannins and alkaloids. Since these phytochemicals often have antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-helminthic properties, a plausible case can be made for self-medication by animals in the wild.