If you’re interested in holistic health or natural remedies, you may already know slippery elm as a wellness staple. Like many other herbal remedies, slippery elm has a multitude of purported benefits (though definitive research on them is, unfortunately, very limited).
Still, based on their experience, practitioners of alternative medicine tout slippery elm for its ability to ease irritation and inflammation from a number of ailments including heartburn, digestive distress, and even urinary tract infections.
So, can your dog reap the many potential health benefits of slippery elm, or should this supplement go on the not-for-doggos shelf in your medicine cabinet?
Read on for everything you need to know about slippery elm for dogs, including what exactly it is, how to figure out the correct slippery elm dosage for dogs, and what to look for when you shop for it, with expert insight from veterinarians.
What is Slippery Elm?
“Slippery elm is an herbal remedy derived from the North American elm tree that has been used for centuries,” says Dr. Carol Osborne, an integrative veterinarian based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. When the bark of this towering, large-leaved deciduous tree is combined with water, it creates a particularly thick and slippery gel best known for its lubricating qualities.
Native American tribes found a variety of uses for slippery elm, which they passed on to early colonists. For example, they mixed slippery elm bark with water to create eye washes and teas to soothe sore eyes and throats and drink as a natural laxative, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Today, alternative medicine practitioners continue to recommend slippery elm bark for sore throats, coughs, colds, digestive issues (such as constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome), and bladder and urinary tract infections. While slippery elm may be effective for a sore throat, more research is needed to explore its potential to treat other health conditions and discover appropriate dosages, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Of course, just because something is good for you doesn’t mean it’s medicine to your pup (we see you, dark chocolate!). Here, everything you need to know about slippery elm for pets.
Slippery Elm for Dogs: Are There Benefits?
Slippery elm has the stamp of approval from holistic veterinarians for use in pets, including dogs and cats.
But, how exactly does it work? “The solution produced when slippery elm contacts water is thought to calm and coat the lining of inflamed mucous membranes,” says Dr. Joanna Woodnutt. This may be thanks to tannins, anti-inflammatory substances found in slippery elm bark, as well as the lubricating qualities of the gel.
Thanks to slippery elm’s ability to dial down inflammation, some veterinarians recommend it to help ease symptoms in some of their canine clients.
Osborne notes that slippery elm may help dogs with:
- Gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, colitis, gastroenteritis, and irritable bowel disease.
- Respiratory issues like a sore throat and cough from conditions like a collapsed trachea, bronchitis, or acid reflux.
- Skin irritation from minor wounds, burns, ulcers, and hot spots.
How to Prepare Slippery Elm for Dogs
After receiving the okay from your veterinarian, you can purchase slippery elm bark powder in bulk, capsule, or tablet form. Before you can give it to your dog, though, you’ll need to mix it with water.
“The best form of slippery elm to use is whatever form suits your purpose,” says Osborne.
For instance, slippery elm can be used as an oral syrup to relieve sore throats, coughs, oral burns, and ulcers. It can be added in with your dog’s food to help relieve GI distress. You may also mix it into a paste in order to apply it to any hot spots, burns, rashes, or other minor wounds, she says.
Of course, preparation is only one part of the puzzle. To make sure your dog is reaping the soothing benefits of this herbal remedy, you’ll also need to make sure she’s receiving the appropriate slippery elm dosage.
Slippery Elm Dosage for Dogs
So, how much slippery elm does your dog actually need? “Dosages of slippery elm for dogs vary,” says Dr. Osborne. “Some pet parents give 100 milligrams per 10 pounds, and many canine inflammatory conditions require giving slippery elm two to four times daily.”
Of course, always consult with your veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet, she says. They can help prescribe the correct dosage based on your dog’s individual needs, health condition, size, and age.
Slippery Elm Side Effects for Dogs
While slippery elm is generally considered safe, check in with your veterinarian before you give it to your pup. Although it’s rare, your dog may have an allergy or sensitivity to slippery elm.
Because the herbal substance could also slow down the absorption of other medications when given simultaneously, your veterinarian might advise that you give your dog slippery elm an hour or two before you administer her other medications, adds Osborne.
Finally, whether your dog is suffering from a particularly bad bout of diarrhea, a gnarly case of kennel cough, or other suspicious symptoms, it’s important to make sure she’s receiving the best possible care. That means a visit to your veterinarian for a solid diagnosis and treatment plan is a must before you turn to any at-home remedies, slippery elm included.
Where to Buy Slippery Elm for Dogs
The slippery elm you’d find in a health store or online supplement shop for human consumption can also be given to your pup.
However, the same precautions you’d use for your own medications apply to your dog, too.
Because supplements aren’t highly regulated (and might not contain the labeled amount of slippery elm or even contain other ingredients not included on the label), make sure to ask your veterinarian for advice on the most trustworthy manufacturers before you lay down big bucks on a slippery elm product for dogs.
Don't miss our vet-approved pet care tips!
Sign up for our newsletter to stay in-the-know.