by Cate Burnette, RVT
While we always recommend seeing your veterinarian for any skin or ear infections, there are some home remedies that can help your dog prior to going to the vet, or after taking all medications. While they are not meant as a substitute for veterinary treatment, some of these remedies can also be used as preventative measures to keep your dog healthy.
Essential Oil Shampoo – Add a few drops of eucalyptus or pennyroyal essential oil to natural shampoo or castile soap. Rinse your dog with clear water. Rinse again with vinegar-water (1 tbsp. to 1 pint warm water). This easy-to-make shampoo and rinse removes soap residue and prevents the dandruff that can result in itchy skin.
Rosemary Conditioner – Steep 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary) in a pint of boiling water for 10 minutes, covered. Allow the rosemary water to cool to body temperature and pour it over your dog after her final rinse. Rub the mixture in and towel her dry without further rinsing. The rosemary in the conditioner repels fleas while promoting a soft, glossy coat.
Dry Shampoo – If your pooch hates getting into the water, an all-natural dry shampoo can keep her skin healthy and coat smelling good. Spread ½-cup to 1-cup of whole bran, uncooked oatmeal, or cornmeal on a cookie sheet and warm in the oven on low heat for 5 minutes to bring out the natural oils in the grain. Grab a handful of the grain (leaving the rest in the oven to stay warm) and rub it into your dog’s fur and skin with a towel, concentrating on the greasy, dirty areas. Then thoroughly brush the areas to remove all the grain. This dry shampoo exfoliates the skin while removing any nasty residue from your dog’s coat.
Flea Control –
Herbal Flea Powder – Combine one part each of as many of these dried and powdered herbs as you can find: rosemary, fennel, eucalyptus, rue, yellow dock, and wormwood. Put this mixture in a clean, dry shaker-type jar, like one used for parsley flakes or Parmesan cheese. Apply the flea powder sparingly to the base of your dog’s coat by brushing back the hair first, then sprinkling in small amounts around the neck, belly, and back. You’ll need to use the powder several times a week for a severe flea infestation, and place your pooch outside in they yard so the repelled fleas don’t end up in your home. Remember, this powder only repels the pests…it does not kill them.
Natural Skin Tonic – This lemon-based tonic not only repels fleas, it works as a general skin toner for itchy pets. Thinly slice a whole lemon, including the rind, and steep it overnight in a pot of boiling water. The cooling water draws out d-limonene, vitamin C, and other healing ingredients found in the whole lemon. The next day, sponge it on your dog’s skin and let the solution air-dry. You can use the lemon tonic daily for cases of heavy flea infestation.
Skin Conditions and Hair Loss –
Ringworm – Clip the hair around the bare spot and about ½-inch beyond it to keep the fungus from spreading. Take about a quarter cup of a whole plantain (Plantago major), chop it up, and place in one cup of spring or distilled water in a glass or enamel pot. Boil the concoction about five minutes and let the brew steep for three minutes covered. Strain and cool the liquid. Massage the plantain mixture onto the lesions once or twice a day until the condition clears.
You can also make an infusion of Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) by adding one rounded teaspoon of the powdered root stock to a cup of boiling distilled water. Let the mixture stand until cold, pour off the clear liquid and massage it into the lesions once or twice a day.
***Note: Please see your veterinarian for a clear diagnosis of ringworm before attempting this home treatment.
Skin Irritations – To heal minor skin infections, ringworm and other skin problems, you can apply essential oil of sandalwood or unrefined sea salt (mixed into a paste with water) to the affected areas as a way to enhance skin cell repair. If your dog has smelly skin and fur, mix one part whole cloves, one part broken cinnamon sticks, two parts myrrh gum (a tree resin), and two parts dried thyme. Rub into the hair and skin, and brush out thoroughly.
Hot Spots – Hot spots need to be healed from the inside and on the outside of the dog. On the outside, apply a warm, wet black tea bag to the affected spot. The tannic acids in the tea have a soothing, itch-relieving effect. Hold the bag on the skin for 4 to 5 minutes twice daily for three days. Following the tea bag treatments, apply aloe vera gel either directly from an open, fresh leaf or from a purchased gel. This speeds the healing process.
For the inside of the dog, you can supplement with vitamin B6, a natural antihistamine, or Rhus tox, a homeopathic remedy for irritated, red and itchy skin. Check with a holistic veterinarian for dosages for your dog when using these two products.
Hair Loss – Treat areas of hair loss with a blend of six parts wheat germ oil, three parts essential oil of lavender, one part each of rose geranium and rosemary essential oils, and 12 parts St. John’s Wort Oil (that is, olive oil infused with St. John’s Wort blossoms, not the essential oil). Spray the oil blend on the affected areas of hair loss and massage into the skin. These oils help improve circulation and stimulate the elimination of toxins by correcting body imbalances.
***Note: Use prescribed veterinary medication on any diagnosed ear infections to rid your dog of the fungus or bacteria causing the problem.
To clean healthy ears and ears prior to medicating, wipe the inner ear with cotton balls soaked in a mixture of either one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to one quart of distilled water. As an alternative to the vinegar astringents, you can puncture a small hole in a vitamin E capsule and place a few drops on a cotton ball to clean your dog’s ears.