Humans have been using all natural, herbal remedies for years. In fact these were the first types of medicines made. Now more and more pet lovers are remembering the benefits of herbal remedies and all natural pet treatments, and they are themselves often making these at home. The remedies below are a start for taking pet treatments into your own hands – with natural ingredients and much less cost to incur – all the while, keeping your carbon foot/paw print in check.
1. Send fleas packing with Citrus or Rosemary
Fleas don’t like citrus. So, make your pet’s fur unsavoury by rubbing it with a small amount of fresh lemon or orange juice. So while making that smoothie, or freshly squeezed orange /lemon juice, remember to send those fleas packing, naturally!
We always try to re-use, reduce and recycle, and the zest of a lemon/orange is gorgeous. Before throwing those mostly-juiced citrus rinds away, they can be soaked in a little bit of water to make a refreshing room spray.
Another great way to send fleas packing is with a Rosemary flea wash:
- Add 1 cup of fresh or dried rosemary to 4 cups of boiling water.
- Cover it and allow it to cool before straining.
- Wash the dog or cat and rinse them well.
- Now pour the herbal water onto the coat and work it in well.
- Allow it to dry on the skin.
2. Repel fleas with Brewer’s Yeast, Fennel or Pennyroyal
A dose of brewer’s yeast mixed with a small amount of garlic in food daily will help to repel fleas for dogs. For cats, add brewer’s yeast to food, but don’t use garlic with cats as it can lead to anaemia. Both the brewer’s yeast and garlic (for dogs only) can be mixed with a bit of raw honey or agave syrup to make it more palatable to your pet.
Herbal flea powders can be equally effective:
- Mix & grind 1 cup each of dried rue, wormwood, rosemary, peppermint leaves & fennel seeds.
- When the herbs have been ground to a powder.
- Dust the animal with the herbal mixture.
- Work it onto the skin.
- Mix together 2 tablespoons each of dried wormwood and rosemary leaves.
- Add 4 tablespoons pennyroyal.
- Add 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper.
*Use it as often as required but take care not to get it into your pet’s eyes.
3. Make a Rose Geranium tick collar
As much as possible, eliminate pet products that may contain harmful substances and chemicals. For example, some flea collars or dips have been proven to contain toxic chemicals that are not safe for dogs, people and the environment. Stop using them. Fleas and other parasites can be controlled in other safer and environmentally-friendly ways.
Rose geranium essential oil is successful for repelling ticks from dogs; simply apply a few dabs to your dog’s collar – this should help for a few days.
*This remedy cannot be used with cats as cats are very sensitive to essential oils.
Should you be lucky enough to have rose geranium growing in your garden or close by, you can simply pick the leaves before going on a walk and rub those over the coat as a quick fix to prevent ticks from climbing on.
4. Spray Rooibos Tea/Marigold/Chamomile for irritated skin
Rooibos tea leaves and Chamomile flowers are great for alleviating skin irritations, including those caused by fleabites, contact allergies and various bacterial and fungal infections. Both are extremely gentle and soothing and have strong anti-inflammatory properties. In South Africa it is easy to buy organic Rooibos tea and organic Chamomile tea, or a combination of the two. It is less easy to buy the organic Chamomile flowers themselves so I have started growing them in my garden. Rooibos tea only grows in a certain part of South Africa and one therefore has to buy the tea. Make the tea, put it in a spray bottle in the refrigerator, and apply it to the affected are on your pet’s skin.
Marigold or Calendula is another great plant that can be used on the skin. It is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and helps heal wounds. The lovely orange and yellow petals and flower heads can be soaked to make a tea before being applied directly onto the skin or added to rinse water for the final wash. Marigold is also useful for animals that suffer from sunburn or cracked skin. I use marigold oil to help alleviate this problem in my horse. I add 3ml of marigold oil and 1ml lime oil to 10ml of sweet almond oil and apply the mixture to the affected areas when required. If preferred, the marigold oil can added to melted beeswax or coconut oil, allowed to cool and then applied topically.
All three plants can be used to make a macerated food oil to offer to the animal internally which will also nourish the skin from the inside out.
5. Kick the itch with Oatmeal
Scratch, scratch, scratch. Scratch, scratch, scratch. Then maybe lick, lick, lick….before going back to scratch, scratch, scratch! And sometimes this goes on all day, and all night. It’s enough to drive any pet-owner absolutely crazy.
To kick that itch:
- Take organic oatmeal (or fine-grind your own).
- Add a little water to make a paste.
- Rub the paste onto the itchy areas.
- Leave this on for 10 minutes.
- Rinse with warm water.
6. Make a Happy Tummy
Just like people, pets on antibiotics may have stomach problems as the medication wipes out beneficial bacteria as well as the sinister ones. A little kefir (with live active cultures) with dinner will help the stomach.
“My dogs are on a raw food diet and I like to provide them with kefir at least once every two weeks to ensure good gut health. I often chop some fresh herbs into the mixture, e.g. mint. Mint is an excellent digestive aid and helps to sooth and relax the digestive tract. It has anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties, making it a useful additive to help prevent worms and unhealthy bacteria. Mint also has an anti-spasmodic action and may be a useful herb to offer to horses when early symptoms of colic appear. Colic is potentially serious and I highly recommend that the vet be contacted if this is suspected.”
– Helena Swart, Founder at Raw Love Pets
Mint can also successfully be macerated into sunflower oil and offered to animals on a self-selection basis. Care should always be taken not to force the animal but to allow it enough time to show you what it wants. Let the animal sniff the oil and if they appear interested, i.e. wanting to lick your hands or the bottle, offer it to them on your fingers (only try this with your own animals) or leave some on a small glass plate to taste.
7. Relax aching eyes
If you pet’s eyes seem irritated or infected, a warm chamomile tea bag can be used to soothe them. Alternatively, Rooibos tea can be used for an affordable, soothing home remedy.
“I often prepare a tea to wash out my horse’s eye – Cape Town can be very windy and therefore the horses get a lot of dust in their eyes, sometimes leading to redness and tearing. Certainly not worth a trip to the vet but painful and irritating to the horse.”
– Helena Swart, founder Raw Love Pets
8. Use Epsom Salt or seaweed for aches and sprains
Your suddenly limping dog may have strained or sprained something playing too exuberantly, so it’s time to try the world famous granny remedy of an Epsom salt soak:
- Add ½ cup Espom salt to a warm bath.
- Let your dog soak for five minutes, twice daily.
- If your dog doesn’t agree with you on this method, you can soak a washcloth in Epsom salt and warm water and apply just to the local area.
Epsom salt soaks are extremely useful for horses with hoof abscesses. The Epsom salts draw the infection from the body. “I soak the affected hoof for 10 minutes at a time, as often as I can. I use roughly 250ml of Epsom salts to a 4 l bucket of water but you can safely use more.”
– Helena Swart, Founder at Raw Love Pets
A seaweed or bladderwrack compress can also be used to reduce inflammation and arthritic joint pains. Seaweed is believed by many to be a detoxifier and a healing agent. It is an excellent source of minerals for the body so we’ve added kelp to all our meal variants for that extra boost to the immune system.
9. Administer juice for the bladder
In modern times, cats have become prone to bladder and urethra issues. This is partly due to a diet of dry, highly processed food that does not contain enough moisture. If your cat has such a problem, unsweetened cranberry juice can come to the rescue. Cranberry increases urine acidity resulting in a reduced chance of blockages or infections. You can add cranberry powder to food, or cranberry juice to the water, or give your cat a cranberry capsule. Cranberry is also appropriate for use in dogs. Ask your vet about proper dosages.
10. Keep calm and carry on
Cats love the smell of valerian. Stuff a toy mouse with some valerian powder and your cats will have a ball!
Valerian has a calming effect on most animals.
Valerian aids with:
- Over excitability.
It is particularly useful when transporting dogs and cats as most find such episodes quite stressful.
In general, herbs are best used to support and improve the general physical wellbeing of our pets.
It is important to use the best quality herbs from reputable and trustworthy suppliers.
“I personally prefer to grow them myself or to forage for local medicinal herbs in my area. It is incredibly liberating and satisfying to look after the health of my animals this way, hand-in-hand with Nature, as it is meant to be.”
– Helena Swart, Founder Raw Love Pets
While natural remedies and herbs are, in many ways, better and gentler to our pets than conventional medicine, it is not advisable to use them in place of vet consultation – particularly in any event of a serious or life-threatening condition. Also, herbs and natural treatments are best used for treating chronic diseases and are not the preferred means of treatment in emergency situations.
“Plants, potions and Oils for Horses” by Chris Dyer