We drink kombucha, drop a small fortune on herbal supplements and pretty much do everything in our power to keep our human bodies in tip-top condition through the means of holistic medicine — and it finally dawned on us that we should probably be extending the same treatment to our beloved pets. Yes, it's super-important to make sure our fur babies get traditional vet care, but getting a little homeopathic with our cats and dogs at home can help them feel their best.
Herbal tinctures and natural health aids can do wonders for pet health, and building an all-natural medicine cabinet for your dog or cat is not nearly as difficult as you might think. Here are some herb and plant basics to get your started — but please remember to always check with your vet before giving your pet anything new.
1. Rescue Remedy
Rescue Remedy is homeopathic tincture made from flower essences developed by Dr. Edward Bach. The product is particularly helpful for stress. Whether your animal suffers from separation anxiety, stress from a recent move or even the death of another pet or an owner, Rescue Remedy can help.
Rescue Remedy comes in drops or spray, and is available at most natural food stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts. You can also purchase online here.
2. Aloe vera
Just like with humans, the aloe vera plant is helpful for skin issues in animals. Aloe vera is great for soothing your pet's skin if they have hot spots or an allergic reaction, according to The American Animal Hospital Association via The Nest.
However, ingesting aloe vera can be harmful for dogs and cats and might result in nasty case of diarrhea. To be safe, be sure to bandage the area you apply aloe vera to your pet, and provide adequate supervision to ensure they don't lick it off. You also want to be careful to only apply the gel part of the plant. The white sap around the edges contain latex, which can also be harmful.
Aloe can be purchased by the bottle at many stores, but it's best — and more cost effective — to just get a plant and break open the leaves yourself.
Calendula oil's antimicrobial and wound-healing properties make it a must-have for treating minor cuts, insect bites, abrasions, eczema and poison ivy, according to natural-dog-health-remedies.com. It can also be used on sprains and bruises, as an eye wash for conjunctivitis, or for the treatment of inflammation or ulceration of the digestive or urinary tracts.
You can purchase calendula extract formulated especially for pets on Amazon here.
4. Hypericum (St. John’s wort)
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, St. John's wort helps to reduce anxiety, depression and psychological stress in cats and dogs — so it comes in real handy during thunderstorms and visits to the groomer or vet.
VCA also says that scientists have identified a chemical basis for the herb's ability to relieve pain in a way similar to opiates, so St. John's wort is very useful for pain management in dogs and cats. In addition, "topical application of the essential oil prepared from St. John's Wort may help with mild contusions, muscle aches, and minor skin irritations."
St. John's wort should not be used in conjunction with any other medications, so be sure to check with your vet before giving any to your pet.
According to Dogs Naturally magazine, echinacea can work wonders in helping to support your pet's immune system. However, it can be harmful for dogs who suffer from immune mediated diseases, so check with your vet.
You can buy echinacea formulated for dogs and cats on Amazon here.
Arnica is sometimes referred to as "homeopathic aspirin." It can be used after any injury, trauma or overexertion. It has been used to reduce pain and can promote healing after surgery. It's also said to work wonders in dogs with arthritis, says thisolddog.com.
Check out thisolddog.com for great tips on how to treat your pet with arnica.
Always be sure to talk with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your pet’s health. Some herbs and natural remedies that are completely safe for humans can be toxic to dogs and cats, so do your research before giving your pet something new. Just like with medications, allergic reactions can occur even if some herbs or remedies are technically considered safe.
Originally published April 2012. Updated September 2017.