Zoopharmacognosy - What on earth is it and how can it help your animals?Feb 01, 2023
Perhaps you have heard about the amazing discoveries Jane Goodall made about chimpanzees and how they choose some of the same medicinal plants as humans to ease a stomach ache? Or you may have seen the documentary about macaws in the Amazon rainforest who congregate in huge flocks to eat clay, which helps to counteract some of the plant toxins that naturally occur in their diet? These are examples of Zoopharmacognosy, which is the scientific study of animals self-medicating in the wild.
But did you know that our domesticated animals also know how to select their own natural medicines? When your dog drags you into a tasty patch of grass and carefully chooses the nicest strands to eat or your cat rolls all over your peppermint plant, they are replicating the behaviour of their wild cousins. Applied Zoopharmacognosy is the field dedicated to enabling domesticated animals to select their own plant medicines. These may be essential oils, clays, herbs and herbal powders or plant extracts. For example, a dog may choose to lick, inhale or rub themselves into their favoured remedy.
These remedies can be self-selected for a range of problems that our animals encounter, such as itchy skin, wounds, arthritis and kennel cough. They may also be selected to help with emotional and behavioural issues such as phantom pregnancy, past abuse or fear of fireworks. I have been fortunate enough to work with animals ranging from horses to guinea pigs and even snakes and they have all displayed the ability to select what it is that they most need.
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