We’re not alone in cherishing our companion animals. In Vedic mythology, dogs are venerated as symbols of the divine and protectors of the gates of heaven. In Nepal, a yearly festival called Tihar is celebrated to give thanks to dogs for their loyal, protective natures. The Hindu folk goddess Sashti, who assists in childbirth, rides a cat, and in the Hindu tradition, killing a cat is a grave sin.
Early Ayurvedic texts mention veterinary medicine, treatment therapies, and surgeries — centuries ago, animal healer Sali Hotra wrote the veterinary Ayurvedic Materia Medica as a guide to safe and effective herbs for animals. Below are four adaptogenic Ayurvedic herbs and a formula used for pets. Please note that this information is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, and is for informational purposes only. Consult your veterinarian for any diagnosis and treatment protocol.
Widely venerated in India as a sacred plant, antioxidant-rich Tulsi provides the same benefits to cats and dogs as it does to humans. It is used in Ayurveda to relieve gastric distress, and is an “amphoteric” herb that promotes immune system efficiency while down-regulating immune system over-activity — it is safe for animals with auto-immune disease. Tulsi can also help to calm hyperactive dogs, and support animals who are under environmental or physical stress. The herb is also recommended for maintaining healthy skin and hair — the ancient Vedic texts recommend Tulsi oil for skin inflammation. Manufacturers of veterinary Tulsi supplements recommend roughly 700 mg. per dose for dogs, and half that for cats — notably, if an animal is prone to low blood pressure, Tulsi may not be recommended as the herb’s calming characteristics may contribute to lowering blood pressure. Tulsi may also slow blood clotting.
Another Ayurvedic adaptogen, Ashwagandha is available for pets in several commercial formulations. As with humans, Ashwagandha is viewed as a rejuvenator and restorative for pets, and is also used in formulations for Cushings Disease caused by overactivity of the adrenal glands. This herb is notable for its ability to both energize and calm, and also provides anti-inflammatory action. Some experts recommend the herb for cats with anemia from chronic kidney disease, suggesting that Ashwagandha helps increase oxygen-transporting red blood cells. It is also recommended for calming anxious, frightened animals, helping them to relax and rest. General dosage recommendations range from 200 – 500 mg. twice daily for cats, and 500 – 1000 mg. twice daily for dogs. Please note that this dosage information is for educational purposes only, and not meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice.
This much-researched herb has gained popularity for its joint-supportive characteristics, but it is safe for pets and has several other beneficial properties. Turmeric is used in Ayurveda to support healthy digestive, respiratory, and circulation systems, and is recognized as a strong anti-inflammatory agent. It is recommended for animal joint care, and its anti-inflammatory action is believed to be as effective as steroid drugs.
One British study cites that Turmeric has anti-cancer characteristics — some veterinarians use the herb to support animals undergoing chemotherapy. According to the American Cancer Society, “Turmeric interferes with cancer development, growth and spread.” Turmeric has also been recommended for animals with gastrointestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease. Dose recommendations are one-half to one teaspoon every 12 hours for dogs and one quarter teaspoon every 12 hours for cats. Please note that this dosage information is for educational purposes only, and not meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice.
Triphala is a classic Ayurvedic blend of three wild fruits — Amla, aka Amalaki, Haritake, and Bibhitaki. This formula has been used for centuries as a tonic to support digestive fire, or “agni,” and provide a gentle laxative action. Triphala is antioxidant-rich, immune-supportive, and high in Vitamin C.
According to Dr. Tejinder Sodhi, Triphala is an intestinal cleanser that, unlike other laxatives, first aids in digestion, then helps the body eliminate toxins. Dr. Sodhi also states that Triphala is a “rasayana,” or substance that rejuvenates the body — he recommends this formula for indigestion, anemia, and diabetes.
Notably, Triphala is made with “wild-crafted” fruits, meaning that the Amla, Haritake, and Bibhitake used in the formulation are harvested from undeveloped forest regions rather than domestically cultivated. Because of widespread industrialization in India, many forest environments are subject to pollution and environmental contaminants. ORGANIC INDIA, in partnership with the government of India, has had 800,000 acres of forest certified as organic, so the wild-harvested fruits used in the Triphala formulation are pure and uncontaminated.
Turmeric for Dogs: 5 Surprising Health Benefits
Everything You Need to Know About Turmeric for Dogs
Ayurveda for Companion Animals
Can Cats Eat Basil? Everything You Need to Know
Ayurveda in Veterinary Medicine — Basic Principles and Clinical Applications