Uses of Aloe Vera in Dogs
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Aloe vera is an ancient plant which has had multiple uses in various cultures since ancient times. While we can find it today in everything from body lotions to refreshing juices, does its ubiquity mean it is the wonder plant so many people claim it to be? While humans have been boasting about its benefits, can the same be said for using aloe vera with dogs?
In this AnimalWised article we will tell you the possible uses of aloe vera in dogs, both internally and externally. In doing so, we can see if it is a product we should encourage to boost the health of our canine friends.
Aloe Vera - the plant of immortality?
The plant of immortality was the name that aloe vera received in antiquity, its perceived healing properties thought to create an extend life through well-being. It was used by Christopher Columbus and all his crew and nicknamed "the doctor plant", as it was also used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. There are millions of records throughout world history of its countless uses but, with the passage of time, they have been superseded by medical advancements.
There are two types of aloe vera which have been used for dogs:
- Aloe vera
- Aloe arborescens
Both are said by many sources to have advantages for our animals and for us. The properties it is claimed to provide include refreshment, healing and toning. Certain claims say that this plant is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are purported to be plants which help the body return to its ‘true state of health’. This means whether your dog has diarrhea or a bout of the cold, despite being different conditions, an adaptogen should be able to restore them to health.
However, there is little important and rigorous study on whether adaptogens exist and even less which claim aloe vera is one of them. One of the few reviews which purports the benefits of adaptogens claims that they essentially act as anti-stressors in the neuro-endocrine and immune systems and that they ‘induce increased attention and endurance’. While some effort has been made to show the efficacy of the so-called adaptogens at the molecular level, the study acknowledges the limits of the research and evidence. They claim in one section that ‘the majority of studies cited here are the most questionable and poorly documented’, yet continue to make assertions as if this were not the case.
The study accurately claims that there is room for research and investigation into these areas, but most of the evidence used to support it was carried out in the pre-1980s Soviet Union and South East Asia where methodology was limited, if not incorrect. There is so little sufficient evidence through appropriate clinical trials that they are not recognized by the European Union and, until conclusive evidence through pre-clinical and clinical trials is presented, should not be used in medical marketing.
In terms of aloe vera, one of the supposed adaptogenic phytochemicals found in this plant are phenols. Research supports the toxic properties of phenols in dogs, resulting in phenol posioning. One study showed that percutaneous (through the skin) absorption phenols resulted in mild toxicity, the symptoms of which were anorexia, muscular twitching, excessive salivation and skin lesions. While it might take a lot of aloe vera to cause this toxicity and the symptoms can abate with proper treatment, the potential for harm appears to outweigh the supposed benefits.
Benefits of aloe vera for dogs
There is research which suggests aloe vera might have beneficial antioxidant effects. The extent of these effects, however, are not yet known, particularly when it comes to application in canines. What we do know is that there are toxic properties which can exacerbate some of the issues proponents of aloe vera claim to alleviate. These toxic properties are why the ASPCA lists it as a toxic plant not to be ingested by dogs, cats or horses.
These may include:
- Digestive problems such as anorexia, lack of appetite, diarrhea, colds, vomiting, etc. As we have seen above, phenol toxicity can create these problems, not cure them.
- Hepatic detoxification means it is used by some to repair their liver. However, a 2010 study on 3 women showed that their consumption of aloe vera preparations where a ‘causative agent in hepatotoxicity’ and their liver enzymes returned to normal when they stopped consumption of aloe vera.
- Topically it has been used to treat allergies, pruritus, hair loss, skin lesions and even new and old scars. As we have shown above, percutaneous application of aloe vera might potentially be toxic. It is unlikely small amounts will cause much harm if it is applied directly to the skin and may be refreshing. However, if the dog has open wounds or skin lesions, then using aloe in a topical application is not recommended.
The problem with aloe vera is not necessarily that there aren't enough studies on its uses and properties. One of the issues is that there are many and often contradictory studies produced. While some may make bold claims, others will make bolder refutations. What is unequivocal and unignorable are the consistent calls for ‘further study’ and a lack of conclusive evidence to support claims of benefits.
Much of the benefits which are claimed to help are those which can be adequately provided by a suitable diet and engendering a positive and enriched environment. When it comes to specific gastrointestinal or dermatological problems, veterinarians would not be prescribing aloe vera over clinically tested and approved medicines. Any who do, may be doing so to the detriment of the individual dog and the profession as a whole.
This does not completely rule out the potential for aloe vera benefits in the future or the use of extracts to be used in veterinary medicine. What it means is that this potential is yet to be confirmed and behaving as it has been can be dangerous. Without adequate evidence to support its use, why would we use it on our beloved pets when it is possible it can cause them harm? Even a slim potential is worse than not using it at all if there are other viable treatment methods available.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to Uses of Aloe Vera in Dogs, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.