The Most Effective Natural Home Remedies for Your Pet
If you are the caretaker of a canine companion, you know that sometimes, things just happen. Perhaps your pooch has gotten into a whole chocolate cake or been stung in the backyard by a bothersome bee, ravaged a garbage can full of human goodies that are not so good for their sensitive digestive systems, is upset by an unexpected rainstorm and lightning, can't go (constipation) or is going to much (diarrhea), or a plethora of other scenarios have come up and require you to come to the rescue. Sometimes, a situation warrants immediate medical attention and a visit to the vet, but there could be situations where you have to act fast and cannot get to your trusted vet immediately, or other times the situation could possibly be managed with an at-home remedy.
"Sometimes, you just can't get to a doctor right away, or you can avoid it altogether for minor situations," says Dr. Gerald Buchoff, DVM, BVScAH, owner of Holistic Pet Care in Little Falls, New Jersey. "Think of home remedies as a 'first aid kit'—but for your dog, or things that you can reach for until you can see a vet, or try before you reach a vet to see if they work," offers Dr. Buchoff. "I like people to be empowered and know how to take care of their pets as much as they can," he adds.
In some instances, a little at-home treatment is all it takes to get your four-legged friend feeling their best once again, but that does not mean proceed without caution, points out Randy Klein, Holistic Advisor and Owner of Whiskers Holistic Pet Care (located in New York City and Astoria, Queens). Whereas Klein agrees that, "There are many ailments or events that happen quickly in our homes to our domesticated dogs which don't always have the luxury of time—time to make an appointment, time to get him or her to the vet, or time to wait for call backs," he says. "The best advise I give to people who call us or come in during one of these events is always the same—if you feel your pet is in dire or severe danger, consult your veterinarian. If you have the luxury of time, and when nothing special is happening, this is the best time to do your homework and investigate what will work best for your individual pet. If you do this when everything is calm and peaceful, you can test which home remedies work best and which ones might actually be more harmful than the ailment you are trying to fix."
With at-home pet remedies, Klein says it's best to start slowly and with small amounts without overdoing any one treatment no matter how simple or small the remedy may appear. Note that you should always consult your vet first regarding your pet's situation and then he or she can suggest a home remedy for you to try. Depending on your pet's weight, your vet will determine what dosage you should give, then consult back with him or her in a couple days if the situation worsens or doesn't improve.
Dr. Lawrence Putter, MVD, Medical Director at Lenox Hill Veterinarians in New York City, advises contacting your veterinarian or animal poison control immediately for a consult to determine degree of toxicity (call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435). Consider using hydrogen peroxide (one teaspoon per five pounds of body weight), to induce vomiting. Dr. Putter advises using hydrogen peroxide (which is a gastric irritant) under consultation with animal poison control. In some situations, such as a case of a dog ingesting lye or Drano, you do not want to induce vomiting since vomiting can increase damage to the esophagus. For mild cases of toxic ingestion, Milk of Magnesia may also be helpful to induce a bowel movement.
Minor Cuts or Skin Sores
Lavender oil is one of the most used essential oils all over the world today, and its benefits are plentiful. For minor cuts and skin sores, Dr. Buchoff suggests using lavender oil, which is known for its powerful antimicrobial, pain relieving, and healing properties, on your precious pooch. The oil is gentle enough to be applied directly to the skin; Dr. Buchoff suggests applying a thin film (less than a drop, whatever sticks to your finger) directly to the skin adhesion or sore. Sugar may also be applied to a skin sore (be sure not to moisten the sugar, apply it dry directly to the wound) and then covered with a bandage to protect against infection and assist skin sores that are not healing well, says Buchoff, particularly if you simply can't get to your vet right away for some reason. To clean a wound, Buchoff prefers witch hazel to other cleaning agents (like alcohol or peroxide) because it is effective and very gentle on the skin. Dr. Putter is a fan of mild soap and water, and keeping the wound dry. Bite wounds might warrant antibiotics or even surgery.
If your pet suffers anxiety during a thunderstorm, it likely isn't because of the flashes of light or the sound. Rather, it's a buildup of static electricity in his coat. Rub a dryer sheet (fragrance-free) on your dog's coat on the morning of an anticipated thunderstorm, which typically increases in occurrence during the summertime. Klein adds that fear and anxiety resulting from instances like a case of loud lightning can be helped with Rescue Remedy (a flower essence) or CBD oil. As always, buyer beware, and consult with your veterinarian regarding dosing.
One too many treats? Use Pepto Bismol to help with an upset stomach and vomiting, but Dr. Putter warns that this will darken your dog's stool to a blackish hue so be advised. Use this only for dogs, though; it contains an aspirin-like substance, which is bad for cats. The dose for a dog (either liquid or tablets) is a child's dose for every 40 pounds of body weight every six hours. Dr. Putter regularly prescribes probiotics to his patients at his practice and says that for dogs, adding a little yogurt to the food at dinnertime can help with stomach upset. A dog with an upset stomach that is vomiting should not be given water, or anything else by mouth. Dr. Putter suggests allowing the stomach to settle down first. Persistent vomiting warrants a call or visit to the vet.
Treat a bothersome bee sting by first removing the stinger (to do so, run the edge of a credit card against the area to uproot the stinger) then apply a poultice made out of baking soda paste (one teaspoon of baking soda, cold water, and vinegar) to the affected area. Allow it to sit on the skin for 10 minutes, then rinse off. If your dog will allow it, you can try soaking a cloth in warm water, wringing out the excess to create a warm compress, and apply this on top of the baking soda poultice. For an allergic reaction, administer a dosage of Benadryl (one milligram per pound of your dog's weight) every six hours. "Benadryl is very safe, and we use if for all sorts of allergic reactions in animals," says Dr. Putter. Be advised that this antihistamine could make your dog drowsy. For swelling, hives or any other severe allergic reaction caused by bee stings, apply Benadryl and seek immediate emergency care, Dr. Putter advises.
Canned pumpkin (without spices) can help with constipation. Should you try pumpkin to treat this condition, be sure to use the without added spices to it, as that can upset the stomach. Klein also suggests adding a little extra fiber such as Metamucil or even some vegetables like broccoli and are helpful. Diced prunes (with pits removed) can do the trick to get things flowing smoothly and regularly once again. For more severe cases, try adding a tablespoon of Milk of Magnesia to pet food.
This issue can be extremely common in dogs, particularly if they've eaten something that doesn't agree with them. To remedy your dog's diarrhea, Dr. Putter suggests trying a bland diet, skipping a meal, or trying a plain yogurt (not ones with artificial sugars or Xylitol, which are toxic for dogs). He says that hopefully most upset stomach issues (including diarrhea) would resolve with a little bit of time, so the best bet is to monitor your dog for any worsening signs or symptoms. Bloody stool or excessive vomiting is a sign that something more severe is going on. Loss of appetite can occur due to stomach cramps and temporary discomfort, so if it persists along with diarrhea, Dr. Putter suggests seeking veterinary care. Ginger root is great for all kinds of digestive tract issues, offers Dr. Buchoff, who says vomiting, belching, or burping can be alleviated by adding a sliver of ginger to some honey and giving it to your ailing dog by hand. Ginger is a powerful anti-nausea, or antiemetic, treatment used for cancer patients.
Itchy, Dry Skin
To soothe a persistent skin itch, try using a chamomile tea spritz. Prepare the tea as usual (adjust the amount of water to tea bag to lessen or increase potency) and allow it to cool before transferring to a BPA-free spray bottle and refrigerating (3-5 days). Oatmeal paste (made with a little water and finely ground oatmeal) applied to skin for 10 minutes, then rinsed off with warm water, can help to alleviate itch, but Dr. Putter warns that your dog may not allow you to get that close to the irritated area. Also to consider with itching is the possibility of fleas or allergies. Applying a dab of Vitamin E oil can help soothe dry skin.
If your dog's ears have a distinctly foul odor, it could be a yeast infection in the ear. The ear should look pink inside and have a light wax build-up. This is often caused by water or debris trapped in the ear canal, as well as common allergens such as dust, mold, cigarette smoke, pollen, feathers, and household cleaning products. To clean and kill yeast in the ear, Dr. Buchoff suggests using white vinegar (half and half water or vinegar) once or twice a day into the ear (try using a syringe or dropper to apply the solution). To combat yeast infection of the skin, Dr. Buchoff advises using cinnamon (be sure to use Ceylon cinnamon, not Chinese cinnamon, which contains curcumin, a natural blood thinner that can inhibit blood clotting). Mix 1/8 of a teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight of Ceylon cinnamon with your dog’s dry food up to twice a day to banish unwanted skin yeast.
Fleas and Ticks
You may have heard of using fresh citrus or mixing Brewer's yeast with a tiny bit of garlic into your dog's food, but Dr. Putter is not completely sold as to the effectiveness. What has shown some success and effectiveness is adding a few drops of rose geranium oil applied to the dog collar can help to repel unwanted ticks and fleas. Alternately, you can apply one drop directly behind each shoulder blade and one drop near the base of the tail, applied every 3 to 5 days (for larger dogs, 3 to 4 drops may be needed). Rose geranium oil is known to lessen fatigue and boost mood, so you may be doing your dog a double solid by using this popular essential oil whose usage dates back to Egyptian times. When it comes fleas, treat the environment and not just the pet, says Dr. Putter (you should treat your home and your vehicle as well).