The internet can encyclopedic, with great information, but you have to be a skeptic. Some information can be misinformation, or even harmful to your pets, but it can be difficult to sort out! Also, many times information is anecdotal, without the scientific evidence backing it to prove it is true. When researching as to whether an item is appropriate or not to use for your pet, give your vet a call. This will likely be the best resource for you, since they know your pet well, and can tell you the safety for that specific animal. Secondarily, sources such as the pubmed research database, the veterinary partner website, or lifelearn articles on our website are excellent other resources.
I'm going to discuss a few common anecdotally recommended items which are not as helpful as you may think, and some which can be harmful.
Tea Tree Oil
There are many websites and product which purport the benefits of using tea tree oil application on the skin, or in shampoos or conditioners. What many people don't know is that dogs and cats are much more sensitive to this product than humans, with it being absorbed through the skin into the nervous system, causing varying severity from weakness to paralysis! All pets are sensitive to the product in the air, it can cause breathing issues. If ingested, it can be toxic, and pets can have severe reactions and even liver damage with tea tree oil products. Check out the aspca toxicity information on Tea Tree Oil.
While delicious as coconut oil is when used for cooking, it does not have the same skin benefits as omega fatty acids. Coconut oil is a medium chain triglyceride, which if ingested, the body uses as calories- it is broken down well in the small intestines. While omega fatty acids in the correct dosages can be used to treat many inflammatory conditions such as skin and joint issues.
On the skin, coconut oil is still a food- but for bacteria and yeast! We often see skin issues get worse very quickly when this oil is applied to the skin. Plus, your pet will try to lick it, which also adds more bacteria to the skin!
Yoghurt as a probiotic
The type of bacteria in yoghurt is in the genus of Lactobacillus. Since the exact strains and volumes of Lactobacillus vary widely in yoghurt, not being in high enough concentrations to be helpful, and yoghurt can often promote vomiting and diarrhea since dogs and cats can't digest it well- Yoghurt is not be best probiotic for our pets.
Chamomile tea on irritated eyes
Chamomile tea has had some reports of toxicity with dogs and cats, exposed mainly from drinking from an unguarded mug! Chamomile tea has Coumadin inside, which can predispose to bleeding disorders, vomiting and diarrhea. For some reason, animals seem to be much more sensitive to the Coumadin than humans. So, while chamomile has some properties of reduced inflammation, it isn't worth the risk of using a tea bag on those eyes.
Garlic and Heartworm disease or Fleas
There are many safe heartworm and flea medications available through your veterinarian. The good news is, heartworm preventions have been tested stringently and have been proven to work well. There are no safe alternatives to heartworm prevention which actually work to prevent heartworm disease. Garlic is a food which contains sulfur compounds. Enough sulfur compounds can cause a type of anemia called Heinz body anemia. Remember, if we don't protect our pets from heartworm disease, the treatment for heartworm disease is quite expensive, and can cause them pain, illness, and discomfort. Prevention is safe and effective.
Not an all exhaustive list, but at least an overview on the more common home remedies. If you have any questions about whether you should use something with your pet, give your vet a call.