The Pharmacy in Your Kitchen

Health care has come a long way for people and animals; there are so many innovative tools and new medicines to diagnosis and treat disease. However, more does not always prove to be better. The overuse of antibiotics has contributed to the rise of multiple drug resistant bacteria, and often the side effects of medications can actually be worse than the symptoms that are being treated. Perhaps you're a minimalist or maybe you're an advocate for a more natural and organic way to treat your Beardie. Before you reach into the medicine cabinet, take a look into your kitchen pantry for a safe and simple way to help your Beardie get better.

Got a pumpkin? Some say it is for constipation and others say it is for diarrhea, but the truth is pumpkin can and does relieve both symptoms. Puree of pumpkin is a good source of fiber and has a high water content that will help either the constipation or the diarrhea. The water will hydrate the intestines to relieve constipation, and the fiber will absorb excess water that causes the loose stool from an agitated colon. By adding canned pumpkin to your dogs' food the symptoms may be alleviated in a few hours (make sure you do not get pumpkin pie filling by mistake). Pumpkin is safe to give to puppies and pregnant bitches and most dogs seem to enjoy the taste.

The puree of pumpkin can be incorporated into the evening meal on a regular basis since this allows the pumpkin to go through the system while the dog is sleeping. Remember diarrhea is a symptom, not a disease. Vomiting and diarrhea together require a different plan of care, so please consult your veterinarian as needed.

How much pumpkin to feed? Use this as a guideline:

Really want to be natural and make your own pumpkin puree? Avoid field pumpkins, which are bred for perfect jack o' lanterns, they tend to be too large and stringy for baking. Use sugar pie pumpkins or other flavorful varieties: small and sweet, with dark orange-colored flesh, they're perfect for pies, soups, muffins and breads. A medium-sized (4-pound) sugar pumpkin should yield around 11/2 cups of mashed pumpkin. This puree can be used in all your recipes calling for canned pumpkin. 

There are three ways to transform an uncooked pumpkin into the puree:

Baking Method

Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast for yourself. In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down and cover with foil. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for about 11/2 hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender.

Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it.

Boiling Method

Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.

Peel the pumpkin and cut it into chunks.

Place in a saucepan and cover with water.

Bring to a boil and cook until the pumpkin chunks are tender.

Let the chunks cool, and then puree the flesh in a food processor or mash it with a potato masher or food mill.

Microwave Method

Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.

Microwave on high power for seven minutes per pound, turning pieces every few minutes to promote even cooking. Process as above.

You can refrigerate your fresh pumpkin puree for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to six months, enabling you to enjoy fall pumpkins for months to come.

Next up — Apple Cider Vinegar!

Every home with dogs should have apple cider vinegar. It's a remedy with multiple uses for dogs: alleviating allergies, arthritis, and establishing correct pH balance.

As written in an article by Wendy Volhard:

"...If your dog has itchy skin, the beginnings of a hot spot, incessantly washes its feet, has smelly ears, or is picky about his food, the application of apple cider vinegar (ACV) may change things around. For poor appetite, use it in the food — 1 tablespoon, two times a day for a 50 lb. dog. For itchy skin or beginning hot spots, put ACV into a spray bottle, part the hair and spray on. Any skin eruption will dry up in 24 hours 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.

"Taken internally, ACV is credited with maintaining the acid/alkaline balance of the digestive tract. To check your dog's pH balance, pick up some pH strips at the drug store, and first thing in the morning test the dog's urine. If it reads anywhere from 6.2 - 6.5, your dog's system is exactly where it should be. If it is 7.5 or higher, the diet you are feeding is too alkaline, and ACV will re-establish the correct balance.

"After your weekly grooming sessions, use a few drops in his or her ears after cleaning them to avoid ear infections. Other uses for ACV are the prevention of muscle weakness, cramps, feeling the cold, calluses on elbows and hock joints, constipation, bruising too easily, pimples on skin surfaces, twitching of facial muscles, sore joints, arthritis and pus in the urine. There are also reports that it is useful in the prevention of bladder and kidney stones.

"Fleas, flies, ticks and bacteria, external parasites, ring worm, fungus, staphylococcus, streptococcus, pneumococcus, mange, etc., are unlikely to inhabit a dog whose system is acidic inside and out. Should you ever experience any of these with your dog, bathe with a nice gentle herbal shampoo — one that you would use on your own hair — rinse thoroughly, and then sponge on ACV diluted with equal amounts of warm water. Allow your dog to drip dry. It is not necessary to use harsh chemicals for minor flea infestations. All fleas drown in soapy water and the ACV rinse makes the skin too acidic for a re-infestation. If you are worried about picking up fleas when you take your dog away from home, keep some ACV in a spray bottle, and spray your dog before you leave home, and when you get back. Take some with you and keep it in the car, just in case you need it any time. Obviously for major infestations, more drastic measures are necessary. ACV normalizes the pH levels of the skin, makes your dog unpalatable to even the nastiest of bacteria and you have a dog that smells like a salad, a small price to pay!"

Did you ever trim your Beardie's nails and accidentally cut the quick? In a panic you search for the styptic powder to control the bleeding. Cornstarch, flour and powdered sugar are natural products that are just as effective. Unlike styptic powder, they are non-toxic. Of all these natural substances, cornstarch should be the first choice. When the dry substance is combined with aloe gel, it is even more effective. Aloe not only helps to stop bleeding, it helps the dry medium (such as corn starch) to adhere to the bleeding nail. It also has antibacterial properties that may prevent infection, and best of all from a Beardie's point of view, it stops pain quickly! Make a paste of aloe gel and cornstarch to apply to a broken nail, or the aloe gel can be applied directly to the nail before applying the cornstarch.

It never hurts to repeat the recipe for getting rid of skunk odor. All of the ingredients can be found in your home.

Mix everything in a large plastic bucket (you are basically making an oxygen generator and the mixture will start to foam). Wash the dog while it is still foaming, since it is the oxygen which reacts with the thiols (the smelly oil in skunk spray) to neutralize the odor. If it's not foaming, it's not working. The brew will also work for clothes, humans, furniture and carpets. Do not make ahead of time, since the mixture will explode if kept in an airtight container.

Always remember to consult your veterinarian for serious or chronic conditions.

Maryann Szalka