Home Remedies Vets Love and Hate


Even if your cat is vomiting, your dog has a painful sore, or his face has swollen to the size of a small pumpkin, a trip to the animal ER may not be necessary. Here are three common problems and my favorite home remedies that vets use for pet health–plus my advice for spotting a true emergency.

To Heal a Hot Spot

If your dog is on the hairy side, you’ve probably had the unpleasant job of dealing with one of these painful, oozing areas of inflammation. Hot spots are usually triggered by an allergy or insect bite, but the real problem starts when your dog licks at the irritation–and licks and licks. Especially in a long-haired dog, the trapped moisture can promote an overgrowth of skin bacteria, which is incredibly irritating. Voila: You have a vicious cycle (and a miserable dog).

To fix it, you need grooming clippers to remove hair around the hot spot–just don’t get too close to the skin, which could cause a razor rash. Gently clean the area with a clean, damp piece of terry cloth or a gauze pad. Then ignore your instinct to get out the antibiotic ointment–you want the area to dry out. Instead, two or three times a day, apply a half-and-half mixture of water and apple cider vinegar, or–even better–use Domeboro’s solution, an astringent sold OTC at pharmacies. (It comes in packets; mix according to directions on the label.) Soak a washcloth in either solution, or use a clean spray bottle and squirt it on. Your dog will need to wear an Elizabethan collar (aka “funnel hat”) for a little while so he can’t lick and start the cycle over again; these are available at pet supply stores or online. If you caught the hot spot early, this approach should do the trick.

Head to the Vet If: Things don’t improve in a day or two. Your dog may need oral antibiotics and steroids.

To Soothe an Upset Stomach

Vomiting is one of the most common reasons owners bring a pet to the ER. But strangely, when I question those owners, I’m often told that after the animal threw up, they promptly fed him again. Don’t do that! In cases of gastroenteritis (inflammation of the intestines or stomach, causing vomiting and diarrhea), it’s best not to give any food (just water) for at least 12 hours, assuming your pet isn’t diabetic. You can give him a little Pepcid AC. The right dose is important for pet health; check with your vet first! After the fast, give him a bit of bland food, such as boiled chicken (no fat or skin) for a dog or canned tuna packed in water for a cat.

Head to the Vet If: Your pet kept vomiting during the fast, the small meal restarts the upset, he’s not interested in food at all, or he becomes lethargic.

To Stop an Allergic Reaction

It would be funny if it weren’t scary: You let your dog out into the yard and when he comes back, he’s puffy faced and swollen. Dogs can have allergic reactions to bug bites and some outdoor plants or chemically treated mulch–as well as carpet cleaner or a vaccine given earlier that day. A little human-style antihistamine, such as Benadryl, can be a good home remedy to help your dog–but steer clear of multisymptom formulas because you don’t want a decongestant or other extra ingredients; check with your vet for the correct dose first! Then give him a bath, using a mild dish detergent, such as Dawn. The reason: He may be reacting to an irritant on his skin, and until you get it off, he’ll keep getting hives.

Head to the Vet If: The swelling doesn’t improve within a few hours or gets worse (your Lab or beagle is beginning to look like a shar-pei). Also, if your pet starts having difficulty breathing, it’s time for that emergency room visit after all. (Very rarely, cats have allergic reactions, too. But they don’t get puffy–they just keel over. If your cat starts vomiting and panting within a couple of hours after getting a vaccine, you need to get to the vet fast.)

What about home remedies that vet’s hate?

When it comes to our pets and poisons, we don’t want to chance endangering our pet’s lives with some made up, Internet-discovered, erroneous home remedies! We hear it all – owners who use milk, peanut butter, vegetable oil, or salt…and these remedies are all WRONG! Please know that these products should NEVER be administered as they don’t work, unless you consult your veterinarian first! Of all these products, only milk may help… but you may or may not use it at the right time. Consult your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline to find out:

  1. if the product ingested was poisonous to begin with,
  2. what the true antidote is, and
  3. if emesis (inducing vomiting) is warranted or medically indicated.

Remember, there’s a lot of good AND bad information out there on the Web, and you must be able to separate the wheat from the chaff!

Published on July 29, 2011
Categorized under: Pet Safety Tips

5 Responses to “Home Remedies Vets Love and Hate”

  1. mary havice says:

    my dog has been sneezing runny nose and backward sneezings for the last month. I don’t know what to use except benadryl and it doesnt help very much. Can I give her elderberry syrup? We do not have a holistic vet in the southeast Kansas area. Could you help?

  2. Vicki says:

    I cannot believe that you charge for advice to save an animals life! My cat is very very sick…I …unlike most people have no income and cannot afford 39 dollars…so my cat will die. All I want is advice or something I can give her before she dies… I believe she is very ill and ingested poison. If 39 dollars is equal to an animals life to you…then have a great day…there are people who are struggeling who need advice from an animal lover…evidently you are not. What would it cost you to give me advice?? My cat is going to die…just for you. Have a great life…she deserved one.

    • Hi Vicki,
      We are so sorry to hear about the loss of your dear cat; every pet deserves a great life. We know the cost of this service can be a hurdle for some and we certainly wish we could provide it for free. As animal lovers who have dedicated our professional lives to saving pets, we’d like nothing more. Unfortunately, for us to simply exist, we must charge for our service. Human poison control is paid for using your tax dollars. That is why it appears “free.” Sadly, there is no tax allocation for animal poison control. Therefore, we’re faced with a choice—charge or don’t exist. In the grand scheme of things, we think it’s much more important to provide pet owners and veterinarians with access to a 24/7 life saving resource than to not have one at all. Finally, our fee is considerably less than the cost of bringing your dog to an emergency veterinarian. Most pet owners are often relieved to know that their pet can be monitored at home and spare themselves the stress and expense of an ER visit. Also, just so you’re aware, there are actually 3 services in the US that provide animal poison control consultation. Of those, ours is by far the most reasonable in cost (the others are $65 and $45 per case, ours is $39). We work extremely hard to keep our cost as low and as reasonable as possible; We hope you can see this by comparing our cost to the other two.
      Thank you for understanding.
      Pet Poison Helpline

  3. Gem615 says:

    Know I’m a little late, but for future reference or anyone else reading this – TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE VET!!! and ESPECIALLY DO NOT GIVE DOGS ANY TYPE OF HOLISTIC ANYTHING without your vet approving it first! There are TOO MANY ‘holistic’ considered ingredients (roots, extracts, leaves, etc.) that are EXTREMELY TOXIC TO YOUR DOG or CAT!!!

    Runny nose is a RED FLAG as well for a dog – not sure exactly what you mean by backward sneezing, but it doesn’t sound good to me. How UP TO DATE ON VACCINES (administered ONLY by your vet) is your dog? RUNNY NOSE for a dog could also be an indicator for BORDETELLA (aka KENNEL COUGH) which left untreated can develop into a nasty pneumonia and KILL YOUR DOG. This is why it is so important to make sure you get all the recommended vaccines there are out there – and regular booster shots/ follow up shots every year! This includes PARVO, DISTEMPER, RABIES, CANINE INFLUENZA – a whole mix that can be lethal if ignored. If you have trouble covering the costs, there are many vets that will work on a ‘sliding scale’ for payment based on what you make or don’t even in this economy – they know it’s that IMPORTANT! If even then you have a problem financially, try the clinics they have on a regular basis at many chain pet stores like Petco, Petsmart, etc. AND in this economy, there are MANY organizations that raise money/ work on donations that will help you financially to cover the costs – and often the cost of food if in especially bad shape.


  4. Dana says:

    My dog is biting itself and causing him have dry skin its source

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