Epsom Salt for Dogs

By Karen S. Johnson

Man’s best friend can suffer several of the same ailments that afflict his guardian: cuts, sores, allergies and abscesses. Keeping Epsom salt on hand can ease your dog’s discomfort in ways that potentially can eliminate added veterinarian costs. You can use Epsom salt -- magnesium sulfate -- externally on your dog similarly to how you use it on yourself. Don’t ever give your dog Epsom salt internally unless your veterinarian prescribes it.

Wound Cleansing

The best-kept dog still manages the occasional scratch or cut. In many cases, cleaning it well with warm tap water is sufficient, but Epsom salt also can reduce associated swelling. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt to 2 cups of water. Use a washcloth or cotton balls to remove dirt and debris. Continue this cleaning as often as necessary or until the wound heals. If the wound is on your dog’s foot, paw, toe or toenail, soak the paw in the salt and water solution for 5 to 10 minutes by placing his foot in a cup or plastic bag. If the wound has abscessed, repeat several times a day until the abscess opens, then continue daily until healed. Consult your veterinarian if the wound is slow to heal, red or warm to the touch.

Removing Allergens and Irritants

Your dog only sweats from his nose and his paws, and those damp paws are effective at collecting all types of benign and potentially damaging substances. Pollen, dust mites, molds and pesticides are common irritants. Toxins from chemicals can build up in your dog, and irritate his paws, causing him to lick or chew. Soak your dog’s paws in Epsom salt and warm water every day when he has finished his outdoor pursuits to draw out the irritants and relieve the itching. Using 1 teaspoon for every 2 cups of water, you can place him in a tub or sink, depending on his willingness and his size, or soak his feet individually in small cups, buckets or plastic bags.

Anal Gland Soak

Your dog’s scoot across the floor may seem humorous to you, but it could signal a problem with his anal glands, especially if you also notice he is licking his bottom frequently. Anal gland blockage may occur if your dog isn’t defecating frequently enough to secrete fluids from his glands. Soak a wash cloth in your warm Epsom salt solution and hold it to his bottom for five minutes, twice a day. Exert as much pressure as your dog will allow. If the problem persists for a week or longer, and especially if you notice an abscess in his anal glands or a decrease in defecation, consult your veterinarian.

Not for Internal Consumption

Resist any well-intended advice to feed your dog Epsom salt for any condition, such as to relieve constipation. According to Dr. Janet Roark of Hill Country Mobile Veterinary Service in Austin, Texas, Epsom salt can increase magnesium in your dog’s bloodstream, and can increase the risk of metabolic alkalosis -- a metabolic condition that elevates tissue pH, potentially causing serious side effects. Roark prefers adding pumpkin, probiotics, aloe vera juice or apple cider vinegar to a dog’s diet for constipation relief. Increasing his water intake and daily exercise also may help.