7 Unsafe Herbs for Dogs and Cats

Oh my my, how we adore our pets. We hate when they hurt or are miserable from fleas or dry skin or some other pesky problem. And while we may have our favorite herbal remedies to medicate ourselves .. I know I do .. pets may react totally differently to the very same ingredient.

Before treating your pets, a good rule of thumb is to first be wise about what it is that is ailing them.  Incorrectly diagnosing and then treatment can be disastrous for our little guys.  Small animals have a shorter digestive system than we do, so
things are not digested the same as in we humans.

Holistic veterinarians can give you good advice on how to treat some of the more common ailments like cuts and infections, breathing or eye problems.

But a vet is not always necessary for minor problems like dry skin and itching. However, as much as we may trust the use of natural substances like herbs, we should always exercise caution.  Some herbs can be very potent and dangerous to cats and dogs.  

Some Unsafe Herbs for Cats and Dogs

Here’s a list of 7 herbs you want to be cautious of:

1)  comfrey – even in small doses can cause liver damage or cancer

2)  white willow bark (aspirin is derived from this) – toxic to cats and kittens

3)  pennyroyal– sometimes used as an insecticide, it is poisonous to both dogs and cats

4)  tea tree oilundiluted, this is poisonous to the smaller pets like cats or small dogs. Always dilute into another oil (olive oil or almond oil work good) at least 50/50

5)  garlic – in small doses, garlic is good for parasites, fleas & worms, microbial infections, and even cancer. But is not advised if the pet is anemic. ½ clove per cat per day is okay.  For dogs, one clove per 10 pounds of weight per day is okay.

6)  wormwood– Used for de-worming, but it seems to be too strong for pets. Before using, it would be good to first check with a holistic vet, or use another of the alternatives. 

7)  ephedra (ma huang)– sometimes prescribed for pets with respiratory problems or asthma, but it can cause a reaction in cats and irregular heartbeat in some pets.

Natural Solutions for Itching

Here are some effective natural remedies I have used for my itchy dogs, so I know they work.

#1:  Brewer’s yeast, 1 teaspoon or a tablet each day. 
One of the most common causes of itching is the allergic reaction to the bite of fleas. Using brewer’s yeast can help, but some dogs may be allergic to the brewer’s yeast.  

pug puppiesIf you notice some dry itchy spots developing, you should stop using the brewer’s yeast for a week or so, to see if the spots go away.  

Dab a little bit of tea tree oil mixed in equal parts of olive oil onto the spots to help the itching (but keep away from their genitals and their eyes). 

Someone once told me that if you hold a slice of cucumber over the dry spot for a minute or two, then use the tea tree oil, it helps to absorb better into their skin. I tried it, and it works.

Vets also recommend using a good natural shampoo with aloe in it. Be careful with the chemically based flea collars as they can really irritate their necks. Be sure to check with your vet if you want to buy flea medication.

#2:  Flea Dip – Here is a totally safe recipe for a natural flea dip for dogs that I took out of one of my books.  I have used it a number of times.  It will need to be repeated every few days throughout the flea season. 

I keep one spray bottle of it in the kitchen, so that in-between kitchen chores, if I see my dog scratching, I grab the bottle and spray. It soothes and cools his skin, and he has learned to look forward to it.

RECIPE: 2 cups packed fresh peppermint or rosemary steeped for 20-30 minutes in 1 quart of boiling water.  Strain out the herbs and then dilute with another gallon of water.

#3:  Dry Skin – Here is another solution I have used for my pug, Sebastian, who is often miserable with dry skin. It works really well to calm and soothe him. 
I did find the solution needs to be re-administered like every 6 hours, so this is another one I keep close by in a spray bottle. One for the house, and one for the barn or work shed.
RECIPE: 4 peppermint tea bags steeped in a quart of hot water for at least 20 minutes
a quart of aloe vera juice
3-4 drops of tea tree oil
 

I hope one of these solutions will help your dog.  As always, keep the lines of communication open with your veterinarian.  She is, after all, your best expert!  

Do you have a particular herbal remedy that you swear by?  Share with us.

Happy Trails to you and all your pet babies!  

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Susie is a Midwestern (USA) girl, born and raised in Kansas, who now lives in Missouri. Her company, Rural Woman Enterprises, comprises both this website/blog along with three Etsy shops: CountryChicshoppe, SaveTheWildHorseCrea, and KnobSnobbery.
She has been married and raised 11 children (6 of them step children).
Her passion is writing, both fiction and nonfiction. And one of her most important passions is the protection of America's wild horses who now face great threat to their safety and numbers, perhaps even extinction.