International Love your Pet Day is celebrated annually on 20 February and has been set aside to give our four-legged friends the extra love and attention they deserve.

Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council explains why SA’s indigenous wonder-plant, rooibos, should be part of the pamper.

“Rooibos is wonderfully nutritious and serves as a natural prevention and remedy for many ailments that plague pets. Research shows that the tea can soothe skin irritations and help improve dermatological conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and dermatitis, because of its high level of flavonoids, which encourage the body to destroy unwanted pathogens.

“Another advantage is that rooibos is hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, which means it can be used on the most sensitive of skin types and can treat and alleviate inflamed skin and bacterial infections too.

“It’s also packed with important minerals and vitamins that promote healthy skin, such as zinc and vitamin D; is caffeine-free and contains no harmful chemicals or preservatives,” remarks du Toit.

Paul Jacobson, a well-known pet food nutritionist and owner of a popular range of healthy pet food and natural remedies – can vouch for rooibos’ healing potential.

“Rooibos is one of the most sought-after herbal teas not only because of its high level of antioxidants, but because of its alkalising benefits too. That’s why rooibos is a core ingredient in most of our lines. When it comes to the health of your pets, it’s vital to ensure the right pH balance. An alkaline environment allows your pets’ organs, tissues and immune system to thrive.

“When cats and dogs have a skin irritation or redness, owners often rush out to buy chemical-based shampoos and soaps which could worsen the problem. By bathing your pet in a solution of rooibos you can relieve the itchiness and prevent the onset of eczema and other mild skin problems.

“Pets can also benefit from rooibos’ health-giving properties by simply pouring it over their food,” recommends Jacobson.

Another advocate for holistic treatments, Beryl Shuttleworth, a qualified biochemist, zoologist and founder of an innovative range of herbal supplements for horses and pets, says the variety of vitamins, antioxidants and bioflavonoids make rooibos an unparalleled everyday supplement that slows down the ageing process and reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease and potentially, even cancer.

“Rooibos can be given externally or internally to treat dry, itchy, irritated skin in horses, dogs and cats. Externally a rooibos cream can be applied to the problem area to soothe and protect the skin. Taken internally, the bioflavonoids in rooibos have a potent anti-itch effect.”

In response to why natural products, such as rooibos should be considered over conventional treatments, Shuttleworth says the latter typically contains one molecule. “A natural product such as rooibos contains many different molecules which work together to produce the desired effect. Plants are often just as effective and far safer than conventional medicine,” she remarks.

For a royal rooibos pamper, look out for rooibos dog biscuits, shampoos, oils and the like that are available at most pet stores or supermarkets to give your pup a truly royal pamper!

For pets who are suffering from allergies, irritated paws and other common ailments, here are a few tried and tested rooibos remedies recommended by experts and pet-lovers from around the country:

Eye allergies:

Place two rooibos tea bags in a teapot of hot water and allow to steep for about 15 minutes. Once cooled, use the tea as a soothing rinse to treat your pet’s itchy, red and sensitive eyes or soak a cotton ball in rooibos and wipe eyes.

Irritated paws:

For allergies or yeast infections of the paw, soak your pet’s paws for at least 30 seconds in a bowl, basin or bath of rooibos tea. This will reduce discomfort and help to treat symptoms. Gently pat paws dry and avoid rubbing them as this can cause irritation.

Eczema, itchy and inflamed skin:

Mosquito and flea bites can cause itching and in severe cases, allergies, hair loss and open wounds from your pet’s continual scratching. Either bath or rinse affected skin areas in brewed rooibos tea or apply cooled rooibos on the affected area with cotton wool or a facecloth or place it in a spray bottle and spray the affected area frequently. Also ask your local vet or pet shop about the various anti-itch rooibos skincare ranges that are available.

Appetite woes:

Dog-lovers have also reported the appetite-enhancing effect that rooibos has had on their dogs. Pour cooled red or green rooibos tea into your pet’s water bowl daily to ensure they get a good dose of its goodness on the inside too.

Hair loss:

Independent research by Cosmetochem International Ltd in France confirmed that using rooibos on hair can improve not only general hair growth, but also the overall condition of hair. Many pet-lovers have shared their stories about how their pets’ coats/hair shine after regular use of rooibos. Look out for rooibos enriched shampoos or lotions.

For more info on the health benefits of rooibos, visit www.sarooibos.co.za