Dear Readers: As Dr. Khuly works on an in depth assignment, we are taking today to revisit one of her previous columns on pet health. She will be returning with a fresh column tomorrow.
Everyone's tried home remedies. But they're not all created equal. With that in mind, here are my top seven picks for safe and effective treatment of minor ills:
1. Epsom salts
When pet wounds and swellings inevitably rear their ugly heads, Epsom salts are almost always helpful for optimal home care. As long as your pet will abide wet ministrations, Epsom salt soaks and hot packs are a great adjunct to antibiotics and surgical attention. Sometimes they can even do the job on their own — just don’t skip the step where you see your vet first!
2. Chamomile tea
Considered the ultimate home care for upset human tummies, I’ve used strong chamomile tea for a number of skin ailments in pets. This common West Indian remedy relies on the natural disinfectant effect of the plant. A soothing solution, chamomile calms minor skin irritations by killing the yeast and bacteria that can complicate lesions with their presence — without the harshness that can reduce the body’s own "happy" bacteria.
My favorite approach? Make a strong chamomile tea, pour it into a clean store bought spray bottle (about $1.49 at the drugstore) and let it chill in the fridge. Then spray liberally onto red and raw skin for an immediate soothing effect.
Ears raw and sore from frequent allergies? Add a tiny dash of distilled white vinegar to the cooled tea for a low-cost ear cleansing solution that is almost on par with the chlorhexidine rinses you buy for $8 to $12 a bottle at the vet’s office.
3. Petroleum jelly
It’s every bit as good as the more expensive brand name lubricants made specifically for cats with hairball problems or chronic, low-grade constipation. A little dab on the paw will do ya - cats will lick it off and ingest it, where it will help lubricate the passage of intestinal contents. It’s also great for crusty noses.
4. Canned pumpkin
For either easily constipated or diarrhea-prone dogs and cats, pumpkin can work wonders— though admittedly, not always. It’s a do-no-harm approach that anyone can try, but never let your pet suffer for more than a day or two of mild symptoms before you talk to your vet.
5. Borax powder
Got fleas? Yeah, me too. Want a solution that complements your standard medicated flea regimen without all the toxins your standard bug-man lays down? Try Borax powder. The standard 20-Mule Team stuff works wonders on fleas by poking holes in their crunchy insect exoskeletons.
My way? Sprinkle the stuff on your floors and then sweep or vacuum up the excess. The invisible crystals left behind will do great work on the fleas your pets bring in while you’re not looking. It’s inexpensive and practically non-toxic compared to what the bug-man brings in.
6. Oatmeal cereal
If you’ve got an itchy pet willing to hang out in a bathtub, this is for you. Finely ground oatmeal (as in baby oatmeal cereal) can be stirred into a bath of warm water for a super-soothing (and cheap) soak. Pets with skin allergies, infections, and any other itchy disease gain immediate relief with this approach and many dogs even come to love it for its in-tub lappability (I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t let my pets do the same with any other treatment).
7. Hydrogen peroxide and baking soda
No, it’s not a grade-school volcano recipe. Instead, it makes appalling odors begone! I mix four cups of hydrogen peroxide with 1/3 cup baking soda and a splash of dish washing detergent to make a spray-bottle solution that is capable of getting even anal gland aroma off my scrubs (and pets’ backsides, too).
I first learned of this approach after researching popular de-skunking regimens when I worked the ER beat in skunk-infested Philadelphia. This simple mix is not only way more vet hospital friendly than the tomato juice bath, it’s effective on a wide range of anal gland-contaminated surfaces, too. I don’t think I could survive veterinary practice without it. Thank God for simple remedies!
As with all home remedies, asking your vet before embarking on any of these projects will often save you a lot of hard work and bring better results — while addressing the issue of safety (remember, even what looks like a superficial wound may be just the tip of the iceberg).
Dr. Patty Khuly