Ofthe many items that get added to my senior dog Sheba‘s food bowl every day —coconut oil, cinnamon, turmeric, Omega 3, Flexpet, Vigorate, and milk thistle— there’sone I wouldn’t dream of leaving out: Hawthorn.
Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) is one of the oldest-known plants in Western herbal medicine. An antioxidant, it’s been used for centuries to strengthen cardiovascular function. Extracts of the berries, leaves, and flowers have all been shown to be effective in placebo-controlled studies in humans.
Hawthorn’s main active ingredient is an antioxidant bioflavonoid. Bioflavonoids, as a class of biologically active chemical compounds, tend to have protective effects on specific tissues. For example, bioflavonoids in milk thistle stabilize liver cell membranes and protect them from rupture.
Hawthorn bioflavonoids preserve blood circulation. In dogs (and cats), they have been shown to improve circulation to the ventricles of the heart specifically, according to veterinarian Shawn Messonnier.
Hawthorn is one of the few herbal remedies subjected to multiple rigorous clinical trials and found to be consistently effective. One of its biggest fans is the renowned (human) cardiologist Stephen Sinatra. Use of standardized extracts of hawthorn in humans has been shown to:
1. Measurably improve exercise tolerance
2. Maintain normal blood pressure in studies of orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure associated with standing)
3. Reduce mild cases of high blood pressure
4. Prolong the refractory period of heart muscle, making it less prone to a racing heartbeat
5. Reduce blood pressure and heart rate during physical exertion in heart failure patients
6. Reduce sensations of breathlessness and fatigue in heart failure patients
7. Mildly reduce sensations of anxiety
There is plentiful clinical experience in the use of hawthorn for treating pets with heart disease with generally favorable results. Improvements include not only relief of symptoms, but even to normalization of heart ultrasound findings in selected cases of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. So if your dog has a heart condition, by all means ask your K9 cardiologist about hawthorn.
I used it to help my pit bull, Lazarus, recover from heartworm, and although he’s not a senior dog yet –nowhere near it, in fact!– I periodically give him hawthorn just to tone his ticker, so he won’t become old before his time.
Sheba does not have a heart condition, but I’d like her to live as long as possible. My main reason for supplementing her diet with hawthorn is selfish: My heart would break if hers would run down too soon. So she gets a a daily dose of hawthorn. So far, so good.
Happily, hawthorn is safe for long-term use in high doses. Plus, it’s been tested alongside most drugs commonly used to manage cardiac and blood pressure disorders. And here’s great news: The need for pharmaceuticals may be reduced or even occasionally replaced in dogs and cats treated with it!
You don’t need a prescription for Hawthorn. You can purchase it at your local health food or Whole Foods store; be sure to get a standardized extract. You can also ask your veterinarian to order it from Buck Mountain Botanicals, makers ofexcellent, organic supplements for pets.
Clinical improvement isseen after about two months of use.It can’t hurt – the onlyknown side effectis drowsiness–and it can help a great deal, so why not get your senior dog started on hawthorn today? You’ll be glad you did. And while you’re at it, add it to your own routine. I take it every single day.