“Applied Zoopharmacognosy (IAZ) enables self-medicative behaviour in domesticated or captive animals by offering plant extracts that would contain the same, or similar constituents to those found in an animal’s natural environment” Caroline Ingraham
AZ enables your dog to effectively self-medicate by choosing what they feel they need to heal themselves – both physically and emotionally. Sounds incredible and fantastical right?
Well, animals in the wild have been documented doing this over many years and there have been many studies and examples demonstrating this. Evidence has been captured on a wide range of animals from chimpanzees, Kodiak bears, starlings, elephants, goats and now even includes caterpillars!
Starlings: These birds deliberately choose specific plants (that they find with their sense of smell) to include in their nests. The aromatic compounds emitted by these plants boost immune systems of chicks and reduce their bacterial loads
Animals in the wild, however, have unobstructed access to plants and materials within their native habitats.
There is at least one documented example of a human learning of a medicinal remedy from an animal. In the early 20th century a Tanzanian medicine man noticed that a pet porcupine with dysentery was eating the root of a plant that people regarded as poisonous. He began treating people with the root with great success and its use as a remedy for dysentery became widespread
For our pets we have unwittingly taken this opportunity away, and we have taken control over almost everything that they consume or are given for their health.
Remarkably, however, they do still retain this ability, almost like a "sixth sense", to know what they need to achieve a healthy balance. When your dog starts munching on dandelion leaves in spring; or your cat rolls all over your peppermint plant, they are replicating the behaviours of their wild cousins.
AZ practice involves offering a choice of plant extracts that would contain the same, or similar constituents to those found in an animal’s natural environment. As a result the animal is empowered to manage their own health, rather than having medications administered based upon oftentimes flawed perception or diagnosis. The key to this practice is allowing the animal the freedom to actively choose or walk away.
An AZ session involves offering a variety of both nutritive and healing herbs, macerated oils and essential oils. The session is then guided by your dog's selections - which are either inhaled, taken orally, or applied topically to wherever the dog indicates.
AZ can be used to support all health issues that are dogs encounter - including those that are visually obvious or easily diagnosed, but more importantly those that are eluding absolute diagnosis of cause. Remedies may be selected for physical ailments, but also can help with emotional and behavioural issues such as seperation anxiety, fear and reactivity to other dogs/humans. This is because the essential oils chosen penetrate the cell membrane & influence cellular communications, leading to physiological, hormonal & behavioural changes.
It is worth stating however that AZ is an entire process, not a one off application or offering of a single oil. Once an animal has chosen a particular oil it may be that he or she will continue to work with it for some time.
We often find that the selections are contrary to what we initially presume will be selected based upon either previous veterinary treatment or client experience! And this gives us real insight into treating the cause, rather than simply the symptoms.
It is truly an amazing and fascinating process to observe.
Case Study: Jethro: a 3 year old Lhasa Apso
Presented following an epileptic seizure and poor appetite.
Jethro had been to the Vet who had taken bloods, which showed raised liver enzymes. However, the Vet was unduly concerned and gave the cause of the seizure as “idiopathic” i.e. unknown. Despite not temperature or other symptoms Jethro was given a course of antibiotics and steroids and sent home. With a view to monitor his seizures should he have any more; at which point the Vet would consider putting him on Phenobarbital. Unhappy with the outcome Jethro’s mum came to us looking for guidance and to also try and raise his spirits.
Jethro selected minimal nutritive herbs and supplements initially, with the exception of a small amount of coconut oil. He did not particularly want to work with any of the pain oils; or any of the emotional oils, except Jasmine. However, he went on to chose and work for a good long time with both lime and lemon oils, and seaweed extract – the latter he chose to lick; and it is very strong! This indicated that there was indeed something not entirely right with his liver and possibly also his pancreas, and that he was struggling to absorb the right levels of nutrients from his food. We prepared a support plan to help with these key areas; and insisted on further diagnostics at the Vet.
The additional tests requested found that Jethro actually had a very large porto systemic liver shunt; and if left untreated and unmanaged he would surely have died. The initial seizure was a build up of ammonia as a direct result of the liver shunt; however this is not picked up in traditional blood tests.
Case Study: Cassie: A rescue miniature schnauzer; taken from a puppy farm
Cassie’s foster parents were concerned that she was not settling and was not at ease, either with them or the other dogs in the house; this in turn would find it much harder for her to find a long term home.
Cassie did not select any nutritive herbs in the first session other than the coconut oil and a small amount of spirulina - which she used to purge; which is not unexpected with dogs that don't necessarily have the access to what they need to do this regularly or easily. She also chose a very small amount of St Johns Wort oil - it is likely that this was chosen more for anxiety issues rather than pain, given her subsequent essential oil choices and actions.
Initially, and somewhat surprisingly, there was very little to no interest in oils that help animals come to terms with physical or emotional abuse, and trauma past or present.
She did choose to work significantly with Ylang Ylang (Lack of confidence, bullying) ; Sandalwood (obsessive worry, fear and comforting); Bergamot (anxiety), Roman Chamomile (anxious, nervous temperament, obsessive compulsive); Yarrow (emotional release, betrayal). She also worked with Neroli (loss, seperation and deep sadness), and Jasmine (female balancing, nuturing and deeply comforting)
Cassie was able to purge a second time after working with these oils. A physical release such as this is often in line with an emotional release.
Finally, she worked with Rose - initially she couldn't face Rose choosing to inhale then immediately walk away. She subsequently worked with it once it was offered again at the end of the session. Rose is often used by animals for dealing with trauma past and present, unwanted memories, anger and resentment.
It was clear that she was having to work through an ongoing crisis of confidence, with everything being overwhelming and terrifying. She had developed obsessive behaviours and routines in order to deal with this; and this was also clear from her actions during the session. Cassie was very nervous throughout the session and was initially not willing to settle or sit nearby to me. However, by the end of the session she curled up resting next to me.
Following on from this session Cassie settled down very quickly, and became such a dote that she didn’t actually need to find a new home…. she was already in her forever home!!