**Warning: This post is not about delicious things. It’s about poop and healing a sick dog with herbs***
I woke up the other morning to find a big puddle of ick on the kitchen floor. It appeared to be mucusy, dark bloody, and having come from the rectum of my dog. Snoo was sick. Having followed me over to the puddle, I couldn’t tell by the looks of her energy, alertness or general wiggle-buttedness that anything was wrong. Except the evidence laid forth before me told a different story.
Living on a farm, my dog gets into all kinds of strange things. A month before, during one of our walks, we had passed the limp, pale foreleg of a baby elk. I could tell it was either stillborn or killed soon after birth due to it having such a fresh looking, never trod upon, hoof. I had seen such pristine hooves before when helping my goats kid.
Several weeks later, this leg ended up in the yard being gnawed upon by my one year old Aussie Shepherd, Snoo. She then followed me into the chicken yard and licked some chicken poops. She regularly eats the cat turds out of the litter box. I imagine she thinks these are crunchy snacks that our cat kindly leaves for her. Whatever was the straw that broke the camel’s back, Snoo’s rear end was sending a clear message that she had taken things one lick too far.
Instead of calling the vet, which is a last-resort option for me, I opted to follow the sage advice of herbalist Juliette de Baraclai-Levy, author of the Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat as well as the Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable. She instilled in me a confidence that dogs are capable of both healing themselves and believing in the power of herbs for their own healing. I gave the dog time to heal herself with couch grass and fasting (her choice). Her energy level was fine but her diarrhea got worse. After three days of minimal kibble meals, some kefir and oats, there didn’t appear to be much improvement.
I began seriously considering a vet visit and took a few hours to scour the internet for the poop of dogs who were experiencing various bacterial and protozoic digestive tract infections. As my housemates could attest, her untimely splats seemed to exhibit symptoms of both these issues. She was still high energy, drinking lots of water, peeing regularly, and pooping irregularly. I had taken to keeping her closed in my room at night so that she could alert me when she needed to poop. Over three days she regularly woke me up somewhere around 12-3 am. Then again at 5 or 6 am. I was tired. She was sick.
On the fourth morning, like I do when I can, during a walk I examined her feces by poking it around with a stick — a pile of couch grass and plum jelly looking gunk. I guessed her inflamed intestinal lining sloughing off was the bulk of the deposit. I marched into the house and took to the kitchen to at least support her efforts in fighting both potential coccidiosis (the chickens had definitely been exhibiting this parasite in their poops) and whatever bacteria she may have picked up, and lending soothing to her intestinal walls so they may heal. If she didn’t improve by the next day, she was heading to the vet.
-First, I grabbed a cup of slippery elm powder* and poured boiling water over it to make a thick pudding. Slippery elm is incredible at soothing and healing gut lining with its mucilaginous magic.
-I pounded a quarter cup of fennel seeds in a mortar to open them up. Fennel is wildly antibacterial. That’s why it’s found in some toothpastes.
-Having made a Chinese five-spice, garlic, onion stewed beef heart the previous day, I had ample spiced beef broth with plenty of ginger, garlic and onion for helping with the anti-bacterial and inflammatory battle. I’ve heard that dogs shouldn’t eat much garlic or onion but the only issue I’ve come across is some gas development. I assume it comes from the protestations of the regular gut biota. In any case, I always keep a bone broth container in the freezer for just such emergencies and recommend you do the same.
In a bowl, I combined the slippery elm pudding, fennel seeds, a quarter cup of sugar, a tablespoon of salt (for electrolyte effect), two cups of kefir (or yogurt), and four cups of rolled oats. This mix went into the fridge to be doled out over the course of a week.
Each morning I’d fill her bowl halfway with the mix and halfway with the broth. Then I’d crush up a tablespoon of rosemary leaves (another antibacterial) on top. It wasn’t her favorite meal but judging by the transformation in her poop overnight from a dark plum jelly to a normal semi-firm brown and her lack of explosive diarrhea in the middle of the night, I’d say this was a success story. No vet was needed (though I certainly would have gone had the improvement not happened so quickly). Blessed be the greenbloods that heal us and the wise ancestors who come to write their messages down for us to share. Learn your herbs. Trust your instincts. Listen to your pets.
*A note on slippery elm: Due to harmful wild harvesting practices, it is essential that slippery elm is purchased from a recognized and respected herb company who prioritizes sourcing from organic farms. Slippery elm can and should be cultivated wherever possible. I recommend Pacific Botanicals as your source as it’s a great price and clearly labeled as grown on organic farms.