From knocking out fleas and ticks to fighting the havoc of hairballs, these simple, all-natural remedies are both planet and pet approved.
In 2018, Americans are expected to spend more than $72 billion dollars on their pets - with over $32 billion of that going to over-the-counter medicine, treatments, and vet care. That's $32 billion dollars on things that require packaging, shipping, and are often made with synthetic, if not toxic, ingredients. But just because we are neurotically obsessed (in the best way, of course) with our pets, it doesn't mean we have to spend boatloads of money on things that can be easily approximated, often in better form, from our medicine cabinets and kitchen cupboards.
The following remedies are a start for taking pet treatments into your own hands - with natural ingredients and must less cost to incur - all the while, keeping your carbon foot/paw print in check.
1. Gross out fleas with citrus
Fleas don’t like citrus, make your pet’s fur unsavory by rubbing it with a small amount of fresh lemon or orange juice. Bonus points for putting mostly-juiced citrus rinds to use.
2. Repel biters with brewer’s yeast
A dose of brewer's yeast mixed with a small amount of garlic in dry food daily will help to repel fleas for dogs. For cats, add brewer’s yeast to food, but don’t use garlic with cats (it can lead to anemia for felines).
3. Drown fleas with…wait for it…water!
Fleas aren’t so grabby when deluged with the miracle solution known as water. Dip your pet in a tub of water and rinse as well as you can. A gentle shampoo (or natural liquid dish detergent) can help as well.
4. Clean the house to make fleas flee
Tidy housekeeping can do a lot to keep the flea community down. Frequently vacuum your pet’s favorite hang-out spot, launder pet blankets, towels and beds, and keep the floor clean with a natural disinfectant.
5. Feed flea babies to the worms
Morbid as it may sound, beneficial nematode worms, available at garden shops and pet stores, like to eat flea larva. Keeping them in the garden can help keep outdoor flea populations controlled.
6. Make a rose geranium tick collar
Rose geranium essential oil is successful for repelling ticks from dogs, apply a few dabs to your dog’s collar. (Not recommended for cats.)
7. Dress your pup in pants to deter ticks
When romping in the woods or fields of tall grass, fashion some trousers for your pooch out of old socks, a child’s sweater, a shirt…whatever will impede the ticks from latching on. DIY doggy leg warmers won’t completely eliminate the chance for ticks to hitch a ride, but it can help.
8. Protect the pooch's toots with booties
Dog paws and ice/snow/salt are an ouchy mix for dogs. Invest in a double pair of dog booties to protect tender feet from the winter elements or for hiking in rugged terrain. Proud dogs may feel shame, but their paws will thank them.
9. Treat the feet
If your dog’s dogs seem sore from rough terrain, hot or cold pavement, or any other reason, check the paws and toes. Remove anything that doesn’t belong there, wash gently, and apply a gentle moisturizer. If bleeding, apply antibiotic ointment and gently bandage them.
10. Spray chamomile for icky skin
Chamomile tea is great for alleviating skin irritations. Make tea, put it in a spray bottle in the refrigerator, and apply it to your pets raw skin.
11. Pamper the pup with vitamin E
A dog’s dry skin can benefit greatly from applications of vitamin E oil to affected areas.
12. Kick the itch with oatmeal
Scratch scratch scratch. Scratch scratch scratch. All day, all night – it’s enough to drive a pet-owner absolutely bonky. Use baby oatmeal (or fine-grind your own), add a little water, and rub the paste onto itchy areas. Leave on for 10 minutes and rinse with warm water. Seriously good trick.
13. Rehydrate a sick dog
Flavorless electrolyte drinks, like sports waters and pediatric drinks, can help a sick dog recoup necessary fluids after a bout of diarrhea or vomiting. (Check with you vet about how much to give.)
14. Make a happy tummy
Just like people, pets on antibiotics may have stomach problems as the medication wipes out beneficial bacteria as well as the sinister ones. A little yogurt (with live active cultures) with dinner will help the stomach.
15. Relax aching eyes
If you pet’s eyes seem irritated or infected, a warm chamomile tea bag can be used to soothe them.
16. Use Epsom salt for sprains and strains
Your suddenly limping dog may have strained or sprained something playing too exuberantly, so it’s time to try the world famous granny remedy of an Epsom salt soak. Add ½ cup Espom salt to a warm bath and let your dog soak for five minutes, twice daily. If your dog doesn’t agree with you on this method, you can soak a washcloth in Epsom salt and warm water and apply just to the local area.
17. Reduce facial hot spots by switching bowls
If your pet eats from plastic bowls and suffers from chronic hot spots, irritation, or allergic reactions around the face, the fix may be as easy as changing to a glass or metal bowl. Plastic harbors bacteria and other nastiness that can be very irritating. After you change, also be sure to wash the bowls thoroughly once a week.
18. Fight hairballs with butter
Cat. Hairballs. Ick. The grooming brush is your best defense against hairballs, a daily brush followed by a wipe from a moist towel should help considerably. But during high hairball season, a half a teaspoon of butter for a few days can really help. (That’s half a teaspoon of butter for the cat, not you.)
19. Try juice for the bladder
Cats are naturally prone to bladder and urethra issues. If yours is so, unsweetened cranberry juice to the rescue. Cranberry increases urine acidity resulting in a reduced chance of blockages or infections. You can add cranberry powder to food, or cranberry juice to the water, or give your cat a cranberry capsule. Ask your vet about proper dosages.
20. Administer prunes or canned pumpkin for digestion
In older animals, digestion can get a bit bumpy. If your pet is more mellow than usual, seems to be straining, and makes frequent toilet attempts, constipation may be the problem. Adding canned pumpkin or diced prunes to food could get things started again.
For a sever case, try mixing in a tablespoon of Milk of Magnesia. Note: Prune pits are toxic to both animals and humans, so make sure they are pit-free.
21. When they eat something they shouldn't have...
Dogs eat just about anything, and there are many things that cats shouldn't - so if your pet devours something toxic, you can use hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. Give them one teaspoon per five pounds of body weight, and repeat once if needed. (Call your vet, too.)
And of course, for serious issues, make sure to check with your vet. Do you have any tried and true home remedies? Tell us in the comments.
This updated article was originally published in 2012.