Is Mullein Safe for Cats and Dogs?

Mullein, with its tall flowering stalks topped by yellow flowers, is a common sight along roadsides and open fields. This biennial plant has been used medicinally for centuries, valued for its ability to help treat respiratory ailments. But is mullein safe for cats? Here’s an in-depth look at this beneficial herb and its uses and safety for felines.

An Introduction to Mullein

Mullein is a biennial herb that grows wild in many parts of the world. The common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) can grow up to 8 feet tall, with large leaves and yellow, saucer-shaped flowers. Mullein has a long history of medicinal use by many cultures dating back to ancient Greece. Some of its traditional uses include:

  • Treating respiratory conditions like coughs, colds, bronchitis and asthma
  • Soothe sore throats
  • Help remove mucus and phlegm from the lungs
  • Anti-inflammatory properties to ease swelling
  • Antiviral abilities against certain viruses
  • Pain relief

The medicinal abilities of mullein are attributed to the various beneficial compounds it contains, including:

  • Saponins: Compounds that help expel mucus.
  • Flavonoids: Anti-inflammatory agents.
  • Mucilage: Compounds that soothe irritated mucus membranes.
  • Triterpenoid saponins: Substances that help loosen phlegm and open airways.
  • Hesperidin and verbascoside: Compounds with antiviral effects.
  • Coumarin and rotenone: Anti-microbial substances.

These natural compounds give mullein its potent medicinal abilities, especially when it comes to respiratory ailments involving coughs, congestion and inflamed airways. Both the mullein leaves and flowers are used medicinally, made into infusions, tinctures, syrups and more.

Is Mullein Safe for Cats?

When used appropriately, mullein is generally very safe for cats. It is not toxic to felines according to the ASPCA, unlike many other herbs that can pose risks. There are no known contraindications or adverse interactions between mullein and medications cats may take. Of course, it’s always best to consult your veterinarian before giving any new herb or supplement to your cat. Some key points about mullein’s safety include:

  • Not inherently toxic. Mullein is not known to be toxic to cats according to veterinary medicine sources like the Merck Veterinary Manual. It is not on the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants for cats. Poison control centers do not report incidents of mullein poisoning in cats.
  • Well-tolerated in small amounts. Mullein has been given safely to cats in small amounts for respiratory issues. Typical dosages are 1/8 to 1/4 tsp per day of mullein leaf or flower infused in water. Larger amounts may cause upset stomach or diarrhea.
  • Avoid during pregnancy. As a precaution, mullein should be avoided in pregnant cats until more research is done establishing safety.
  • May cause skin irritation. The small hairs on mullein leaves may cause skin irritation in some cats if contact is made. Avoid letting cats rub against or play with the plant.
  • Consider potential allergies. As with any herb, some cats may be allergic or overly sensitive to mullein. Watch for signs like itchiness, hives, swelling or wheezing.

So while considered very safe at typical doses, mullein should still be used carefully in cats. Work with your vet and only obtain mullein from reliable sources. Check for signs of allergic reaction when first using it.

Benefits of Mullein for Respiratory Problems in Cats

The main medicinal use of mullein pertains to respiratory ailments involving congestion and inflammation. Respiratory problems are very common in cats, so mullein can be useful to have on hand. Some specific benefits of mullein for cats with respiratory illness include:

Soothes Coughs

Mullein contains compounds like saponins, mucilage and verbascoside that can help soothe dry, irritated coughs. The mucilage in mullein in particular helps coat inflamed throat and airway tissues while the saponins act as expectorants to help loosen congestion. A 2018 study in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medical Research found mullein effective at suppressing coughs.

Eases Breathing

Mullein has traditionally been used to treat asthma due to its ability to open constricted airways and allow easier breathing. Research has shown the triterpenoid saponins in mullein help dilate bronchial tubes. The herb also acts as a natural antihistamine to reduce allergic responses that can exacerbate asthma.

Fights Respiratory Infections

Compounds like verbascoside give mullein antiviral abilities against certain flu viruses that cause respiratory illness. The herb also has antimicrobial properties that help fight bacterial infections like bronchitis. A 2012 study found mullein leaf extract effective against Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bacteria that causes respiratory infections in cats.

Reduces Inflammation

With its high flavonoid content, mullein has natural anti-inflammatory effects that can help reduce swelling associated with bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma. Less inflammation leads to improved breathing. The herb also stimulates lymph flow to help reduce congestion and swelling.

Loosens Mucus

Mullein contains saponins that are natural expectorants, loosening phlegm so it can be coughed up. This helps relieve congestion from the lungs and open up airway passages. Mullein also stimulates fluid secretions to further thin out mucus.

Thanks to the above actions, mullein can be very useful in cats to relieve respiratory illness and its symptoms. It works with the cat’s body to promote more comfortable breathing.

How to Give Mullein to Cats

There are several preparations that can be used to administer mullein to cats in a safe, effective way:

Mullein Leaf or Flower Infusion

Steep 1 tsp dried mullein leaves or flowers in 1 cup hot water for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and then administer 1-2 tsp up to twice daily. The infusion provides the full spectrum of mullein’s medicinal compounds.

Mullein Tincture

A concentrated liquid extract of mullein made with an alcohol base. Use an herb-to-extract ratio of 1:3 and administer 1-5 drops mixed with food up to twice daily. Check the alcohol level since higher amounts may be unsafe for cats.

Mullein Glycerite

A glycerin-based (alcohol-free) tincture that is a good option for cats. Follow the same dosage guidelines as for alcoholic tinctures. Glycerin helps extract mullein’s beneficial mucilage.

Mullein Syrup

Combine 2 parts honey or maple syrup with 1 part mullein infusion or glycerite. Give 1/4 to 1 tsp up to twice daily. The syrup is a good way to get reluctant cats to take the herb.

Mullein in Food

The dried herb can be sprinkled on food or an infusion mixed in. Use small amounts and monitor the cat’s appetite, as larger doses may put off some cats. Capsules can also be opened over food.

Start with small amounts of mullein and watch for any side effects. Allow 3-4 weeks of use for best results. Always consult your veterinarian before using. Avoid giving mullein to kittens or pregnant cats.

Other Potential Benefits of Mullein for Cats

In addition to respiratory problems, some other uses for mullein in cats include:

Ear Infections

Mullein infused oil is a popular natural remedy for ear infections in dogs and cats, helping fight bacteria and fungi. Apply a few drops into the ear canal twice daily after cleaning the ears. Monitor for any redness or swelling.

Minor Cuts and Burns

Mullein leaf extract can be applied topically to soothe minor wounds, abrasions or burns on cats. It helps reduce inflammation and pain. Be sure to dilute sufficiently before applying to the skin.

Joint Pain Relief

Mullein root tincture may help reduce joint aches and discomfort when given orally in small amounts. It has mild pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. Always monitor cats on other medications.

Anxiety Relief

Mullein flower essence is sometimes used to help relieve anxiety, over-grooming and nervousness in cats when added to food or water daily. There is limited evidence on effectiveness.

Talk to your vet before using mullein for these additional purposes to ensure appropriateness and safety. Never give mullein in addition to prescribed medication without approval.

Is Mullein Safe for Dogs?

Mullein can also be used to help treat certain health issues in canines. Some key points about mullein safety and use in dogs:

  • Considered non-toxic but can cause upset stomach. Only give in moderation.
  • May aid respiratory problems, ear infections, arthritis, anxiety, wounds etc.
  • Use preparations like infusions, sprinkled dried herb, glycerites or tinctures.
  • Give 1/4 to 1/2 tsp for small dogs; 1/2 to 1 tsp for large dogs twice daily.
  • Monitor for side effects like diarrhea or lethargy. Immediately reduce dose if observed.
  • Avoid use in pregnant or nursing dogs until safety is established.
  • Always consult your veterinarian before using any new herb in your dog.

So while generally considered safe in dogs, use mullein cautiously and in conservative amounts. Never give mullein in addition to any medication without your vet’s approval.

Precautions and Side Effects of Mullein

When used appropriately, mullein is typically very well tolerated in cats and dogs. However, there are some precautions to be aware of:

  • May cause stomach upset or diarrhea at high doses. Discontinue use if this occurs.
  • Can cause skin irritation. Avoid topical use and contact with the leaves.
  • Allergic reactions are possible. Watch for signs like facial swelling or hives.
  • Safety not established for pregnant/nursing animals. Avoid use.
  • May interact with sedative medications. Separate dosing by 2+ hours.
  • Avoid use alongside anticoagulant drugs like warfarin without veterinary guidance.
  • Do not give to cats or dogs with kidney disease due to the herb’s diuretic effects.

To avoid complications, always start with low doses of mullein and monitor your pet for any reactions. Consult your vet about any pre-existing conditions and medications your pet takes before using mullein.

Conclusion

When used carefully, mullein can be a beneficial herb for cats suffering from respiratory ailments involving congestion, coughs, sore throats and inflammation. It helps promote easier breathing and acts as a natural expectorant and cough suppressant. The herb is not toxic to cats, and side effects are rare when used properly, though caution is still warranted. Always monitor your cat closely when first using mullein and consult your veterinarian about any health conditions. With its long history of traditional use, mullein can be a helpful natural medicine for respiratory problems in cats when given safely and appropriately.