Herbal First Aid Advice from Animal Expert Jacqueline Zakharia
Calendula officialis (Calendula or pot marigold) has been a popular herbal remedy at the Livestock Guardian Dog Rescue in Australia. I have dealt with many rescue animals over the years and particularly dogs that have come from pounds or less than ideal situations I have made great use from this beautiful and easily grown herb.
In rescue situations, we often see issues with wounds, hot spots, weeping eyes that may have come about through stress or neglect, or both. Often stints in pounds, shelters or transport trucks can give rise to the spread of kennel cough and therefore discharge from the eyes and nose. Conjunctivitis is common and very contagious which typically can occur with cats. Obviously one does not need to have a rescue dog to encounter these situations with one’s own pet! They are common enough situations that can occur in day to day life.
I have made effective use of my calendula patch making fresh plant (flower) alcohol tinctures from 100 proof vodka, infused herbal oils, teas and salves using beeswax. They are all typically used topically on the dog or cat. Generally the tinctures are diluted in water.
Greg Tilford recommends calendula in most minor first aid situations and this flower has many medicinal compounds such as essential oils, flavanoids, saponins, triterpene alcohols, carotenes and others. The combination of these helps speed recovery of skin cells and inhibits fungi and bacteria where the infection is situated.
Tilford suggests that when using as a salve in first aid, it is can also be combined with St John’s Wort and comfrey. There are some suggestions for fungal issues that adding bee balm, Oregon grape or licorice. CJ Puotinen suggests simply making an oil rather than a salve using calendula, St John’s Wort blossoms and comfrey leaves which can be used for burns, cuts, paw pad irritations and wounds.
Dr Randy Kidd who is a holistic vet does caution however that although it is his favorite wound healer one should be cautious not to use it on wounds such as an abscess that need to drain as they can heal very quickly and create further issues. He mentions that calendula is used for all types of wounds that may include burns, scrapes, inflammations, cuts, poor healing wounds. There is a suggestion it can be used as a poultice on bruises and sprains.
For an eye wash or compress I have used calendula teamed with chamomile and Echinacea. Dr Kidd suggests being very cautious to begin with as some animals can be allergic to certain herbs, and therefore the first application should be done with a very weak tea or infusion.
It can be tricky to dose some animals and indeed I have had some very interesting interactions with some of my foster cats so I do find it helpful to gently scruff them to avoid a tirade of teeth and claws. If you have an uncooperative cat who won’t let you dose their eyes then ask your vet to teach you how to gently scruff a cat.
Dr Kidd suggests that compresses can be very helpful here when you cannot get drops into the eye. Use a clean cloth or sterile cotton soaked in the herbal tea and apply for several minutes several times a day. Care must be made that the tea is cooled adequately. Wash hand before and after treatment. I tend use two separate clean cloths for each eye then dispose of them immediately.
Kidd’s suggestion of tea eye compress is one teaspoon of fresh or dried herb or a few drops of an herbal extract in a pint of water. I have used his suggestion often and found this to be very effective with both cats and dogs.
Calendula has become one of my favorite herbal allies over the years and I have been delighted with the results and encouraged as it is a very common herbs that is easy to grow, relatively safe and abundant. It is generally one of the first herbs I look to for topical applications in our companion pets.
Small medical emergencies can be treated at home but if the minor wound does not respond to the care you can offer, get professional help. This article is not intended as a substitution for qualified veterinary care. Although I am qualified small animal herbalist I have a great relationship with my local vet clinic and do seek advice and diagnoses of my own pets and rescues. Please make use of your trusted vet for direction.
Kidd, R 2000, Herbal Dog Care, Storey Publishing, USA.
Kidd, R 2000, Herbal Cat Care, Storey Publishing, USA.
Puotinen, C 2003, Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats, Gramercy Books, USA.
Tilford, G 2009, Herbs for Pets, 1-5 Publishing, USA.
Photo Note From Jacqueline
The dog pictured here is a rescue English Pointer x Maremma. Barely came to me as a foster after having 4 homes in two years due to behavioral issues and kept being returned to the shelter. Due to these issues my husband and I decided he should stay on our farm to live out his days in peace and safety. Barley is now 8 years old and is a loved and valued member of our rescue menagerie in the Otway Ranges in Victoria, Australia.
Jacqueline is a herbal medicine practitioner of dogs and cats, has worked in animal rescue for 11 years on a volunteer basis and has a Bachelor of Social Science (Politics and Sociology), qualified counselor (AIPC), is a Reiki Master (Usui system) and an Australian Bush Flower Essence Practitioner of animals for 6 years.
Jacqueline lives on a farm in a temperate rain forest in Victoria, Australia with her husband and menagerie of rescue animals. Jacqueline is passionate about herbs and animal welfare.