Of all the diseases transmitted from wild animals to dogs, rabies is the most deadly. Our canine friends are the main transmitter of the rabies virus to humans (World Health Organization, n.d.). A dog has to have active rabies in order to be contagious and pass the virus through their saliva in order to infect someone. Once infected, an animal or person will start to show common signs of the virus, such as agitation, muscle spasms, seizures, confusion, and weakness.
Due to the severity of the disease progression, prognosis, and incubation time, dogs are required by law to receive a rabies vaccination either yearly or every three years, depending on state law. Puppies are required to have two rabies vaccinations between 12 weeks and 1 year of age with most administered before 6 months.
Even though the rabies vaccination has been effective at keeping rabies outbreaks at a minimum, holistic veterinarians and pet owners have grown increasingly concerned about the effects of yearly vaccination due to the vaccine’s inert ingredients.
With concerns on both sides of the rabies vaccination conversation, at the end of the day, it is required by law. Thankfully, as caring dog owners, we can look to nature to help us support our pet’s body before and after the rabies vaccination.
Incorporating Botanical Allies into Home Pet Care
By using a mixture of both mature plant and phytoembryonic tinctures, you can support your dog throughout the vaccination process.
Phytoembryonic tinctures are sold commercially as gemmotherapies. They are made from the phytoembryonic stem cells of either plant buds, young shoots, rootlets, or young barks mixed with alcohol, glycerin, and water. Most commercial gemmotherapy preparations in the United States are diluted to a 10x (diluted ten times) potency making them compatible with both mature plant tinctures and homeopathic preparations.
Gemmotherapies (gemmos) are believed to help support the body at a cellular level (Halfon, 2005), decreasing the body’s toxic load through the elimination channels supporting lymphatic flow. Through their constituents, gemmotherapies decrease mucus, increase cellular voltage, help balance electrolytes, and support the repair and oxygenation of cell structures. (Rozencwajg, 2016).
Unlike forced detoxification which can push the body to respond and sometimes cause unneeded stress and side effects, gemmotherapy is a gentle way to balance the body and support the body’s work to eliminate toxins. For general use, you can add gemmos directly to the mouth in a small amount of filtered water or add them to your dog’s food.
Herbal Support For Canine Rabies Vaccination
When using either gemmotherapies or mature plant tinctures for support during the rabies vaccination, the key to success is establishing some pre- and post-vaccine goals. These goals include stimulating the lymphatic system, calming inflammation, supporting the digestive system, balancing the nervous system, and gently encouraging detoxification and the removal of heavy metals.
The plant recommendations below will specify which of the above goals that plant will assist in as well as whether a mature plant or a gemmotherapy is suggested.
Mature plant tincture and gemmotherapy dosages are based on the weight of your dog. You can use the following chart to determine the size of your pet.
|Canine Size and Weight Chart|
|Extra small dog||3-10 pounds|
|Small dog||10-30 pounds|
|Medium dog||30-55 pounds|
|Large dog||55-100 pounds|
|Extra large dog||100+ pounds|
For puppies under 6 months of age: use glycerin-based tinctures in lieu of alcohol tinctures. Gemmotherapies are safe for puppies.
Before and after vaccination, it’s important to get the lymphatics moving. If not, the body will circulate wastes without opening the proper pathways of elimination. Dead cells, bacteria, viruses, and other metabolic wastes have to be filtered through the lymphatic system so the goal is to keep things moving and avoid stagnancy.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis) Flower
Calendula is my herb of choice for stimulating the lymphatics of energetically cool to neutral dogs. Calendula is a neutral to warming multifunctional herb that supports lymphatic drainage, the gastrointestinal system, and the liver (Wood, 2008).
Cleaver (Galium aparine) Aerial parts
For dogs who are energetically warm to hot, my choice for lymphatic stimulation is cleavers. Cleavers has a cooling effect on the body that aids the body in flushing out toxins, pushing through stagnation, and easing swelling in the lymph nodes (Hoffmann, 2003). Energetically, cleavers is moist and cool.
The suggested dosage for calendula and cleavers tinctures is one drop for extra-small dogs, two drops for small dogs, three drops for medium dogs, four drops for large dogs, and five drops for giant dogs. Give dose twice daily for 2 weeks prior to vaccination and 12 weeks afterward.
Pre- and Post-Vaccine Botanicals
Black Currant (Ribes nigrum) Bud
Black currant gemmotherapy works to support the immune system, adrenal glands, and eases the inflammatory response to the rabies vaccination (Blake, 2011) ). This plant is quite stimulating so it’s best to avoid using it in dogs with a history of seizures, and it should only be given once per day in the morning.
The suggested dose for a black currant gemmotherapy is one drop for extra-small dogs, two drops for small dogs, three drops for medium dogs, four drops for large dogs, and five drops for giant dogs. Give dose once a day for 2 weeks prior to vaccination, including the day of injection.
Burdock (Arctium lappa) Root
Burdock root supports the body’s removal of toxins through the liver and increases the elimination of wastes (Tilford, 1999). Historically, burdock root has been used as a blood cleanser and helps support the liver and the kidneys.
When giving burdock root to your dog, it is best to use a mature plant tincture or capsule of burdock root. The suggested dosage for a tincture is three drops for extra-small dogs, five drops for small dogs, eight drops for medium dogs, 10 drops for large dogs, and 15 drops for giant dogs. For capsules, give 150 mg for extra-small to small dogs, 250 mg for medium dogs, 350 mg for large dogs, and 500 mg for giant dogs. Suggested dosage is twice daily with food. Give both variations 2 weeks prior to vaccination and 12 weeks post-vaccination.
Fig (Ficus carica) Bud
Fig gemmotherapy is known for balancing the digestive system, helping with potential physical and behavioral rabies vaccination-related side effects, and supporting the nervous system ( Blake, 2011). It is well indicated for the rabies vaccination as it supports liver detoxification and soothes the stress response. Fig gemmotherapy is best if your dog is prone to nervousness, anxiety, or is easily agitated.
The suggested dose for fig gemmotherapy is one drop for extra-small dogs, two drops for small dogs, three drops for medium dogs, four drops for large dogs, and five drops for giant dogs. Give dose once a day, 2 weeks prior to vaccination and 8 weeks post-vaccination.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) Seed
Milk thistle seed is one of the best herbs for supporting the liver with detoxification as it is high in antioxidants, increases liver glutathione, and supports the pancreas and kidneys (M. Wood, personal communication, 2018).). Choose burdock root instead of milk thistle if your dog is prone to dryness.
The suggested dosage of milk thistle tincture is two drops for extra-small dogs, four drops for small dogs, six drops for medium dogs, eight drops for large dogs, and ten drops for giant dogs. Mix each dose with 1 ml of filtered water and give twice daily, 2 weeks pre-vaccination and 8 weeks post-vaccination.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) Aerial parts
Skullcap is indicated whenever there is a chronic nervous system imbalance ( Moore, 2003). In my practice, I find skullcap effective with behavior-based side effect specific to the rabies vaccination.
The suggested dosage of skullcap tincture is one drop for extra-small dogs, two drops for small dogs, three drops for medium dogs, four drops for large dogs, and five drops for giant dogs. Give dose twice daily, 10 weeks post-vaccination.
Juniper (Juniperus communis) Bud
Many of you might know juniper for its berries and their effect on the kidneys as a diuretic and antiseptic in the urinary tract. The stem cells of juniper have an affinity for both the kidneys and the liver.
Juniper stem cells have an anti-inflammatory and anti-pharmaceutical effect helping to protect liver cells much like milk thistle but on a cellular level (Rozencwajg, 2016). It does this by stimulating hepatocytes (liver cells responsible for detoxification) and modifying ammonia so that the body can excrete toxins through the kidney and the liver (Rozencwajg, 2016).
Juniper buds help the liver filter toxins and repair damaged cells (Halfon, 2005). Birch and juniper can be combined for vaccine-related side effects and related support. If your dog is on pharmaceutical medication, please consult your veterinarian before using juniper as it can metabolize pharmaceuticals at a faster rate as intended.
Use 1 drop for extra-small dogs, two drops for small dogs, three drops for medium dogs, four drops for large dogs and five drops for giant dogs. Give twice daily 8 weeks post-vaccination. Like birch, work your way up to dosage when using juniper and limit its use to 8 weeks.
Birch (Betula pubescens, B. alba) Bud
Birch buds help clear pharmaceuticals from the tissues through their interaction with Kupfer cells in the liver (Rozencwajg, 2016). Birch can cause swift detoxification so go slow by starting with 1 drop and adding an additional drop every other day until you reach dosage. Choose birch if your dog has had reactions to prior rabies vaccination or is sensitive to pharmaceuticals.
Use one drop for extra-small dogs, two drops for small dogs, three drops for medium dogs, four drops for large dogs, and five drops for giant dogs. Give dose twice daily, 8 weeks post-vaccination.
Heavy Metal Detoxification Botanicals
While it’s important to support the body in removing heavy metals, I suggest waiting until after you work with the above options before adding the following preparations.
Mountain Pine (Pinus montana) Bud
Mountain pine gemmotherapy helps to remove heavy metals by assisting the lymphatic system and supporting the liver through its effect on glutathione (Richard, 2014). It also releases a chemical called phytochelatin, which is responsible for keeping heavy metal atoms out of cells so they can be eliminated (Richard, 2014).
Use one drop for extra-small dogs, two drops for small dogs, three drops for medium dogs, four drops for large dogs, and five drops for giant dogs. Give dose twice daily for 8 to 12 weeks after post-vaccine botanicals have subsided.
Black Poplar (Populus nigra) Bud
Like Pinus, black poplar gemmotherapy helps to remove heavy metals and solvents from tissues due to phytochelatins and metallothioneins, both of which help remove a variety of solvents (Richard, 2014). Poplar also helps balance circulation, stimulate lymphatic drainage and support detoxification (Richard, 2014). Black poplar gemmotherapy contains salicin, so if your dog is allergic to aspirin, avoid using this product.
Use one drop for extra-small dogs, two drops for small dogs, three drops for medium dogs, four drops for large dogs, and five drops for giant dogs. Give dose once a day, and limit use to 3 weeks. Black poplar is unsafe for puppies.
Because removing heavy metals is an ongoing process, I suggest using these two gemmotherapy products every 3-4 months for a year.
Expectations In Wellness
When you’re working with your dog on any detoxification regimen after vaccination, it’s important to have a clear picture of what that might look like. Your dog may experience signs of detoxification like mild lethargy, nausea, eye discharge, loose stools, and skin eruptions. If symptoms become exaggerated, discontinue botanicals for a week and start again at a lower dosage.
If you have an extra-small dog, you may have to dilute a single drop while their body adjusts. To do this, dissolve one drop of tincture into 30 drops of filtered water. Give 1 dropper full for 4 to 5 days before giving an entire drop. Extreme sensitivities usually occur in dogs that are severely depleted and stressed. Most reactions don’t last more than 72 hours.
Remember dogs are individuals. What I have suggested are general dosages that have been successful for most dogs I’ve worked with. Your dog may need slightly more or less of a preparation.
If you need further assistance in supporting your dog through rabies vaccination, you can locate a holistic veterinarian through the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.
Blake, S. (2011). Gemmotherapy for our animal friends. San Diego, CA: Dr. Stephen R. Blake DVM publishing.
Halfon, R. (2005). Gemmotherapy: The science of healing with plant stem cells. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
Moore, M. (2003). Medicinal plants of the mountain west. Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press.
Richard, D. (2014). Concentrated gemmotherapy PSC for chelation of all toxic metals. Retrieved from https://studylib.net/doc/7743479/concentrated-gemmotherapy-for-chelation-of-heavy-metals
Rozencwajg, J. (2016). Dynamic gemmotherapy: Beyond gemmotherapy (Vol. 1). Merrilands, New Zealand: Nautra Medica Ltd.
Tilford, M., & Tilford, G. (1999). All you ever wanted to know about herbs for pets. Irvine, CA: Bowtie Press.
Wood, M. (2008). The earthwise herbal: A complete guide to old world medicinal plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
World Health Organization. (n.d.). Rabies. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/gho/neglected_diseases/rabies/en/