By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor
Caroline Ingraham, who founded the Ingraham Academy of Zoopharmacognosy believes, that many behavioural issues with canines mask physical discomfort which they cannot communicate to their owners. But she believes that animals are experts in selecting remedies to make themselves feel better and by offering them a variety of essential oils and botanical cures they will choose the correct medicine and even the exact dose they need to get well. Ms Ingraham made the connection after her dog Gunner was bitten by a rattlesnake in Australia and was sent home from the vet to die from internal bleeding.
From experience of working with animals Ms Ingraham knew that horses often ate carrot seed when they were suffering from similar bleeds. After offering carrotseed to Gunner the bleeding slowed immediately and he fully recovered. “Self-medication is a behaviour that is in both domesticated and wild animals,” she told the Hay Literary Festival. “Both are incredibly accurate at selecting what they need. They know their doseage and they know how long they need to take it. Until recently animals had access to a wide range of plants. “It’s clearly a behaviour that has helped them survive and domesticated animals still have the same ability to medicate themselves as wild animals.” Ms Ingraham said that behavioural problems such as separation anxiety often emerge because an animal is unwell and is feeling insecure and so clings to its owner. “We all know how we feel when we are unwell,” she said. “Sometimes with dogs it’s really difficult to know when there is something physically wrong. I’ve been finding that a lot of behavioural problems are down to hidden health problems.”
She suggests offering remedies which anti-bacterial properties, such as lemon oil and thyme and those which are good for pain, such as yarrow, wintergreen and St John’s Wort. If the dog sniffs or licks its owners hand it shows there is an underlying health issue rather than a behavioural problem. Dogs have around 300 million odour receptors where humans have 30 times fewer, so breathing in essential oils can have a much greater impact. The molecules from essential oils can travel into the brain faster than electricity and have an instant impact. Ms Ingraham suggests rose, valerian and frankincense to calm anxious dogs as it will lower adrenalin levels; garlic and cloves for stomach upsets and rosehip to boost the immune system. She claims that often when dogs poison themselves it is with plants that they have not encountered in their evolutionary history. Dogs are drawn to chocolate because they do not know that cocoa plant is poisonous for them. Likewise pet dogs often become ill eating exotic house plants which they do not know are dangerous, but rarely poison themselves by eating native plants.
Ms Ingraham recently released the book Help Your Dog Heal Itself.