Deciding between nettle and quercetin supplements for an itchy dog can be difficult, as both can be beneficial in reducing inflammation and alleviating itching. As a proponent of whole food ingredients and time-honored methods, I now prefer nettle over quercetin for the following reasons:
- Natural source of nutrients
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Safe and well-tolerated
- Time tested
Let’s Look At Mast Cells First
Just like in humans, mast cells in dogs also release histamine. Mast cells are an essential part of our dog’s immune system, helping to protect them against allergens and pathogens.
When mast cells in dogs encounter a trigger, they respond by releasing histamine along with other inflammatory substances through a process called degranulation. This release of histamine sets off various reactions within a dog’s body, such as widening blood vessels and recruiting other immune cells to the site of infection or inflammation.
Mast cells in dogs, much like in humans, play a crucial role in the immune response by releasing histamine when needed.
And even though the video below talks about mast cells in humans, it’s good to watch (especially the first three minutes) so you can conceptualize the role of mast cells, histamines and allergens in the human body and understand how it works similarly in our dog’s bodies.
Which Dogs Would Benefit From Nettle?
Dogs may benefit from nettle supplementation in certain situations, as this versatile herb offers a range of potential health benefits. Some circumstances in which dogs might benefit from nettle include:
- Allergies: Dogs suffering from allergies, such as environmental or food-related allergies, may find relief with nettle. Nettle’s natural antihistamine properties, attributed to compounds like quercetin, can help alleviate itching and inflammation caused by allergic reactions.
- Arthritis and joint pain: Nettle has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in dogs with arthritis or joint pain. These effects are primarily due to the presence of plant compounds like flavonoids and plant sterols, which can offer relief to dogs experiencing discomfort from joint issues.
- Skin and coat health: Nettle is rich in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, C, and K, as well as iron, calcium, and magnesium. These nutrients can help promote healthy skin and coat in dogs, addressing issues like dry skin, dandruff, or dull fur.
- Kidney and urinary health: Nettle is a natural diuretic, which means it can increase urine production and help flush out toxins from the body. This property can support kidney and urinary health in dogs, especially those suffering from urinary tract infections or prone to kidney stones.
- Anemia: Nettle’s high iron content can make it a beneficial supplement for dogs diagnosed with anemia, a condition characterized by a lack of red blood cells or insufficient hemoglobin. By providing additional iron, nettle may help improve the production of red blood cells in dogs.
How Does It Work Biomedically?
Nettle (Urtica dioica) offers various health benefits for dogs, which can be attributed to its numerous bioactive compounds. These compounds work together to provide anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, diuretic, and nutritive properties. Biomedically, nettle’s effects in a dog’s body can be explained as follows:
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Nettle contains several anti-inflammatory compounds, such as flavonoids (e.g., quercetin) and plant sterols. These substances help reduce inflammation in the dog’s body by inhibiting the production of inflammatory mediators, such as prostaglandins and cytokines. This action can be particularly beneficial for dogs suffering from arthritis, joint pain, or skin inflammation.
- Flavonoids are a diverse group of plant-derived compounds known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potential health-promoting properties.
- Quercetin: A well-known flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help stabilize mast cells and alleviate allergy symptoms.
- Kaempferol: Another common flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which may also have potential cancer-fighting properties.
- Isorhamnetin: A flavonoid with antioxidant properties, which may contribute to the overall health benefits of nettle.
- Rutin: A flavonoid glycoside with antioxidant properties, which may help strengthen blood vessels and improve circulation.
- Myricetin: An antioxidant flavonoid that may help protect cells from damage and has potential anti-cancer effects.
- Flavonoids are a diverse group of plant-derived compounds known for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potential health-promoting properties.
- Antihistamine effects: Nettle’s antihistamine properties are primarily due to the flavonoid quercetin, which can help stabilize mast cells. Mast cells are responsible for releasing histamine during allergic reactions, causing symptoms like itching and inflammation. By stabilizing these cells, quercetin reduces histamine release, alleviating allergy symptoms in dogs.
- Diuretic action: Nettle acts as a natural diuretic, promoting increased urine production and excretion of waste products. This property can support kidney and urinary health in dogs, as it helps flush out toxins, maintain proper electrolyte balance, and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections or kidney stones.
- Nutrient support: Nettle is rich in essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron, calcium, and magnesium. These nutrients contribute to various physiological processes in dogs, supporting their overall health. For instance, vitamin A promotes healthy skin and coat, while iron is vital for red blood cell production.
- Immune system regulation: Nettle may help modulate the immune response in dogs by regulating the production and activity of immune cells. This property can be beneficial for dogs with allergies or autoimmune conditions, as it can help reduce inflammation and overactive immune responses.
Quercetin in Nettle vs. Querctin in Apples
I was curious to see how much quercetin was in nettle vs. apples and this is what I found out. The amount of quercetin in both nettle and apples can vary depending on several factors, including growing conditions, plant parts, and harvesting time. Understanding the differences in quercetin content between these two sources can help you make informed decisions when seeking to incorporate this beneficial flavonoid into your diet.
In nettle, particularly the leaves, the quercetin content can range from approximately 0.25-1.25 mg per gram of dry weight. However, it is important to note that the concentration of quercetin in dried nettle can differ significantly between samples due to the factors mentioned earlier.
On the other hand, apples contain quercetin primarily in their skin, with smaller amounts present in the flesh. A whole apple (with skin) may contain between 10-20 mg of quercetin, although this value can vary considerably depending on the apple variety, growing conditions, and other factors. Some apple varieties, such as Red Delicious and Granny Smith, are known to have higher concentrations of quercetin compared to other varieties.
Nettle From A TCM Perspective
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, nettle, known as xún má (荨麻) in Chinese, is considered a valuable herb due to its diverse therapeutic properties. TCM practitioners believe that the body’s health is maintained through a balance of vital energies, including Yin, Yang, and Qi. Nettle is thought to work in the body by influencing these energies and helping to correct imbalances that cause various health issues. Key aspects of nettle from a TCM standpoint include:
- Warming nature: Nettle is considered to have a warming effect on the body, which means it can help dispel cold and dampness, two factors that may contribute to certain health issues such as joint pain, arthritis, or poor circulation.
- Liver and Kidney support: In TCM, nettle is believed to have a nourishing effect on the Liver and Kidney meridians. By supporting these organs, nettle can help strengthen bones, tendons, and joints, as well as alleviate symptoms related to Liver and Kidney imbalances, such as fatigue, lower back pain, or menstrual irregularities.
- Blood purification: Nettle is believed to possess blood-purifying properties in TCM, which can aid in detoxification and support overall vitality. By cleansing the blood, nettle can help improve skin health, reduce inflammation, and enhance the body’s natural healing processes.
- Qi and blood circulation: Nettle is thought to promote the smooth flow of Qi and blood throughout the body, helping to alleviate stagnation or blockages that can contribute to pain, inflammation, or other health issues. By improving circulation, nettle can help support the overall balance and harmony of the body’s vital energies.
- Strengthening the immune system: In TCM, nettle is believed to help regulate and support the immune system, which can be beneficial for dogs with allergies or autoimmune conditions. By modulating the immune response, nettle can contribute to a healthier, more balanced state of well-being.
Please note that while Chinese Medicine offers a unique perspective on the therapeutic properties of nettle, it is essential to consult with your veterinarian or a certified TCVM practitioner before incorporating nettle into your dog’s healthcare regimen if your dog has more issues than a seasonal itch.
If you need a TCVM Veterinarian:
Holistic Health Care for Pets
1707 E. 11th Ave, Spokane WA 99202
If you would like to contact him via email: DrThomasHolisticvet@yahoo.com
I use him for my own dogs, and refer clients to him when a TCVM vet isn’t available in your city.
Is Nettle Safe For Dogs?
Nettle is generally considered safe to feed to dogs that are itchy, as it is a natural and nutrient-rich herb that can provide various health benefits. Nettle is a whole food ingredient that grows on land (as opposed to Quercetin supplements made in a laboratory) and has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, and it has been shown to reduce inflammation and alleviate allergies that may be causing itching in dogs.
Here’s an overview of how nettle is metabolized in a dog’s body:
- Digestive system: When a dog consumes nettle, the bioactive compounds present in the plant, such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, and minerals, are broken down by enzymes in the digestive system. These compounds are then absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal lining.
- Liver: Once in the bloodstream, the absorbed compounds travel to the liver, where they are metabolized. The liver plays a vital role in detoxification and biotransformation. For instance, flavonoids are often conjugated with glucuronic acid or sulfate, which increases their water solubility and facilitates their elimination from the body.
- Kidneys: The kidneys are responsible for filtering blood and excreting waste products, including the metabolites of nettle, through urine. Nettle has diuretic properties, which can increase urine production in dogs, aiding in the elimination of waste products and excess fluids.
- Circulation and target tissues: Some of the bioactive compounds in nettle can exert their effects directly on target tissues in dogs. These compounds may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antihistamine properties, interacting with cellular receptors and modulating various signaling pathways. This interaction can potentially provide relief from conditions such as allergies, inflammation, and oxidative stress.
Can Nettle Be Fed The Same Time Quercetin is Fed?
It is generally considered safe to give your dog nettle and quercetin supplements together, as both provide natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties that can help alleviate allergy symptoms, inflammation, and other health issues. If I were to simplify the main action, I would feed nettle as an anti-histamine and quercetin supplements to help stabilize the mast cells’ response.
Keep in mind that every dog is different, and their individual response to supplements can vary. Always start with a low dose and gradually increase it, while closely observing your dog for any signs of adverse effects or allergic reactions.
I always like to go low and slow when introducing new herbs to a dog. I also like to energy test them prior to feeding them.
What Dogs Should Not Be Fed Nettle?
While nettle can offer a range of health benefits for many dogs, there are certain situations in which it may not be appropriate or should be used with caution:
- Dogs with kidney or bladder issues: Nettle has diuretic properties, which can increase urine production. While this may be beneficial for some dogs, those with pre-existing kidney or bladder problems should avoid nettle. Excessive diuresis may exacerbate their condition or interfere with the management of their health issues.
- Dogs on medications: Nettle can interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners, diuretics, or anti-inflammatory drugs. If your dog is taking any medications, consult your veterinarian to ensure there are no adverse interactions between nettle and the prescribed drugs.
- Pregnant or nursing dogs: There is limited information available regarding the safety of nettle supplementation in pregnant or nursing dogs. As a precaution, it is advisable to avoid giving nettle to dogs that are pregnant, trying to conceive, or nursing, unless recommended by a veterinarian.
- Dogs with allergies to nettle or related plants: Some dogs may have an allergic reaction to nettle or other plants in the Urticaceae family. If your dog shows signs of an allergic reaction, such as itching, hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling, discontinue nettle supplementation and consult your veterinarian.
Where Can I Find Nettle?
Nettle is a perennial plant that typically grows in damp, nutrient-rich soil. It can grow up to 3-7 feet tall and has distinctive heart-shaped leaves with serrated edges and fine hairs that can cause skin irritation if touched.
Nettle plants produce clusters of small, greenish-white flowers that bloom in the summer months. The plant spreads through an extensive root system and can form dense stands or colonies if left unchecked.
Nettle is a hardy plant that can grow in a variety of conditions, from open fields and meadows to woodland areas and along streams and riverbanks. It is found throughout the world and has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for centuries. Despite its reputation as a weed, nettle is a versatile and valuable plant that offers a range of benefits for both humans and animals alike.
If you know how to forage and prepare nettle for yourself you can feed this to your dogs.
I don’t have it growing in my own yard so I have to buy it online.
Note: Some links in this article are affiliate links (Amazon Associates or other programs I participate in). At no charge to you, as an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
I loved the nettle I found at Mountain Rose Herbs the best. I don’t have access to fresh nettle but if you do, be sure to cook it well first. Alternatively, you can find tea bags at your local grocery store or online which you can split open to use.
How Much Nettle Should I Feed My Itchy Dog?
The dosage of nettle for dogs can vary depending on a number of factors, including the dog’s size, weight, and overall health.
A general guideline for the dosage of nettle for dogs is 1/4 teaspoon of dried nettle per 20 pounds of body weight, given up to three times per day. However, it’s important to start with a lower dosage and gradually increase it over time to ensure that your dog tolerates it well.
It’s also important to note that nettle can be given in different forms, including as a supplement, tea, or fresh leaves. The dosage and method of administration can vary depending on the form of nettle being used.
I use nettle tea or dried nettle and add it dry to my dog’s food twice a day. For example, I have 20lb dogs and they get 1/4 teasoon with each meal (they eat twice a day).
Now Let’s Look at Quercetin
Quercetin is a flavonoid that is found in a variety of plants, including fruits, vegetables, and herbs. It has gained popularity for its ability to stabilize mast cells and prevent excessive degranulation.
Mast cells are crucial for the dog’s immune system as they help protect the body from pathogens and allergens. However, when mast cells degranulate too much, they can cause issues like allergies, inflammation, and even more severe reactions. Quercetin can help in this situation by keeping mast cells under control.
Quercetin works by stabilizing the mast cell membranes, making it harder for them to release their granules. In other words, it acts as a natural “gatekeeper” that prevents mast cells from overreacting to triggers. By doing so, quercetin may help reduce the severity of allergic reactions, decrease inflammation, and lower the risk of conditions related to excessive mast cell activation.
Incorporating quercetin-rich foods into your dog’s diet, such as apples, berries, and green leafy vegetables, may offer some benefits for those with allergies or inflammatory issues. More recently it’s become available as a supplement.
There are different types of quercetin that are derived from different sources, including:
- Quercetin dihydrate: This is the most common form of quercetin and is derived from plants such as apples and tea.
- Quercetin aglycone: This form of quercetin is the purest form and is derived from plants such as apples.
- Quercetin glycosides: This form of quercetin is bound to sugar molecules and is found in plants such as citrus fruits, buckwheat, and tea.
- Quercetin rutinoside: This form of quercetin is bound to a specific sugar molecule called rutinose and is found in plants such as buckwheat, citrus fruits, and tea.
It is difficult to determine exactly when quercetin supplements were first made, as the use of quercetin as a dietary supplement has likely evolved over time. However, it is known that the popularity of quercetin as a dietary supplement has increased in recent decades, as studies have suggested that it may have a variety of health benefits.
Today, quercetin supplements are widely available and are marketed as a natural way to support the dog’s immune system, reduce inflammation, and alleviate allergy symptoms.
Is Quercetin Safe For Itchy Dogs?
My yeasty dog can have seasonal allergies and I’ve fed her quercetin and found good success with it but I’ve had others share that their dogs got diarrhea when they fed it. After I spoke to them they did share that they overfed it which is easy to do.
With time I’ve found I’ve preferred choosing whole foods over synthetics and I no longer recommend quercetin supplements when I have a choice and can access nettle instead.
Synthetic quercetin (found in supplements) also should not be fed for longer than 12 weeks at a time. It’s thought to be harder on the kidneys and long-term studies are lacking.
Quercetin with Bromelein
Quercetin supplements are often sold with bromelain, a proteolytic enzyme derived from pineapple stems, because the two compounds have complementary effects and can enhance each other’s potential benefits.
The primary reason for combining quercetin and bromelain is to improve the absorption and bioavailability of quercetin. Bromelain is thought to enhance the absorption of quercetin by breaking down proteins in the gastrointestinal tract, allowing quercetin to be more efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream.
Additionally, both quercetin and bromelain have anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin is a natural antioxidant and antihistamine that can help reduce inflammation and alleviate allergy symptoms. Bromelain, on the other hand, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, which can help reduce swelling and pain. Combining the two compounds may provide synergistic benefits for managing inflammation and allergies.
As for the safety of quercetin and bromelain for dogs, both compounds have been used in canine supplements and are generally considered safe when used in appropriate doses.
Which Dogs Should Not Be Fed Quercetin Supplements?
While quercetin can offer health benefits to many dogs, there are certain circumstances where it may not be suitable or should be used with caution:
- Dogs with kidney or liver issues: Quercetin is metabolized by the liver and excreted through the kidneys. If your dog has liver or kidney disease, it may affect the way quercetin is processed and eliminated from the body. In such cases, consult your veterinarian before giving quercetin to your dog.
- Dogs on medications: Quercetin can interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or chemotherapy drugs. If your dog is taking any medications, it is crucial to consult your veterinarian to ensure there are no adverse interactions between quercetin and the prescribed drugs.
- Pregnant or nursing dogs: There is limited information available about the safety of quercetin supplementation in pregnant or nursing dogs. As a precaution, it is advisable to avoid giving quercetin to dogs that are pregnant, trying to conceive, or nursing, unless recommended by a veterinarian.
- Dogs with allergies to quercetin or related compounds: Although rare, some dogs may have an allergic reaction to quercetin or compounds found in plants containing quercetin. If your dog shows signs of an allergic reaction, such as itching, hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling, discontinue quercetin supplementation and consult your veterinarian.
The Role Of the Liver
I work with quite a few clients whose dogs have liver problems. And because quercetin supplements can be hard for the liver, I no longer recommend them.
The liver is a vital organ in a dog’s body that performs many essential functions to maintain its overall health and well-being. Its main job is to filter and process the blood that circulates throughout the body, removing toxins and waste products, and breaking down nutrients to be used by the body.
The liver also plays a critical role in regulating a dog’s metabolism, producing bile to aid in digestion, and helping to maintain healthy levels of glucose and cholesterol in the blood. It stores and releases glucose as needed to provide the body with energy and produces proteins that are necessary for blood clotting and other essential functions.
In addition to its metabolic and digestive functions, the liver also plays a crucial role in detoxification. It breaks down and eliminates toxins and harmful substances from the body, such as drugs, chemicals, and other environmental pollutants.
Overall, the liver is a vital organ in a dog’s body that performs numerous critical functions to keep them healthy and functioning properly.
In TCM the liver is considered one of the most important organs in the body, and its functions extend far beyond those of the physical liver. According to TCM theory, the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi (pronounced “chee”), which is the vital energy that flows through the body’s meridians or energy channels.
When the liver’s flow of qi is disrupted, it can result in emotional imbalances and physical symptoms, such as irritability, depression, and digestive problems.
In addition to its role in the smooth flow of qi and emotional balance, the liver is also responsible for storing blood. It helps to nourish the tendons and muscles, ensuring that they remain supple and flexible, and is believed to play a role in vision and eye health.
How Long Does It Take For Nettle To Work?
Since nettle also has quercetin, I feel that this has been enough for me to feed and recommend.
The duration it takes for nettle to start relieving itchiness can differ depending on various factors, such as the individual dog, the severity of the itch, and the method of nettle administration. Generally, nettle may begin to alleviate itchiness within a few hours to a couple of days after regular administration.
It is essential to note that every dog is unique, and their response to nettle supplementation may vary. Some dogs might experience relief relatively quickly (in one to three days), while others may require a more extended period of consistent use before noticeable improvements occur.
In my own house, I use it during the spring bloom when the pollen count is high and my dog gets a rash from running through the flowers. Oftentimes the rash resolves by the next day.
In Summary – Whole Ingredients Are Better Than Synthetics
When I’m faced with a choice debating whole foods vs. synthetic supplements, I will choose a whole food option first.
Since nettle has the querctin I used to feed, and nettle is a whole food ingredient as opposed to a synthetic supplement, I now prefer nettle to relieve itch.
Whole ingredients are generally considered better than synthetic ingredients because they are more natural and contain a wide range of nutrients that work together synergistically. Whole foods provide the body with complex combinations of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other essential nutrients that are necessary for optimal health and well-being.
Synthetic ingredients, like quercetin supplements, on the other hand, are created in a laboratory and may not have the same nutritional value as whole foods. They may lack the beneficial compounds and phytochemicals found in whole foods, and some may even be harmful or toxic to the body.
Additionally, the dog’s body is designed to recognize and absorb nutrients from whole foods more efficiently than synthetic ingredients.
I believe that Mother Nature didn’t make any mistakes by providing us food that we can draw from that grows, walks, on land or swims in the sea.
Hannah Zulueta obtained her Certificate in Canine Nutrition from CASI Institute. She is also studying for her Doctorate in Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Herbalism from the esteemed Pacific College of Health and Medicine.
She resides in San Diego with her three dogs, Maggie, Orbit, and Mr. Higgins.