As co-owner of Doylestown Veterinary Hospital, Dr. Laura Weis, DVM, specializes in homeopathy and nutritional counseling. When addressing the question of what healthcare items pet owners should have on hand, she says dog owners should start with the basics first – things like gauze, a thermometer, and hydrogen peroxide – before building a more comprehensive and holistic pet first aid kit from that.
“The American Veterinary Medical Association offers pet resources, and they have a nice checklist. It’s pretty basic, not too daunting,” she says, adding that conventional pet first aid kits are even available to purchase pre-made.
“I would consider those the base that you build off of to develop more of a holistic first aid kit.”
When preparing for a true emergency, however – those situations in which a pet owner must stabilize his or her dog until veterinary care is available – there are a few holistic items that Dr. Weis recommends.
In Case of Emergency
“The items I would have on hand are helpful when dealing with a situation that might involve trauma or shock – something beyond the bandages to control bleeding.”
- Rescue Remedy, made from various botanicals, helps to calm and soothe dogs who have been involved in trauma. Available for both humans and their pets, it is important to select the bottle labeled for pet use, as it does not contain alcohol.
“You can literally just put a few drops of Rescue Remedy on your pet’s gums or even rub it on some exposed skin inside the ear,” says Dr. Weis. “And you can use it frequently – every 10-15 minutes – as you’re transporting your pet to the veterinarian office.”
- Basic Arnica is also a tremendous aid in the event of trauma ranging from shock or lacerations, down to a minor bump or bruise.
It is important for pet owners to differentiate between homeopathic arnica versus the herbal variation, says Dr. Weis. To do so, look for the identifying number and letter chain on the bottle indicating strength.
“You’ll find anything from 6C to 30C,” she says. “The lower strength, the 6C, would need to be repeated more frequently. These are little sugar pellets that the medication is sprayed onto. You can dispense 3-5 pellets and put them inside your animal’s cheek pouch or right on the gum. They dissolve and the medication diffuses across the mucus membranes.
For a more severe injury, arnica can be repeated every 10-15 minutes until an owner can transport his or her pet to a veterinary hospital. For minor bruising, arnica can be rubbed on the skin 2-3 times a day until improvement is seen.
For Treatment at Home
Arnica and Rescue Remedy are holistic options for more dire situations. “They’re more, ‘Your pet is in trouble – you need help immediately,’ scenarios,” says Dr. Weis.
For less urgent, but nonetheless unpleasant, episodes – Dr. Weis recommends the following components for your pet first aid kit.
- Burns: “For everything from a mild sunburn to a more severe burn, you can absolutely use aloe vera gel,” she says. “You just have to be careful, as you don’t want your pet to lick it off and ingest it.” The solution? Use food grade aloe vera, which is equally soothing.
- Topical injuries: When addressing minor scrapes and cuts that do not require stitches, it’s still important to reach for an antidote that will ward off infection.
“One thing every pet first aid kit should have is liquid colloidal silver,” Dr. Weis says. “This is a general anti-microbial. It works against viruses, it works against bacteria, it works against various fungi, and you can apply it topically or even orally. But I would only attempt oral administration with the guidance of a veterinarian.”
Tea tree oil is also popular among pet owners, but should be used with caution, Dr. Weis says.
“These essential oils must be diluted with an appropriate carrier oil if they are going to be used on a pet,” she says. “Some animals can be very sensitive to it.”
Once wounds have been treated for infection, they should be allowed ample time to heal.
Calendula cream is a general all-purpose topical product that can accelerate the healing process and can be used on skin that has been scraped or even on an open cut. “Ideally, you should cover the wound with a bandage, so your pet does not consume it.”
Additionally, if your dog has some bruising and you can visibly see that the area is tender to the touch or swollen, arnica cream can also be helpful.
Boiron is a quality brand that manufactures both arnica cream and calendula cream and can be found at any pharmacy or big box store, says Dr. Weis.
- Diarrhea: For minor stomach upset, slippery elm bark capsules are effective for both dogs and cats, and can be opened, emptied, and mixed into your pet’s food. Dogs typically take 1-2 capsules, whereas cats usually take ½ a capsule twice a day. For severe diarrhea, however, see your veterinarian.
- Eye concerns: Again, Dr. Weis stresses, eye injuries or irritation should be addressed by a qualified veterinarian. Still, it is a good idea to include a sterile eye wash in your pet first aid kit. Eye washes and drops can provide temporary relief, regardless of the problem.
“Look for products that contain an herb called eyebright – which is a common name for the plant called Euphrasia. Similasan is a general, all-purpose product and one of the best brands available.”
- Insect bites & bee stings: Warmer weather also brings with it the threat of ticks and tick bites.
“Obviously, in your pet aid kit you should have tweezers,” Dr. Weis says. “And in your kit under homeopathy, you might consider including Ledum. This homeopathic remedy also comes in strengths that range from 6C to the 30C and should be administered three times a day for 2-3 days after you find an embedded tick.
“Ledum is excellent in helping to prevent a lot of tick-borne diseases,” she says.
Spring is on its way, and curious dogs will sometimes stick their snouts where they shouldn’t.
“Most of what we see on in the realm of insect bites and stings are typically from wasps and mosquitos. Wasps are most common. And it’s rare but we do see an occasional bee sting,” says Dr. Weis.
The homeopathic remedy Apis is effective for stings where redness, swelling, and heat are present. Like Ledum, Apis is administered orally and can be used every 10-15 minutes for two hours, and then once or twice a day until swelling subsides.
For a more old-fashioned remedy to relieve stings, make a paste using baking soda and water that you have in your kitchen pantry.
“This is really soothing,” says Dr. Weis. “And, of course, you can also use aloe vera gel on those sites, as well.”
“It is lovely to be able to augment what we think of as typical, conventional first aid options,” says Dr. Weis. “Many of the holistic options for emergency situations are helpful and soothing and can provide a better overall experience for your pet. And for those situations that aren’t quite so emergent, we can frequently reach for a gentler option.”
Most importantly, when in doubt – contact your veterinarian. If your pet sustains an injury, Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care can help. Call (215) 345-6000.