Why do we put herbs in our complete raw dog food?

Morag Moseley, from Gelert Behaviour, takes a look into why we use herbs to boost our dogs nutrition.

..My interest in herbs may, perhaps, have been sparked by the BBC children’s TV programme “The Herbs” – I’m really showing my age, here, probably many of you won’t have a clue what I’m talking about – it’s worth a look on YouTube !

More recently, I have been learning about the value of herbs as a result of working with holistic vets and from practitioners of botanical self-healing. I choose to minimise the use of chemicals for myself and for my dogs, and herbs offer up many opportunities to save the use of pharmaceutical or chemical substances to when it is absolutely essential.
Herbs can be used in several different ways to benefit our dogs. They can provide hard to obtain micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), be used as medicines or be offered for self-selection to enhance wellbeing, giving a dog chance to source any nutrients it instinctively knows are needed at that moment in time.

Medical use and nutritional use (whether added to a meal or offered separately for the dog to choose) differs in that herbs are prepared in ways such as infusions, decoctions and tinctures when used medically, in order to be able to give a concentrated amount of the beneficial contents of the herbs chosen by the vet preparing the prescription. Like any medicine, herbal medicines can have undesirable effects, so it’s important to use them with the guidance of a trained vet. Used nutritionally, herbs are usually simply dried and added to a meal, or offered individually to a dog.

One of many things I like about the Cotswold RAW range of foods is that they do not contain any “unnatural” additives such as manufactured vitamin and mineral mixtures. Now I am immediately hearing people crying “but how can you know the foods are nutritionally complete, if they don’t have vitamins and minerals added?”.

Many foods labelled as complete are exactly that, if you were analysing them in a laboratory but perhaps that is not entirely true if you are considering the long-term health and wellbeing of the animal who is consuming that food, in some cases, day in and day out for its whole life. Many vitamin and mineral supplements are manufactured abroad and have been found to be less than easy for the body to use. The very best sources of these essential micronutrients are naturally occurring. You may have heard the buzzword “chelated” in relation to minerals – this means “attached to something organic that the body can absorb easily” and is advertised as a great benefit of a product – in herbs, this occurs naturally as they are of course organic matter.

In a perfect world, we would all be eating fruits, vegetables and meat that we had grown ourselves in beautiful rich organic soil (and our dogs would be sharing and eating leftovers, just like they did as they started to evolve with humans). This way, we could be sure that the natural cycle of soil fertilisation by our livestock sustains the grass that the livestock then eats and we can feed our fruit trees, plants and vegetable plot from a healthy muck heap, completing the cycle by nourishing the food that we then eat. Clearly this is idealistic and not achievable for more than a few lucky people in our busy world.

The next best thing we can do is to choose foods that are minimally processed and contain the most naturally occurring sources possible of all the essential nutrients. Herbs are a wonderful source of lots of important micronutrients and the Cotswold RAW complete diets contain a variety of herbs specifically chosen for their nutrient profiles to ensure a consistent supply, even when the quantities in the meat producing animals vary seasonally from changing pastures and winter forage. There are details about the herbs included on the website here

If you choose to make a home prepared diet some (or all) of the time, then the herbs used in Cotswold RAW’s complete foods are available to buy separately as Butcher’s Blend (and two other blends which we will look at in another blog). This makes an excellent addition to a home prepared diet without having to grow your own fresh herbs, spend time foraging or buy a wide range of dried herbs. No doubt your dogs are doing their own foraging on walks – mine are loving the cleavers that have been flourishing until the recent cold spell. Whilst foraging presents a fantastic enrichment opportunity for our dogs, it’s sensible to be certain that they are meeting their needs for micronutrients in your meals by offering a good quality product such as Butchers Blend.

If you are interested in the use of herbs to treat a problem that your dog may suffer from, we are lucky to have vets trained in herbal medicine – there aren’t nearly enough of them, so you do need to be willing to travel ! Details can be found at the British Association of Veterinary Herbalists’ website. The nearest members to the Cotswolds are Dr Nick Thompson (Corsham) and Dr Iris Ege (Cinderford and Ross on Wye).
Rachel Windsor-Knott is a practitioner of botanical self-healing based in the Cotswolds, and sums up her extensive knowledge in the title Animal Wellness Facilitator. Rachel uses herbs as part of the healing process by allowing dogs to choose for themselves what they know they need in that moment. It’s a fascinating process to watch, one to which I am rather addicted. Details can be found at https://www.myanimalmatters.co.uk/