I've been on this natural living kick for about two years now. It all started with getting really sick, like I CAN'T WALK sick, for 3 months. My skin and stomach got really sensitive, and I started spending the unending days and nights lying in bed researching ways to feel less like a leper. Turns out the answer for me was to go natural -- little to no chemicals and using food for both eating and body care.
After my recovery, my natural stuff obsession gained momentum, and, after starting work in a natural pet supply store in Honolulu, I turned my attention to our furry friends.
Enter Brandy the Cat. I'm going to get all Crazy Cat Lady on your ass for a moment so just be cool.
I love my kitty. She is a mean little bitch who has shown me how much she loves and appreciates my servitude to her by leaving all manner of scars on my crunchy granola body. She pits my husband and me against each other, battling for her favor, and her food is higher quality than anything we will eat with any regularity for at least the next decade. Every Christmas or birthday, I give my husband a t-shirt with her face screened onto it. And, by golly, he treasures them. I LOVE my cat.
So it seems to reason that what's good for the girl is good for the kitty, right?
After lots of research and some careful experimentation on lab humans (lab = my kitchen and lab human = me), I've found that a lot of the food found in our kitchens and grocery stores can be used as safe, cheap and kick-ass home remedies for what ails your pet. Specifically your dog or cat.
These are some of my favorites.
EXTRA VIRGIN COCONUT OIL
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (EVCO) is the Grand Poobah of natural pet and human care. It is naturally antimicrobial, absorbs beautifully and if Fluffy or Fido licks it, no problem!
For minor cuts, abrasions, sensitive spots, minor fungal problems and blisters, slather EVCO onto the spot and try to let it soak in. It works great for dry and rough paws, too. And, like I said, if your dog or cat licks it off, no problem since it doesn't contain any yucky chemicals that other topical pet medications can contain. It used to freak me out whenever I read the label on my pet's skin medication and it said, "TOXIC IF INGESTED."
EVCO is also great as a supplement for Fluffy or Fido. When adding anything into your pet's diet, go slow. Start adding a little EVCO to their breakfast or dinner on a daily basis. I'd start with a 1/4 dose of EVCO for a couple days, then slowly building on that amount over the span of a week to 10 days until you are at the full daily dosage -- about a 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds of pet. Going slow will help you and your pet avoid getting the dreaded diarrhea or any such discomfort. Why rush? If your pet gets some tummy troubles (see: Pumpkin) back off and go slower.
After about a month or so of feeding EVCO to your pet, you'll notice the condition of their skin and coat improve. Shiny hair! Who doesn't like that? Not to mention, EVCO's antimicrobial properties really help when dealing with fungal, bacterial or yeast issues in a dog or cat's system.
I could go on and on forever about EVCO. This stuff is the shit.
Every pet owner hates diarrhea. Then again, does ANYBODY enjoy diarrhea?
When I'm at the store, the questions I most often receive involve poop. Specifically "loose doo-doo" as I often hear 'round these parts. Pumpkin to the rescue!
Plain, unsalted, steamed and smooshed up or pureed pumpkin is a great tummy tamer for pets. Feed it to your dog or cat (about 1 teaspoon daily for small dogs and cats, 1 tablespoon daily for medium or large size dogs) during a bout of diarrhea, and everything should firm up in a couple days. Most pets need it mixed into their food for them to eat it, though some will just eat a dollop plain.
You can either buy the pumpkin and steam it yourself, or buy a pumpkin product from your local pet store or the interweb. Make sure it's plain -- do NOT buy pumpkin pie filling. It's full of ingredients that could be potentially harmful to your pet.
Pup got inflamed skin? Itchy skin? Try baking soda!
Baking soda calms down your dog's skin and helps soothe "hot spots" -- patches where the skin is irritated.
You can either make a paste out of water and baking soda and apply directly to the spot for a few minutes, or you can bathe your dog in a solution of 2 parts water and 1 part baking soda -- kind of like washing your own hair "no 'poo" style.
Simply massage into your dog's skin and coat, and then rinse. I've only used this on a dog, but if I were so intrepid as to bathe Brandy the Cat again (yes, I bathed her once and I have the battle scars to prove it), I would consider doing this.
You can either follow up with a sulfate-free doggy conditioner or...
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Why, Louise! I've rinsed MY hair with apple cider vinegar (ACV)! Yes, THAT ACV that leaves your hair super soft, shiny and flake-free, can do the same for your dog!
I'm sure we've all heard this a million times, but ACV closes the cuticle of hair, removes irritation-causing build up, and soothes itchy flakey skin. Your pet is left with soft, fluffy, shiny hair and itch-free skin.
Mix 1 part ACV to 1 part water (I like to use an old shampoo bottle) and douse your dog, making sure you get the solution down to their skin. Let sit for a minute, if you can, then rinse thoroughly.
Your pet may smell a bit like vinegar for a while, but once they dry, the smell should dissipate.
BONUS! It helps repel fleas!
How many times have I been awoken in the wee small hours of the morning to the dulcet tones of Brandy the Cat yacking up a hairball? How many times have I sprung out of bed, ready to attack the day, only to step on a moist, slushy hairball?
It is the bane of cat owning existence. However, butter can help.
Once or twice a week smear a little dollop of plain, unsalted butter on kitty's paw or put 1/2 a teaspoon of butter in kitty's food. You can do this more often, but like I said earlier, start slow and ease kitty into it.
I've found this can lessen the amount of hairballs coughed up and even allow cats to pass hairballs in their stool.
Hairballs are a fact of kitty life. A cat will normally cough up a hairball or two about once a month. Some cats more often, some cats less. If you find your cat vomiting excessively, dry hacking or coughing up copious hairballs every week, you might want to take your cat to the vet to make sure everything is all right.
Oh, and EVCO can help with hairballs, too, when ingested. Is there anything it can't do?
So, there you go. I've picked up these tips through research and experience. Always take into consideration your pet's baseline health before trying anything new. I'm super careful, but I'm no vet, so please when in doubt, check with your vet.
Just know that next time Fluffy or Fido has an itch, a scratch or a tummy ache, the simplest, most natural and tastiest solution might be right in your kitchen.