Using herbs to treat cats is generally contraindicated due to their extreme sensitivity and tendency to react negatively; however, slippery elm bark has been found effective and safe for use in cats. It is especially good for treating ailments affecting the bladder and kidneys and during renal failure. Kidney disease and diabetes are common ailments in older cats. Slippery elm bark is known for preventing or reversing damage to a cat’s kidneys.
Slippery elm bark is harvested from the stringy, inner bark of the American elm tree. It’s important to make sure to buy it from a reputable source because some products are contaminated with bark taken from diseased trees affected with Dutch elm disease. The herb has been used for centuries as a medicinal agent for both humans and animals. Its greatest effects are on the mucous membranes of the digestive tract and linings of organs.
Uses and Benefits
Ailments ranging from mouth sores to stomatitis, throat pain, coughing, upset stomach, vomiting, esophagitis, ulcers, and urinary tract problems respond well to treatment with slippery elm. Because it’s considered a food, it is usually well tolerated and has few side effects in humans or in cats.
When consumed, slippery elm coats the lining of the digestive tract with a soothing layer of mucilage, a slippery substance that protects against inflammation. Mucilage is highly effective in preventing bodily acids from burning and irritating delicate tissues.
The easiest way to administer slippery elm bark to a cat is by making a syrup or soft gruel from the pure powder. It’s very easy on the stomach, and will relieve nausea that accompanies kidney disease in cats, as well as settle the stomach, making it more comfortable for them to eat. It’s high in fiber, helping to relieve constipation, also a common complaint during kidney disease. Your cat’s coat will improve and her skin will become less flaky and dry, less itchy and more pliable.
Antacid and Appetite Stimulant
Some pet owners give their cats antacids like famotidine on the advice of their veterinarians to control painful acid stomach, a persistent problem affecting many cats in renal failure. Treating with small amounts of slippery elm syrup is a gentler way to reduce the pain and eliminates the need to give pharmaceutical medication made for humans, not cats. Slippery elm bark will also alleviate the formation of hairballs and help cats regain some of their lost weight by stimulating the appetite.
Slippery elm is available in capsules, tincture and loose powder form. It’s best to use it as a wild-crafted powder, which should have no additives, nor be mixed with other herbs. Avoid giving your cats slippery elm tinctures, which are mixed with alcohol — or capsules, which may have other additives.
Slippery Elm Syrup
Make your cat a homemade slippery elm syrup. Add 1 to 1 1/2 tsp. of the powder to 1 cup of cold water. Dampen the powder by stirring, which helps avoid lumps. Boil the mixture in a stainless steel or glass pot for about 3 minutes, stirring continually. Allow it to thicken to the consistency of maple syrup or molasses. Store in a dark colored dropper bottle in a cool place for one day or in the refrigerator no more than five days. Label and date the bottle. Give your cat 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. mixed with her food or straight if she’ll drink it. You can administer up to 4 doses a day. For the most difficult cats, squirt onto their paws during their bath time and they will lick it off.
Little Big Cat: Slippery Elm
Felinecrf.org: Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Feline Chronic Kidney Disease
University of Maryland Medical Center: Slippery Elm
NYU Langone Medical Center: Slippery Elm
Wull-Tilford, Mary L.; Herbs for Pets. P. 219 Irvine, CA: Bowtie Press; 1999
Natural Pet Healthcare for dogs, cats, etc: How to Make Slippery Elm Syrup for Pets
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