Fragrant herbs for small pets

Fragrant herbs for small pets
Emily and Yogi love cilantro and other herbs

Spring is right around the corner!

Bunnies and other herbivores love fresh herbs (although if you have a pregnant pet, please consult with your veterinarian before offering unlimited herbs). Now is the time to start thinking about what to put in your spring garden. Herbs don’t take up much room and most will grow quite happily in pots. Here are some herbs – most are perennials – that grow well here in the north and are tasty and healthy for your pets. Links will take you to more in-depth articles and photos of each herb.

Chamomile promotes restful sleep and soothes anxiety – many pets enjoy chamomile tea, as it is very mild. Chrysin, a plant pigment found in chamomile, was proven to decrease anxiety in rodents (!), and is a major component of chamomile’s effectiveness in relieving anxiety. Chamomile tea settles the stomach (think Peter Rabbit) – and cooled chamomile tea can be offered several times a day. Chamomile tea can also be used topically on minor wounds, burns, scrapes, sore hocks (bumblefoot), and even urine scald.

Lavender – a member of the mint family - is a general tonic: calming even in small amounts, it soothes the nervous system, lifts the mood and has a very positive effect on a stressed-out, anxious rabbit or other pet. Lavender has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, relieves gas and nausea, aids in digestion, and acts as an anti-spasmodic (another plus for pets with intestinal problems).

Lemon balm - lemon balm, another member of the mint family, was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress, agitation and anxiety and promote sleep. Lemon balm eases indigestion and is useful mashed into a paste to treat minor skin ailments. It can be safely licked off by the rabbit or guinea pig, and it probably will be!

Sage - used for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments, the National Institute of Health has conducted studies – on mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats and other small animals - on the effect of chamomile on fifteen medical conditions. Sage has proven antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiviral effects, making it useful as a general tonic and to ease symptoms of the digestive and respiratory systems. Sage calms the nervous system and strengthens the immune system; it has been used throughout the centuries to ease a variety of ailments from the Plague to snakebite, and was used to ward off evil.

Marjoram has beenused historically as a remedy for gas and bloating, to relieve stress and to promote easier respiration. The leaves and flowers that have been strained off from brewing marjoram tea can be compacted into a small muslin bag, heated in the microwave til warm (but not so warm as to burn your pet of course) and applied to painful arthritic joints.

Wild Plantain- not the banana sort of plantain, this plant is also known as snakeweed, or ribwort. Wild plantain is vitamin rich, has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is helpful in treating respiratory, digestive and urinary system disorders. Plantain protects the membranes of the respiratory tract from inflammation (as in bronchitis) and relieves congestion in the chest. The anti-bacterial properties help to fight off the cause of infections.

Enzymes in the leaves and root relieve mild intestinal inflammations, and tannins in plantain are effective in easing diarrhea and other symptoms of intestinal upset. Plantain acts as a gentle herbal diuretic and can help in clearing urinary tract infections. Plantain is also known to increase bone strength.

Buckhorn or narrowleaf plantain is also high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and has the same antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Most rabbits seem to prefer it dried. Both varieties of ribwort provide excellent roughage and promote proper digestion and bowel function.

All of these herbs can be grown right here in Ohio, most are perennials and bunnies and other herbivores think they are quite the treat!


Emily and Yogi (pictured) are snuggly bunnies that would love to help you thin your herb garden this spring. This bonded pair is adoptable through the Humane Society of Greater Dayton. The duo is in foster care, so call the HSGD to arrange to meet them.



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