We’ve compiled the best herbal remedies for pets from our favorite vet, Dr. Randy Kidd, to celebrate his 35th “Pet Corner” column.
Best Herb for High-strung Animals
Oats (Avena sativa) are wonderful for strengthening the nervous system and calming hyperactive critters. A daily or weekly helping of cooked oatmeal added to your pet’s food will support the nervous system and provide a good source of fiber. You also can grow oat grass from seed in your garden or in a pot (see resources on last page). Simply let it grow a few inches tall, cut it back to its base, then add the clippings to your pet’s dish or use them to make a tea to add to the animal’s food. Some cats will simply graze on oat grass — mine do.
Slippery Elm for GI Health
I see many cases of chronic gastrointestinal disease, such as chronic bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome or “leaky gut” syndrome. My favorite herb for these conditions is slippery elm (Ulmus rubra). For chronic gut problems, I might use it for three or four weeks initially, then take a week off and repeat as necessary.
Liver Care 101
In addition to including liver herbs such as milk thistle (Silybum marianum) seeds in your pet’s diet, I also suggest that pet owners do the following:
- Decrease the animal’s exposure to toxins and agents that compromise liver function, including poisons, pollution and high doses of medications.
- Provide foods that have high nutritive value, low fat content and no sweeteners, synthetic preservatives or artificial flavors and colors.
- Decrease intestinal yeast and increase good bacteria by adding Lactobacillus acidophilus (found in yogurt) to your pet’s food.
Mullein Mix for Ear Infections
Try this oil for mild ear infections. Have your veterinarian show you how to properly apply this herbal solution in the ear canal. Since it’s much easier to prevent an infection than it is to cure one, I recommend using this remedy once a month or so throughout your pet’s lifetime.
Pack mullein (Verbascum spp.) leaves and flowers in a glass jar and cover with olive oil. For increased antibiotic effectiveness, you can add a clove or two of garlic per pint of oil. Let the mixture sit for two to three weeks. Strain and apply several drops of the warmed oil into the ear canal.
Aromatherapy for Pets
Aromatherapy is a gentle healing method well-suited to pets. There are several oils that are particularly good for animals. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is used to help relax agitated animals so they can get a good night’s sleep. Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) and chamomile (Matricaria recutita) are good for easing depression, anxiety and distress. Put a few drops of essential oil onto a bandanna neck wrap for a dog, keeping the oil side away from the dog’s skin, or a few drops onto a cotton ball you place under your pet’s bed. Never apply essential oils directly to your pet’s fur.
Natural Flea and Tick Rinse
To repel worrisome fleas and ticks naturally, select three or four herbs from the following list and mix equal parts of the herbs together. Pour boiling water over the mixture and steep until cool. Strain the tea and apply the liquid to your pet. Leave to dry and reapply every two to three days, as needed. Try lavender, wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) or rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).
When to Take Your Pet to the Vet
How can you tell a true emergency (requiring immediate veterinary attention) from a problem you can treat at home? There’s no hard-and-fast rule here. A day of mild diarrhea, a day or two of refusing food or a bout or two of vomiting are normal for some animals. Prolonged or severe diarrhea or vomiting, or more than a few days of refusing food, warrant a visit to the vet. An animal running a fever of more than 103 degrees also should be seen.
For cuts or wounds, I like to use the rule that if you would see your physician for a similar-appearing wound on yourself, then the animal probably should be seen by a vet. I also like to see any animal that has been subjected to blunt trauma — a critter hit by a car, for example. Blunt trauma can cause internal damage not evident until it’s too late.
But finally, I tell folks the same thing we told concerned pet owners when they called the emergency clinic where I was chief of staff. When they asked, “Is this something you should see tonight?” our answer was always, “If you think it should be seen, then bring your pet in right away. That’s what we’re here for.”
Effective Animal Doses
When it comes to herbs and dosages for pets, we just don’t have all the answers. That’s why, rather than giving a concentrated form of the herb, I prefer to mix food with a weak herbal tea (add bouillon to increase palatability) or small amounts of chopped fresh or dried herbs (about 1 pinch for a cat or small dog or 2 to 3 pinches for a large dog). When I do use tinctures or capsules, I adhere to the following guidelines:
- I use less of the herb. Read the product label, then adjust the dose down to the animal’s size, assuming that dosage on the label is meant for a 150-pound human.
- Remember, a cat’s enzyme system is highly sensitive, so be careful with your kitty.
- If your pet shows any sign of discomfort after taking a medicine, discontinue use immediately and call your veterinarian if you think the problem is serious.
Randy Kidd holds doctorates in veterinary medicine and veterinary and clinical pathology. After practicing traditional veterinary medicine for 10 years, he opened Honoring the Animals, a holistic practice in Kansas City, Missouri.
Information provided in “Pet Corner” is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian.
Oat Grass Resources
Poopsie Cat Products
4704 Allied Rd.
San Diego, CA 92120
Oat grass seeds
P.O. Box 3360
San Rafael, CA 94912
SmartyKat SweetGreens cat grass kit