Alfalfa

Common Uses: allergies, arthritis, cognitive disorder, cancer and urinary disorders.

Alfalfa is purported to be one of the best herbal therapies for arthritis. It also possesses cancer-preventing properties by inactivating chemicals that can cause cancer. It is often fed to animals that need to gain weight.

The vitamin K content of alfalfa makes it valuable in pets with bleeding disorders. Conversely, excess doses might interfere with blood clotting due to the coumarin (an anticoagulant) content in alfalfa.

Alfalfa can make urine alkaline and is useful in those bladder conditions where a more alkaline urine is needed (likewise, it should not be used in pets whose medical conditions require an acid urine).

Due to the large content of nutrients, many doctors recommend it for pets that require increased mental nutrition (older pets, especially those with cognitive disorder).

Safety Issues
Alfalfa is generally regarded safe. The seeds can cause blood disorders due to L-canavanine and seeds should be avoided.

Animals sensitive to pollen may be sensitive to fresh alfalfa.

Aminocaproic Acid (ACA)

Common use: degenerative myelopathy. Aminocaproic acid works by inhibiting the process of fibrinolysis (the breakdown of fibrin, a protein needed for proper blood clotting) and can reverse states that are associated with excessive fibrinolysis. Degenerative myelopathy is theorized to be caused by an autoimmune response (possibly from over-vaccinating dogs) attacking the nervous system of dogs, which leads to progressive neural tissue damage. Since this is an autoimmune response, immune complexes circulate in the blood, leading to endothelial cell damage in the blood vessels of the central nervous system. This causes fibrin to be deposited around blood vessels. When the fibrin degrades, inflammatory cells are stimulated to migrate into the lesions, which leads to tissue damage. It is possible ACA may limit or stop this process.

Dosages
Aminocaproic acid is made in a 250 mg/ml oral solution. This can be mixed with chicken broth, using 2 ml of the drug and 1 ml of chicken broth. The recommended dosage is 500 mg (3 ml of the above combination) given three times a day with or without food. ACA should be stored at room temperature with the lid tightly closed.

Arginine

Common uses: liver disease, heart disease, and cancer. Arginine is an essential amino acid found in many foods. It plays a role in several bio-chemical processes in the body, including cell division, wound healing, immune functions, hormone secretion, and the removal of ammonia from the body. Arginine is also involved in the formation of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels.

Dosages
Doses of 500 mg to 3000 mg per day are recommended.

Safety Issues
Since arginine is an amino acid, supplementation is believed to be safe. Maximum safe doses have not however, been established.

Astragalus

Common uses: cancer, infections, kidney disease, and hyperthyroidism in cats.

Astragalus is used to strengthen the immune system and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Many doctors prescribe it for pets with various infections and chronic illnesses. It can be used to help the body recover from long-term steroid therapy and for pets with kidney disease as it improves kidney circulation.

Safety Issues
The medicinal herb Astragalus membranaceous is safe; many other species are toxic. For hyper-immune disorders (autoimmune diseases, diabetes), and disorders with diminished immune systems with low white blood cell counts (feline leukemia and immunodeficiency diseases), it may be wise to avoid this herb, as astragalus is used for immune stimulation. It is best used early in the course of the disease to stimulate the immune system. Do not use to treat hypothyroidism.

Shawn Messonnier, DVM

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Shawn Messonnier DVM Past Supporting Member, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians Author, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and Breast Choices for the Best Chances: Your Breasts, Your Life, and How YOU Can Win The Battle!

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