Giving Herbs to Pets

You can save your pets needless trauma and save yourself expensive veterinary bills by using your herbal medicine chest or herb garden as a pet pharmacy. To start using healing pet herbs, try these common and safe remedies. Your furry friends will benefit.

  • Cuts and scratches: Make a tea of calendula flowers and spray it on the affected area. Or apply calendula salve, though be aware that animals are apt to lick it off — you may want to wrap the area with a cloth.

  • Ear infections and ear mites: Use garlic-mullein ear oil, 3 to 4 drops, 2 times daily.

    Dogs and cats have especially long ear channels, so it's good to massage the ears to get the oil to go down. Animals often like to have their ears massaged anyway, especially when they're having trouble with them. If your pet is sensitive to touch, and if the sensitivity persists, call your vet.

  • Eye infections or watery eyes: Use a well-strained goldenseal tea as an eyewash. Be sure to buy cultivated goldenseal, as the wild populations have been seriously overharvested. Eyebright herb tea is an effective second choice.

  • Fleas: To prevent fleas from hopping on pets, you can make an herbal flea collar by dipping a string into a combination of essential oils containing eucalyptus, citronella, and sage and tying it around your pet's neck. Yarrow tincture sprayed onto affected areas can discourage fleas.

    Use orange oil to kill fleas when your pet does get an infection. Add one-half teaspoon orange oil to a quarter cup of people shampoo. Then shampoo the animal, covering them with suds. Start at the neck and work down, so that too many fleas don't end up right on your pet's face. Then, rinse it off. If it's a really bad case, do it again in two days and vacuum the house thoroughly at the same time. (Make sure that you toss the vacuum cleaner bag so that you don't provide a breeding ground for your pest population.)

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    Do not apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin where they can be licked off and make your cat or dog sick. For troublesome areas, though, you can mix 20 drops of eucalyptus oil in 2 ounces of almond oil to apply directly. Work the blend well into the hair.

  • Foxtails: If your pet gets objects caught under the skin or between the toes, you can make a fresh plantain poultice or comfrey poultice by putting fresh leaves in a blender with a little water and blending it up. Apply the poultice to the area. This remedy even works for foxtails, the stickery type of grass seeds that often plague animals.

  • Hyperactivity: Add calming teas or a few droppersful of a relaxing tincture like valerian, chamomile, or California poppy to your pet's water dish. Capsules and tablets are available if you can get pets to swallow them.

    Consider the calming effects of St. John's wort for pets. For a small dog, use about one-fourth to one-half teaspoonful of the liquid tincture added to water or food, one or two times daily.

  • Infections: When your pet gets an infection, you can often help him heal quickly by giving low doses of echinacea tincture (five to ten drops, three to four times daily, for one week). In general, when using tinctures, adjust the dose for the animal's size — the label dosage is generally meant for a 150-pound human.

  • Lung problems: Make a mullein tea and put it in the water bowl or pour it over your pet's food.

  • Skin problems and hair loss: Calendula salve is a good healer for skin problems, but give an internal blood-cleansing herb, such as red clover flowers or yellow dock root, at the same time. You can also make a tea of burdock root and sarsaparilla root for skin problems. Horsetail herb and nettle leaf tea are both used to prevent hair loss. You can also massage the skin with a few drops of rosemary oil diluted in almond oil.

  • Urinary tract infections: You can use soothing urinary tract herbs that help reduce infection and strengthen tissue. Besides echinacea, which is a must for any infection, try some beneficial herbs that have a special affinity for the urinary tract like pipsissewa or uva-ursi. If you have an herb garden, brew a little fresh yarrow or plantain leaves and add them to your pet's water.

  • Worms: Garlic is a good preventive for parasites. Chop it into your pet's food or use a powder. If you start this practice when your pets are young, they develop a taste for it. If prevention fails, and they actually get worms, you may have to use garlic capsules to get rid of the parasites.

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For disease prevention, give your pets proper nutrition, adequate opportunities for exercise, and plenty of tender loving care. Most pets like stroking and petting, which definitely have an immune-enhancing effect.

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