What is Zoopharmacognosy and how does it help my animal?


What is Zoopharmacognosy?

Applied Zoopharmacognosy is the process of enabling animals to self-medicate on natural products (including herbs and essential oils), this is also called Self-Selection.

How can this help your animal?

Animals innately know which remedies they require to bring their mind and body back into balance.

Captive animals are not able to seek out the natural remedies they would find in the wild, so this process enables us to bring nature to the animal; it gives the animal control over their own healing and nutrition as they would have had in the wild.

It is a very bonding experience for animal and carer.

How does it work?

Offering herbs & fixed or macerated oils: 

A Zoopharmacologist (or the Owner, after learning how to do it) will offer different natural remedies to the animal.

It is important that the animal is in a stress free environment, with no other animal around that can access the remedies, because an animal will not be able to focus on the remedies when a more dominant animal is in close proximity.

The animal needs to be given plenty of time and sometimes some gentle encouragement, especially if it is the first Self-Selection it does. 

Each remedy will be placed in front of the animal in a seperat bowl (or trug / bucket for horses). A confident animal might start immediately smelling and ingesting some of the things offered, but often animals are unsure about what to do at first. Here it can help to communicate to the animal in a gentle and encouraging way that it is okay to give it a try. For a horse you can offer a herb in your hand at first, or for a dog on your fingers. If the animal does not immediately start eating something, it doesn't mean it might not want it in a few minutes. 

Especially if your animal does self-selection for the first time it can be overwhelming! You need to give it time! 

If you would like to book a consult with Catherine for a Zoopharmacognosy Session, click here.

If you would like to learn how to do Self-Selection with your animal, we have several online courses available: For Horses click here - For Dogs click here.

Something you need to be aware of is that animals will choose remedies for their most urgent physical issue first, then move on to the secondary problem and after the body is put right, it'll move on to the emotional side of things.

So not only does your animal need enough time in its first session to select the right remedies in the right order for its problems, self-selection doesn't end after one session! The needs of your animal will change! The absolute best case scenario would be to offer the main remedies to your animal every day, but of course we do understand that time / money might not cover this, but to be able to keep itself healthy an animal should be able to self-select once a week. If the animal is currently dealing with a problem / illness it needs to be able to self-select the remedies every day.

If you only have a small number of remedies to offer, that's still better than nothing!

Please be aware that no animal will be able to keep itself balanced let alone sort out a serious problem if it is only offered remedies once or once a month! Self-selection is an ongoing process that needs to be repeated daily or for a healthy animal weekly. 

How can you make it easier for yourself?

As you see on the picture below, it's good to be creative. Hanging tub trugs in your stable is a brilliant idea to offer your herbs to your horse.

You can do the same with buckets of water and essential oils in them, either in the stable or even better place them outside in your field. Just don't forget to mark the buckets, so you know which oil is in which bucket.

Which remedies can be offered?

This depends on what you have and if your animal has any specific issue, but to give you an overview, here are some of the herbs / fixed oils that can be offered for self selection. There are more remedies that are not on this list.

Please be aware that powders should be mixed with some water, otherwise the dust can irritate the animal. Some powders need to be mixed with fat, such as Turmeric.

What about Essential Oils for Animals?

Essential Oils are as the name suggests: Essential. 

They are highly concentrated, highly potent remedies that can really help your animal. A self-selection session is perfect to find out which essential oil your animal may need right now.

Horses and dogs can decide to inhale or ingest the essential oil or have it applied topically.

Cats however are very sensitve to essential oils, never apply one topically or shut them in a room with an essential oil diffuser.

When offering an essential oil to an animal it is important to understand their response. There are different ways an animal can react when an essential oil is offered to them. 

If the animal doesn't need to work with the oil, it will be completely desinterested. Their bodylanguage won't change at all.

If the animal responds in any way to the essential oil, it means that this oil could help the animal.

Signs that the oil is being worked with are: 

  • changes in breathing
  • heavy eyes / blinking
  • yawning
  • flehmen (horse)
  • chewing
  • licking
  • animal goes into trance-like state
  • bottom lip drops (horse)

If the animal moves away from the oil when you offer it, it can mean that:

  • you offered it too aggressively (be careful not to hold the remedy too close, hold your hand still and let the animal move towards you)
  • the essential oil provokes negative emotions, which the animal is not ready to work with / let go right now (for example memories of abuse)

Please be aware that animals noses are a lot more sensitive than ours, they can smell the oil from far away.

With the essential oils it is the same as with other remedies, give the animal TIME to process and choose if it needs to go back and smell the oil.

How to offer essential oils to your animal

If working with a horse, you need to hold the open bottle securely in your hand, without covering the top. Don't let the horse take the bottle from you and swallow it. If it wants to ingest the essential oil, you can put some drops in your hand and let the horse lick it. It can have as much as it wants.

You can also put around 10 drops of essential oils in a water bucket and leave the water buckets in the stable / field. It is important that the horse always has one water bucket with only water in it.

If working with a dog, you can offer the open bottle or you can also put some oil on a piece of kitchen roll. You can leave the open bottles or rags near his bed or in corners of the room. It is important that the dog can move away if he's had enough.

To watch some really helpful videos on how to offer essential oils to animals, have a look here: Videos - How to Work with Essential Oils

Which essential oils can be offered to animals?

This is just an overview, there are essential oils that are not on this list.

This blog is supposed to give you a quick overview to understand what Zoopharmacognosy is. More information is covered in our Online Courses, please click on the links to find out more.

Online Course - Introduction to Zoopharmacognosy for Dogs

Online Course - Introduction to Zoopharmacognosy for Horses

Online Course - Natural Health Care & First Aid for Horses