Echinacea and Dog Health

leftycatcher(z6MA)March 16, 2006

My 3 y/o golden retriever eats copious amounts of echinacea (purple coneflower) leaves every summer, which grows abundantly in my garden.

After a summer of perfect health (no skin problems), he developed several hot spots around Thanksgiving, and I've been battling the problem, with accompanying 'itchies' ever since.

As I think back, the same thing happened last year. I'm wondering whether his daily ingestion of the echinacea leaves - a known immuno-booster - was his way of self treatment. Interesting that the development of the skin problem coincided with the end of the growing season, two years in a row.

Anyone with a similar situation? Can anyone suggest how I might preserve the leaves this growing season to incorporate the plant in his diet next winter?


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I dunno... When I was doing grooming, the vet told us that a lot of skin problems were a) allergies, which would mean at that late date Echinacea wouldn't be the problem. or B) too much protein in the diet. certain dog foods are higher in protein and cause skin problems.
But that's just what that one vet told us.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 11:32PM
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Dogs will eat just about anything, including items that are not good for them (including potentially toxic plants). Eating "copious" amounts of Echinacea is probably not a great idea, as some drugs tolerated well by humans don't work out as well in dogs.

It's doubtful that there's any connection between the dog scarfing down Echinacea during the summer and skin health. More sunlight and exercise, or any of a number of factors might be involved.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 8:15AM
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I think there may be a connection. Give him dried leaves at the end of this growing season and see what happens. Remember dried leaves are more potent than fresh. Or think of what else in the environment and the changes at the end of the growing season could have an effect. Echinacea is a natural anti-biotic so maybe it is caused by a bacteria. Do you have mold in the house. Does he spend much more time inside? There could be a lot of things but the connection is interesting.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2006 at 1:37PM
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While Echinacea's effectiveness in immune stimulation remains controversial, even practitioners that promote it warn against regular dosing.

"Give X and see what happens" is not what I'd do with a valued pet (I have two dogs).

    Bookmark   March 26, 2006 at 5:27PM
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Thank you for all the interesting comments.

kfg - I didn't realize dried leaves were more potent than fresh; also didn't realize it's a natural antibiotic. And as a matter of fact, I do have mold in the house during the winter months when the windows are closed. Heathen, the diet has remained unchanged, and echinacea is the ONLY thing he ever eats out in the yard. So I feel strongly there is a connection. Guess I'll just have to continue researching (although seems most of the Google searches bring up supplement advertisements).

    Bookmark   March 26, 2006 at 9:47PM
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To clarify one point - There is evidence that Echinacea is an immune system stimulant/modulator. It's not an antibiotic (in other words, it hasn't been shown to have a direct killing action on infectious agents in the body).

    Bookmark   March 27, 2006 at 8:34AM
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