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Eight Home Remedies for DIY Pet Care

By Dr. Patty Khuly

preparing pumpkin puree

Fancy brand-name drugs and their generic equivalents are great, but sometimes little works quite as well as a simple home remedy. And every veterinarian has his or her favorites. Here are mine, listed in alphabetical order:

#1 Borax Powder

Got fleas? Want a solution that complements your standard medicated flea regimen without all the toxins your standard bug service lays down? Try sprinkling Borax powder on your floors and vacuuming up the excess.

This laundry detergent works wonders on fleas by poking holes in their crunchy insect exoskeletons and effectively dehydrating them –– without hurting your pets should they manage to get into it.

#2 Dawn

Got a greasy mess on your pet? I hate to mention brand names but nothing cuts through grease like this product.

#3 Chamomile Tea

In human medicine, chamomile tea is widely regarded as a useful home remedy for upset bellies. But the difficulties inherent in getting pets to drink anything that’s not simple water precludes its widespread application for belly aches in pets. Perhaps that’s why I’ve only ever used it for skin ailments. It’s disinfectant properties shine when it comes to simple rashes and minor irritations — without the harshness that can reduce the work of their skin’s own "happy" bacteria.

Here’s my favorite approach: Make a strong chamomile tea, pour it into a clean store bought spray bottle and let it chill in the fridge. Then spray liberally onto red or raw skin for an immediate soothing effect –– with no sting!

#4 Epsom Salts

When pet wounds and swellings inevitably arise, Epsom salts are almost always helpful. That is, as long as your pet will sit still while you apply wet soaks to the affected area.

Epsom salt soaks and hot packs are almost always a great adjunct to antibiotics and surgical attention. Sometimes they can even do the job on their own — just don’t skip the step where you ask your vet whether it’s a good idea or not.

#5 Hydrogen Peroxide, Baking Soda, and a Squirt of Dawn

I don’t think much of hydrogen peroxide for cuts, wounds, dirty ears, and such. I much prefer the less harsh remedies I’ve mentioned above. Nonetheless, when combined with baking soda and a squirt of Dawn, it turns into one of the best home remedies ever!

Who wouldn’t love a recipe that makes appalling odors begone? Here’s how it’s done:

Mix four cups of hydrogen peroxide with one-third cup baking soda and a small squirt of Dawn to make a spray-bottle solution capable of getting even the stench of anal glands off of pet butts and dirty scrubs, alike. It also works well on skunked pets. In fact, that’s how I first learned of this brilliant method. Nothing works as well on skunked fur and everything the skunked fur has touched (car seats included).

#6 Oatmeal

If you’ve got an itchy pet willing to hang out in a bathtub, this is for you. Finely ground oatmeal (either baby oatmeal cereal or regular rolled oats put through a blender or food processor) can be stirred into a bath of warm water for a super-soothing and very inexpensive soak.

Pets with skin allergies and itchy superficial infections gain immediate relief with this approach. It’s especially helpful for dogs with really itchy feet. Plus, it’s 100% non-toxic and delicious too!

#7 Petroleum Jelly

It’s every bit as good as the more expensive brand name lubricants made specifically for cats with hairball problems or chronic constipation (though it’s definitely not as delicious). A little dab on the paw or muzzle works. Cats will lick it off and ingest it, where it’ll help lubricate the passage of intestinal contents.

It’s also great for crusty noses, peeling pads and scaly elbows. But in these cases, I tend to prefer Aquaphor, a petroleum jelly-like product with extra oomph for superficial stuff along these lines.

#8 Pumpkin

For either easily constipated or diarrhea-prone dogs and cats, pumpkin can work wonders. Though it won’t always work, it’s a do-no-harm approach that anyone can try during the early stages of any gastrointestinal ailment. But here’s the thing: never let your pet suffer more than a day or two of mild symptoms before you talk to your vet.

As with all home remedies, asking your vet before embarking on any of these projects will often save you a lot of hard work and bring much better results –– faster. Remember, DIY is not always all its cut out to be. Approach with caution.

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