Although there is no herbal cure for canine Addison’s disease, there are several herbal supplements than can help lower your dog’s need for steroids and improve their overall health status. Lowering your dog’s need for DOCP and/or Florinef not only means a lower chance of side effects for your pet, but also can make a huge difference in your pocketbook. This article outlines the major herbal and plant remedies for Addison’s disease.
Types of herb
Many herbs have been shown to be beneficial for adrenal function, including adrenal support herbs like licorice and borage, Green tea, and ginseng, which can help to reduce stressâ€”an important part of treatment for Addisonâ€™s disease.
Borage oil, primrose oi, and black currant oil
These oils are all natural sources of Gammalinolenic acid, which promotes healthy skin and, according to RM Clemmons, DVM, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Neurology & Neurosurgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Florida, who states that the oils may also be good for autoimmune disorders. Dr. Clemmons recommends adding 500mg of oil once a day for small/medium breeds and twice a day for larger breeds, noting that it could take six to eight weeks to notice a difference.
Ginkgo leaf extracts increase blood flow to the brain. The cause of secondary Addison’s disease is a malfunctioning pituitary gland. Ginkgo is not toxic to dogs. Dr. Clemmons recommends one capsule two times a day.
American Ginseng According to Shannon Wikinson, writing in Whole Dog Journal, ginseng is â€œan adaptogenic herb that helps the body adapt to environmental and emotional stressors.â€ Ginseng works on the pituitary and adrenal glands, increasing resistance to stress. Dr. Clemmons recommends that male dogs over the age of 6-years-old be given American ginseng (not Oriental), in the amount of one capsule daily, and females over six years old should receive one or two capsules of Dong quai, a plant in the carrot family that has been called the “female ginseng”, instead of American Ginseng. Neither of these supplements is recommended for use in young dogs under the age of 6-years-old (male) or 5-years-old (female).
Addison’s dogs often have low energy levels. One cup of green tea a day (or one single capsule) should be added to food, according to Dr. Clemmons. As well as increasing energy, Dr. Clemmons calls it a “good general tonic.”
A team of researchers in New Zealand studied the effects of a licorice (liquorice) supplement in one dog taking oral fludrocortisone acetate (Florinef). Despite receiving Florinef, the 4-year-old neutered male suffered from persistent hyperkalemia (high amounts of potassium in the bloodstream). After receiving licorice from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra, which contains glycyrrhizinic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid, both of which increase mineralocorticoid activity, the dogâ€™s potassium levels returned to normal. More research is underway: if you live in New Zealand, contact Richard Squires or Liz Norman at Massey University for details of the trial.
No herbal supplement can replace DOCP, prednisone, or Florinef. If your dog is on these medications, consult with your veterinarian while giving your dog herbal supplements–this is especially true of Licorice. You will want to keep a close eye on electrolyte levels as well as your dog’s overall health.
RM Clemmons, Liquorice and canine Addison’s disease, New Zealand Veterinary Journal 53(3), 214, 2005
Wilkinson, S.The Great Pretender. Whole Dog Journal, 2003