Keeping PETS out of vets since 2011

Applied ZooPharmacognosy

a photo of a labrador eating grass

a photo of a labrador eating grass

Applied ZooPharmacognosy

Two weeks ago a lady asked me did I know of any Applied ZooPharmacognosy (AZ) practioners in Northern Ireland? In Northern Ireland?!!! I don’t even know any in the South either. In fact, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. Then I got to thinking. We recently added Holistic Hound’s range of our products to our store as the reviews of her products are resoundingly impressive. Behind these products is Jo Arbon, and I seem to remember reading something about AZ on her website. Sure enough, Jo is exactly the person to talk to.

Are There any Truly Natural Products out There?

Lots of people produce “natural” products. Sadly everyone’s definition of natural differs hugely. For example, dry food manufacturers are free to use the words natural and holistic in their heavily processed, plant-based crap for dogs. Case in point The Natural Dog Food Company in the UK who produce a pelleted feed for dogs (apparently “the first truly balanced complete dog food”). They state on their website;

Dogs are primarily carnivorous and benefit from a meat rich diet. With an average of 41% meat in the adult varieties and up to 55% meat in the puppy foods, Natural Dog Food is formulated to accurately recreate the natural diet of the dog, the kind of diet a dog is evolved to eat.


A pic of three bags of "natural" dog food

This sort of marketing mumbo jumbo, of course, spreads into natural treatments and supplements too. I’m constantly looking for great, natural products that work. You can see we don’t stock a huge range. I don’t want to be another pet shop with a cacophony of products that might do the job. I want to be able to stand over our natural products. But also, when I pick up an apparently natural product and read the back I want it to appear, well…natural. Often I struggle to pronounce half the chemicals on the back and this annoys me (though it’s fair to say, in my ignorance, I could be misunderstanding some perfectly harmless compounds, still….). This is why I love products like Canident and Oculus Prime (for weepy eyes) as they are so simple and yet so effective. It’s why I love Rawdry, dehydrated, natural meat treats as she makes them by hand and adds nothing! And it’s the reason I love Jo’s products. Upon reordering a few weeks back, Jo told me there would be a possible 6 week wait for one of them as she “crushed the mullein by hand and has to leave it for six weeks” to do something or other. That is the sort of natural I want.

a herb shed
What I imagine Jo’s shed to look like…

Jo, who you can’t reach half the time as there is no coverage where she is, adding to her mystique and allure, keeps it very, very natural. And she would know. She is qualified in Complementary Therapies for Pets with the Animal Care College (UK), subsequently specialising in the use of herbs, essential oils and flower essences for dogs. She has spent time studying Herbal Therapies for Dogs with Dr. Jimmy Symmonds (co-founder of the British Association of Veterinary Herbalists and more recently with Caroline Ingraham (founder of Applied Zoopharmacognosy). Add to that she’s a canine first responder and a licenced wildlife rehabilitator. One of those people that kind of makes you feel bad about your lack of ambition.

What is Applied Zoopharmacognosy?

a photo of a cat eating grassSo I asked Jo what was AZ really about. Coined in 1933, Animal Zoopharmacognosy stems from the Greek roots zoo (animal), pharma (drug), and gnosy (knowing)). In short, a choice of herbs and plant extracts that would commonly be found in that animal’s natural environment is presented to them. The animal is free to choose to inhale, lick or have the remedy applied topically, essentially allowing them to manage their own health, rather than having medications administered based upon oftentimes flawed perception or diagnosis. They choose or walk away. In this way, AZ encourages your dog to effectively self-medicate depending on what they need “both physically and emotionally”.

Now, this might sound a bit wishy-washy but lets take a look at that. Aided by incredible senses of smell, we know dogs and cats are notorious self-medicators. In this respect we often think of them eating grass, likely as a digestive aid but also to help them vomit, clear of parasites or potentially source minerals that may be lacking in their diet. Cats love a role in peppermint and catnip. There is no doubting there is some very positive effects to be had here.

However, many other animals demonstrate this ability too. Studies show that starlings deliberately choose specific plants (that they also source with their sense of smell) to include in their nests which serve to both boost the immune systems of chicks and reduce their bacterial loads. Ants infected with Beauveria bassiana, a fungus, selectively consume harmful substances upon exposure to the fungal pathogen, yet avoid these in the absence of infection. Great apes consume non-nutritional material to balance gut acidity or combat intestinal parasitic infection. Chimps do it to rid of parasites. African elephants appear to self-medicate to induce birth by chewing on the leaves of the Boraginaceae tree, and Kenyan women too brew a tea from this tree to induce childbirth. Wild boar do it to kill tapeworm. Sheep. Parrots. Insects.

I imagine if they look hard enough, every animal is at it.

Jo offers Applied Zoopharmacognosy sessions. Crucially, her focus is less on a diagnosis, something we all crave when our loved ones are sick. Rather, it’s very much more a holistic approach, a noting of potential problems and natural solutions. Crucially, Jo enthuses her clients to consider natural therapies but also to work with their veterinarian. Sadly, the reverse can rarely ever said to be true.

In Jo’s words,

The best holistic approach is to integrate and use all appropriate therapies, taking the best from each.

Holistic Hounds Products are now found at Dogs First. They include:A bottle of Worms Away, a natural worm treatment for dogs


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