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!