January 2012 Issue
Table of Contents
The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar to Dogs
Skin and Coat
Skin and Coat
-After shampooing, give a final rinse with 1 cup vinegar diluted in 2 to 4 cups water. Experiment with different dilutions for best results.
-Reduce dander by massaging full-strength cider vinegar into the coat before shampooing.
-Apply full-strength or diluted ACV to calluses, rough skin, sunburn, or skin irritations.
-Combine skin-friendly herbs like calendula blossoms, St. John’s wort blossoms, and/or comfrey leaves with ACV to improve its healing effects on cuts, wounds, abrasions, etc.
-Wendy Volhard, author of Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, recommends spraying itchy skin and developing hot spots with apple cider vinegar. “Any skin eruption will dry up in 24 hours,” she says, “and will save you having to shave the dog. If the skin is already broken, dilute ACV with an equal amount of water and spray on.”
Itchy Feet or Ears
-Dogs with seasonal allergies can develop itchy feet in response to pollen exposure. Soaking the paws in full-strength or diluted ACV can help reduce the itching.
-Plain apple cider vinegar or a vinegar-based herbal tincture can help keep a dog’s ears clean and healthy. Place a few drops in each ear and gently massage, or apply with a cotton swab. For a more medicinal ear drop, make or buy a cider vinegar tincture containing ear-friendly herbs like garlic and mullein blossoms.
-Apply cider vinegar to sore muscles with a sponge or cotton. Do the same for bruises, abrasions, sore paw pads, and other discomforts. Reapply as needed.
Food and Water
If you feed a raw home-prepared diet and are concerned about harmful bacteria in your dog’s food or on kitchen surfaces, use the alternating vinegar-peroxide spray treatment described above.
“I always add raw apple cider vinegar to vegetables when I puree them for my dogs,” says veterinary technician Adele Delp of Helena, Montana. “Vinegar is a natural preservative and the vegetables last several days longer in the refrigerator, which is convenient.”
There are pros and cons to adding cider vinegar to a dog’s drinking water, with the recommended dose usually 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon per 50 pounds of body weight. “People often talk about adding ACV to water bowls,” says canine health researcher Mary Straus. “My feeling is that if so, you should also offer plain water, just in case your dogs don’t want to drink the water with the ACV in it. You wouldn’t want to risk their drinking less water and possibly becoming dehydrated.”
Is a daily dose of apple cider vinegar good for your dog? Unless your dog is allergic to apples, he or she isn’t likely to suffer a serious reaction, and within a month you should be able to tell whether the addition is helping. Commonly reported benefits include improvements in skin and coat condition, a reduction of itching and scratching, the elimination of tear stains on the face, fewer brown or yellow urine spots in lawns, increased mobility in older dogs, reduced flea populations, and an improvement in overall health.
Rosemary Gladstar, a well-known herbalist, educator, author, and dog lover in East Barre, Vermont, values raw organic apple cider vinegar for its use in herbal tinctures. “These highly concentrated liquid extracts of herbs are easy to make, simple to administer, and convenient,” she explains. “Their prolonged shelf life makes them easy to keep on hand.”
Alcohol is the most widely used tincture solvent because it extracts fats, resins, waxes, most alkaloids, some volatile oils, and other plant components, which it preserves indefinitely. Vegetable glycerin, a sweet, syrupy liquid, dissolves mucilage, vitamins, and minerals but does not dissolve resinous or oily plant constituents. Apple cider vinegar extracts sugars, tannins, glycosides, bitter compounds, alkaloids, vitamins, and minerals.
“Cider vinegar is not as strong as alcohol and does not break down all of the plant components,” says Gladstar, “but there are advantages to using it. Vinegar is a food, 100 percent nontoxic, and tolerated by almost everyone. It helps regulate the acid/alkaline balance in our bodies and is an excellent tonic for the digestive tract. Vinegar tinctures are a fine alternative for those who are sensitive to alcohol and they can safely be used for children and pets. Add a little honey to your vinegar tonic for a nice flavor. Though vinegar tinctures may not be as concentrated as alcohol tinctures, I trust in the body’s ability to discern what it needs and to use it effectively.”
Although most herbal literature warns that vinegar tinctures have a shelf life of only six months before deteriorating, Gladstar disagrees. “My personal experience,” she says, “and that of many of my peers has been that vinegar tinctures will last, if stored in a cool, dark place, for several years. I have vinegar tinctures that are up to four years old and they are still in excellent condition.”
In her book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, Gladstar describes the traditional or simpler’s method of tincture making, which she prefers. All you need are herbs, the appropriate menstruum (alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin base), and a jar with a tight-fitting lid. “This extremely simple system produces a beautiful tincture every time,” she says.
1. Chop herbs finely. Fresh herbs work best but high-quality dried herbs are next best. Place them in a clean, dry jar. If using dried herbs, fill the jar only half way to allow for expansion.
2. Heat raw organic ACV to a warm (not hot) temperature. Pour in enough to completely cover the herbs with a margin of 2 or 3 inches. Seal the lid.
3. Leave the jar in a warm spot and let the herbs soak for 4 to 6 weeks – the longer, the better. Shake the bottle daily.
4. Strain the liquid through a stainless steel strainer lined with cheesecloth or muslin. Place in dark cobalt or amber glass bottles, label, and store away from heat and light.
Herbs such as burdock, chamomile, dandelion, echinacea, ginger, mullein, nettle, sage, slippery elm bark, valerian, and yellow dock added to food can help dogs improve their overall health, enhance digestion, and deal more comfortably with stress.
Gladstar recommends a garlic/dandelion vinegar tincture as a general tonic and to help dogs repel parasites. Use fresh or dried dandelion leaves, roots, and blossoms with an approximately equal amount of garlic. (If using dried dandelion, leave ample room for expansion.)
Add this tincture in small amounts to your dog’s food, gradually increasing to approximately 1/4 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight per day. The dandelion is a tonic for the entire body (it helps improve digestion, cleanses the blood, and supports kidney function), while garlic repels internal and external parasites and acts as a digestive and circulatory tonic. If desired, make a double-strength tincture by straining the completed tincture into a new jar of freshly chopped garlic and dandelion, repeating the process. Reduce the dosage accordingly.
An effective liniment warms and relaxes joints and muscles, increases circulation to the area, relieves inflammation, improves flexibility, and speeds healing. Traditional recipes combine skin-warming ingredients and therapeutic herbs with cider vinegar. For example, combine 1 pint (2 cups) apple cider vinegar with 1 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper, 4 tablespoons dried (or 1/4 cup fresh) rosemary, and 2 tablespoons dried (or 1/8 cup fresh) comfrey leaf or root that has been cut or broken into small pieces. Massage into tight muscles, bruises, or sore joints, or simply soak a cloth or bandage in the liniment and hold it on the affected area for as long as possible. Keep this liniment away from the eyes and mucous membranes.
Gladstar’s favorite cider vinegar tincture is an herbal cosmetic, Queen of Hungary’s Water. “Legend has it that the early Gypsies formulated it and claimed it to be a cure-all,” she says. “It is an excellent astringent for the face and a great rinse for dark hair. It combines gentle, common herbs in a masterful way, it’s easy and inexpensive to make, and it’s very versatile. The Gypsies claimed it was good as a hair rinse, mouthwash, headache remedy, aftershave, foot bath, and who knows what else!”
To make it, combine 6 parts lemon balm, 4 parts chamomile, 1 part rosemary, 3 parts calendula, 4 parts roses, 1 part lemon peel, 1 part sage, and 3 parts comfrey leaf. After aging and straining, add 1/2 to 1 cup rose water or witch hazel to each cup of herbal vinegar. Store in dropper or spray bottles. This product does not need refrigeration and will stay fresh indefinitely. (Because it stains, this blend is not recommended for light or white hair.)
As Patricia Bragg says, “We don’t endorse white vinegar or dead vinegars for human or pet use, internally or externally! But it’s great for a variety of household, workshop, and pet cleanup chores. White vinegar is a safe, effective, and inexpensive household cleaner, deodorizer, and disinfectant, which replaces commercial household cleaners that are full of chemicals and additives that are harmful to Mother Nature and you. Remember: use only the healthiest vinegar, like Bragg raw organic ACV (with ‘mother enzyme’) for all human consumption and for use on skin, hair, and your pets.”
Because dogs contact household surfaces directly and indirectly, chemical exposure is always a consideration. Distilled white vinegar is so versatile that some reports list more than 400 household applications.
Freelance writer CJ Puotinen lives in Montana. She is the author of The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care and other books.
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