It's been my goal over the past few years to switch from conventional, pharmaceutical medicines supplied by the vet to treat minor ailments (ear infections, skin issues, interdigital cysts), to my own homemade, natural remedies.
This is something I have become more and more committed to as my knowledge of nutrition and holistic solutions has expanded.
I seem to be constantly amazed that most vets don't readily offer a more natural solution in treating a lot of common ailments, reaching for the pills and antibiotics as a standard course of action; which can actually be counterproductive in a lot of cases.
But as I've said before, we all know that animal health is big business, with animal pharmaceutical companies making billions every year in the UK alone.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to sound all hippy dippy, and I certainly realise the difference between minor and major conditions when it comes to my dogs (I will be the first in line at the vets if something really bad was happening), but I just don't believe a pharmaceutically-led solution is always the right way to go.
I'm a true advocate of treating the cause of an ailment rather than the symptoms.
So, for example, if your dog is obese and sick, caused by dodgy nutrition and a lack of exercise, you need to change its eating habits and exercise regime rather than giving it medicine to help slim it down.
I think some people are so conditioned into believing their vet when they are told 'yes, your dog has an infection so here are some antibiotics', thinking this is the only answer.
But there is another way. First let me point out the healing properties of various items you probably already have in your larder and which work brilliantly on minor conditions.
Organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar - a powerful antiseptic that has been used for thousands of years. Great for itchy skin or problems caused by poison ivy. Can be used to clean ears, or as a flea and tick repellant.
Ginger - in small amounts it's the perfect antidote to an upset stomach or bloating. It's also a natural anti-inflammatory so is brilliant for a dog with arthritis or inflamed joints.
Garlic - even though it's a member of the allium family it's now proven that, given in small doses, garlic is not harmful to dogs but is actually hugely beneficial. It -
- Prevents the formation of blood clots
- Decreases cholesterol build up
- Widens blood vessels
- Helps prevent the formation of tumors
- Stimulates the lymphatic system to remove waste
- Is antibiotic, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic
Organic Virgin Coconut Oil - so many uses...
Olive leaf - a powerful, natural antibiotic with antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. Its main active ingredient, oleuropein, boosts the immune system and helps fight against nasty virus-inducing bacteria, including yeast fungi.
I just pick the leaves off the small bush in my garden, dry them out and then ground them down, adding a teaspoon to their food a couple of times a week.
Kombucha - an amazing probiotic that helps restore the healthy bacteria in your dog's gut. Read the blog here all about it.
Here are some of my favourite homemade potions...
For minor ear infections and irritations.
Buster, my Cocker Spaniel, is a fantastic explorer. On our daily walks he often comes home looking and smelling like he's just swum through a cesspit. If there's a puddle, he'll be in it. If there's a pile of animal dung (any type - fox and horse are his favourites) he'll roll in it. His ear canals, therefore, are much like my local shopping centre on any given Saturday - full of questionable-looking inhabitants, with an aroma you can't quite put your finger on.
So firstly, check that the ear isn't bleeding, full of puss or extremely painful to the touch. If it is, the infection may be too far gone, so a trip to your vet could be in order.
If you just get a brown, waxy discharge then give this a go....
Mix up 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar with 2 tablespoons of warm water. Use a cotton pad soaked in the solution to clean the ear.
Then put two tablespoons of coconut oil in a pan with a crushed clove of garlic, heat gently until dissolved, cool, then using another cotton pad wipe inside the ear all the way round, getting into all those little fleshy crevasses and creeks.
Continue this course of treatment for 5 days.
This remedy also works brilliantly for interdigital furuncles (cysts); those pink lumps that dogs can get between their toes. Frank has had them a couple of times and they can be really angry looking things, but a few days of applying the garlicky, coconutty ointment and they are soon gone.
Homemade oatmeal shampoo
If your dog has itchy, flaky skin, give this a try.
100g organic oatmeal
50g baking soda
1/4 pint of warm water
Grind down your oatmeal in a food processor or pestle and mortar until it resembles a flour . Pour into a bowl, stirring in the baking soda. Add the warm water and stir until it's a lovely shampoo consistency.
Wet your dog, then use your shampoo all over, really getting down onto the skin, leaving on for a few minutes if possible. The natural anti-inflammatory properties in the oatmeal will soothe and leave your dog looking pink and fluffy!
Garlic as a flea and tick repellant - feed fresh garlic each day for two weeks, then twice a week for complete body health.
Here are the feeding guidelines -
- 10 to 15 pounds - half a clove
- 20 to 40 pounds - 1 clove
- 45 to 70 pounds - 2 cloves
- 75 to 90 pounds - 2 and a half cloves
- 100 pounds and over - 3 cloves
There are some exceptions when it comes to feeding garlic -
- Pets with anaemia or similar conditions should avoid garlic
- Diabetic dogs
- It should not be used by dogs about to go into surgery
- Young puppies (prior to six to eight weeks of age) should not be given garlic
- Dogs with lupus or other auto-immune disorders should avoid garlic
- Please note: It’s believed that Japanese breeds such as Akita’s and Shiba Inu’s are more sensitive to garlic than other breeds. Talk to a holistic vet before using garlic
Flea repellent recipe - mix up a tablespoon of fresh mint leaves, lemon balm leaves, spinach leaves and a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds. Simply add to your dog's food and over the course of around six weeks your dog will have built up a lovely internal fragrance that is secreted through the bloodstream and skin which fleas find totally disgusting!
Lavender oil - we all know how lavender can calm us and aid restful sleep, but it's also true for our four-legged friends.
Mix together lavender essential oil with a base oil (something like almond) around your dogs ears and neck in times of need.
You can also use lavender as a natural flea repellent. Just rub a few of the diluted drops on the inside of their collar, or add to a spray bottle with some apple cider vinegar with water, and spray at close range all over their body.
Other essential oils that are great flea repellants are cinnamon, rosemary, wormwood, clove, peppermint and cedar wood.
Have a go...and let me know how you get on.