Hawthorn is a herb that’s been used to treat heart disease in Chinese and other traditional medicines as far back as the 1st century. Hawthorn berries help with a wide range of heart problems in people … including irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pain, hardening of the arteries, and heart failure. It’s also been used for digestive issues.
And it’s good for your dog too. Hawthorn for dogs has many benefits and uses. So here’s a closer look at hawthorn and how it can help your dog.
Hawthorn Berry For Dogs
Hawthorn (Crataegus species) is a small tree with sharp thorns that can can get embedded in dogs’ feet if they step on them. But despite its dangers for your dog’s paws, the hawthorn tree offers some red berries with powerful health benefits. Hawthorn trees of various species are abundant and can be found in thickets and meadows in most of North America. Herbalists say that the different species all provide therapeutic benefits.
The berries are easy to give to your dog in fresh or dry form, or made into tea. Other parts of the tree, like the leaves and flower buds, can also be made into a tea.
Hawthorn is best known for its ability to help the heart … and there’s more detail on that below. But it’s also been shown to have some other properties …
Hawthorn is rich in polyphenols, antioxidants found in many plants. It can help eliminate free radicals, which are unstable molecules produced through normal metabolism. If free radicals are uncontrolled, they lead to oxidative stress and increased risk of disease. Giving your dog antioxidant-rich foods may help slow aging and reduce the risk of illness.
Hawthorn berries have been used in herbal medicines to support digestive health. Hawthorn berries contain fiber that has prebiotic properties. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that feed and promote beneficial bacteria in the gut … leading to improved immune health and lower disease risk. Research has also found that hawthorn constituents may increase secretion of various digestive enzymes to improve and speed digestion (2, 3).
Researchers are investigating the potential of several natural herbs for their anti-anxiety benefits, and hawthorn is reported as showing promising effects on anxiety in animal models (4). It’s likely these plants have fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs to treat anxiety and depression.
Other reported actions of hawthorn are antibacterial, antiviral, anti-tumor and lowering blood glucose levels (2). Hawthorn can also improve circulation through the liver and kidneys but without the risk of elevated blood pressure.
But hawthorn’s greatest benefit is as a tonic to support heart health.
How Hawthorn Helps The Heart
Hawthorn is an excellent cardiotonic (5). The hawthorn berry improves the general function of the heart. It can steady and strengthen a weak or irregular heartbeat. It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol. But it’s most valuable attribute is its ability to support a dog with heart failure.
Hawthorn For Dogs With Congestive Heart Failure
Congestive heart failure in dogs means the heart isn’t able to pump the blood efficiently. Certain breeds like King Charles Cavalier Spaniels are more prone to CHF than other breeds, due to genetic heart valve problems. Hawthorn can help the heart pump blood more strongly.
Hawthorn helps dilate the coronary vessels and those of the brain. Flavinoid, the red pigment found in hawthorn berries, is the compound most responsible for its tonic effect on the smooth muscles. Although flavinoids are found in many fruits and vegetables, hawthorn is the richest natural source.
Herbalist Joyce Belcher finds hawthorn works especially well combined with dandelion leaf to help remove excess fluid that causes coughing. The beauty of the dandelion is that it’s high in potassium so doesn’t deplete this mineral as some pharmaceutical diuretics can.
Hawthorn may also help prevent damage to the heart, especially in working dogs who are under more physical stress. Sled dogs, agility dogs, herding and bird dogs would all benefit from daily dosing of this herb. Hawthorn berries can be highly effective in supporting heart health when given daily as a tonic. It’s also a good idea to give hawthorn to a dog whose heart has been damaged by heartworm disease, by viral or bacterial infection or even by chemotherapy.
Hawthorn Berry Dose For Dogs
The hawthorn tree is common and fairly easy to spot. If you find a hawthorn tree or have one in your yard, you can pick the berries and feed them straight to your dog. You can also take the berries home and dry them and then grind them into a powder with a pestle or a good coffee grinder.
Give about 1 tsp of this powder per lb of your dog’s food per day.
If your dog doesn’t like the berries, you can make a tea. Use 1 tsp dried berries per cup of hot water. Add the tea to your dog’s food. Or buy hawthorn tincture (glycerin tinctures are more palatable than those made with alcohol. Give 1/2 tsp daily for small dogs, and 1 tsp for larger dogs.
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Is Hawthorn Safe For Dogs?
Hawthorn is considered an extremely safe herb. It has very low risk of side effects. But if your dog is on any heart medications, ask your vet about possible interactions with high blood pressure drugs or beta blockers. Don’t use hawthorn for pregnant dogs.
Hawthorn is easy to find and can help your dog in many ways. But it’s indispensable if you have a dog with congestive heart failure or whose heart is stressed in other ways.
- Nabavi SF, Habtemariam S, Ahmed T, et al. Polyphenolic Composition of Crataegus monogyna Jacq.: From Chemistry to Medical Applications. Nutrients. 2015;7(9):7708-7728. Published 2015 Sep 11. doi:10.3390/nu7095361
- Wu J, Peng W, Qin R, Zhou H. Crataegus pinnatifida: chemical constituents, pharmacology, and potential applications. Molecules. 2014;19(2):1685-1712. Published 2014 Jan 30.
- Wang X, Zhang C et al. Chemical constituents, antioxidant and gastrointestinal transit accelerating activities of dried fruit of Crataegus dahurica. Food Chem. 2018 Apr 25;246:41-47.
- Khan A, Akram M, et al. Anti-anxiety properties of selected medicinal plants. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2021 Jan 22.
- Orhan IE. Phytochemical and Pharmacological Activity Profile of Crataegus oxyacantha L. (Hawthorn) – A Cardiotonic Herb. Curr Med Chem. 2018;25(37):4854-4865.