A Cautionary Tail About Home Remedies for Pets

Home remedies for pets can be a threat to pet health.

While we all love our furry critters and want to do what is right for them, it is too easy to read an article on the Internet and cause more harm than good. Dr. Google is full of do-it-yourself answers, many of which are not really all that effective. Worse yet, there are some that may even cause harm.

Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care wants you to know about home remedies for pets and how to approach them with a more discerning eye.

When Do-It-Yourself is a Don’t

Searching for pet health information online is only natural in today’s digital world. The dangerous part of this approach is that everyone is entitled to an opinion, and just about anyone who can access the Internet can put that opinion out there.

When sorting through pet advice and do-it-yourself tips for various problems and conditions, take into account the information source. What are the person’s credentials, education, and experience? Also remember that experts like the veterinarians here at Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent Care are perhaps the most educated and experienced source of information available.

Of course, there may be an element of truth to some of the home remedies for pets out there, but it is always best to start with a veterinary professional before delving into these murky waters. There are a few reasons that some home remedies for pets might be a little dangerous.

Wrong information — Not everything you read online or hear about from the stock boy at the local pet store is true. If you start looking there are plenty of supporters of ideas and practices that have no scientific backing or aim to sell a product that has no proven efficacy. For instance, you will find information that pouring motor oil on your pet can help certain skin conditions. This is a dangerous practice, though, and much safer and more effective options exist. It is best practice to not perform any treatments or administer any medications or supplements without calling us first.

Delay of proper treatment — Many times experimenting with home remedies can delay a pet owner seeking proper care, meaning that the pet has to suffer with whatever is going on longer than necessary. In some situations this can lead to serious and even life-threatening consequences depending on what is going on. A pet owner who spends a week trying to treat breathing difficulties with essential oils for allergies may find himself in our emergency department with a pet in congestive heart failure. Diagnosing and treating a pet without veterinary input can be a slippery slope.

Interference with proper treatment — When owners use home remedies it can make our job more difficult. Partially effective treatments may make it hard to accurately assess what is going on with a pet, and certain medications or supplements can limit what we are able to safely use in our treatment.

Many times at home treatments impact our ability to successful help your pet. They often don’t save any time or money and can directly impact your pet’s health.

Cautions About Home Remedies for Pets

There are specific home remedies for pets that we see often enough that they are worth discussing. While we understand that most times these options are explored with only good intentions, be sure to consider why a professional approach is often the best.

Essential oils — While essential oils may have some properties that can be helpful for certain health conditions, they are not to be used without guidance from a veterinary professional. Respiratory issues and toxicities can occur, especially in pets who ingest them after topical application or licking aerosolized droplets off the fur.

Human medications — It is easy to reach for that Tylenol in your medicine cabinet for your limping dog, but your pets are not people. Many medications that we take safely (including Tylenol) can have serious consequences in our pet patients. Even with safe options, dosing is often different, and some medications can have an effect on what options we have when you do seek medical attention for your pet.  

Parasite control — Perhaps one of the more common offenders in the do-it-yourself arena, it seems that pet owners are always looking for cheaper and “more natural” ways to help their pets. Natural isn’t always safe and cheaper isn’t always better. Home remedies such as feeding your pet garlic have not been shown to be effective, and if used in large enough quantities garlic can be toxic to pets. Diatomaceous earth is another commonly used parasite prevention, but has been shown to cause respiratory damage in people. We have safer and more effective options for pet parasite control available.

Diet changes — When a pet has an upset stomach, sometimes we do recommend a homemade bland diet in order to help settle things down. We do, however, see some creative takes on this practice. Feeding your pet milk, raw eggs, coconut oil, or bacon grease to get them to eat is unlikely to help and may worsen things.

Ear cleaners — At home recommendations for cleaning pet ears abound. Concoctions containing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide can be drying and painful and may make it more difficult for us (and you) to treat your pet.

Natural supplements — The word natural is a hang up for many of us. Unfortunately it does not equate with harmless. Many harmful substances like cocaine fall into the natural category. Natural supplements can have side effects and may interfere with other medications. There may also be other ingredients such as the toxic artificial sweetener Xylitol in many formulations of melatonin that can be harmful. It is always safest to consult us first before administering any natural supplements.

Usually evaluation and diagnosis by a professional is going to be an important component in getting your pet better quickly. Most times we are able to steer you to the most effective means of helping. Oftentimes this is more cost-effective as well.

At home pet remedies can be tempting. Never forget that we have your pet’s best interest at heart. Please call us before treating your pet at home to lessen the chances that it might be harmful and always let us know if you have been giving something prior to your visit to see us. This will help to ensure that we can offer you the best in veterinary care.