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Natural medicines and alternative therapies are becoming more and more popular, both for people and pets. As people discover the risks often associated with prescription medications, they shy away and seek out more natural alternatives. This option also helps with minor illness and injuries at home, when shucking out the big bucks to sit in a waiting room just doesn’t seem worth it.

Even many veterinarians are now turning to holistic health, which entails evaluating the pet’s overall health when something seems amiss, instead of addressing individual symptoms. Holistic vets are encouraging better diet and more exercise to help prevent some of the most debilitating diseases in pets like arthritis, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. There are a variety of techniques and therapies used in holistic health including acupressure, aromatherapy, chiropractic, herbs, massage, and nutrition that can be applied to pets.

In addition to exploring the option of taking your pet to a holistic vet, there are a number of things you can try at home. Once you have an overview of some basic remedies and helpful tips, you can stock your kitchen with multi-purpose herbs that are inexpensive, convenient to store, and easy to use.

Herbs and How They Help


These flower petals can be used as a tea or salve for healing minor scrapes and cuts on dogs and cats. Don’t know how to make calendula tea? We have you covered!


It is like a cat’s happy pill. Where catnip is a stimulant for cats, it can have the opposite effect in dogs. While catnip is not toxic to dogs, it can cause them to be a little sleepy. Some people recommend mixing a little catnip in your dog’s water to help calm their nerves, but it is best to double check with your vet about dosage for your pup. When used as a tea bath, catnip can also soothe itchy skin.


Used as an extract or tea, chamomile can be added to your dog or cat’s water to help with hyperactivity and stress. It can also help soothe Fido and Fluffy’s dry skin.


Echinacea extract is great for infections of all kinds. Just use five to ten drops three times a day for a week, or fewer and less often for cats and other small animals. (Note: Echinacea should not be given to pets who have autoimmune disorders, including cats diagnosed with FIV or FeLV.)


This root is great for calming a dog’s upset stomach, reducing gas, vomiting, nausea, and even bronchitis and coughing.


Goldenseal is a powerful natural antibacterial that can be used as a tea, tincture, or eye wash to help ease conjunctivitis in both dogs and cats. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe minor irritations or rashes. Of course, if eye or skin irritations persist, contact your vet ASAP.

Licorice Root

Licorice root is great for kitties with allergies and respiratory problems. It’s anti-inflammatory properties are also great for cats with arthritis.

Milk Thistle

This herb is great for improving liver function and helping to repair liver damage. If your dog has been on any strong medications, look into using this extract.


This minty plant helps dogs with upset stomach, gas, nausea, and car sickness. You should avoid peppermint for cats, however. According to the ASPCA, “Cats are especially sensitive to peppermint oil, and effects such as gastrointestinal upset, central nervous system depression and even liver damage could occur if ingested in significant quantities.”


Like chamomile, valerian is great for calming your anxious pooch. Share it with your lazy kitty, however, and Fluffy will be up and about in no time flat. It’s great for motivating them to get up and get active.

Staple Supplements

Apple Cider Vinegar

We know the many health benefits apple cider vinegar has for humans, but it can work all kinds of wonders for your pets. From urinary tract infections to tear stains, treating fleas and hot spots, apple cider vinegar is definitely a kitchen staple.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is great for your pets inside and out. You can add some to their food or you can use it for a massage on Fido’s dry skin. Just be warned this might make your pup a little greasy if you spread it over wide areas, so plan to put it on their fur an hour or two before you plan to give them a bath as a pre-conditioner.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

These supplements isn’t just for human arthritis anymore. Now you can use it to help your cat and dog with arthritis and hip dysplasia.

Olive Oil

This trusty oil is another multipurpose supplement for your dog. Just add a little to his food to promote healthy weight loss, improved immunity,  better cognitive development, a healthy skin and coat … the list just goes on! Remember not to overdo it though, too much fat can upset your pup’s stomach and lead to other issues.

Massage Your Pet to Well-Being

In addition to using these herbs and supplements as needed, you can also start to incorporate regular massages into your pet’s wellness routine. Pet massage can help prevent injury and aid the body in healing, as well as strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Not to mention, it feels good!

In just ten minutes a day you can massage your dog or cat into a more balanced sense of being. Be sure to use your whole hand when doing it and really be aware of all the layers of skin, fat, muscle, and bone. Start with their neck then move to the shoulders, down the back, and then legs. You may notice areas that feel tense, patches of dry skin, and even places that are sensitive to your touch. It’s important to do this every day with your pet, not only to stay aware of any changes he’s going through, but also to keep your bond strong with him.

Consult a Professional and Get Started!

Whenever you start your pet on a new health regimen, be sure to consult your vet. A holistic vet will be the most helpful to guide you through the natural medicine and therapy process, but regular vets are becoming more open to natural methods as well. It is important to take into account any existing conditions or medications when considering a holistic health plan. Also, as with any time you make a change in your pet’s routine, be sure to watch them for signs of discomfort or behavior changes.

Image source: Gatis Gributs/Flickr