Features June 1999 Issue

Treating Your Dogs' Injuries Holistically

Be prepared with effective holistic remedies to help your dog if heís hurt.

No matter how careful you are with your dog’s everyday health needs, it’s in his nature to be incautious and inquisitive. And that sometimes results in injury. Odds are, it’s just a matter of when.

However, your conviction to treat your dog with natural remedies is put to a real test when you are faced with an emergency. Whether your dog is severely injured in an accident or scraped and cut from a fight, your first reaction should be to remain calm, remember what you know, and think holistically.

Just as you plan and prepare your dog’s daily meals and training, advance planning and preparation for the unthinkable accident may help save your dog’s life during the critical time between the beginning of the emergency and access to veterinary care.

The time to plan, obviously, is before your dog is involved in an accident. Start gathering the contents for a first aid kit today (see “First Aid Kit for Dogs,” below). If your dog travels even short distances away from home then it’s a good idea to make your kit portable. Or prepare two kits – one for home and one for the car.

Have a First Aid Ready

The most important first step in dealing with an emergency is for everyone to calm down. It’s important for you because you’ll need to think clearly and it’s important for your dog because he needs to allow you to begin treatment. This is the time to use soothing reassurance, and to give an emergency flower essence (see the link for “Rescue Remedy: Nothing Short of Miraculous,” below) to everyone involved – don’t forget yourself!

Two homeopathic remedies are frequently mentioned by veterinary homeopaths as being useful in cases of shock, trauma, or extreme fear: Arnica montana 30C and Aconitum 30C. The famed veterinary homeopath, Dr. Richard Pitcairn, suggests giving a dog two pellets of Arnica 30C every 15 minutes for a total of three doses following a car accident, a situation where a dog stops breathing (assuming resuscitation efforts are underway), for convulsions, gunshot wounds, or serious bleeding. For a dog who is unconscious, he recommends following the doses of Arnica 30C with one pellet of Aconitum 30C every 10 minutes until consciousness is regained.

Holistic dog care expert Wendy Volhard and holistic veterinarian Kerry Brown, authors of the Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, suggest administering Arnica 30C for any bruising injuries, such as those suffered in a fall or car accident. This remedy is also excellent for use after surgery.

Examine the Dog Carefully

The next step is to try to identify the problem. Since dogs have a knack for getting into trouble when their human companions aren’t around, you may have to do some detective work. Internal injuries, even fur-hidden symptoms on the skin might not be evident. If his symptoms are severe, call your vet as you begin to treat your dog and, if possible, call a friend over to help. If you do need to make a quick trip to the vet’s office or clinic, your friend can drive while you tend to your dog on the way. To prevent any further harm or stress, try to keep the dog immobile, carrying him in a blanket sling if necessary, and prevent shock by keeping him warm.

Even dogs with the most docile personalities may bite when they’re confused or in pain. To keep from being bitten, you may have to use a soft muzzle. Or, you can firmly tie the dog’s mouth shut with an old sock, stocking, or cloth, leaving the ends long enough to tie behind the dog’s ears. Be careful not to restrict the dog’s breathing.

When Your Dog Has Cuts, Abrasions or Bite Wounds

Most dogs will incur at least a minor cut or bite at some time in their life. With all open wounds, the major concerns are stopping the bleeding and preventing infection. Badly torn or deep cuts must be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Also, bite wounds in the chest area are extremely dangerous as they can indicate a puncture through the chest wall, allowing blood to fill the chest cavity, or a collapsed lung.

After administering Rescue Remedy or Arnica, flush the wound with lots of water, especially if it’s an animal bite. Diluted hydrogen peroxide (about 1/2 teaspoon per cup of water) or plain soap and water may also be used to cleanse the wound. If you can, clip the dog’s hair from the edges of the wound so you can see whether or not you are cleaning it completely. Excessive bleeding can be controlled (while you travel to the vet’s office) with a pressure bandage. Place several layers of clean, dry gauze over the wound, fixing it in place with an elastic bandage, being careful not to use tourniquet-like pressure (this is especially critical on leg wounds). Put adhesive tape on the ends of the elastic bandage to keep it in place. Keep the bandage in place only until the bleeding stops and remove it if you notice any signs of swelling or coldness below the bandage.

Several herbs can also be used to stop bleeding. A sprinkling of the Chinese herbal powder called Yunnan Pia Yao under the bandage will help staunch the bleeding, as will homeopathic calendula in a spray or ointment. If the wound is small and the bleeding stops quickly, you can treat the wound yourself with echinacea, goldenseal, hypericum, or calendula, all of which display natural antibiotic action. Calendula may be used topically or internally to promote healing of torn or open wounds and to prevent infection. Its rapid healing properties are not good for puncture wounds, however, as they will heal too rapidly and seal in infection.

Although most wounds heal better in the open air, for larger wounds, soak a gauze pad in calendula spray or gel and tape it over the wound for one to two days. This will keep the wound clean until it can heal closed.

For puncture wounds, dilute hypericum tincture (five drops in 1/4 cup of water) and flush the wound or, if the wound is on an extremity, soak it in the hypericum solution. We particularly like Boericke & Tafel’s “Califlora” calendula gel and Hyland’s homeopathic “Calendula Spray,” both of which are readily available at most health food stores. For more detailed instructions for treating wounds with calendula and hypericum, see “Dog Injury Solutions,” WDJ January 1999.

Homeopathic Remedies for Dogs

Dr. Pitcairn uses a number of homeopathic remedies for common health problems. He suggests Ledum for insect bites or needle punctures, especially when the skin around the injury seems bluish or feels cold.

An oral administration of Silicea can help the dog’s body expel splinters and other foreign bodies. Don’t try to grab insect stingers with tweezers or your fingers as they will squeeze more poison into the wound, Pitcairn says. He advises using a dull knife, held perpendicular to the skin, to scrape across the sting. This will grab the stinger and pull it out.

Bleeding or swelling may not be immediately obvious with some wounds, especially with long-haired dogs, so be watchful for other symptoms of injury: swelling, sensitivity to touch, lethargy or irritability. An abscessed wound may respond to Hepar sulph if the animal has become chilly, irritable, and the abscess is very painful. Silicea will help heal an old abscess, especially when it is not very painful. For an acute problem, any potency of the remedy may be given.

Given internally, the homeopathic remedy Arnica montana is a good remedy for trauma, especially in cases of soft tissue injury such as bruising. The dog may not want you to touch the injury or, in extreme cases, to approach him. He may be restless and anxious. Arnica promotes circulation, which will help cleanse the injury and reduce the soreness.

Homeopathic Hypericum is characterized as the Arnica for nerve injuries. Paws that have been crushed, injuries from punctures, any injury to the nerves, especially paws, nails, coccyx, gums, respond to Hypericum. If the spine is very sensitive to the touch or the slightest motion of the legs or neck causes the dog to cry out, administer Hypericum.

Poisoning and Allergic Reactions in Dogs

Many dogs are compulsive taste-testers. They’ll lick or eat almost anything – dead or alive. They can also lick substances off their coats and feet. Symptoms of poisoning include severe vomiting, diarrhea, delirium, convulsions, coughing, and abdominal pain. Although the source of the poison might be visible or some might still be adhered to his fur, there’s a chance you won’t know what your dog ingested. In this case, it’s best not to induce vomiting. Some chemicals, especially acids, do more damage on their way back out of the esophagus. And you definitely shouldn’t induce vomiting if your dog is unconscious.

Call your vet or the Animal Poison Control Center for a treatment recommendation. If you know what substance the dog ate, and the experts tell you that you should induce vomiting, you can use a teaspoon of syrup of ipecac or a tablespoon of a hydrogen peroxide and water solution at a 1:1 ratio.

If your dog seems lethargic or is staggering, check for signs of an insect bite: swelling and/or reddened skin. Some dogs may develop hives in reaction to insect bites. Homeopathic Apis or Ledum can reduce the swelling, itching, pain, and redness of this kind of allergic reaction.

Preventing Injuries is Even Better

Of course, keeping your dog under close supervision is the key to preventing injuries. But some holistic veterinarians go one step further. They say that raising and keeping dogs in a healthy, non-toxic environment is the best way to protect them against injury. “Animals that are treated holistically, fed a raw food diet, are vaccinated very little, and are as healthy as possible, will recover more quickly from any accident, trauma, or poisoning,” says Christina Chambreau, a Maryland veterinarian who uses homeopathy extensively in her practice.

So, keep your eye on your dog, keep him healthy, and stay prepared.

Also With This Article:
Click here to view "Rescue Remedy: Nothing Short of Miraculous."

Karen Director is a freelance writer from Tollhouse, CA, and is in the process of adopting a canine companion.

Thanks to Christina Chambreau, DVM, for her help with this article. Chambreau, a veterinary homeopath, practices near Baltimore, MD.†

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