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    Herbal Remedies and First Aid for Pets

    Holistic pet care rests on the notion that the best way to cure a sick animal is to help the animal cure itself. We are not the true healers of our pets – they are.

    Some animals live happy, healthy lives despite the use of conventional vaccinations, processed pet food, and drugs for prevention and treatment of disease. However, where it is the pet owner’s wish to keep his/her beloved pet disease-free and in optimal health it is always possible to reduce the drugs and vaccines using herbal alternatives.

    Your animal’s ill health may have been caused by prolonged exposure to toxic environmental factors; pesticides; antibiotics; vaccines; chemicals polluting food, water and air; lack of exercise; and chronic stress. Chemical antibiotics seriously compromise the innate ability of the body to heal itself.

    An already sick animal can often be helped with natural therapies, which support the immune system and organs. You cannot poison your animal to health with conventional drugs, chemo or radiation. A more holistic and natural approach treats the whole animal, igniting the body’s internal healing forces and stimulating the body’s natural ability to heal itself.


    To make medicines, it is best to collect herbs from your own herb garden. Never collect wild herbs unless you are absolutely certain of what you are collecting, and never collect wild herbs growing next to the road as exhaust fumes inevitably contaminate them.

    Herbs can be dried in cardboard beer trays and take very little space if you stack the trays. Remember to label each tray, as dried herbs do not always look the same as their fresh counterparts. Roots are always difficult to identify, so make sure that you label the trays immediately. Only air dry, never use heat, microwaves or heat dryers to dry your herbs. Make sure herbs are tinder dry before storage. Roots and berries can take a lot longer to dry than leaves and flowers. Store in cloth or paper bags that are clearly marked.

    Herbal Remedies and First Aid for Pets


    Infuse sunflower or sweet almond oil with mullein and tea tree. Drop into the ear. Also rub some oil on the outside of the ear to control re-infestation with ear mites.

    Ear oil for all animals

    Base: Sunflower oil

    Herbs: Dried mullein and lavender

    Method: Place dried herbs in a wide-mouthed jar. Fill the jar with sufficient oil to cover the herbs. Infuse for at least 6 weeks. Do not stand the infusion in the sun. Strain through a nappy liner, bottle, label and date. Drop into the ears to soothe inflammation and to kill ear mites.

    Emergency ear oil – not suitable for cats or rabbits

    Base: Almond oil

    Essential oils: Lavender and tea tree.

    Method: Drop 3 drops tea tree and 2 drops lavender oil into 2 teaspoons almond oil. Place in a suitable dropper and drop into the animal’s ear. Tea tree will kill ear mites and lavender is an analgesic.

    Herbal Remedies and First Aid for Pets


    Eczema and hair loss are often environment related. Allergies to fleas or other parasites can result in severe skin irritations. If that is the suspected cause, then the animal’s environment should be treated as well as the skin itself. Treat skin eruptions with wound ointment or cream. Keep the area clean and dry but do not allow drying out completely, as this can aggravate the itching. Eczema and hair loss can also be as a result of hormonal changes. In that case administer herbs supporting the adrenal glands – borage, basil, chasteberry and artichoke. Wash the area with rosemary and sage tea.

    Eczema cream

    Base: Aqueous cream

    Herbs: Comfrey, calendula, chamomile, chickweed, gotu kola

    Method: Use fresh or dried herbs. Place 500 ml aqueous cream at the bottom of a heavy pot. Scatter any combination of chopped herbs (half a cup) on top. Place over very low heat and allow the aqueous cream to melt. It will become like milk. Allow to simmer for about 1 hour with the lid on. Strain through a nappy liner. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Decant into a suitable wide-mouthed jar, label and date. Use for any type of skin eruption. This is a water-based cream and is easily absorbed, leaving no residue. It does not need bandaging. The chickweed contains natural anti-histamines and reduces itching.

    Antibiotic cream

    Base: Aqueous cream

    Herbs: Rose geranium, garlic, nasturtium.

    Method: As above. This is an ideal ointment for wounds that need dressing. It is easily absorbed.


    Apply raw lemon juice to the affected area daily. Lemon is anti-fungal and safe to use on cats. In severe cases use a tea tree or sage and lavender wash.


    Smear a liberal amount of ointment or cream onto a bandage. Wrap in place and cover with plastic wrap. Take care that the animal does not worry the plastic off and eat it! Old pantyhose are particularly handy as they will stretch to many times their normal size and prevent the animal from pulling off the plaster.

    Herbal Remedies and First Aid for Pets


    The most common internal parasites a pet owner has to contend with are worms. Common herbs to help expel worms are wormwood, wilde als and pumpkin seeds. Grind finely and add to food. A few drops of tincture made from the husks of black walnut is very effective administered in the drinking water of the animal. Use horseradish, nasturtium seeds or paw-paw seeds, ground to a powder, and sprinkle over food. Follow with powdered charcoal to remove worms and ova. Parsley tea helps the kidneys to get rid of dead parasites.

    Herbal Remedies and First Aid for Pets


    Steep fresh or dried herbs in alcohol for 4 to 6 weeks. Strain into a coloured glass bottle, label and date. Use undiluted in drop form in emergencies. For pets preferably dispense the tincture in hot water so that the alcohol can evaporate, allow to cool, and give by mouth. Tinctures used for antiseptic and wound cleaning must be diluted 1:4 in water.

    Worm pills

    Base: Butter

    Herbs: Wormwood, pumpkin pips

    Method: Grind dried wormwood and pumpkin pips to a fine powder. Mix with butter to form a paste. For dogs, roll into small balls and keep in the fridge. Most dogs will take them readily. For cats, allow the butter mix to soften, then spread it on the paws and around the face. They will lick it off.


    Lice can burrow into the hair shaft and cause severe irritation and infection of the skin, apart from the subsequent hair loss. Treat with raw garlic, eucalyptus tea, tobacco tea or elder wash. Vinegar will remove nits. Rinse with a combination of tobacco tea and walnut hull extract. Mange responds well to a burdock root wash. Make a tea from lemon peel and wash the entire coat. Alternatively use a garlic and elder tea.

    Vinegar rinse

    Base: Clear grape vinegar

    Herbs: Any selection of the following: rosemary, chamomile, comfrey, calendula, chickweed, lavender, and horsetail.

    Method: Half fill a wide-mouthed jar with herbs, then fill with vinegar to cover the herbs. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and infuse for 3 weeks. Strain into a suitable container, label and date. To use, pour one cup of infused vinegar into one litre of water. Pour over the coat of the animal as a final rinse. Towel dry.


    This is often due to boredom or nutritional deficiencies. Offer a mixture of seaweed, nettle, onion and garlic in the diet. Make a spray from burdock root. Rosemary and southernwood are excellent plumage tonics, and can be combined with bulbinella.


    External viral infections manifest normally as warts. Treat warts with the fresh juice of greater celandine. This is an excellent anti-viral and warts drop off within weeks of being treated with this herb on a daily basis. Milky juice from any of the euphorbias is very effective; however, take care around the eyes and mouth as the juice is poisonous. A common garden weed is Cape spurge, which is readily available in most gardens. Use this milky latex on the wart. Milky latex from fig leaf is also very effective.

    A wash of tea tree infusion or tincture is safe around the eyes and mouth, as well as around genital and mammary areas. When treating warts treat both internally with tinctures and teas, and externally by applying fresh juice directly to the wart. Internally viral infections can be treated successfully with calendula, nasturtium and echinacea tea, tincture or pills. Include seaweed, watercress and cabbage in the diet.


    Tea is probably the easiest herbal medicine to prepare. Steep fresh or dried herbs in hot water, keeping the container covered until cool. Strain and remove the herbal material, and refrigerate the tea. Withhold all normal drinking water, and offer the animal only the tea. In the case of the animal being too weak to drink, administer the tea via a dropper or syringe onto the tongue, taking care that the animal does not choke. Do not keep the tea for longer than 48 hours – thereafter discard or use as a wash, depending on which herbs have been used.


    Bacterial infections can be internal or external. Treat external bacterial infections with antiseptic washes and sprays. Speed up healing with comfrey and plantain. Use an antiseptic tea of lavender, chamomile, and tea tree, rosemary, sage and thyme. Internal bacterial infections respond very well to antibiotic herbs administered via the mouth. Use antibiotic herbs such as nasturtium, rose geranium and calendula, garlic and ginger. Support the internal organs that are assisting the body to fight the infection. Milk thistle, burdock and artichoke for the liver; mealie silk, dandelion and buchu for the kidneys and bladder that excrete the toxins; and Ginkgo biloba as a nerve tonic.


    Dose the animal with a tea of licorice. Administer castor oil via the mouth, and ground rhubarb root or plantain seed in capsules or butter pills.


    No matter what the cause of the burn (heat, chemical, etc.), cool it down with clean tap water immediately. If severe, get the animal to the vet. A cooling lavender spritzer can be applied while the animal is being transported.

    In the case of larger animals, juice Bulbinella or Aloe vera with water and apply the strained liquid while waiting for the vet to arrive. Bulbinella and Aloe vera can also be used to treat less severe burns. Cool the animal with vinegar cloths or cooled sorrel tea.


    Diarrhoea is a method employed by the body to rid itself of harmful substances. The greatest danger associated with diarrhoea is the loss of body fluids. Maintain a balance by administering fluids in the form of teas. To stop diarrhoea use tea made from guava leaf, agrimony, marula bark, rooibos or other herbs high in tannins. Pomegranate skin is a very effective remedy but bear in mind that it is extremely bitter and few animals will take it readily. Rather grind the herb and place in capsules, which can be given orally, or roll into small butterballs for carnivores.


    Immediate fasting is indicated. Place the animal on a fluid diet if needed. Tea of dill and licorice with mint and thyme is very helpful. Externally apply a poultice of mustard seed. Do not allow a horse to lie down; keep the animal moving. Give a peppermint and ginger tea, mixed with linseed oil and fennel.


    A paramount rule of nature in the cure of disease is fasting. A sick animal will retire into a secluded place and fast until its body is restored to normal. During this fast it will only drink water. In sickness the body has little use for food. The powers of the body are fully occupied with restoring the diseased tissue to normal. Digestion takes a great amount of energy, which is better used for curative purposes. Food itself does not give immediate strength.

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