Home remedies are often concoctions of things that may or may not work for certain dog ailments. Others are downright dangerous. But did you know that there are some natural remedies for dogs that have solid science and clinical experience behind why and how they work?
Here is a list of homemade and natural remedies for your dog that are tried, true and vet-approved.
1. Vinegar ear flush for dogs
What is it? The best homemade ear flush contains about 20-50% white vinegar and 50-80% water. Acetic acid is the component in vinegar that makes it ‘sour’ and acidic.
How well does it work with dogs? Vinegar is not just for cleaning and canning. Keeping your dog’s ears clear of waxy buildup can help prevent ear infections in dogs. It is useful to use a vinegar flush every couple of weeks, or when you notice a little waxy buildup.
Flushing your dog’s ears out after a bath or after swimming may prevent dog ear infections as well. Did you know that many store-bought ear flushes actually contain an acidic component, which helps to discourage the growth of bacteria and yeast in the ear?
Vinegar is acidic and can work as a mild disinfectant, as it lowers the pH of the dog’s ear canal . For severe wax buildup, a ceruminolytic ear cleanser should be used from your veterinarian. If your dog has an ear infection, it will help to clear the debris but may not be effective in treating the infection.
Could it hurt my dog? Yes, if your dog has a ruptured ear drum or severe inflammation. Highly acidic solutions (such as vinegar) can also cause pain in an inflamed ear. If your dog’s ear drum (tympanic membrane) is perforated, vinegar could cause damage to the middle and inner ear.
If you suspect that your dog has an ear infection, it is best to have your veterinarian examine the ear thoroughly. Once it is known that the ear drums are alright, then your vet may recommend a home-made vinegar or prescription ear flush [1, 2].
What NOT to use? Stick with vinegar and water solutions. Do not be tempted to mix in salt, isopropyl alcohol or iodine, as they can be too irritating to the ear.
Olive oil should not be placed in the dog’s ear as well, as it can make it harder to remove debris.
2. Canned pumpkin
What is it? Pumpkin is a member of the squash family. When cooked and canned, it becomes a tasty, high-moisture and high-fiber food.
How does it work for my dog? Conditions which may be improved with the use of pumpkin in dogs:
- Poor digestion
Fiber can be a confusing ingredient, as there are different types of fiber that do different things for your dog.
The two main types of fiber in the diet are insoluble fiber and soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber bulks up the stool and helps the digestive system to move things along. It is found most often in “weight management” diets [3, 13]. It is best to not feed sources of insoluble fiber to dogs with diarrhea.
Soluble fiber absorb water and are fermentable. This fermentation breaks down the fiber into components that help to keep the cells lining the colon healthy .
Pumpkin contains mostly soluble fiber, making it a helpful therapy for some pets with diarrhea. If your dog has digestive troubles, most canines benefit from 1-4 tablespoons of canned pumpkin added to their dog food 1-2 times daily .
Cats also benefit from pumpkin in their diet. Cats suffering from hairballs, inflammatory bowel disease, and diarrhea can be treated with ½-1 teaspoon twice daily.
Is it safe? Yes, canned pumpkin is safe for dogs, except in the unlikely case that your canine has an allergy to pumpkin.
Use 100% pure pumpkin puree, NOT canned pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin pie filling contains lots of sugar and added spices.
If your dog has diarrhea or is vomiting, talk to your veterinarian before feeding pumpkin.
3. Ginger for dogs
What is it? Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is a root that is commonly used in Asian cooking and Western holiday baking. It has a “spicy” flavor and is available in powdered, fresh, whole root, pickled and candied varieties.
How does it work for my dog? Ginger is a well-known home remedy for nausea and motion sickness in both humans and dogs. It contains over 300 bioactive compounds .
Ginger promotes healthy digestive movement, has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to calm the dog’s bowel (antispasmodic) [5, 6].
Dogs with many different medical conditions may benefit from taking ginger on a regular or intermittent basis [11, 12]:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Gastric ulcers
- Motion sickness
- Vestibular disease
- Dental disease, stomatitis
In humans, ginger is a commonly found ingredient in natural arthritis treatment products . Its potency has been compared to that of acetylsalicylic acid, also known as aspirin.
¼ teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root can help reduce motion-sickness in a 50-pound dog. Give 10-15 minutes before travel. Dried ginger that is used in culinary preparations can also be used.
If you are interested in using a tincture or potent extract of ginger for treatment of certain ailments in your dog, like cancer or vestibular disease, talk to a holistic veterinarian for dosing.
Is it safe? When used in small doses, ginger is safe for most dogs.
If you are interested in using ginger as a treatment for long-term health conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or cancer, seek advice from a holistic veterinarian.
4. Turmeric for dogs
What is it? Turmeric is a bright yellow ground spice used in the cuisines of India, Pakistan and other cultures of the Indian subcontinent. It is sourced from a rhizome root and is a member of the ginger family . Turmeric has also been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
How does it work? Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which may have antioxidant, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties [8, 9].
A recent review of curcumin studies found that :
“The underlying mechanisms of these effects are diverse and appear to involve the regulation of various molecular targets, including transcription factors (such as nuclear factor-κB), growth factors (such as vascular endothelial cell growth factor), inflammatory cytokines (such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukin 1 and interleukin 6), protein kinases (such as mammalian target of rapamycin, mitogen-activated protein kinases, and Akt) and other enzymes (such as cyclooxygenase 2 and 5 lipoxygenase).”
While some holistic veterinarians stick to culinary turmeric for dogs, research has shown that potent extracts of curcumin have the best bioavailability. Increased bioavailability can mean that the curcumin has a better effect on your dog .
- Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
- Skin disease
- Liver disease
- Many gastrointestinal diseases, such as:
– Inflammatory Bowel Disease
How can I give it to my dog?
Turmeric that is used in foods, such as curries, can be slightly bitter. It is best if a small sprinkle is used on your dog’s food, but it may not have a huge effect on their health. A holistic veterinarian can recommend a specific dose for your dog, depending on what medical condition is to be treated. Tinctures or high-potency extracts may need to be prescribed.
5. Cinnamon for dogs
What is it? Cinnamon is a spice that is harvested from the bark of Cinnamomum-genus trees. It is commonly ground and used in culinary preparations, such as curries and Western holiday baking.
How does it work? Cinnamon has also been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
Cinnamon is used for a variety of ailments. Cinnamon has many anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-tumor, cardiovascular and hypoglycemic properties .
Which dogs can benefit from taking cinnamon? Cinnamon is typically used as a dietary supplement for dogs with diabetes mellitus. In clinical practice and in studies, cinnamon and its extracts have shown blood glucose lowering properties [15, 19].
Cinnamon’s hypoglycemic property is very promising and exciting in human and veterinary medicine. A 2014 study boils down how cinnamon can help diabetics on the cellular level :
“A multitude of in-vitro studies have demonstrated that cinnamon increases glucose entry into cells by enhanced insulin receptor phosphorylation and translocation of the glucose transporter GLUT4 to the plasma membrane. Cinnamon increases the amount of GLUT4 receptors as well as Insulin Receptor (IR) and Insulin Receptor substrate, thereby facilitating glucose entry into cells. The active compound responsible is believed to be a water-soluble poly-phenolic compound comprising procyanidin type A polymers. Another possible mechanism for its hypoglyaemic properties, is an increase in the expression of PPAR (alpha) and PPAR (gamma), thereby increasing insulin sensitivity.
It has also been demonstrated that Cinnamon posses an inhibitory effect on intestinal glucosidases and pancreatic amylase. Ceylon cinnamon is the most potent inhibitor of pancreatic amylase and intestinal sucrase. Cinnamon also possesses the ability to increase glycogen synthesis and inhibit gluconeogenesis, by increasing the activity of Pyruvate Kinase (PK) and decreasing that of Phoshoenol pyruvate carboxy kinase (PEPCK).”
In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), cinnamon is used as a “warming” element in food therapy .
TCVM also uses cinnamon as an anti-microbial treatment for dogs with overgrowth of ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut .
Dogs with slow-healing wounds or MRSA skin infections may benefit from the wound-healing properties of cinnamon .
How can I give it to my dog? Cinnamon nutritional supplements are available as capsules for dogs. Ground culinary cinnamon is also used and given with food to dogs.
Consult with your dog’s veterinarian about using cinnamon before giving it to your pet. If your dog is diabetic, consult your veterinarian for a specific dose. Tinctures or potent extracts may also be available.
The bottom line
Who knew that there were remedies for your pet within arm’s reach in your home. Experts agree, sometimes the “natural” way is an effective way to treat your dog. Other times, however, you do need to approach this topic with a healthy amount of skepticism.
Always consult with your veterinarian before using home-made or natural remedies. The information provided here is not intended to diagnose or cure any veterinary medical problem.
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