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Is Witch Hazel Safe for Dogs?

a grey dog with its ears perked up ready to have witch hazel used on a wound

I will get you the answer to your question right away (because I assume you are here because you are in a situation where your dog is hurt and you don’t have other options on hand) and tell you that yes, in general, witch hazel is safe to use for dogs. There are several different ways that this at home remedy can come in handy for your average dog owner. So take a look at the article below to find out everything you need to know about how to use witch hazel safely on  your dog, the different ways that witch hazel can come in handy, and the ways vets warn not to use it!

witch hazel plant
Witch hazel is a natural remedy that comes from a plant that grows in North America.

What is Witch Hazel?

And How to Use It Safely On Your Dog

Witch hazel, (or as it is known to the scientific community Hamamelis virginiana)  is a small, yellow-flowered North American shrub. The Native Americans have used the witch hazel plant as a natural folk remedy for an untold number of years. The leaves, bark, and stems from the plant have long been associated with medical uses and now even in the 21st Century (with all the miracles of modern medicine) you can find witch hazel right at your local drug store.

The primary use of witch hazel these days is as an astringent. Which is a liquid based treatment that is applied to the skin, oftentimes to the skin on your face. The reason people use witch hazel this way is because witch hazel has the effects of diminishing inflammation, drawing tissue together, and even slowing bleeding.

It’s obvious to see why people put witch hazel on their face. Reducing inflammation and keeping skin tissue tight and wrinkle free are definitely a desirable outcome for a lot of people. However, it is that last part that you are probably interested in. If your dog is hurt you are probably interested in how witch hazel can slow bleeding.

bottles of witch hazel and other dog + people wound remedies
Witch hazel has a long history of being used for medical purposes and natural remedies.

How to Use Witch Hazel Safely on Your Dog

Why On Earth Does A Dog Need An Astringent?

The nice thing about witch hazel being an astringent is that it actually has a myriad of potential effects. Although human beings love to use astringents on our face to keep ourselves looking young and beautiful, the effects of witch hazel can be applied in numerous other beneficial ways.

You want to make sure that you are using witch hazel specifically designed to be used on pets if you can. If you are using one made for humans make sure you choose a vegetable glycerin-based product if you can. You want to avoid isopropyl alcohol because isopropyl can be quite toxic if it is ingested.

But after you have made sure you have an appropriate type of twitch hazel for your dog, it can be used in several ways to help your pet. The anti-inflammatory effects of witch hazel means that it helps reduce the inflamed tissue around a cut, scrape, or bug bite. This can be particularly useful if you have a dog who loves to gnaw or lick at their wounds or bug bites. Applying witch hazel topically around the wound decreases the inflammation, which in turn reduces your dog's need to itch and scratch at it. This can be especially useful if your dog is battling flea bites. Witch hazel applied topically can help to greatly reduce the itching that the bites cause.  

And if it is a small flesh wound (one measuring less than an inch and only on the surface tissue) witch hazel can be used to disinfect a wound. The fact that witch hazel makes the skin tissue tighten up will help stop the flow of blood from the wound as well as all around help reduce the pain associated with a small flesh wound.

And since witch hazel makes a safe disinfectant, you can even use it to clean your dog's ears. Just put a few drops on a cotton ball or swab and you are good to go

Dog rolling around in the hay
Witch hazel can be great at helping out an itchy dog with bug bites, but be aware it can exacerbate dry skin issues.

Witch Hazel Is Safe In Small Amounts

And You Should Never Use it Internally

Veterinarians recommend only using witch hazel topically on your dog's skin a couple of times a day. If you apply too much, or apply it too frequently, it can actually have the opposite effect of what you are looking for and cause an exacerbation of the conditions you are trying to relieve.

This is because the witch hazel also causes a drying process on the skin as it dehydrates. And as such it can slow down the healing process if it is used too much and overly dries out the skin around the wound or bug bite. As such, you should avoid using witch hazel if you believe your dog is biting or scratching due to dry skin and not because of bug bites or small surface wounds.

Finally, you want to be sure to avoid allowing your dog to ingest witch hazel. In high dosages, witch hazel can cause kidney and liver damage when it is taken internally. As such, the amount of witch hazel you use to clean a wound, should be fine for your dog to lick at a little bit, But you don’t want to let them be excessive about it (especially if you used a witch hazel product that contains isopropyl alcohol).

If your dog does accidentally ingest witch hazel, keep an eye out for unusual behaviors such as drooling, rubbing their nose and mouth around on the ground, or vomiting or diarrhea.

When used topically just be sure to keep an eye out for redness, burns, or dry skin.

Happy dog nuzzling its owner
When used appropriately witch hazel can make a fantastic natural topical solution right at home for any dog owner.

And there you have it, you now know how to use this safe and natural alternative remedy for your dog the next time they have a minor wound or an itchy bug bite. Just be sure to make sure you are using a safe style of witch hazel and to avoid allowing your dog to ingest it.

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