I’ve used natural remedies for years to treat common ailments such as colds, insomnia and hay fever, but it was only when I adopted my border collie, Sky, that I looked into the use and benefits of natural medicines for dogs.
I got Sky a few weeks before Bonfire Night, and it didn’t take me long to realize he was terrified of even the slightest noise. I knew this night would be stressful for him, so I got some prescription sedatives from the veterinarian.
On the afternoon of Bonfire Night, I took Sky for a long walk in some woodlands a few miles from home. On the way home, as darkness approached, I became concerned that the neighbors’ fireworks would start soon. I slipped one of the sedatives into a treat and fed it to Sky, who was sitting happily on the back seat.
We pulled into the driveway to bangs from fireworks, but Sky didn’t even flinch when I opened the back door. I wanted to get him swiftly into the house, but the sedative had been so strong that Sky could no longer control his legs or tongue!
He tried desperately to get out of the car, but he just slid off the back seat and onto the floor, like drunken jelly, his tongue lolling sideways — and a grin, like the Cheshire Cat, spread across his face.
It took me half an hour to get him into the house and at least three days before he was back to normal. The vet did advise that some dogs are more susceptible to sedatives than others, but I knew I needed to find a more natural alternative.
What Are Natural Medicines?
Some people think that natural medicines are simply placebos of prescription medications and have no real effect. However, many natural remedies are obtained from some of the same botanical sources as their prescription counterparts.
Prescription medicines have chemicals or unnatural substances added that usually alter the brain or hormone chemistry of the body. Natural medicines do not have these; instead, they contain properties derived usually from live plants that regulate imbalances in the body to promote healing and sustain health. Some common natural remedies are:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Herbal preparations (natural remedy made from live plant sources)
- Tissue salts (homeopathic remedy made from mineral sources)
- Homoeopathic remedies
- Flower remedies
I have now spent more than seven years in training and management with one of the U.K.’s largest health stores. My knowledge, experience and use of natural medicines over the years have won me over to their beneficial properties and limited side effects, especially when compared with some of today’s over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Natural Treatments for Common Dog Ailments
Arthritis & Rheumatism
- Tissue salts reduce stiffness, pain and the aching associated with arthritis and rheumatic pain.
- Mag phos works well if the pain is also relieved by heat application, and ferr phos helps when the pain and stiffness is worse with movement or inflammation.
- If the dog’s joints feel cold, then calc phos can counteract this symptom; it also helps with fatigue.
- Glucosamine and chondroitin are probably the best known natural supplements for dogs; they are added to dog food for joint mobility. Glucosamine occurs naturally in the body and is composed of an amino acid and sugar compound — it also maintains healthy cartilage and lubricates the joints. Chondroitin also occurs naturally in humans’ and animals’ connective tissues. It aids in reducing pain associated with arthritis and rheumatoid conditions, and also keeps joints mobile.
- Vitamin C can be added to a dog’s diet to help prevent further deterioration of the joints. It is sold in powder form, as getting tablets into a dog is no picnic. The best type of vitamin C for an animal is a buffered source because it’s gentler on the stomach.
Ticks and Fleas
- The best technique for ticks and fleas is to prevent them in the first place; this is a lot easier than removing from your poor dog.
- Essential oils are helpful if dabbed onto your dog’s collar, as some scents, especially citrusy ones, may deter fleas and ticks. Rose and geranium oils are one suggested mix, and the other is lemon or orange blended with eucalyptus.
Watch this video to learn how to make an herbal flea-repelling shampoo for your dog:
Minor Bites and Scratches
- Goldenseal, a perennial herb of the buttercup family, has wonderful antibiotic properties. It’s sold in cream or liquid form, and used to prevent infections when applied topically to a dog’s cut or scratch.
Anxiety and Nervousness
- Rescue Remedy is a Bach Flower Remedy with a mixture of flower essences — it also has no side effects and is completely natural, so it can be given to dogs and other small animals. It comes with a pipette so you can put the required amount of drops into a water bowl. (This will not affect dogs with no symptoms, so it is fine to add to water where other dogs are drinking.)
- Skullcap is an herbal preparation available in tablet and capsule form, but it’s also used in some liquid mixes with other herbs. It’s a natural sedative but fairly mild in comparison with over-the-counter products. (So you should be able to avoid the drunken jelly effect!) It is excellent for treating anxiety and restlessness in dogs.
- Valerian is another herbal sedative and is one of the most well-known herbal remedies used for anxiety, depression, stress and insomnia in humans. It comes in tea or in capsule form, and works to help calm and naturally sedate a dog.
All of the natural remedies above are excellent for stressful occasions such as fireworks or a trip to the vet, or they can be used more frequently for dogs who suffer with long-term anxiety.
Don’t Bypass Professional Advice
Although I am a firm believer in the benefits and use of natural medicines, I do not advocate bypassing professional advice or a visit to the vet when your dog’s condition necessitates it.
Just as humans take vitamins and herbs to supplement a healthier lifestyle, they still have to visit the doctor on occasion, and so it is with your pet.
Many veterinary practitioners today advocate the use of natural medicines, often instead of or alongside traditional medicines. Should you need additional advice, ask the countless qualified herbalists who specialize in the treatment of dogs and other small animals.
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This featured contribution was written by Catherine Roberts, co-founder of The Dog Express website — which aims to advise, teach, support and bring together dog owners from around the world and unite them through their love of dogs. Catherine is passionate about the health, training and treatment of dogs and is a keen advocate for rescue centers and shelters and the amazing work that they do.
This pet health content was reviewed by a veterinarian.