Aloe vera is a plant we hear a lot about. It’s in our cosmetics and many of us put it on those nasty summer sunburns, but did you know you can use it on your dog, too?
There are at least 275 different aloe species, but only three or four are used for commercial purposes. While it looks like a cactus, aloe actually belongs to the lily family and grows in tropical and semitropical regions of the world. You may have a plant hanging around your house. It’s your very own first-aid kit and you may not have even known it.
How can aloe help your dog?
Externally, aloe has many benefits. Aloe has been shown to have antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, making it soothing to the skin. It contains prostaglandins, which may reduce inflammation, promote healing and alleviate allergic reactions. In addition to prostaglandins, according to Shawn Messonnier, DVM, in his book The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, “acemannan, a polysaccharide immune stimulant found in aloe vera, may be helpful for pets with allergies, skin infections, and other diseases, including cancer, that suppress the immune system. Acemannan is approved for use as part of the therapy for treating fibrosarcoma tumors in pets.”
Aloe can be applied to wounds, burns, eczema, or any other skin irritations like bites and stings. Hot spots? Aloe’s cool to the touch and will relieve your dog’s discomfort. For best results, apply it twice a day for any of your pet’s skin ailments.
(To learn more about hotspots and how to naturally treat them. Visit our related article here.)
What should you look for in your aloe?
When buying aloe, make sure to look for the inner fillet juice or gel and not the whole leaf, which can produce a laxative effect if your dog consumes it. Make sure the aloe has no preservatives, sweeteners or flavourings and that it’s organic and at least 99% pure. Make sure to always buy the human-grade, for consumption, juice or gel. Gel may be preferable to juice as it’s thicker, but either form will work.
Is aloe safe?
Aloe also contains saponins, which are found in the latex, yellow or orange sap-like residue of the aloe vera leaf rind. Saponins should always be avoided because of their powerful laxative effect.
Keep this in mind when purchasing aloe for your dog:
- Aloe inner fillet juices and gels sold in stores do not contain saponins
- Avoid aloe if your dog has liver and kidney disease as well as pregnant or lactating dogs
When splitting open a leaf, the saponins will be easy to spot. If you want to use your own plant, carefully scoop out the gel and use only that portion of the leaf. Avoid the yellow or orange sap found in the whole rind. For best results, your aloe plant should be at least three years old.