When your pup seems to be feeling under the weather, you probably head straight for the veterinarian. But keeping furry family members happy and healthy doesn’t necessarily mean racking up large vet bills. Minor health problems can often be treated at home with herbal remedies.

When it comes to using herbs, less is more, says Randy Kidd, DVM, author of Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Dog Care (Storey Books, 2000). “Read the product label, then adjust the dose down to the animal’s size, assuming that the dosage on the label is meant for a 150-pound human,” says Kidd. For liquid extracts given internally, the general recommendation is 1/2 teaspoon three times a day for dogs under 20 pounds, 1 teaspoon three times a day for dogs weighing between 20 and 40 pounds, and 1 tablespoon three times daily for dogs over 40 pounds.

—K.E.

5 remedies for common canine ailments

Problem

Herbal remedy

How to use

Precautions

Bad breath

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Mix finely chopped fresh parsley into pet food once or twice a week.

None. However, chronic “doggy breath” is a sign of periodontal disease, which should be treated by your vet.

Ear discomfort

Mullein (Verbascum densiflorum)

In a glass jar, cover packed mullein leaves and flowers with olive oil. Let the mixture sit for two to three weeks. Strain, and apply several drops to the ear canal. Gently massage the outer ear, then let the dog shake its head. Repeat with the other ear.

None.

Fleas and ticks

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Pour boiling water over equal parts of dried herbs and steep until cool. Strain, and apply to dog’s skin. Reapply every few days as needed.

Do not give lavender internally.

Hyperactivity

Oats (Avena sativa)

Add 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal to pet food.

None.

Joint pain

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)

Look for an extract of this herbal anti-inflammatory and adjust the dose according to weight.

May cause diarrhea.

—K.E.