There’s so much more I could say – but let this be a start…. feel free to ask questions here or on the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/756709917722083/.   There will be an E-book, coming this summer, as well.

Such an important topic. Here you go!

My impetus for writing this article at this particular time, is all the concern I am hearing about the latest “Canine flu”. The outbreak has led to a real upswing in my Inbox asking “how can I boost my dogs immune system?” I felt it might be time to take a look at the immune system, with all its complexities, and see what indeed doglovers can do to address this concern. Support for, rather than boosting (or more accurately, stimulating) is the way to go, in most cases and involves a comprehensive approach. Herbs can play a central role in achieving optimal immune system health.
What is the latest “Dog Flu” all about?

To start, a few words about the recent outbreak of CI (canine influenza) in Chicago.
The first outbreak in 2004, was a different strain from the recent (2015) but with similar symptoms. The recent Chicago outbreak has been identified as a H3N2 virus, probably mutated from birds and originating in Asia, and there are two forms. Most of the cases have been the milder form, with symptoms including a moist cough, lethargy, lowgrade fever and inappetence, but there is a more severe strain that will present with a high fever, and pneumonia like symptoms, which may be related to a secondary bacterial infection. The mild form can also involve a secondary infection, often presenting with a nasal discharge that is not typical of the virus. Veterinary management will always focus on antibiotics.
Of course, the new strains of flu, while worrisome, are not the worst or the most widespread threats to canine health. A strong immune system is integral to good health and function, to building strong resistance to all kinds of viral and bacterial threats. So how do we go about achieving that? Beyond the basic, common sense foundations of a good diet, proper amounts of exercise, quality sleep and emotional balance?
This article will cover some basic info on the immune system, and then go on to the role of diet, specific nutrients and the immune system, a bit on supplements (probiotics and antioxidants) and then the focus of this article will be herbs that support and/or stimulate the immune system, and strategies for strengthening resistance to the flu.

 

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An Overview of the Immune System

Although an indepth exploration of the immune system is beyond the scope of this article, it’s good to have a basic grasp of its mechanisms, which in turn helps us make sense of how best to provide support.
So, what is the immune system, where exactly does it reside? We mostly all know that it’s job is to serve as a barrier for pathogens – to prevent potentially harmful invaders from getting into the body and causing illness. The immune system ‘s function is to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy cells by recognizing a variety of warning signs called danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Cells may be unhealthy for several reasons; these range from cellular damage caused by non-infectious agents like cancer to those affected by an active infection. Pathogenic microbes such as viruses and bacteria release a different set of signals recognized by the immune system, and these are called pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). The overall idea is the defense of the body against any kind of invasive or pathogenic cell.

But how exactly all of this works – where it takes place – is often misunderstood. Many organs and systems are involved in the immune system, which we can think of more as a series of biological processes – a network – rather than a system with a specific set of organs and fixed location in the body, such as we think of the digestive system. Immune cells, wherever they are in the body, which ever system or tissue, whatever job they are doing, originate in two places: bone marrow, and the thymus gland. They circulate throughout the body via blood and lymph. We can think of the lymph nodes, thymus and spleen as specifically related to the immune system, but many other tissues and organs play a key role. It’s a better idea to focus on multi-system support than zero in solely on the immune system.

But what about the elusive “Immune system?” Very briefly, it can be divided into two sections, Specific and Nonspecific response, also known as Innate and Adaptive. Aside from physical barriers, we have the immunity present at birth (Nonspecific) and then immunity acquired throughout life (Specific) . Specific Immunity is developed throughout life as new antigens are encountered. It features both mechanical barriers (skin, the cornea of the eyes, mucous membranes) and chemical – there are many types of immune cells with specific jobs to do, some are better understood than others. The canine body, just like our own, is continually generating immune cells. Cells in saliva and lymph fluid, stomach acid, blood ,work hourly to prevent illness . Much of the time they succeed, but sometimes they fail ,and illness takes hold. Let’s back up a step and look at a couple of well known immune system cells and what they do.
It’s way beyond the scope of this one article to go into all the types of cells and their role in the body, but a few terms will be helpful as we move on to the herbs and what they do.
Macrophages are cells that are part of what is called Nonspecific Immune Response. The name literally means “Big Eaters” and that’s what they do – they consume unwanted things! This process is called phagocytosis and is an essential aspect of the immune system’s job.

Macrophage engulfing bacteria as part of the immune system's response to infection

yep, that’s a macrophage engulfing  bacterial  bad-guys.
Antigens are Substances that stimulate an immune response in the body .
White blood cells involved in non-specific immunity are called Monocytes. These develop into macrophages, neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, cytokines and mast cells (to name a few).
NK cells (Natural Killers) a type of lymphocyte , part of the Innate Immune system, that can destroy virus-infected cells, cancer cells without prior sensitization

Of course, despite all these amazing systems of defense, things can and do go wrong. Malnutrition, excessive use of veterinary drugs/vaccinations, disease – all can take a toll on the immune system, leaving it impaired and low-functioning (in any number of ways). Auto-immune disease occurs when the system malfunctions and reacts to safe cells as though they were pathogens, and any number of diseases can ensue. This article deals with problems of low function, for the most part; I will address auto-immune disease in a separate article.

Takeaway message: in order to support the immune system we have to support the whole dog, with perhaps an extra emphasis on the digestive system and lymphatic system, evaluation of stress levels (nervous system) and thinking in terms of process and complexity, not a single “system” that just needs to be amped up with stimulation. Immune system health reflects and protects the health of the whole being, involves the emotions and diet, and can indeed be strengthened with an overall strategy.
Nutrition and the Immune System

Despite what you may have heard, nutrients do count and they can have profound effects on immune system health. My very first line of defense when seeking to strengthen the immune system (or indeed, the general wellbeing of the dog) is to assess the nutrient content of the diet –by that I mean protein, fats and fatty acids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals – and make good and sure the dog is receiving adequate nutrition. Many home prepared diets, both raw and cooked, are marginal – to -seriously low in multiple essential nutrients. In addition, low quality commercial foods; the presence of conditions that affect absorption/nutrient bioavailability, and chronic underfeeding may all contribute to nutrient depletion. The importance of this cannot be overstated:
Adequate intakes of vitamins and trace elements are required for the immune system to function efficiently. Micronutrient deficiency suppresses immune functions by affecting the innate T-cell-mediated immune response and adaptive antibody response, and leads to dysregulation of the balanced host response. This increases the susceptibility to infections, with increased morbidity and mortality. In turn, infections aggravate micronutrient deficiencies by reducing nutrient intake, increasing losses, and interfering with utilization by altering metabolic pathways.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17726308
Home prepared diets are typically low in VitaminD3, sometimes A if organ meat is not fed, and in zinc, copper, many of the Bvitamins, sometimes iodine and calcium – with other nutrient levels variable according to the owner’s philosophy. I don’t recommend adding a generic multivitamin without an assessment of what the diet currently provides, as these may only further unbalance the diet. Feeding an adequate amount of a premium commercial food should suffice to cover requirements, but many of us, myself included, prefer to use a variety of fresh foods appropriate for both the species and the individual. If using a raw or cooked home made diet, the NRC guidelines should be followed. Chronic low levels of many nutrients can indeed adversely affect the immune system. If using a commercial diet, choose a premium one and enhance it with fresh foods, in moderation and rotation.

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In addition to nutrient levels, we need to consider the role of inflammation. Inflammation related to foods that are either not consistent with the unique metabolism of carnivores, or that simply irritate the individual dog, can affect the gastrointestinal tract and lead to intestinal hyperpermeability (leaky gut) which in turn, has a direct and potentially serious impact on the immune system. Inflammation itself is a key component of the immune response, but prolonged, subclinical inflammation can be a factor in an array of degenerative disease; as well as the aforementioned impact on the small intestine, it makes sense to avoid gluten, starch-heavy diets, and any food that your dog seems to react to ( with loose stool, itching, gas). If recipes can be rotated and thus no single protein source overfed, all the better. Cooling, demulcent herbs can help offset intestinal inflammation in the dog and thus play a role in maintaining immune system integrity. More on these below!

 

The Herbs

When we turn to herbs to help the body fend off disease, we first need to make a distinction between herbs that offer support and strength, and those which actually stimulate (or ‘boost’ as is popularly called); put another way, those that offer a real kickstart and those that maintain balance and support optimal function. The stimulating herbs are best given at the onset of symptoms, although some do use them regularly, my own preference is to utilize the “immunomodulators” or herbs that do not so much kickstart ,as finetune. In addition to directly working with the immune system, we can help a dog resist infection or recover more smoothly (short time, lack of secondary complications) if we also support the system that the infection has affected. Next month I’ll be looking into respiratory herbs in some detail, and how you can support that system as well, defensively or in the case of an active infection (canine and feline). Let’s take a look at the Actions we might consider first.
1) Immune modulating or supportive
2) Immunostimulating
3) Digestive
4) System-specific
Immune Supportive
Often called “Immunomodulators” these are herbs that help balance the immune system and offer support without aggressive stimulation, such as we might seek at the onset of an infectious illness. They can be used longterm, alone or in formulas, as with all herbs that tonify and support, the best results are achieved when the herb is matched to the constitutional type of the dog. Because the dog’s body temperature runs significantly higher than that of the human, warming herbs can be more problematic if not balanced with a cooling adjunct. I use bitters a great deal with dogs and these are cooling herbs, so I’ve found them a nice match for some of the more warming immune modulators.
As always, criteria for selection has to consider secondary actions and energetics, for optimal efficacy and safety.
One note on dosage; for the herbs I tend to write about there is a wider range of dose potential, I am simply giving the levels I tend to use; the range is often much wider. The rule is generally, if using one herb alone, the higher end of the dosage range is likely to be preferable. A good veterinary herbal will provide much more information on each plant – alternative methods of administrating, full dose range and secondary actions/contraindications.

Astragalus (Astragalus membranceus) One of the more wellknown herbs for the immune system, there is good reason for this herb’s popularity. Actions include adaptogenic, immunomodulating, anti-tumour, cardiotonic, antiviral, hepatoprotective, renal tonic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Working with dogs, I would consider it a go-to herb in many cancers, for immune modulation and as part of a cardiovascular protocol. Clinical studies have shown astragalus to increase phagocytic activity, enhance production of interferon and activate NK cells . Astragalus is warming, so I might pair it with a cooling herb – violet or burdock with cancer, licorice or mallow for the immune system, especially important if using longterm. I’ve occasionally found it too stimulating for small dogs or those with a nervous dispostion, used alone; with a balancing herb like Milky Oats this aspect is usually mitigated.
My preference is to use the dried chopped herb, decoct in water ( about 10-15 grams herb to 8-10 ounces water) simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes and give. An enormously useful and safe herb for dogs, astragalus should not be given if active fever is present. I much prefer lower doses given over time and in formulation, to use as a single herb approach. In case of fever, hold off on astragalus.

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Calendula (Calendula officinalis) I adore this herb for dogs! Probably best known as a “skin herb” calendula has wonderful, soothing, vulnerary properties that make it a favorite in salves and compresses. Not as widely known is its potent action on the lymphatic system. Calendula is as healing and gentle on the lining of the digestive tract as it is externally, on skin, so it can support digestion – as well as promoting immune system health. In vitro, calendula reduced HIV-1, rhinovirus and stomatitis (Kalvatchev et al, 1997) Calendula is safe, provides a wide range of support both directly and indirectly for the immune system – can’t recommend too highly.
I simply place about 2 Tbsps of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water, and infuse maybe 30 minutes. Strain, cool ,and use liberally. Not for use with pregnancy.

Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero senticosus) One of my top choices for a dog whose immune function may be affected by chronic emotional stress (shelter dog, death of a loved one, harsh training methods) but also important with cancer risk. While I never like to use an adaptogen herb to help an animal endure stress, Eleuthero can be fabulous in recovery. Because there may be issues with human use in cases of hypertension, exercise caution if your dog has been diagnosed with this condition (much less common in the canine, but it does exist). Much like slippery elm, I dissolve the powdered herb (1 teaspoon) in 8 ounces water and then give up to a full cup a day ( ¼ cup for small dogs, ½ for medium and up to the full 8 ounces with giant breeds).

Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) A relative of our many popular basil varieties, Tulsi is an amazing addition to your dog’s arsenal of herbal support (as well as our own). Some of its actions include: adaptogen, immunomodulatory, carminative, antibacterial, antiviral – Tulsi is used in Ayurveda for gastric distress of all kinds, diabetes, respiratory problems, colds and flu – both as an active remedy and preventively, to restore/maintain good health and wellbeing. Not a stimulant to the immune system, Tulsi is an “amphoteric” herb, meaning it can promote immune system efficiency at the same time it down-regulates excess response. It’s fine to use with allergic dogs/dogs with auto immune disease. I’ve seen wonderful results with Tulsi for dogs who can’t seem to focus, and it can help lower blood pressure too. It’s been a supreme helper for many cats with chronic respiratory virus inflections. Dose is (again my preference for infusion over tincture or capsules) 1 – 2 tsp dried herb in 8 ounces boiling water; allow this to steep 15 minutes, and give about ¼ cup to small dogs, ½ cup to medium, and up to a full cup for giant breeds.

Tulsi
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) This member of the Solanaceae (Nightshade family) is one of my first choices to support the immune system, especially in anxious dogs or where there is exhaustion from competitive sport or field work. Essential with many cancers, it can also be used proactively, to support the immune system and reduce inflammation (usually in formula with marine lipids, turmeric, boswellia etc). My experience with ashwagandha is that most people prefer to give it in capsule form: I use 1 500 mgs capsule daily for a small dog, 2 for a medium, 3-4 for large and giant breeds.

Elderberry ( Sambucus nigra, canadensis) across the board, this is one of my favorite herbs for dogs, both as an immune tonic, and in more concentrated dose at the onset of illness. For general support, I like a decoction of the dried berry, 20 – 25 grams in 10 ounces water, simmered for 30 minutes. Cool and give ¼ cup per 20 pounds, divided into 2 or 3 daily doses(ladled over food). I use more with active illness.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) an important immunomodulators that you can add alone or in a mixture, to help maintain immune system health. While I personally prefer to use the long-decoction method for reishi in particular, I find the bitterness can be problematic for many dogs (and cats). Use a good quality organic supplier and mix directly into food. I use reishi a great deal in powder with cats and dogs, although only my hearty-eater type cats will accept it. Reishi’s affinity for the lungs makes it a good choice if you have concerns about influenza; use ¼ tsp 1-2 times a day for a small dog, ½ tsp 1-2 times a day for a medium size dog and a full tsp 1 – 3 times a day for large/giant breeds.
Consider Chaga, Maitake , Shiitake and Turkey tail as well. As with most herbs, I prefer to use the whole plant as much as possible in prevention and may use both whole plant and isolated extract in active disease. I put whole shiitake and reishi pieces in my broths, saute shiitakes in a little butter and add to their meals – and use the organic powder as well.

Immune Stimulation

The two herbs I use most consistently when infection is clearly showing up in the respiratory tract, are Eupatorium and Echinacea. Studies, not to mention the very long history of usage, indicate both Bonest and Echinacea as important for viral and bacterial infections. Modern research suggests a high dose of Echinacea purpureum at the first sign of symptoms stimulates phagocytosis and thus shortens the duration of the acute phase. Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is effective especially with respiratory infection, so it’s one to keep in mind should your dog develop kennel cough of the newer strains of influenza. I also like to use Cordyceps (Caterpillar fungus, Cordyceps sinensis)with the acute phase, a medicinal fungi with a broad range of applications and used extensively in veterinary cancers and renal disease… but it’s critical to obtain the right type of Cordyceps, so I am leaving this one out for now (but will explore it more deeply in another article on canine cancer).
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, angustafolia) I don’t like to use alcohol based tinctures for dogs on a longterm basis, but I have no hesitation using them with acute illness. Echinacea should be administered right away at the first signs of illness, and tincture is the most effective way to do this. As with humans, don’t give echinacea in any form to a dog who has an auto-immune disease (lupus, thrombocytopenia, myasthenia gravis, thyroiditis) but don’t hesitate to use it for influenza! I generally use 1 ml per 20 lbs, divided into 5 or 6 doses over the day, often with other herbs (baptisia,sambucus, hydrastis, eupatorium and others to address symptoms specifically). In severe cases, I’ve used significantly higher doses of Echinacea alone with positive results. I like a mixture of purpurea and angustifolia wherever possible.
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) I use tincture here, again, but at a lower dose than Echinacea, usually ¼ ml per 20 lbs bodyweight increasing to 1/5 ml if needed, twice daily. Boneset is underused in the holistic veterinary community, but is a fabulous support to Echinacea in cases of severe respiratory illness. Some dogs may be sensitive to it so I like to test my own dogs with a few drops prior to illness to ensure there is no allergic reaction. Actions include immune stimulation, expectorant, aperient (mil laxative) and may be analgesic as well.

 

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Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) is easily located in the wild by the way the  leaves join together around the stem . But never harvest anything you haven’t identified 100%.

 

Digestive Support

As noted above, a healthy digestive tract is essential for good immune system function. Diet can support GI health a great deal, but herbs add a unique level of support. Some of my favorites include calendula, plantain, elm spp and a range of bitters that help stimulate gastric secretions . This latter is not always called for, but I do use them as the case indicates and often, with older dogs, instead of the popular enzymes, I prefer to help the system do its job, and only use enzymes if the bitters don’t help.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) I like to use a nice strong infusion, and add a few Tbsps at a time. More can make them a little sleepy.
Catnip (Nepata cataria) As with chamomile, infused fresh or dried flowering tops, use as indicated. Not as sedating as chamomile!
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) This is the herb that has taken the dog world by storm, with whole Facebook groups devoted to its use and healing properties. I use turmeric with arthritis, liver disease (some kinds, not all)  and with many digestive issues. Dose is dependent on what the therapeutic aims are, but usually involve a preparation with 3% black pepper (ground) by weight, and some fat, such as the popular coconut oil. With its impressive range of actions and great safety (although some dogs seem to have problems with it longterm and I personally find it too heating for some allergic dogs) turmeric is a great herb to consider for liver health, upper GI conditions (ulcers) and assorted other applications.
Plantain ( Plantago major, lanceolata) My preference for plantain is to add fresh, well chopped up leaf, sometimes I whir it a few moments in the blender to make sure the cellulose is broken down. With IBD I am much more specific about amounts, but when using plantain as a herb to promote GI health/immune system stability, it can be added a few times a week and in fairly liberal amounts. The only drawback I’ve ever seen was when the dog was overfed plantain and developed loose stool. Use as with green vegetables.

Liver Support and Nervines

A wide variety of herbs can support the immune system in a variety of ways; foremost amongst these are those that aid in elimination – the lymphatic, digestive, respiratory and urinary. Because the immune system is active throughout the body, it’s important to assess which organ/system is in most need of help and focus there. I am not one for the “kitchen sink” approach of using small amounts of every herb you can think of, but rather careful selection that offers more targeted support. I like to use polycrest herbs(herbs that provide a wide variety of actions)  if possible – but at least, choose those that offer a couple of actions. Arctium lappa (burdock) is a favorite with dogs, for it’s own actions and to balance a warming formula. Matricaria reduces inflammation, calms a nervous dog and stimulates gastric secretions – needless to say I make good use of it.(see above) Again each case is unique!
The following are herbs that can add an extra level of support for your dog – they may not be indicated in all cases, but are worth considering.

Liver support can help your dog recover more rapidly from infection and with lower risk of secondary infection. Burdock (Arctium lappa) Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Schisandra are worth investigating. I like to rotate them all and use preventively, but it depends on the case, the individual dog and his nutritional and veterinary history. You will certainly want to use liver support in the event your dog contracts an illness and/or is on antibiotics. I like to add dried burdock root to my bone broths or slice the fresh root up and run through the food processor, then add to the meal. I keep a Mason Jar of powdered Milk thistle seeds in the kitchen and add anything from ¼ to a ½ tsp per meal (for my BIG, 90 pound dogs). Of course ,if there is active liver disease you will want to consult with your vet, and a professional herbalist in your area.

Nervines can help strengthen the immune system by helping the dog relax, they work with Adaptogens to reduce the impact of stress and anxiety. Some to consider are described in my previous article (Nervines for Canines) here  www.thepossiblecanine.com .   Longterm nervous system imbalance can deleteriously affect the immune system – with dogs, as with humans.
Respiratory – all of the following can be useful with an attack of influenza and some can be used preventively, to strengthen the lungs. Because these herbs offer a range of actions and can be symptom-specific, careful selection , formulation and dosing is important.
Hyssop ( Hyssopus officinale) expectorant, anti inflammatory, nervine, antispasmodic, I use it in honey for dogs with hacking coughs who need to expel mucus, in tincture if symptoms are severe
Elecampane (Inula helenium) expectorant, antimicrobial, I use elecampane in almost every formula I make for feline and canine respiratory illness. A “go-to” herb.
Monarda (Monarda fistulosa, didyma) I particularly like Monarda in cases of lingering, low grade infection, and it is helpful with restless animals who can’t seem to settle when feeling unwell
Usnea (Usnea barbata) strongly anti-bacterial lichen, I use with most respiratory infections, in formula with Echinacea and boneset.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) Potent antibacterial and warming for cold damp lung issues. Easy to grow and make your own medicine with!
Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) cooling demulcent valuable as soothing relief for dry, hacking cough or as adjunct in a formula of many herbs

In conclusion, then, we can say that… the immune system is complex (MUCH more so than this brief overview touches!) and may be impacted by multiple factors, from poor diet to chronic stress to a variety of veterinary drugs; that nutritional status is foundational and should be assessed using the National Research Council Guidelines to ensure adequacy, but it’s also important to feed a species- appropriate diet and provide variety, fiber, and minimize foods known to promote inflammation. We can consider a number of herbs to use as support, including those known to have direct impact on the immune system but also digestive support, nervine trophorestoratives and adaptogens (the latter must be very carefully chosen with dogs) and some supplements, such as probiotics, can also be useful. Over stimulation is not advisable, reserve the “big guns” of the herbal world for those times your dog is actively unwell. Even dogs with good diet and strong immune systems get sick, of course, we can aim for short recovery times and minimal stress to the dog if we commence appropriate herbal support quickly, at the first signs of illness. This is by no means an exhaustive list but gives some ideas as to what you can use and – most importantly – how to think about the process of supporting immune function. Keep your dog optimally nourished, happy and well exercised, keep vaccines and antibiotics to a minimum and use the plants! – and you will have given your best friend the best support possible, for a long and healthy life.

 

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Basic Immune Support Formula One

2 parts Calendula
1 part Chamomile
1 part Elderberry
½ part Ashwagandha
½ part Burdock

Mix well and simmer 25 grams to 10 ounces water for 15 minutes. Alternatively you can add one ounce to one pint boiling water, cover and let sit 4 hours minimum, up to 8.
Strain and give ¼ to ½ cup per 20 pounds body weight; divided 2 – 3 times daily (ladled over food). Especially nice with the more intense dog who tends to run a little warm, may have skin eruptions (hot spots) or digestive complaints.
Formula Two

2 parts Turmeric
1 part Astragalus
1 part Tulsi
1 part Calendula
½ part dried, shredded Marshmallow root
Plantain, added liberally, preferably fresh!

Steep an ounce of this blend in a pint of hot water for 4 hours and strain. (More turmeric should be used separately if addressing arthritis, prepared as for humans, with 3% black pepper.)
Give ¼ cup per 20 pounds bodyweight, divided into two servings per day.

For the more laid back dog who still has some digestive sensitivities, arthritis or has had elevated liver enzymes.

Immune supportive Vegetable Broth

This is a simple broth I use as a base for all kinds of soups, which dogs can enjoy as well! To start, I just make a standard vegetable stock, usually using carrot, celery, button and shiitake mushrooms, but no onions and only a clove or two of garlic if I’m using for the dogs.
Dice 4 carrots, 2 ribs of celery, a cup of mushrooms, 2 cloves of garlic and add to a large stockpot. Add one teaspoon organic dried thyme, one tablespoon diced fresh ginger, astragalus – 2 or more long strips of the dried root , Reishi mushroom – 4 1-2 inch chunks, 2 Tbsps dried elderberry, and several large pieces of dried burdock root (or a half cup if yours is chopped and smaller, you can’t overdo this one). You can add a handful of dried calendula flowers, Cover with water by about an inch or two at most. Bring to a gentle boil, and reduce heat to simmer.

Simmer for several hours, until the veggies are mush and the herbs well infused into the broth. Strain through cheesecloth to remove the woody bits! You can then ladle some as-is into your dog’s bowl, or use as a base for soup, adding broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, a handful of blueberries, winter squash and/or kale, cook until soft, and puree. Try adding a mix of veggies and chicken, puree well and freeze into Kongs for a super healthy treat. Don’t forget to have some yourself!

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