Slippery Elm Bark for Dog Diarrhea and Upset Stomach

Updated on December 10, 2017
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Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Slippery elm bark for dog digestive problems.
Slippery elm bark for dog digestive problems. | Source

What Exactly is Slippery Elm Bark?

The slippery elm tree, also known as Red Elm, is a species of elm (Ulmus rubra) that grows in several portions of States such as along the Appalachian Mountains, North Dakota, Maine Florida, Texas and southeastern Canada. Its inner bark is used to obtain a herbal remedy that has been proven effective to cure many ailments. The term "slippery" is used to depict the viscid gel that forms when the powdered bark is mixed with some water.

In humans, this remedy is used for coughs, sore throats, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, colitis and for many skin conditions such as wounds, boils and abscesses. This herb is estimated to have been used for hundreds of years in North America. Native Americans were familiar with this remedy and used it to create balms for many skin conditions. During the American Revolution, slippery elm was used to treat the wounds of injurd soldiers. Nowadays, the remedy remains quite popular. Braun, Lesley; Cohen, Marc in Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide claim: "Although Slippery Elm has not been scientifically investigated, the FDA has approved it as a safe demulcent substance."

In dogs, this herbal remedy is mostly used for cases of gastrointestinal upset. In the next paragraph we will look at how it works, what dogs it benefits the most and some studies conducted on the efficacy of this herb.

Using Slippery Elm Bark for Dogs with Upset Stomachs

What makes slippery elm useful for treating digestive problems in dogs? The inner bark of slippery elm is blessed with tannins that help reduce inflammation. On top of that, slippery elm contains a substance known as "mucilage" that turns the powder thick, slimy and gooey when mixed with water. When ingested, this mucilage coats, lubricates and soothes the inflamed mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines, giving relief to dogs suffering from several gastro-intestinal disorders.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, slippery elm is generally safe for use in pets because of its mild effects. Rarely animals show allergies to this herb.The outer bark (which should not be used in commercial preparations, as the inner bark is the therapeutic portion) may cause irritation to the digestive and urinary tract and abortions in pregnant animals. Because slippery elm may interfere with the proper absorption of drugs, it should be given at a different time from when medications are administered.

What dog conditions benefit the most from slippery elm? The lubricating qualities of slippery elm can help sooth the respiratory passages of pets suffering from bronchitis and kennel cough helping them swallow better. The tannins sooth the intestinal tract relieving acute diarrhea and the mucilage helps draw out impurities and toxins from the body. For the acute management of constipation and severe bronchitis, slippery elm may be helpful, but additional treatment may be required. The herb is also highly nutritive, being a source of fiber, bioflavonoids, calcium, magnesium, sodium, vitamins A, E, C, K and B-complex. On top of that, slippery elm is also a prebiotic and helps promote balanced flora in the gut.

What do vets think about slippery elm? Many have many good things to share. Holistic veterinarian Michele Yasson claims: "I use this herb more than any other in my practice! It provides superb relief, and has kept many patients from hospitalization." She then adds how suitable it is for the inflamed mucous membranes of the digestive system and compares its use to a soothing internal bandage that coats the digestive tract from start to finish. Additionally, she claims that it has a bland taste that makes it easy to add to tasty foods.

Veterinarian Karen Becker claims " My favorite all-natural anti-diarrhea remedy is an herb called slippery elm bark. I recommend always having some on hand so when you need it, it’s right there. Slippery elm is safe for puppies, adults, and geriatric dogs and it is completely safe blended with other medications. I recommend about a half teaspoon for each 10 pounds of body weight, mixed into the bland diet twice daily."

Note: In order for this natural "peptobismol" to work its magic, slippery elm must be mixed with cold water until it becomes slimy. Afterward, it could be mixed with food. Holistic veterinarian Michele Yasson suggests two different preparations the simple tea method and long brew method on her page on Guidelines for GastroIntestinal Problems.

For those interested in a study conducted on the efficacy of slippery elm, one was conducted recently. Here is the whole text: "Expedited Management of Canine and Feline Vomiting and Diarrhea. Observational Study in 3952 Dogs and 2248 Cats Using Sucralfate-Like Potency-Enhanced Polyanionic Phyto-Saccharide—Elm Mucilage"

A word of caution: if you find your dog needs slippery elm for quite some time or that the moment you stop giving this herb, his symptoms reappear, pay attention to what your dog's body is trying to tell you. There may be chances you are dealing with an underlying chronic condition that needs veterinary care. Therefore, just as using a bland diet for a dog upset stomach, you should use slippery elm only for those occasional mild causes of digestive upset that you know are due to a dietary change or recent stress. If your dog acts lethargic, develops other symptoms, or you see blood in the stools you should see your vet at once.

Disclaimer: This article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is sick, please see your vet. Also, consult with your vet or holistic vet before adding any supplements. He/she will give you the exact guidelines and dosing instructions.

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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 weeks ago from USA

      It comes in powder form and is sold in many places online. There's even a brand made purposely for pets known as GastroElm Plus. Always consult with a vet before starting dogs on any supplements.

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      Benji's mom 4 weeks ago

      Nancy, I get mine in a powder form and organic. Just look up slippery elm bark on Ebay or Amazon. Amazon even sells a brand made for pets known as GastroElm Plus.

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      Nancy Besser 4 weeks ago

      So how do you buy this . I found it in vitamin section in a grocery store and it is a capsule . Is this the same thing or is there another way to buy this ?

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      Jandal33 16 months ago

      This is an age old remedy, originating from Native American Indians. I have used it for 40 years on dogs, babies and myself. Its a great antacid, providing almost instant relief from the burning pain of an inflamed gut, while healing the area.

      Less is more when using it, and always increase water intake as it absorbs fluids rapidly.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      I am stocking up on some too, as you never know, but as I read about the benefits to humans, I may end up using it too!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Looks like something every dog owner should have on hand! I think I'll go buy some. There are seven dogs in the family so I'm sure one of them will need it at one time or another.

      Thanks for the introduction.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.