Senior dogs need extra help to keep them happy and healthy. Used under the guidance of your veterinarian, these seven herbs address a range of age-related issues in your canine companion.

Caring for a senior dog can be a challenge. Older canines often suffer from arthritis, heart disease, GI issues, cognitive decline, mobility problems and other issues. There are many ways to optimize an aging dog’s health and well-being as he goes through his golden years – including herbal medicine. This article looks at some of the herbs that can be used to support a senior dog’s health and well-being, from his immune system to his heart.

Immune support

Senior dogs are more prone to developing disease, but a strong immune system can help stave off some of these problems, and keep dogs healthy as they get older.

1. Astragalus 

Used with the guidance of your veterinarian, astragalus stimulates and strengthens your senior dog’s immune system. It has antioxidant effects that inhibit free radical production. It’s also anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and lowers blood pressure.

Brain boosters

Veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib, authors of The Forever Dog curated a list of anti-aging and longevity-promoting brain supplements for dogs, including:

  • Antioxidants, like vitamin E (from fruits and veggies) and vitamin C
  • L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid (ALA)
  • SAMe
  • EFAs or essential fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid – DHA)
  • Probiotics that support mental wellness boost gut health and the immune system.
  • Ginkgo biloba

2. Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo is one of the most popular herbs for boosting cognitive function, and is one of the oldest plant medicines on earth. The fall-harvested leaves are used and prepared as a tincture, tea, or capsule. Studies show that ginkgo elevates energy levels in the brain. This plant also improves kidney function and treats early renal failure.

Mobility helper

Many older dogs have arthritis and other joint problems that cause pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. Alleviating these issues dramatically improves quality of life.

3. Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)  

This herb is known to reduce joint pain and help with arthritis. It’s useful for a wide variety of inflammation issues and is also known to treat skin conditions.

Gut support

Digestive problems become more common as dogs age. The following herbs can help support gut health in senior dogs with special dietary needs.

4. Ginger

Ginger is known as the anti-nausea herb and addresses oxidative stress in animals. Many older dogs suffer from indigestion, bloating and gas, and ginger is a common solution for these issues.

5. Dandelion

This common “weed” is chock full of prebiotic fiber, and has a cleansing effect on the liver. More nutritious even than kale, dandelion is often used as a way to replenish needed vitamins in senior dogs.

Liver protection

Aging affects all the organ systems. Liver issues are often noticed in senior dogs when lab work is done at wellness appointments.

6. Milk thistle 

This liver detox herb maximizes anti-aging and pro-longevity actions in the body. It accelerates liver regeneration in dogs with liver issues, and prevents further damage. Active substances in milk thistle may also have anti-cancer effects. This herb helps flush out the residue from veterinary medication.

Heart health

Problems such as dilated cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure can affect dogs as they get older, so doing what you can to support your canine’s heart health is important.

7. Hawthorn (Crataegus species)

Hawthorn berry extract is often used to help with cardiovascular efficiency. It dilates the coronary vessels, and the vessels of the brain, to increase circulation and the transport of nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. Hawthorn has been used for centuries to improve cardiac function and output, and to support the entire cardiovascular system.

The herbs outlined in this article are just the start when it comes to helping your senior dog live his best life during his final years or months.