How much slippery elm can I give my dog?

Slippery elm is an herbal supplement derived from the inner bark of the slippery elm tree. It contains mucilage, a substance that becomes a slick gel when mixed with water. This mucilage coats and soothes irritated tissues in the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines. Slippery elm has been used in herbal medicine for centuries to treat many conditions, and is sometimes recommended by veterinarians to soothe digestive issues in dogs. But how much slippery elm is safe to give your dog? Here’s what you need to know.

What is slippery elm and how does it work?

The slippery elm tree, also known as Ulmus rubra or Indian elm, is native to North America. The inner bark of the tree contains mucilage, a substance composed primarily of polysaccharides like cellulose and starch. When the bark is finely powdered and mixed with water, the mucilage forms a thick, slippery gel.

This gel coats the mouth, throat, stomach, and intestinal walls. It acts as a demulcent, meaning it soothes irritated tissues and protects them from inflammation and irritation. The gel also helps trap toxins and pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract, preventing them from settling in and causing damage.

In addition, slippery elm may help stimulate nerve endings in the GI tract to increase mucus secretion. The extra mucus further protects and soothes inflammation. Lastly, slippery elm contains antioxidants that help relieve oxidative stress.

Thanks to these mechanisms, slippery elm has been used traditionally to treat digestive issues like:

– Diarrhea
– Constipation
– Acid reflux
– Ulcers
– Abscesses
– Irritable bowel syndrome

Today, veterinarians may recommend slippery elm to soothe similar conditions in dogs, especially gastritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Is slippery elm safe for dogs?

When used correctly under the guidance of a veterinarian, slippery elm is generally safe for dogs. The FDA classifies it as GRAS (generally recognized as safe).

However, some dogs may be allergic to or intolerant of slippery elm. It’s possible for contact allergies to develop if a dog inhales the powdered supplement or gets it on their skin. Dogs with a history of dermatitis or asthma may be more prone to this.

Rarely, slippery elm can cause cramps or nausea in sensitive dogs. It may also interfere with prescription medications if not spaced out properly. Always consult your vet before giving slippery elm or any new supplement to your dog.

Some additional precautions include:

– Don’t give slippery elm to puppies or pregnant/nursing dogs unless a vet approves it. Safety has not been established in these groups.

– Check the label and avoid slippery elm tinctures containing alcohol, as alcohol is toxic to dogs.

– Don’t use slippery elm for more than a few weeks at a time unless directed by your vet. Long-term use hasn’t been studied in dogs.

– Introduce slippery elm slowly at first to monitor for any allergic reactions or tummy upset.

– Be sure to purchase slippery elm bark powder made specifically for dogs. The consistency and purity may vary between brands made for humans versus pets.

How much slippery elm should I give my dog?

The amount of slippery elm to give a dog depends on their size and the reason it’s being used. Follow your vet’s dosage instructions, as the general guidelines below are not one-size-fits-all.

For mild gastrointestinal issues like the occasional upset stomach, smaller dogs under 25 lbs can take 250-500 mg slippery elm 2-3 times per day. Medium dogs 25-50 lbs can take 500-750 mg 2-3 times daily, while larger dogs over 50 lbs can take up to 1000 mg 2-3 times per day.

For more severe cases of gastritis, IBD, ulcers, etc., the dosage may be higher under veterinary guidance. Up to 3000 mg per day could be appropriate in some circumstances.

Slippery elm powder can be mixed into a small amount of broth, gravy, baby food, yogurt or canned pumpkin to mask the taste. Give it 1-2 hours before or after other medications or supplements, as the mucilage can interfere with absorption.

Avoid slippery elm for more than 4-6 weeks at a time, unless advised otherwise by your veterinarian. Long-term use can impact nutrient absorption. Periodic breaks are a good idea.

Also keep tabs on your dog’s stool. Diarrhea or constipation can be a sign you need to adjust the dosage. Aim for normal stools as the goal.

Other tips for giving slippery elm to dogs

Here are some other quick tips for giving your dog slippery elm:

– Store slippery elm powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to maintain freshness. The mucilage starts to break down over time with exposure to moisture and heat.

– Before scooping from the container, stir up the powder to redistribute any moisture that’s accumulated at the bottom. This helps ensure accurate dosing.

– Give slippery elm on an empty stomach whenever possible, especially if using it to soothe nausea. This allows it to coat the stomach lining without competition.

– Consider mixing slippery elm with chamomile tea, marshmallow root, licorice, and ginger for added synergistic soothing effects on the GI tract.

– Slippery elm can be used externally too. Make a poultice to soothe skin irritation by mixing the powder with enough hot water to form a paste. Let it cool before applying.

– Due to its thick, gel-like texture, slippery elm may cause choking hazard if enough water isn’t mixed in or a dog inhales the powder. Administer carefully, especially to elderly dogs or those with dental issues.

– Don’t rely on slippery elm alone long-term to treat chronic digestive issues. Work with your vet on an overall management plan that addresses the underlying problem.

Are there any drug interactions with slippery elm?

Slippery elm can potentially delay or decrease absorption of prescription medications and supplements if given at the same time. This is due to it coating the digestive tract.

To prevent interference, give slippery elm at least 1-2 hours before or after other oral medications or supplements. Be sure to check with your vet about any specific drug interactions that may apply.

Some medications known to potentially interact with slippery elm include:

– Antibiotics
– ACE inhibitors like enalapril
– NSAIDs like carprofen and meloxicam
– Steroids like prednisone
– Digoxin
– Medications for diabetes, epilepsy, cancer and more

The mucilage effects of slippery elm may also reduce absorption of nutrients from food. Avoid using it for more than 4-6 weeks at a time for this reason.

And note that slippery elm can cause hypoglycemia when given along with insulin in diabetic dogs. Blood glucose levels need to be monitored closely in this situation.

Are there any alternatives to slippery elm?

For dogs that can’t tolerate slippery elm, some alternatives to consider include:

Marshmallow root – Contains mucilage that similarly soothes GI irritation. Dose is 80-240 mg/kg body weight.

Licorice root – Soothes inflammation and protects the stomach lining. Use deglycyrrhizinated forms.

Pectin – A soluble fiber that forms a gel to coat and protect the intestines.

Aloe vera – Has anti-inflammatory effects. Use the inner leaf gel only.

Glutamine – An amino acid that helps maintain the intestinal lining. Give 500-1000 mg per day.

Slippery elm alternatives for skin

For skin conditions, alternatives to slippery elm poultices include:

– Oatmeal – Soothes and moisturizes irritated skin.
– Honey – Has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
– Aloe vera gel – Reduces inflammation and healing.
– Chamomile tea – Calms skin irritations.

Always monitor your dog closely when trying new natural remedies and report any adverse reactions to your vet right away. Stop use if any irritation or sensitivities develop.

Can I give my dog too much slippery elm?

Yes, it’s possible to give a dog too much slippery elm. Some signs of overdose can include:

– Vomiting
– Diarrhea
– Constipation
– Dark stools
– Dehydration
– Fatigue/lethargy
– Abdominal pain
– Mineral deficiencies

Extremely high doses of slippery elm could potentially cause intestinal blockages or choking from excess mucilage production.

If you suspect slippery elm overdose in your dog, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 immediately. Treatment may involve inducing vomiting, intravenous fluid therapy, muscle relaxants, and other supportive care.

To prevent overdose, carefully follow your vet’s dosing instructions and monitor stool consistency and hydration status. Don’t exceed 4-6 weeks of use without taking a break. And avoid combining slippery elm with other demulcent herbs like marshmallow without veterinary guidance on adjusting the amounts.

Can I give my dog slippery elm daily or long-term?

Daily or long-term use of slippery elm is not recommended for dogs unless specifically directed by your vet. There are a few reasons for this:

– Safety has not been established for use beyond 4-6 weeks at a time.

– Excess mucilage production over long periods may hinder absorption of nutrients from food. Nutritional deficiencies could result.

– Certain medication interactions can become more pronounced and problematic with sustained use.

– Dogs may develop an intolerance or allergic reactions over time with repeated exposure.

For chronic GI issues like IBD, your vet will likely recommend periodic “pulses” of slippery elm rather than uninterrupted daily use. For example, using it for 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off.

Be sure to check back in with your vet if your dog seems to need slippery elm regularly or for extended periods to manage symptoms. This may indicate an underlying condition that needs further diagnostic tests and treatment.

Should I give slippery elm before or after meals?

For most purposes, it is best to give slippery elm powder on an empty stomach, at least 1-2 hours before or after meals. Here’s why:

– Given alone, it can coat and adhere directly to the stomach lining for maximum effect.

– It won’t compete for absorption with food, medications, or supplements this way.

– It can help manage nausea or other symptoms best when not mixed with food.

However, your vet may advise otherwise in some cases, such as:

– For dogs who won’t take slippery elm on an empty stomach or resist dosing syringes. Mixing with a small meal may improve compliance.

– For absorption concerns with certain medications. Your vet may recommend timing slippery elm doses right after eating in this scenario.

– For dogs who experience nausea when taking slippery elm alone. Eating first provides a buffer.

Follow your veterinarian’s specific recommendations on timing slippery elm doses around meals. Let them know if your dog responds differently to before or after meal dosing.

What is the best way to give slippery elm to my dog?

Here are some tips for the easiest slippery elm administration for dogs:

– Powder form is most common. Measure out the dose and stir it into a small amount of cold water first to evenly distribute the mucilage.

– Add the slippery elm gel to room temperature broth, gravy, canned food or yogurt. The texture blends in well and masks the taste.

– Consider making up larger batches of slippery elm gel or mixes and storing in the fridge for up to 5 days. This makes dosing simpler day-to-day. Shake or stir before use.

– Paste or syrup forms are also available. These are convenient but more expensive. Check labels for xylitol or alcohol before using.

– Compressed tablets typically don’t contain enough powder volume for proper dosing. They also don’t create the protective coating gel effect.

– Slippery elm lozenges for humans can be used as long as they only contain pure slippery elm (no other herbs, sugar, etc.). Let them fully dissolve in the mouth.

– Add a little peanut butter, honey, or pumpkin to improve palatability if your dog refuses the mix, but keep calories in mind.

What does slippery elm taste like? Will my dog eat it?

Slippery elm bark powder has a mild, slightly sweet taste. When mixed with water, it develops a bland, mucilage-like texture similar to aloe vera gel. Most dogs don’t mind the flavor. However, some finicky eaters may refuse it. Here are some tips to encourage picky dogs to take slippery elm:

– Mix powder with a strongly flavored broth, gravy, or canned dog food to help mask the taste.

– Stir into yogurt, peanut butter, or pumpkin puree – just don’t overdo it, as these mix-ins are high in calories.

– Consider combining with licorice root powder, which has a sweeter, more appealing flavor for some dogs.

– Compressed tablets or lozenges dissolve quickly in the mouth with less flavor impact.

– Offer slippery elm gel through a dosing syringe placed right on the back of the tongue to bypass taste buds.

– Follow with a treat chaser or favorite snack if your dog will still eat them despite tummy troubles.

– Above all, be patient. It may take some trial and error. With time, most dogs accept the mild flavor and gel texture.

If your dog remains unwilling to take slippery elm after multiple techniques, talk to your vet. Another option may be needed to manage their symptoms. Don’t attempt to hide slippery elm in treats or force it, as this can cause trust issues.


When used short-term under veterinary guidance, slippery elm can safely and effectively soothe minor GI upset in dogs. For best results, give the proper dosage based on your dog’s size, follow administration tips to mask the flavor, and space it away from meals and other medications. Limit slippery elm therapy to 4-6 weeks at a time, then cycle off to avoid side effects. Most importantly, have your vet diagnose and treat any underlying condition causing chronic digestive problems in your dog. With some patience and the right dosage regimen, slippery elm can help provide symptomatic relief as part of an overall management plan.

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