By Paula Fitzsimmons
When your dog is feeling under the weather, your vet should be the first person you call. Seemingly minor symptoms may be indicative of a serious underlying medical condition, in which case do-it-yourself remedies could be ineffective or cause more harm than good.
But if your dog has a minor ailment, such as dry skin or a mild upset stomach, some home remedies can be quite beneficial. Here are nine simple, vet-approved home remedies that can provide relief for your canine companion.
1. Vitamin E Oil for Healthy Skin
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight aging, says Dr. Judy Morgan, a holistic veterinarian based in New Jersey. (Antioxidants prevent free radical damage, which scientists believe contributes to aging.) While your dog couldn’t care less about maintaining her youthful glow, she can still benefit from Vitamin E oil. Morgan says it adds protection against UV radiation, which is especially beneficial if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors.
It can also be used to moisturize your companion’s dry skin. Morgan recommends massaging Vitamin E oil on your dog’s coat. “Vitamin E capsules can also be broken open and used on warts, calluses, or dry spots,” she says, adding that there is no cause for concern if your pet licks off the small amount of the oil.
2. Electrolyte-Replacing Liquids for Diarrhea
Flavorless electrolyte-replacing liquids (such as sports waters or pediatric drinks) not only help athletes to rehydrate and babies to recover from illness, but also can supply your sick pooch's body with much-needed fluid and electrolytes if he’s suffering through a bout of diarrhea.
“Dogs lose fluids and electrolytes when they have diarrhea, so offering them a drink that contains both can be appropriate, particularly if their appetite hasn’t fully returned to normal,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, veterinary advisor with petMD.
Consult your veterinarian as to the appropriate dosage before giving these types of liquids to your dog and to determine whether additional treatment is necessary.
3. Yogurt for Dogs
Delicious, plain yogurt can be a healthy treat for your dog. The live probiotic organisms in the yogurt may also help keep the bacteria in your dog's intestines in balance, but “the canine digestive tract is not the same as ours,” Coates cautions. “There are better options out there that are made specifically for dogs.”
Probiotic supplements for dogs are widely available through veterinarians and over-the-counter. Coates recommends ones that are made by reputable companies and that have the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) seal on the label to ensure that you are purchasing a safe and effective product.
4. Chamomile Tea for Upset Stomach and Minor Irritation
Chamomile soothes the stomach by decreasing muscle spasms and cramps, Morgan says. “It also decreases inflammation of mucous membranes, so it decreases inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining.” Chamomile tea can be added to your dog’s food or water bowl, or given by mouth with a syringe, she says.
Getting your dog to drink something new is not always easy, however, admits Dr. Patty Khuly, owner of Miami, Florida-based Sunset Animal Clinic. She primarily uses chamomile on dogs with minor rashes and irritations.
Khuly recommends brewing a strong chamomile tea, pouring it into a clean spray bottle, and letting it cool in the refrigerator. “Then, spray liberally onto red or raw skin for an immediate soothing effect—with no sting.”
5. Oatmeal for Itchy Skin
If you’ve had the chicken pox, you may have taken an oatmeal bath to soothe your itchy skin. “Oatmeal contains chemicals called avenanthramides and phenols, which have anti-inflammatory properties,” Morgan explains.
Pets with skin allergies and superficial infections get immediate relief from oatmeal, says Khuly, who is a general veterinary practitioner. “It’s especially helpful for dogs with really itchy feet. Plus, it’s 100 percent non-toxic and delicious, too.”
To create your own remedy, Morgan suggests grinding the oatmeal to a fine powder and mixing it with water to apply as a poultice (drying agent) on hot spots or inflamed areas. If your dog tolerates baths, you can add the oatmeal formula to warm water, and let your dog soak for five to 10 minutes.