As pet owners become more aware of the benefits natural remedies offer for themselves, they have begun to demand the same for their pets. Veterinarians have responded by not only incorporating natural remedies into their practice, but also by becoming cross-educated in complementary medicine. Retailers are beginning to offer natural remedies in their stores.
As a result, the global alternative medicine sector is expected to reach close to $115 billion by 2015 with natural and complementary medicine driving sales of herbal remedies.
But, while the pet industry as a whole has seen tremendous growth in the area of natural supplements, the growth of specific herbal remedies has not been quite as rapid for felines. Due to their very nature, cats are some of the most difficult animals to treat. They are masters at hiding pain, and by the time a problem is discovered it’s often too late to treat, according to experts. In addition, they are notoriously sensitive to traditional medication, which actually makes them excellent candidates for the often gentler herbal remedies.
Finding a manufacturer you can trust is important when selecting products for retail sales in stores.
“It’s best to focus on names and products that are known in the industry,” said Greg Tilford, president of Animal Essentials. “Companies should have experienced herbalists standing behind their products. Look for products that are made specifically for cats, by respectable companies that stand behind their products and are willing to pick up the phone to answer questions.”
Consumers and retailers alike should remember that natural healing can often take longer as remedies focus on treating the ailment, not just the symptoms.
“Herbs are best used to strengthen the body’s natural healing systems,” said Tilford. “You will likely be disappointed if you plan to use them as direct replacements for conventional drugs.”
Flower Essences vs. Herbal Remedies
Most manufacturers focus their product lines into two distinct groups, herbal and flower.
“Herbal remedies generally work more on the physical level whereas flower remedies work on the emotional energy level,” said Denise Eaton, Nelsons education manager, B.F.R.P., B.F.R.A.P. “Herbals are plants that are macerated, like homeopathic remedies, but do not go through an extreme dilution process. Flower remedy plants are soaked in water via heat to infuse an energy imprint that works on balancing negative vibrations carried within the body and which in time, causes interference in the functions of our organs and tissues.”
Bach Rescue Remedy utilizes a proprietary blend of herbs to help offset anxiety in pets. The original Bach Flower Remedies has been used on humans and animals for more than 80 years.
According to Dr. Lisa S. Newman, N.D., Ph.D. founder of Azmira Holistic Animal Care, herbs are derived from plants, including some trees. The entire plant can be used or only certain parts (such as roots, leaves, flowers, bark, and oils). Herbs work by providing certain substances that alter the way the body responds to an imbalance or that alter the internal environment.
When recommending an herb for an animal, it’s important to remember that each animal can have different responses. While one herb may be very beneficial for calming a pet, the same herb may aggravate another animal. Many herbs are beneficial for a variety of ailments.
Commonly used herbs, such as catnip, can act as both a stimulant and a calming agent.
“Catnip can also help improve a cat’s digestion and even stimulate appetite in cats who eat it,” said Mark Teixeira, president of Bell Rock Growers.
Herbs may not all come from the ground, either.
“Kelp, a class of seaweed, is considered to be one of the most nutrient-rich plants on the Earth,” said David Grover, owner of Pet Kelp. “Kelp living in pristine ocean water produces over 70 vitamins and minerals. Pet Kelp has strong prebiotic properties and is effective in boosting immune systems, improving skin and coat condition, and making saliva less conducive to bacteria, which reduces plaque.”
A remedy is often used to describe a combination of herbs that have been distilled or processed to resolve a specific ailment.
“Our remedies are designed and prepared under veterinary supervision,” said Daniela Monroig, senior sales representative of Homeopet. “One of our most popular products is Feline WRM Clear, which aids in the recovery of worm infestation where a drug-free approach is favored. WRM Clear helps reduce environmental contamination by suppressing worm egg production, which then helps reduce reinfestation.”
The idea with herbs is to support wellness, not just suppress symptoms, said Tilford.
“Our most popular herb tincture blend is called Tinkle Tonic and it outsells everything else,” he said. “I am a bit saddened by the success of Tinkle Tonic, as its popularity implies that the number of cats with urinary tract disease is rising.”
Skin conditions make up one of the most popular verticals for natural care.
“Our skin salve and spray products are antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic, as well as anti-hemorrhagic and anti-inflammatory,” said Tony DiLeva, owner of Dr. Rose’s Remedies. “They also cool and nourish the skin, heal burns and lacerations and have been shown to heal surgical incisions up to 30 percent faster.”
Natural may take a little longer, but it focuses on completely eliminating the source of the problem rather than just treating symptoms, explained Dr. Adelia Ritchie, founder of DERMagic Skin Care for Pets. DERMagic Skin Care for Cats uses whole-leaf aloe vera gel and soothing natural oils in their skincare products.
“Our Feline Rosemary Shampoo Bar combined with our Feline Skin Rescue Lotion composes a complete system for the most effective results in treating your cat’s problem skin condition or for maintenance of healthy skin and fur,” said Dr. Ritchie.
Oral care is another area where herbal-based remedies are found to be particularly effective.
“Often animals without teeth are overlooked but they require oral maintenance too,” said Kimberly Wasko, C.V.T., V.T.S., A.L.A.T., S.R.S. for Drexel University College of Medicine. “Preserving healthy gum tissue is equally as important as maintaining the teeth. Clinical results suggest the topical application of VetzLife oral care products improves periodontal and dental disease not only as a sole treatment but also in combination with surgical and non-surgical therapies.”