Natural remedy

Zoopharmacognosy: What the ???

4th September, 2015
Have you ever observed your dog or cat eating grass, a horse reaching for a new type of plant, or even a parrot consuming clay? These may seem to be surprising, even harmful choices, but often the animals know best. They may not have gone through veterinary school, but all animals are experts in zoopharmacognosy. Zoopharmacognosy is a term coined in 1993 by Dr. Eloy Rodriguez, biochemist and professor at Cornell University. According to Dr. Rodriguez, zoopharmacognosy is the process by which animals self-­medicate, often by eating things that aren’t a part of their regular diet. The word comes from the root “zoo,” meaning animal, “pharma,” meaning drug, and “gnosy,” meaning knowing. Both domesticated and wild animals are innately aware of the benefits of some food and non­food items, and use them to relieve pain, get rid of parasites, and even cure themselves of minor ailments. If you’ve ever seen your dog or cat eating grass, you’ve watched them practice zoopharmacognosy. Often consuming grass makes these animals vomit, yet they continue to seek it out. Because most grasses are indigestible, dogs and cats use it as a solution to rid themselves of anything in their guts that is causing them discomfort. Dogs can even specialize in what kind of grass they’re looking for, often preferring a broadleaf grass called couch grass, or sometimes, dog grass. Couch grass, in addition to helping dogs rid themselves of something that’s causing them pain, also has known detoxification effects on the liver and kidneys. Beyond eating grass, a food already outside of the normal menu for a dog or a cat, some animals go even further in self-­medicating. Some red and green macaws have been known to eat kaolin clay to help with digestion issues. Since their diet is mainly made up of seeds and berries, some toxic berries can slip in, and it’s thought that the clay that the birds eat binds itself to the toxins inside their bodies and helps them digest it all safely. Parasites can also pose a threat, and some animals in the wild have been known to ingest small doses of other toxic materials, such as charcoal, to ward off parasitic infections. Zoopharmacognosy doesn’t just help the animals that practice it; it also can help humans by revealing which plants have inherently medicinal qualities. A common example is the discovery of the osha root, found in the western half of the United States and Mexico. This plant, also known as bear medicine, contains powerful antiviral and antibiotic qualities and is known to chase out bronchial infections and sore throats in both humans and animals. Story has it that the benefits of the plant were discovered early on by Native Americans who noticed that bears would eat the roots of this plant whenever they awoke from hibernation, and would even apply a mash made of its roots to injuries. Scientists now think that these bears were practicing zoopharmacognosy, and would seek out the roots after hibernation due to the […]

Have you ever observed your dog or cat eating grass, a horse reaching for a new type of plant, or even a parrot consuming clay? These may seem to be surprising, even harmful choices, but often the animals know best. They may not have gone through veterinary school, but all animals are experts in zoopharmacognosy.

Zoopharmacognosy is a term coined in 1993 by Dr. Eloy Rodriguez, biochemist and professor at Cornell University. According to Dr. Rodriguez, zoopharmacognosy is the process by which animals self-­medicate, often by eating things that aren’t a part of their regular diet. The word comes from the root “zoo,” meaning animal, “pharma,” meaning drug, and “gnosy,” meaning knowing.

Cats may eat grass to help get rid of hairballs. Image by Lisa Sympson

Cats may eat grass to help get rid of hairballs.
Image by Lisa Sympson

Both domesticated and wild animals are innately aware of the benefits of some food and non­food items, and use them to relieve pain, get rid of parasites, and even cure themselves of minor ailments. If you’ve ever seen your dog or cat eating grass, you’ve watched them practice zoopharmacognosy. Often consuming grass makes these animals vomit, yet they continue to seek it out. Because most grasses are indigestible, dogs and cats use it as a solution to rid themselves of anything in their guts that is causing them discomfort. Dogs can even specialize in what kind of grass they’re looking for, often preferring a broadleaf grass called couch grass, or sometimes, dog grass. Couch grass, in addition to helping dogs rid themselves of something that’s causing them pain, also has known detoxification effects on the liver and kidneys.

Beyond eating grass, a food already outside of the normal menu for a dog or a cat, some animals go even further in self-­medicating. Some red and green macaws have been known to eat kaolin clay to help with digestion issues. Since their diet is mainly made up of seeds and berries, some toxic berries can slip in, and it’s thought that the clay that the birds eat binds itself to the toxins inside their bodies and helps them digest it all safely.

Parasites can also pose a threat, and some animals in the wild have been known to ingest small doses of other toxic materials, such as charcoal, to ward off parasitic infections. Zoopharmacognosy doesn’t just help the animals that practice it; it also can help humans by revealing which plants have inherently medicinal qualities.

Ligusticum porteri, or Osha Root. Photo by Jerry Friedman.

Ligusticum porteri, or Osha Root. Photo by Jerry Friedman.

A common example is the discovery of the osha root, found in the western half of the United States and Mexico. This plant, also known as bear medicine, contains powerful antiviral and antibiotic qualities and is known to chase out bronchial infections and sore throats in both humans and animals. Story has it that the benefits of the plant were discovered early on by Native Americans who noticed that bears would eat the roots of this plant whenever they awoke from hibernation, and would even apply a mash made of its roots to injuries. Scientists now think that these bears were practicing zoopharmacognosy, and would seek out the roots after hibernation due to the clearing effect that the plant has on the respiratory system.

Self­-medication is a necessary part of a healthy animal, whether that animal is domesticated or in the wild. While obviously some animals, especially pets, can get into substances that aren’t good for them, if left to their own devices for minor stomach pains or colds, most animals find the tools to fix the problem in the nature around them.

Zoopharmacognosy: What the ??? обновлено: January 25, 2017 автором: Craig Davis
Stay In touch with Vet-Organics
Join A Community of Pet Lovers
Exclusive Deals and Benefits
Monthly Pet Health News and Tips

Related Articles

Puppy Care 101

Puppies can be a huge undertaking. It’s easy to be a little overwhelmed, even if it isn’t the first time we’ve adopted a fur-baby. We’ve assembled this getting started guide with new puppy par...
16th January, 2018

Kitten Care 101

Adoption is a year-round opportunity, but believe it or not, there are seasons to adoption. End of year gift-giving season is often a popular time to gift kittens and puppies. Unfortunately, that mean...
11th January, 2018

What About Lactose Intolerance in Dogs and Cats

A common depiction of happy kittens is one where they’re lapping up milk from a saucer. It’s in children’s books, vintage posters, commercials, and artwork. Because of this, few people realize t...
9th January, 2018

Can Dogs Prevent Human Illnesses?

Do dogs prevent illnesses? Yes, they do. Dogs actually make their guardians healthier. Dog guardianship not only helps us recover from illness, but dogs can also help prevent some diseases from occurr...
4th January, 2018

How Do Cats Taste Food?

Ever wonder how cats taste their food? They seem to have superpowers when it comes to climbing, stalking, hearing, smelling, and seeing. It makes sense that our feline friends might have an impressive...
2nd January, 2018

Dog Resolutions for the New Year

New Year’s is a time for humans to choose their new commitments. Health, happiness, habits and relationships are all on the table. Dog guardians might also reflect on opportunities to make this year...
28th December, 2017

Cat Resolutions for the New Year

The new year is a wonderful time to decide on new habits, new attitudes, and new approaches. For cat guardians, the new year can be a time to reflect on our cat companion’s to look for opportunities...
26th December, 2017

Great Ways to Engage and Stimulate our Dog’s Mind

We all know exercise is essential for a healthy pup, but mental exercise is important too. Dogs can often feel bored and lack a stimulating environment. This can lead to behavioral problems or lack of...
21st December, 2017

Are Table Scraps Okay For Dogs?

We are all familiar with those sweet, hopeful eyes staring longingly at us while we try to eat our dinner. Do we sneak a little something under the table? Do we wait until dinner is over, but add a li...
19th December, 2017

Celebrate Cat Herders Day on December 15th!

Have you tried to herd cats? Or do they herd you? National Cat Herders Day was invented at Wellcat.com by Thomas and Ruth Roy. As impossible as cat herding may be, it sure isn’t impossible to celebr...
14th December, 2017

Dog Ownership: Expenses And Expectations

Dog guardianship is a wonderful and rewarding relationship worth cultivating. It can be a beautiful gift to a homeless pup and lifelong friendship where we find joy we didn’t know was possible. Guar...
12th December, 2017

Let’s Talk About Food Allergies And Our Dogs

It’s true. Food allergies and our dogs may not be talked about often, but they can suffer from a myriad of food-related irritations. Allergies can be the result of their environment or the season, b...
7th December, 2017

Dog Safety – Cold Weather Tips for Dog Guardians

It can seem like a layer of fur is all a pup needs to get through the winter, but there are plenty of dangers that can place our dogs at risk in winter months, even in warm states.   Cold Weather...
5th December, 2017

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

Cats can be known for chasing yarn, eating catnip, pawing at mouse toys, and yes, sleeping. We even create elaborate cat trees with shelves and hammocks dedicated to their sleepy past-time. But why do...
1st December, 2017

Most Common Pet Insurance Myths

Even though pet insurance has been around for a number of years, it’s been slow to catch on. Vet bills are sometimes prohibitive, yet many people hesitate to prepare for the worst by investing in pe...
28th November, 2017
Testimonials
Testimonials
EcoEars by Vet Organics fixed our girl's ears in the first couple of days & she was a whole new, happy dog again. THANK YOU Vet Organics!!!*
Nikki Wiedmer
Thank you for the peace of mind that my dog is not in discomfort anymore, thank you for this product being organic and good for our dog's ears, and seriously thank you for giving us an option to help our old pup with a product we can afford.
Melissa Block Demant
I used this product for my Boston last summer. Worked awesome. In 2 days, I've seen a improvement. Within 4 days, the infection was gone. My pit bull started having an issue with his right ear. It was bad. It was so infected. I used EcoEars twice a day and again it worked like magic!! 4 days have passed and you can't even tell he had an ear issue!! I will never use anything else. This stuff is fantastic!! Thank you Vet Organics for such an amazing product!!*
Tina Neupauer
EcoEars is a great product! I used it in my Lacey's ears and we haven't had any problems since.
Bonnie Schweitzer
This stuff really works--after spending money at the vet @ $25 a bottle, it's saving me a lot of money.
José Olivo
*Results may vary based on factors such as age, size and physical condition of your pet.
Vet Organics supplements are manufactured from natural and organic materials known to improve a pet's health regimen and quality of life. If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from a severe medical condition, consult your veterinarian immediately.