It’s time to have a word or two about coltsfoot leaf for dogs. Also known as Tussilago farfara, this plant is from the daisy family and it native to Europe and parts of Asia. Coltsfoot is a perennial found in colonies of plants and akin to dandelions in appearance, with leaves that resemble a colt’s foot – hence the name.
Coltsfoot has a number of applications in herbal medicine, with the leaves used in Austria as part of a tea. There are some toxicity concerns, however, with the presence of tumorigenic pyrrolizidine alkaloids providing a few reasons to exercise caution. There are documented cases of coltsfoot leaf benefits producing severe liver problems in infants.
For this reason, we’ll be discussing coltsfoot with a degree of appropriate caution. But there are some benefits of coltsfoot herb for dogs and it does provide a relief for easing things like wet coughs, as it helps eliminate mucus and inhibits the growth of bacteria.
What is Coltsfoot herb used for?
Therapeutic Uses of Coltsfoot for Dogs
As detailed, there are some risks associated with coltsfoot that must be measured. Coltsfoot does have applications as a cough expectorant, but its potential for liver damage may not make it your first resort for your four-legged friend. For this reason, we recommend care when using coltsfoot but nonetheless have discovered several beneficial uses for Tussilago farfara.
- Coltsfoot Tea: Coltsfoot is often cited as an herb that soothes the throat because of its capacity for eliminating mucus from the bronchi. The plant is used in Austria as part of a tea that is taken to soothe the throat and a similar recipe does work for some dogs manifesting a wet cough. The leaves and flowers of coltsfoot can be brewed into a tea and served to your pet, once cooled of course. This can help soothe sore throats and eliminate the symptoms of a wet cough.
- Coltsfoot Poultice: The flowers of coltsfoot have been used to make a poultice to treat certain skin conditions. Coltsfoot can be applied as a topical balm to treat inflammation, insect stings and eczema. Because it inhibits the growth of bacteria, this herbal wonder can perhaps help in the healing of certain wounds as well. Always take precautions when applying herbs to your dog’s skin, however, and use a small sample area first to determine if there are any allergic reactions.
- Coltsfoot Mucilage: One interesting application of coltsfoot is found by burning the leaves. Coltsfoot contains a high amount of mucilage, which is responsible for the demulcent effects of the plant. Accessing the mucilage requires burning, which subsequently releases the effects of the substance. The issue here is that the respiratory system would obviously be irritated by the smoke and subsequently undermine the positive effects of the mucilage.
- Echinacea Plant: Coltsfoot is like Echinacea and slippery elm many respects, especially when it comes to managing respiratory and throat conditions. Echinacea is often preferred because of its relative safety, but it can lose efficacy is used too often. Slippery elm can be found in lozenges and extracts and may also be safer to use than coltsfoot for accomplishing the same goals. But your dog may indeed benefit from coltsfoot and may find different results. Learn more about Echinacea here.
As mentioned, there are some risks associated with using coltsfoot for dogs. The documented cases of liver damage can be rather startling, but they should be taken into account before you make any decisions. Coltsfoot was banned in Germany after known cases of harm to infants, although a clone version of the herb free of pyrrolizidine alkaloids was eventually developed.
For your purposes, it’s always best to exercise care before proceeding. If you have any misgivings about an herbal treatment like coltsfoot for dogs, it’s best to abstain. For some dogs, coltsfoot may be the miracle cure for a wet cough. For others, liver damage may occur and far outweigh any benefits this curious but productive herb can offer.
Reasons to Use Coltsfoot for Dogs
Coltsfoot’s main application is in its treatment of wet cough. It should not be used for kennel cough, which is a dry cough. Coltsfoot does help break down mucus in the bronchi and can be beneficial for some respiratory conditions, but the associated side effects may be enough to deter usage for some.
For this reason, we recommend using coltsfoot with a serious caution. Use of this herb should be done only with extreme care and consideration for any manifestations of side effects. Pay attention to how your dog reacts to coltsfoot and adjust your herbal toolkit accordingly. There are other options that produce similar results.
References: Herbs for Pets by M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford, Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats by CJ Puotinen