Herbal Remedies for Common Pet and Livestock Ailments

 

Editor’s note: This is a guest post that has been written by Chris Dalziel of Joybilee Farm.

[I] raise sheep, goats, llamas, angora rabbits, and poultry; as well as dogs and cats at Joybilee Farm, where we make our full-time living.  Healthy animals are the mainstay of our business, and we maintain their health with the use of herbs, and a natural diet, that enhances their natural species-specific well-being…what Joel Salatin calls “the chicken-ness of the chicken.” 

Although, I am not a veterinarian, I have used herbal medicine with my pets and livestock for more than a decade. I offer these recommendations as a neighbor, not as a professional herbalist. To treat specific diseases contact a reliable veterinary herbal, such as The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli Levy or your holistic veterinarian. 

Home-based Medicine for Pets and Livestock

While many of us want to bring home-based, herbal medicine to our families, we hesitate to offer the same level of care to our pets and livestock. This isn’t because of a lack of willingness, but rather because we don’t know how. 

The situation is complicated because animals are not simply humans with four legs. And what works for one species may not be helpful for another. Some medications that one might use on humans may be toxic to an animal – Tea Tree for instance is beneficial to humans being antiviral, and antibiotic, but it is toxic to cats and rabbits. So when making an herbal salve for rabbits, you would substitute lavender, a less toxic essential oil, in order to fight infection.

The good news is that by learning about herbs and their beneficial effects, you will be knowledgeable about a wide variety of herbs and be able to make wise substitutions in any herbal recipe. In this way you will be able to make specific remedies for each of your pets and livestock, based on herbs growing in your neighborhood or herbs available through your local health food store or online

Herbal treatments often require a longer application than veterinary medicine, weeks instead of days, however, herbs can often cure an ailment, where veterinary medicine only suppresses the symptoms.  So if a problem isn’t cured in a day or two, with herbal treatment, but the animal is comfortable, you may only need to persist to gain a complete cure. 

In an emergency situation, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian, herbal remedies can be an adjunct to conventional treatments, as well, and sometimes it is wise to use antibiotics or chemical wormers in the short term to alleviate an acute infection or infestation, while you work with herbs to support the animal’s immune system and heal the underlying condition.

Natural Diet is the First Defense

The first step in livestock or pet health is to offer a diet that is natural to the species. Commercial food that sits at room temperature and never decays is not food. It will not give optimal health to your dogs and cats. Nor is it natural for ruminants, poultry, or rabbits to consume commercial pellets, instead of their natural diet. Many trace minerals will be missing from the diet, and debility and a shortened lifespan is sure to result. 

Take time to learn about the natural diet of your animals and try as much as possible to offer that. For instance, chickens are natural omnivores. Most commercial chicken feed is vegetarian. In the old days, chickens were offered dead animals — possums, mice, etc. — to peck at during the winter, when bugs were dormant, to help them get ready for spring egg laying. Free range chickens will consume a huge number of bugs, fly larvae, grubs, and grasshoppers when they are allowed. 

By offering a natural diet to your animals, suited to their unique species, you will be doing the best thing you can to give them strong health and vitality.

Herbal Remedies for 10 Common Animal Ailments

Sometimes no matter how careful you are with diet, your animal will have problems that require nursing care.

Here are 10 common ailments that you will find in your pets and livestock and some herbal remedies that you can make at home to help them find relief.

1. Dry, itching skin. Add coconut oil to the diet.  Changing your pet’s diet from commercial pet food to a natural raw food diet will help.  A lot of dry, itchy skin is allergies related to the unnatural feeding of GM grains, rendered garbage proteins, and chemicals.  Support your pet’s immune system during the change by adding minerals in the form of herbs, and sea weed.  Calendula salve can be rubbed into hot, scaly areas to begin the healing.  Your pet will lick the cream adding the benefits of the herbs to their internal system, as well. 

You can make up a vitamin and mineral supplement by combining the following dried herbs to your pet’s diet:  Chickweed, dandelion leaf, nettle leaf, kelp meal, garlic, chives, (etc.).  Use the dried form of the herb and powder well.  Sprinkle 1 tsp. to 1 tbsp. on top of your pet’s food, depending on size.

2. Flea repellent. Chemical flea repellents are toxic to dogs’ and cats’ immune system.  You can make a bug spray in an olive oil base:  Ratio is 1 cup of olive oil and 5 drops each of tea tree (omit for cats), pennyroyal, lemon verbena, lavender, eucalyptus, and cedarwood essential oil.  Spritz along your pet’s top line and work into the coat.  Avoid eyes and mucous membranes.

Make a dusting powder of dried wormwood leaves, dried Shasta daisies (contains pyrethrum), dried lavender blossoms, dried lemon balm or lemon thyme, ½ cup tapioca starch as a carrier.  Add 5 drops of tea tree, cedarwood, and eucalyptus eo.  Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until it is evenly blended and of even consistency.  Sprinkle on your pet’s bedding.  May also be sprinkled on your pet’s coat, and worked in with your fingers.

3. Ear mites or ear irritation. Mix ¼ cup of olive oil, 1 tbsp. calendula infused oil, 1 tsp. balm of gilead infused oil, 5 drops tea tree eo, and 5 drops lavender eo.  Place 1 ml into your pet’s ear and massage the base of the ear.  Stand back and let your pet shake its head.  Repeat in the other eat. Use of this oil will kill ear mites.  Use it for a week.  If symptoms abate, leave off a week and repeat for another week to kill any new mites before they lay eggs.  (For cats omit tea tree eo and use only lavender oil).

4. Wounds. Minor wounds can be treated at home using herbal ointments and salves.  For a serious wound requiring stitches, see your veterinarian.  Make a first aid salve using 1 tbsp. each:  pine pitch oil, calendula infused oil, comfrey infused oil, St. John’s Wort infused oil, and balm of gilead infused oil.  ¼ cup bees wax, and ¼ cup virgin coconut oil.  This will heal inflammation, draw out infection, encourage healing of the skin, and reduce pain.  It is also antimicrobial and will reduce the chance of infection and inflammation.

5. Periodontal disease. Dogs and cats that eat a natural diet, with raw food, bones, and probiotics, rarely suffer from plaque or periodontal disease.  Offer your dog raw bones on a regular basis to remineralize their teeth and strengthen their jaws.  Cats may be more finicky, preferring smaller bones, giving them raw milk and raw eggs, with the shells will keep their teeth clean and remineralized.  Livestock that are fed their natural diet of pasture and herbs, do not suffer from periodontal disease.

6. Upset stomach. Probiotics like yogurt, whey left from cheese making, or kefir will help the stomach to work strongly.  Herbs such as Oregon grape root, nettles, chick weed, marsh-mallow, and chamomile, can sooth upset stomach.  I make a mash of whey and raw oatmeal and then add the herbs in powdered form to the mash.  Add a tsp. of honey to make it more palatable.  Animals that are given access to the outside will naturally eat quack grass to cleanse their stomach. 

7. Limping, tender paws or hoof. Bathe and soak the affected paw or hoof in warm water to which 1 tbsp. sea salt and 1 tbsp. Epsom salt has been added.  Dry thoroughly.  Apply a salve made up of bees wax, coconut oil, infused oils of Balm of Gilead, comfrey leaf, calendula blossoms, and St. Johns Wort.  Add 2 drops tea tree and lavender essential oil.  Reapply twice a day.  For open wounds wrap the paw in gauze and an elastic bandage to keep it dry and clean.  Most livestock feed stores carry self-adhesive stretch bandages for wrapping sprains and supporting wobbly legs.  Find it where they sell horse bandages.

8. Anxiety. Sometimes animals are anxious because they need you with them.  Most animals are herd or pack animals and if left alone they become anxious.  Loud noises can also make an animal anxious.  Like children, animals will be calmer when they are around familiar surroundings.  So give them a place that is safe where they can go when they are afraid, a dog house, inside the barn, or a small stall.  Talking softly and reassuringly can also help your animal know that there is nothing to be afraid of and you are in charge.  If you raise your voice or scold in these circumstances, you may escalate your animal’s fear, so it’s important to be calm and to talk reassuringly.  Where the anxiety is long term, herbs may help bring peace to an anxious animal.  Make a strong tea of chamomile blossoms, or skull cap and add it to your pet’s food.  Don’t add it to the water, as your pet may avoid the water and become dehydrated.  Instead mix it in with a mash of oatmeal, herbal tea, and your pet’s natural diet – whether meat or vegetarian.

9. Arthritis. For dogs and cats, remove their diet of commercial pet food.  Change to a raw food diet that is high in animal proteins like raw eggs, raw meat, raw bones, raw milk and raw milk whey.  Add yogurt or other probiotic foods to the diet, to increase the healthy bacteria in the gut.  Take wheat completely out of the diet.  Oatmeal can be used to make liquid proteins like whey and raw eggs more palatable.  Add dried, powdered herbs to the food:  Kelp meal, nettle, comfrey, willow bark, chickweed, plantain, and dandelion leaf.  Add virgin coconut oil to the evening meal 1 tsp. up to 1 tbsp. depending on the size of your pet.  Coconut oil lubricates the joints, improves coat condition and overall health.

10. Rough Coat. Rough coat is similar to dry, itchy skin and is related to diet.  Change your pet’s diet and support the immune system and you will find that the rough coat is transformed to a glossy, healthy coat.  Even older animals will respond to a change in the diet.  When fed a natural diet, older spayed females will respond by taking on a more energetic, slim shape – without any caloric control.  Add coconut oil and raw egg yolks to your animals’ feed to increase the protein and healthy fats needed to grow strong hair, teeth and nails.

For more information about using herbal remedies and natural home-based medicine in the care of your livestock and pets, head over to my blog — http://www.fiberarts.ca/blog — as I discuss herbal medicine for pets and livestock during May.

How have you used herbs to treat pet and/or livestock ailments?

Chris Dalziel blogs for Joybilee Farm where she talks about homesteading topics like herbal medicine, gardening, livestock care, and other self-reliant skills. You can also connect with her on Facebook

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Mountain Rose Herbs

Comments

  1. These are great tips thank you!

  2. Thank you for this info! We use calendula salve on our cat when he comes home after fighting with a cactus or other animal. We have most of the other ingredients in the house (for #4 recipe) except “balm of gilead” – looking that up now, I have read about it in other recipes but have never studied that plant.

    • Same here Shell! We need Chris to educate us on the “Balm of Gilead”

      • Balm of Gilead is the resinous buds of the balsam poplar tree, or the Black Cottonwood tree. The buds can be harvested in the dormant season, anytime from leaf drop to bud break in the Spring. The buds are infused in olive oil or another carrier oil over a three week period. The oil turns dark red from the resin. It has a strong perfume that will remind you of spring. After bud break you can infuse the leaves and twigs for a less potent oil, with some anti-inflammatory properties.

        I’ve never seen Balm of Gilead oil for sale. If you live somewhere without poplar trees, willow bark can be substituted, but again its the second choice.

        Chris

  3. How often do you have to apply the flea remedy and does it make their coat oily? I have indoor dogs and don’t want them to be leaving an oily spot on the furniture. But I hate giving them the oral flea control. If it kills a flea, what could it be doing to my dog!

    • Since you are only applying it to the top line of the animal, along the back bone it shouldn’t harm furniture. I would apply it once a day for a week and then change to once a week. Only increasing it if they get reinfested.
      Chris

    • Diatomaceous Earth is safe and works great for fleas too. Rub it into their coats. Works good for fleas in the yard, on furniture and carpet as well. Just avoid breathing it in or letting your pets do so. It irritates the respiratory system. It’s fine if they lick it. I put it in their food for worms. Put it in water and drink it myself too!

    • Hi, I just had to share what I have used for my boy (“DOC” a German Shorthair Pointer) When I got him as a 6 week old pup, I didn’t have the money to purchase a “Doggie Bed” so I decided to make my own. I stuffed the inside of his bed with “Cedar Chips” and for the 16 years he was with us, he never once had a flea! He smelled like a large Cedar Chip and it became one of his nicknames too! I would replace the Cedar Chipping in his bed once a year and like I said, he never had a flea! This way you don’t have to worry about any surface getting oily or spraying your animals. It works like a charm and smells great too!! Hope this helps.

  4. Thank you for posting, I find that there is not enough information on alternative health for our pets, an the vet is so expensive. I feed my kitty glutamine (powdered, just a bit in her food) helps clean her digestive tract and mine. Have to be so careful of what we do give them, but she has responded well to the glutamine, she eliminates better, and arthritis? whats that? she says. in other words, she would take a lot longer to lie down in a comfortable position because she appeared to be in pain…now…she lies down or sits..jumps…without much hesitation. I have heard seaweed is really good….pet food stores are starting to carry it. I am going to introduce her to that. I’ve used probiotics in her food…she tolerates…can’t tell that it is in there. if they suspect you have spiked their food….cats will NOT eat it. Kitty tolerates the fermented glutamine, probiotics..such as Bio-K and what else, I have tried U-Mac Core (phyto-plankton). Thanks again for posting…hope you don’t mind that I shared what also works for me.

  5. What would your suggestion be for ticks? We live in a fairly tick-heavy area, with a prevalence of lyme’s disease, so definitely need something! Currently we’re using our free range chickens, with guineas on the way, to keep tick levels down, but we’re still seeing them on our livestock guardian and on ourselves after a day out in the fields. Thanks!!

    • Tea Tree Oil and Rose Geranium EO are both deadly to ticks. I would put some in a carrier oil and spray on your pets top line and around the ankles. The tick finds its host by smelling carbon dioxide and using essential oils may just interfere with that process. We still need to remove the occasional tick using this method, but many less than before. Keep in mind that tea tree is toxic to cats and rabbits. Substitute geranium oil for them.

      If you also add some lemon verbena, or lemon oil you will inhibit mosquitoes as well. Some people have used NEEM oil successfully, but I have no experience with this.
      Chris

  6. Is the pennyroyal essential for the flea spray? I think that I can get all of the other essential oils but am not sure about pennyroyal.
    Thanks.

    • Leave it out. It is from the mint family so if you want to you could substitute Peppermint eo. But there are enough EO in the recipe that you don’t need it.
      Chris

  7. Hi you mentioned Balm of Gilead, is the resinous buds of the balsam poplar tree. I have a herb that I grow and was passed to me called Balm of Gilead, are they the same? Fantastic info that you have on animal health and you can grow most of the herbs.. Thanks K

  8. Joan Laufnick says:

    Great information. It’s a shame we can’t get raw milk in New Jersey. It’s against the law to even transport it into the state.

    • I couldn’t say, but if what you have it an herb rather than a tree, then its not the same. There is a “Balm of Gilead” that is native to the middle East. There is also a mint family plant with this name. I’ve seen Balsam poplar buds for sale online, and someone else mentioned a balsam poplar EO. Either of these would work for the remedy. Its a remedy that’s really worth your time to learn to make, as it has so many very good uses.
      Chris

  9. Carol Gregor says:

    Great ideas, thanks.After living in a kennel for four years outside and producing litter after litter I rescued a little terrier. I did change my rescues skin problems by feeding a sugar free food, no carbs, using tinactin topically and adding bamboo to her diet along with probiotics. A horrible skin condition left.

  10. Thanks for all the wonderful info. We’ve incorporated a lot of natural remedies into our lives, but haven’t gotten to the pets yet.
    Do you have any recommendations for cats with frequent UTI’s?
    Thanks!

  11. Just curious about the olive oil in the flea preparation. Is the oil just a carrier for the EOs or is there a SPECIFIC reason you called for olive? I’m just wondering if I could use a lighter oil to cut down on the greasiness. I LOVE petting my dogs, but even natural flea treatments like your EO spray or diatomaceous earth leave their fur feeling funky and keep me from petting anywhere but their snouts. LOL

    Also, I have read conflicting information on some of the other EOs you recommended with regard to using them on or around cats. Eucalyptus is supposed to be toxic to them as well, and possibly pennyroyal… can’t remember for sure about that one. Do you suppose the concern arises from the sheer concentration of the oils used? I.e. perhaps eucalyptus can be used safely with cats so long as it’s well diluted? But on the flip side, if it’s diluted enough to be safe for cats, is it strong enough to inhibit fleas? Oy! So much information to process! LOL

    Thanks for the excellent article, Chris. Can’t wait to start my war on fleas. (I have 4 dogs and 9 cats, and have been having AWFUL trouble with fleas this year.)

  12. Sorry, I had one more question. Can calendula and Balm of Gideon essential oils be used in place of the infused oils in the ear mite recipe.

    I’m a DIYer in the sense of combining my own PURCHASED ingredients to make cleaners, flea treatments, etc. But I’m not experienced — or frankly interested! — in actually MAKING my own ingredients like infused oils. LOL

    I guess what I’m asking is: which ingredients are absolutely essential in the ear mite recipe, and which could be safely omitted or substituted without compromising the effectiveness? Tea tree oil is toxic to cats, as you mention, but my CATS are the ones who occasionally get ear mites, not my dogs.

    Thanks for any extra info!

  13. Update: I made the flea repellant yesterday and used it on my dogs last night. Not sure of its effectiveness. One of my dogs is white, so she’s my “tester,” and this morning I can see fleas happily feasting EXACTLY where I sprayed the repellant about twelve hours ago. To be fair, I modified it a little, based on both my preferences and EO availability, so maybe that had something to do with it. Here’s what I did:

    I used grapeseed oil instead of olive oil, because grapeseed is a lighter oil, and I didn’t want my dogs leaving oil spots on my bed and furniture! I also used only half the oil, replacing the other half with vodka for an even lighter mixture, and a more… “evaporating” effect. Since I’m not aware of any flea-repellant properties of olive oil, using a different oil seemed like it would be a safe substitution — unless the heavier olive oil was for smothering the fleas!

    I replaced pennyroyal with peppermint as per the author’s suggestion in the comments section. (I just couldn’t find pennyroyal EO, and both are members of the mint family.)

    Finally, my store was out of lemon verbena EO. Great, right? LOL I had both citronella and lemon, and randomly chose to use citronella. Maybe I’ll try lemon next time!

    The author didn’t say how often this should be used. Once a week? Once a day? Twice a day? Every two to three hours? Maybe the vodka cut the staying power of the oils, causing THEM to evaporate away? That seems a likely scenario, but I wouldn’t want my dogs any oilier than they were with my MODIFIED mixture.

    Maybe our flea infestation is too severe for this repellant to make a dent in. We have been inundated with fleas this year. Diatomaceous earth is great stuff. It works well as a mechanical flea killer, by cutting the fleas’ exoskeletons and causing them to dry out and die. However, using that stuff on my critters makes their fur feel like they’ve been rolling in chalkboard dust, so I was looking for an alternative.

    I also made a flea repellant for my cats, but used cat-safe EOs. Not sure of ITS effectiveness either. Tested it out on my shaved white cat. (Yes, he’s actually happier and more perky now that he’s shaved, so let’s not get into the “morality” of me shaving my cat, okay? LOLOL My other 8 cats remain unshaved, but for him, it was a good choice.) Anyway…! Since his fur is super short AND he’s white, he seemed another good “test subject” to determine effectiveness. =) I sprayed him last night with my cat version of the repellant, and again, there are fat, happy fleas right where I sprayed. *sigh*

    I have three big dogs, one small dog, and nine cats. There’s just not enough time in my day to apply flea repellant to everyone all the time. And those of you who have cats KNOW, that after setting a precedent of spritz torture once or twice, there will be no catching those guys for future applications! I was hoping this was a product I could use no more than once or twice a week, or maybe even using it ONLY on the critters who seem really bothered by the fleas and leaving the rest of them alone most of the time.

    I haven’t found any EOs that KILL fleas (and of course, are safe for my critters). *sigh* Repelling them just sends them somewhere else. I would love input from anyone with thoughts or ideas about my modified repellant, or anything else flea-related. I never see any ticks on my critters, just fleas, fleas, and hey, more fleas! I don’t want to flea bomb my house, but it’s coming to that point. I have mostly hard floors (carpet in one bedroom), so using diatomaceous earth isn’t much of an option for treating the house… it would be like living in Pompeii, with the dust lying around all over the place. I DO plan on using it in the furniture, though.

    (Incidentally, if anyone with FEWER fleas than me wants to try my cat flea repellant, based on the ratios in joybillee’s original repellant recipe, here’s what I did. Maybe it will work for folks with fewer fleas! I only made a partial batch, enough to fit in a travel-sized 2 oz. spritzer bottle, which I thought might alarm the cats less than going at ‘em armed with a giant sprayer like Arnold the Flea Terminator.

    EOs used: cedarwood, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary.
    Carrier used: 50-50 grapeseed oil and vodka

    ♥ Full batch [based on the ratios in joybillee's original repellant recipe]: 1 cup carrier liquid to 30 total drops EOs. So, approximately 7 drops of each EO.
    ♥ Half batch: ½ cup carrier to 15 total drops EOs. So, approximately 4 drops of each EO.
    ♥ Quarter batch (fits in a 2 oz. spray bottle): ¼ cup carrier to 7.5 total drops EOs. So, approximately 2 drops of each EO.)

    Wow, this comment went on forever. VERY sorry for those who didn’t find it interesting. =)

  14. Hi,

    Where can i get calendula infused oil and balm of gilead infused oil?

    My local health food store doesn’t seem to carry these…

    Thanks!

  15. Hi, I use comfrey leaf in our rabbitry. I give them a leaf after kindling a litter, not eating, when going to a rabbit show to boost their immune and to calm them. For Scours we use raspberry or blackberry leaves. I also make them treats from cilantro, pellets and pineapple….. the pineapple is great for their digestion track.

  16. meary brown says:

    Please if you can help my cat. A big abcess appeared next to his anus. Now the vet is telling me his sphincter muscle is not there and it will be along time before it may heal and return. Then one vet told me it would never return. Please if you have any ideas to help my sweet cat. I am desperate for him and please if you can respond quickly. I bring him home today from the vet hospital. He has been there two wks. Thank you for any help.

  17. is the flea treatment safe to use on a dog that has had puppies…I stopped giving her the topical flea treatments when she had puppies and have caught a flea on her…she isn’t infested but i would like to make sure it doesn’t happen…just need to know if doing natural flea treatment might get on her belly (she likes to roll around a lot) and might deter the puppies from nursing (smell or taste)?

  18. Could you give me some advice for a goat? My Saanen doe kidded several days ago. It appeared she may have a touch of mastitis, as a milk duct seemed a little clogged, later that night I noticed she wasn’t eating well and had diarrhea. I dewormed her that night. Now, she seems not to have enough milk.
    Could you advise what to give her to help with the diarrhea and to help if it is mastitis?

  19. Hi,

    I was looking at probiotics for animal health. Any idea if the yogurt which we normally eat will give the animals rotten teeth in the long run. I would not want to solve one problem and create another. Our dog is old and his teeth needs to be descaled each year as he eats loads of food off the table but we ensure he does not get sugar based foods. That is why I want to know about the yogurt as we already have a teeth problem.

  20. Nancy Martinez says:

    I give my dogs and cat Apple cider vinegar, it is good for artritis and to prevent or disolve kidney and blader stones.

  21. We just added a mini pig to our family. I’m having trouble finding natural remedies & a safe herb list for pigs or a natural pig food recipe (I’m sure these processed pellets to keep them small are not ideal.)Does anyone know of a resource?

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