Well-meaning pet owners turn to the Internet when they want a quick, homemade remedy for their pet. But Doctor Google, as every vet knows, isn’t always s great resource for pets. Unfortunately, a ton of misinformation persists online.
There are plenty of natural and holistic treatments that simply don’t have enough evidence to back them up, while others are actually toxic and harmful to pets. On top of that, there are a huge variety of misconceptions about domestic animals, even among longtime pet owners.
As vets who work with vets, we want to push back against a few of those misconceptions, and encourage clients to come to us before a search engine.
Yes, there are plants that have curative properties, but there are plenty more that can make pets sick.
In the mid twenty-teens, coconut oil became the trendy “superfood” that the health and wellness world adopted as a favorite cure-all. Coconut oil may be an effective moisturizer, and it could also serve as a dressing for minor scrapes — the lauric acid in coconut oil can inhibit the growth of certain bacteria.
While there is some evidence for coconut oil’s specific benefits, it’s something that many forums and listicles online will describe as a dietary supplement with no drawbacks. In fact, dogs can get diarrhea from eating too much coconut oil. And feeding dogs even small amounts of coconut oil isn’t without its dangers. One study showed that saturated fats, including coconut oil, lessened the overall sharpness of dogs’ sense of smell.
Essential oils are another major offender in the world of pseudoscientific treatments. Many fans of essential oils are convinced they can cure anything. Certified Veterinary Technician Jo Marshall laments, “It seems that there is a new horror story every day on essential oils and pets.”
The Pet Poison Helpline mainly took issue with the following: In dogs, pennyroyal oil can cause liver failure, wintergreen can cause severe gastrointestinal upset, and tea tree oil can result in an allergic reaction, paralysis, and vomiting. (Tea tree oil may be effective at killing off bacteria and yeast infections in dog ears, but the side effects can be worse than the cure. Essential oil diffusers may cause respiratory irritation in cats.
Bottom line: Some essential oils might be helpful in some specific conditions, but more often than not, they are dangerous.