The medicinal benefits of herbs and plants for humans are well known; however, you may be surprised to hear that plants can help our canine and feline friends too, from soothing skin conditions to aiding anxiety sufferers. Many of the animals at Mayhew have endured tough times before coming through the doors. Providing access to safe plants in a secure environment can offer them comfort and reduce stress levels as they are prepared for their new forever homes.
Sensory enjoyment for Mayhew's dogs
Mayhew has developed a sensory garden for the dogs in their care. This outdoor run acts as a safe haven, made up of different smells, textures and sounds. The plants in the garden provide stimulation and enrichment but each has also been specifically chosen for its healing properties and ability to reduce stress and anxiety.
Top plants for pooches
Chamomile: soothes anxiety, skin issues or stomach upsets.
Lavender: reduces anxiety.
Vervain: helps with nervous system disorders like depression.
Meadowsweet: reduces inflammation and aids digestive problems, arthritis and rheumatic conditions.
Did you know?
Dogs can suffer from hay fever just like people! Some research suggests that dogs are more likely to develop signs of hay fever if they aren’t exposed to a variety of grasses and plants in their early life.
As the weather improves, staff take the dogs into the sensory garden as much as possible, letting them potter around and enjoy games with toys – or water when it is very hot! The space is also used to work on basic training or socialisation skills and sometimes dogs will meet their potential adopters here, as it is a calming environment and the dogs feel at home. The Kennels team and volunteers are always on hand, watching over the dogs in case they have any unusual adverse reactions to the plants.
MARIA MARKEY, HEAD OF KENNELS, “It is truly amazing to observe the change in behaviour from when a dog enters the garden to how they are when they leave. ”
Scenting and exploring
Some dogs that come to Mayhew struggle to cope initially with a kennel environment, but staff find that even the most withdrawn and overwhelmed dogs will investigate the plants in the sensory garden. For example, dogs that are particularly highly strung or have hormonal imbalances often gravitate towards clary sage. While engaged in scenting and exploring, they stop focusing on any anxieties or tensions they may have and are able to begin to relax. The staff also use essential oil remedies in the kennels, to soothe and calm the residents.
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And of course, not only dogs appreciate herbs and plants, Mayhew's cats do too..... read about them here
I'm Gilly, award winning journalist, travel writer and 12 x author. Published credits include the Telegraph, Mail, CNN, Express, Woman's Own, BBC magazines etc