Hundreds of online sources promote the use of herbs for every canine condition from repelling fleas to helping heal cancer. While many herbal formulas work naturally with a dog's body for therapeutic effect, others cause inflammation of a dog's organs that may sometimes result in death. Before administering herbs to your dog, check with your veterinarian to make sure the remedy is the right treatment for your dog's condition and is safe.
Planting a garden with flea-repelling herbs can help keep pesky insects off your property. While you can put sachets of herbs in your dog's bed to help repel fleas, most are toxic to dogs if ingested by mouth or through the skin.
Pennyroyal is often touted in herbal formulas for its flea-repelling properties. The herb contains pulegone, which is toxic to dogs and can be absorbed through the skin. Avoid using shampoos or other preparations containing this herb on your dog. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, bleeding from the mouth and nose, diarrhea, labored breathing, seizures and death.
Eucalyptus contains the essential oil eucalyptol, which causes vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and excessive salivation in dogs.
Wormwood plants scent the air with aromas of sage and pine that help repel pests, but its main use for dogs is as an internal dewormer. Tannins in the herb irritate the liver and kidneys, causing diarrhea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Use wormwood internally only under the supervision of a holistic veterinarian.
Herbs for Healing
Aloe vera soothes burns and other skin irritations, but it is toxic to dogs in its natural form. The clear gooey center is completely harmless, but the whitish sap around the edges is latex. If ingested, the latex causes diarrhea that can be life-threatening if your dog gets dehydrated. Forms of the plant in commercial products have the latex removed and don't pose a danger to pets.
Chamomile tea gets touted as a soothing remedy for anxiety as well as an anti-inflammatory and stomach remedy. Dogs can suffer contact dermatitis from the fresh plant and may vomit, have diarrhea or experience allergic reactions from ingestion, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Comfrey has been used to treat rickets, rheumatism and arthritis in dogs, but you'll want to limit its use to external poultices. When taken internally, pyrrolizidine alkaloids found in the roots and leaves accumulate in the liver, causing irreversible damage and causing symptoms such as diarrhea and jaundice. Using comfrey as an external poultice reduces absorption by as much as 50 percent. The wild herb is easily confused with foxglove, which causes irregular heartbeat, convulsions and death.
Ma huang, or ephedra, is used in veterinary medicine to help dogs with joint problems and chronic respiratory issues. When used under the supervision of a holistic veterinarian, the herb is usually safe. Problems arise when pet owners self-diagnose and purchase supplements that are loosely regulated and not standardized. Signs of toxicity include tremors, hyperactivity, racing heart and vomiting. Up to 17 percent of dogs will die from toxicity, even with supportive care and detoxification overseen by a veterinarian.
Myristica fragrans yields nutmeg and mace, used in herbal remedies to prevent flatulence and diarrhea. The remedies contain myristicin, a toxin that produces hallucinations, confusion, racing heart, seizures and even death.