Feeding herbs to animals

Posted by Joyce Harman, DVM on Jul 21st 2022

Feeding herbs to animals

Herbs come in many forms: liquids, tinctures, teas, powders, fresh plants…….so, what’s best for my horse, dog, or cat?

There are many ways to feed herbs to animals. What’s best depends partly on the species, and quite a bit on the herb itself. Horses are natural herbivores and can digest the fiber in plants whether fresh or dried. Small animals do not digest fiber well, so processed herbs work much better.

For horses, herbs can be fresh, growing in the fields. If you observe carefully you will see which plants they eat (if they have a variety of plants in the fields) and at what times of the growth cycle they eat them (flower, root, etc.). Horses can also eat dried herbs well, either powdered or as a dried leaf or flower. Some of the roots of Chinese herbs are woody and coarse, so they need to be ground up in order to be well absorbed.

Processed herbs can be made into a tincture or cooked and then spray dried to form a concentrated powder (common with Chinese herbs). They can also be made into a tea just like the teas you drink. These formats can be fed to any species, including horses. Many animals will not appreciate a tea if the herbs have a strong flavor, but if the formula tastes good to a horse, they will happily drink a tea.

Cats are finicky about herbs and in many cases will not eat them in any form. Some companies use glycerin extracts to make them more palatable, which works for some cats.