What’s new in holistic pet care? Try apple cider vinegar—or, as its fans call it, ACV. OK, it isn’t new, but this centuries-old product is enjoying new popularity in canine circles.
Those who are old enough remember when apple cider vinegar as a household word with his 1958 best seller, Folk Medicine. Native Vermonters used cider vinegar to cure migraine headaches, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, indigestion, and a host of other ailments.
ACV enthusiasts say that the amber liquid has a multitude of actions and benefits for both dogs and people, including:
• Relieves or prevents arthritis
• Improves digestion
• Acts as a urinary system tonic, clears urinary tract infections, and prevents the formation of kidney and bladder stones
• Improves the growth and condition of fur and hair
• Clears the skin of bacterial and fungal infections
• Reduces skin flaking and dander
• Makes one less attractive to biting insects
• Helps prevent food poisoning
• Acts as a natural antibiotic by interrupting the development of infectious bacterial and viral diseases
• Relieves muscle fatigue
• Alleviates itching
• Improves ability to adapt to cold temperatures
• Reduces hock and elbow calluses
• When applied to the ears, clears and prevents ear infections.
People have been using vinegar for thousands of years, and while most of it goes into salads and condiments, vinegar can be used as a household cleanser, cosmetic aid, and health treatment. Many dog lovers add vinegar to their pets’ food or apply it topically to their best friends. Advocates call vinegar, especially unpasteurized organic apple cider vinegar, a wonder food. Is vinegar really a health-improving supplement, a natural preservative, a nontoxic cleaning product, a disinfectant, a source of important nutrients, and an effective topical treatment for canine ailments?
Some of the claims made by vinegar proponents are supported by research while others are not. Here are some facts about apple cider vinegar (ACV) and other vinegar’s to help you decide whether and when to use it for yourself and your dog.
Vinegar has long been used as a first-aid treatment. Many natural health experts prefer raw organic apple cider vinegar for topical applications, including muscle aches and bruises; sunburn, windburn, abrasions, insect bites, and stings; and hair care (controlling dandruff and improving condition and static control).
Nearly all of vinegar’s human uses can be applied to pets. Because puppies and some dogs have sensitive skin, test a small area by applying vinegar or a vinegar-based herbal tincture (liquid concentrate) recommended for topical use. Check the area every few hours for up to 24 hours. If redness or irritation develops, dilute the vinegar and try again or discontinue use. This type of patch test is not necessary when applying vinegar that will be washed or rinsed off within a few minutes.
–Plain vinegar and herbal tinctures containing cider vinegar repel insects, including fleas and mosquitoes. Spray the neck, torso, tail, underbelly, and overall coat (avoid the eyes, nose, and mouth) and let dry.
-For a nontoxic flea dip, cover your dog or puppy with ACV (spray, sponge, or simply pour it on), working it into the skin and coat. Avoid the eyes, nose, and mouth. Let stand for several minutes before washing with gentle shampoo.
-Dab full-strength cider vinegar or a cider vinegar herbal tincture behind the ears, near the tail, and on the dog’s coat. Because herbal tinctures and cider vinegar can stain light or white coats, substitute distilled white vinegar for light-coated dogs.
Pet stains and odors
-Mix 1 part distilled white vinegar with 3 parts water. Pour onto carpet or other stained areas and blot with fabric or paper towels. Do not rub.
-Refresh and deodorize pet bedding by spraying it with vinegar or by adding vinegar to laundry when washing bedding.
-Clean and disinfect pet toys by spraying lightly, then brushing or wiping clean.
-Vinegar is often recommended as a pet deodorizer. Apply diluted or full-strength vinegar to any stinky coat and let the dog air-dry.
If your dog rolled on well-rotted mammal parts or got sprayed by a skunk, mix 1 freshly opened quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide in a plastic container with 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon liquid soap. Wearing protective gloves, cover the dog while avoiding the nose, eyes, and mouth, then rinse with plain water. If any fragrance lingers (as it did when my Labrador recently rolled on a decomposing carp), apply vinegar to complete the process.
Skin and Coat
–After shampooing, give a final rinse with 1 cup vinegar diluted in 2 to 4 cups water. Experiment with different dilutions for best results.
-Reduce dander by massaging full-strength cider vinegar into the coat before shampooing.
-Apply full-strength or diluted ACV to calluses, rough skin, sunburn, or skin irritations.
-Combine skin-friendly herbs like calendula blossoms, St. John’s wort blossoms, and/or comfrey leaves with ACV to improve its healing effects on cuts, wounds, abrasions, etc.
Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, recommends spraying itchy skin and developing hot spots with apple cider vinegar. “Any skin eruption will dry up in 24 hours,” she says, “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.”
Itchy Feet or Ears
-Dogs with seasonal allergies can develop itchy feet in response to pollen exposure. Soaking the paws in full-strength or diluted ACV can help reduce the itching.
-Plain apple cider vinegar or a vinegar-based herbal tincture can help keep a dog’s ears clean and healthy. Place a few drops in each ear and gently massage, or apply with a cotton swab. For a more medicinal ear drop, make or buy a cider vinegar tincture containing ear-friendly herbs like garlic and mullein blossoms.
-Apply cider vinegar to sore muscles with a sponge or cotton. Do the same for bruises, abrasions, sore paw pads, and other discomforts. Reapply as needed.
Food and Water
If you feed a raw home-prepared diet and are concerned about harmful bacteria in your dog’s food or on kitchen surfaces, use the alternating vinegar-peroxide spray treatment described above.
“I always add raw apple cider vinegar to vegetables when I puree them for my dogs,” says veterinary technician Adele Delp of Helena, Montana. “Vinegar is a natural preservative and the vegetables last several days longer in the refrigerator, which is convenient.”
There are pros and cons to adding cider vinegar to a dog’s drinking water, with the recommended dose usually 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon per 50 pounds of body weight. “People often talk about adding ACV to water bowls, “My feeling is that if so, you should also offer plain water, just in case your dogs don’t want to drink the water with the ACV in it. You wouldn’t want to risk their drinking less water and possibly becoming dehydrated.”
Is a daily dose of apple cider vinegar good for your dog? Unless your dog is allergic to apples, he or she isn’t likely to suffer a serious reaction, and within a month you should be able to tell whether the addition is helping. Commonly reported benefits include improvements in skin and coat condition, a reduction of itching and scratching, the elimination of tear stains on the face, fewer brown or yellow urine spots in lawns, increased mobility in older dogs, reduced flea populations, and an improvement in overall health.
Apple Cider Vinegar Tea Body Rinse
This body rinse can be useful to restore skin pH, soothe itchy skin, calm rashes and welts, and has some added benefits for keeping biting flies, fleas and gnats at bay.
Mix the following ingredients together in an aroma-safe bottle/jar with cap and shake well before use:
Apple Cider Vinegar: 1/2 cup
Brewed Green Tea (cooled): 1/2 cup
Distilled Water: 1 cup
After bathing, apply this warm water/apple cider vinegar rinse to your animal friend’s coat/skin and massage in. Rinse well and pat dry, or allow the apple cider vinegar mix to air dry for the added benefit of bug relief.
This blended mixture can also be pre-made and kept in a glass jar in the refrigerator (for approximately one or two weeks – discard if moldy), and used for spot treatments for bug bites and stings.
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar for Pets
“Many vitamins, minerals and other nutrients and substances are available in Bragg ACV to improve the health of your dog. Bragg ACV can provide them with enzymes and important minerals, such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, chlorine, phosphorus, iron, silicon and other trace minerals. The vitamins contained in Bragg ACV are bioflavonoids (vitamin P), beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, E, B1, B2, and B6. Tannins from the crushed cell walls of fresh apples as well as malic acid, tartaric acid, propionic acid, acetic acid and pectin (fiber) are also contained in Bragg ACV. Be sure to purchase organic unfiltered, unpasteurized, naturally fermented ACV for its medicinal features. Bragg ACV ranges in color from a light golden to orange. You’ll know you’ve found the right stuff if you see sediment, referred to as the “mother of vinegar” on the bottom of the bottle. Do NOT buy white distilled vinegar, as it has none of the beneficial elements listed above.
I began using Bragg ACV as a supplement for my dogs in 1994. Some holistic health practitioners recommend that Bragg ACV be placed in a dog’s drinking water. The dosage I use is 1 tsp. for small dogs and 1 tbs. for medium-large dogs. It can also be given orally diluted in water under the guidance of a vet or holistic health practitioner.
Bragg ACV can be useful to your dog’s health in conjunction with feeding it a wide variety of foods, but should never be looked upon as a panacea. Fresh food ingredients, such as raw meat and bones, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products make up the wholeness that will effectively help your dog to achieve optimum health.
Often times one looks for the magic ingredient that will miraculously make their dog well. Whether it is an antibiotic, grapefruit seed extract, Aloe Vera or milk thistle… there will always be a single popular or trendy supplement of the moment and this supplement will be promoted as the great healing agent. But, if we focus on the part rather than the whole we are not taking a holistic approach to our dog’s health.”
This will save you a ton of money use Bragg’s than less yucky chemicals!