Slippery Elm

By Jean Hofve, DVM

As you may know, it is potentially dangerous to give herbs to pets, especially cats. Many people commonly extrapolate a dose of herbs by using the pet’s weight compared to the “standard” 150-pound human. A large dog, however, has a comparatively slow metabolism, while a small dog’s rapid heart rate and high energy level may make it difficult to get the desired effect. Cats have very different metabolism and enzymes, and many compounds that are safe for humans and dogs (like aspirin) can be toxic to cats.

Slippery Elm (Ulmus fulva) is an exception to the fears and cautions surrounding the use of herbs in animals. It is very safe and non-toxic. The part of the tree used is the inner bark, which is soft and stringy. Simplest to use is the powdered form, which can be purchased in bulk, or pre-packed in capsules, at most health food stores. It is readily available over the Internet from herb suppliers.

(NOTE: North American elm trees have been decimated by Dutch Elm Disease; make sure your source  ethically and responsibly harvests their products; and do not use more than you need! Alternatively, Marshmallow root can be substituted for most applications.)

Herbalists attribute many wonderful healing properties to Slippery Elm: demulcent (soothing, mucilage-forming), emollient (soothing and protective for skin), nutritive (providing specific food nutrients), tonic (promoting healthy function of one or more body systems), and astringent (constricting, binding or drying effect). It can be used both internally and externally. Slippery Elm is one of the herbs used in the original formulation of “Essiac,” an herbal brew widely promoted as a cancer-fighter.

In the gastro-intestinal tract, Slippery Elm acts directly. It can be thought of as a sort of natural  “Pepto-Bismol.” (Pepto-Bismol itself should not be used because it contains salicylate, a.k.a. aspirin). Its mucilage content coats, soothes, and lubricates the mucus membranes lining the digestive tract. Slippery Elm is an excellent treatment for ulcers, gastritis, colitis, and other inflammatory bowel problems. It is high in fiber, and so helps normalize intestinal action; it can be used to relieve both diarrhea and constipation. It may also help alleviate nausea and vomiting in pets suffering from non-GI illnesses, such as kidney disease. A syrup made from Slippery Elm Bark can be used to help heal mouth ulcers from all causes (see recipe below).

Slippery Elm is said to relieve inflammation of virtually any mucus membrane, and has been used in the treatment of inflammatory conditions of the lungs (bronchitis, asthma), kidneys, bladder (cystitis, FLUTD symptoms), throat (tonsillitis), and joints (arthritis).

Slippery Elm contains many nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene,  calcium, and several trace minerals) that can be beneficial for recuperating pets, and it may stay down when other foods are not tolerated. It is known as a “survival” food; George Washington and his troops survived for days during the bitter winter at Valley Forge eating nothing but gruel made from Slippery Elm bark. However, Slippery Elm may interfere with the absorption of certain minerals and pharmaceuticals, so is best given separately from any concurrent drug therapy.

In the case of cystitis (bladder inflammation), Slippery Elm is thought to soothe the bladder lining. However, it is somewhat high in magnesium, so may be contraindicated in dogs who have an active infection with an elevated urinary pH, where struvite crystal formation may be a risk. (In cats, urinary tract infections are very rarely bacterial.) Slippery Elm bark contains natural pentosans, a class of complex sugars that contains the same compound found in the drug “Elmiron®,”the major pain-relieving treatment for interstitial cystitis (IC) in women. Pentosan has been used by the pharmaceutical industry as an anti-coagulant and anti-inflammatory for more than 40 years. (Anti-coagulant effects are not seen with normal oral administration.) Since bladder disease in cats is very similar to that in women, slippery elm may be especially beneficial for our feline friends. Small, frequent dosages of pentosan has been shown in humans to be more effective than single large doses.

Externally, a soothing paste of Slippery Elm powder (mix the powder with a little cold water) can be used as a poultice for hot spots, insect burns, rashes, scratches, ulcerated areas, or other shallow wounds. Native Americans used Slippery Elm bark to stop bleeding. It forms a natural “bandage” that can be left in place for several hours, if you can convince your dog to leave it alone! Moisten with water to remove it.

To give internally, mix about 1/4 teaspoon of Slippery Elm bark powder with cold water for every 10 pounds of body weight. For very small dogs, it is fine to use the same 1/4 teaspoon dose. The bulk powder may be very fluffy, so pack it down as much as possible to measure it. Alternatively, use 1/2 capsule (per 10 pounds), opened and the contents mixed with water. Slippery Elm powder will absorb many times its own weight in water, so be sure to add enough to make a moderately thick gruel. This gruel can be given before meals by syringe or eyedropper, or added to baby food, canned food, or a homemade diet. It has a slightly sweet taste and is usually well-tolerated by cats and dogs when mixed with food. Give a dose 5 to 30 minutes before meals for sore throat, and before or with meals for digestive tract problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease, until symptoms resolve. (NOTE: Slippery Elm may interfere with absorption of medications; and long-term use may have some effect on nutrient absorption. It may be best to give Slippery Elm at a different time, separate from medications. Please discuss use of all supplements and herbs with your veterinarian.)

Author Anitra Frazier gives the following recipe for Slippery Elm Bark syrup in her book, The New Natural Cat, which applies equally well to our canine companions when adjusted for weight: Into a small saucepan place 1/2 cup cold water and 1 teaspoon powdered slippery elm bark. Whip with a fork. Bring to simmer over low flame, stirring constantly. Simmer 1 or 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Cool and refrigerate. Keeps 7 or 8 days. Give a teaspoon of syrup (5 cc) for an average-size cat (again, about 10 pounds) 5 minutes before a meal to minimize diarrhea, or to soothe and heal mouth ulcers.

Slippery Elm bark is inexpensive and easy to use; it would be a great addition to your holistic medicine chest!

IMPORTANT! Slippery Elm should have a very mild, slightly sweet taste. Several people have reported that the Slippery Elm bark they were using tasted bitter, or turned bitter with time. The cause is unknown, but it can’t be a good sign! Therefore I must recommend that you personally taste the slurry or syrup each and every time before you give it to your pet, and if it tastes bad–don’t use it!



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92 comments for “Slippery Elm

  1. m0rdecai89
    December 10, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    How far apart from medicine should the gruel be spaced to not affect absorption?

  2. Jean Hofve DVM
    May 25, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    It depends on the cat (age, physical condition, medical history) and the medications involved. As always with any herbs or supplements, please consult your veterinarian.

  3. m0rdecai89
    May 21, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    I was just wondering if it was safe to give this 3 times a day to a cat and also how far to space it from herbs and medication to not affect absorption of the herbs and medicine.

  4. Jean Hofve DVM
    April 7, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Probiotics don’t get absorbed. They are intended to stay in the intestinal tract all the way to the colon, where they can support the bacterial population there. There’s no research to say (either way) how probiotics and slippery elm interact, but logic says there shouldn’t be a problem with the combination.

  5. lilabeth
    April 1, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Will the slippery elm bark syrup interfere with the absorption of probiotics? I am using the slb syrup as a means to syringe the probiotics into my cat. Wondering now if the two products are canceling each other out. Thanks!!

  6. Jean Hofve DVM
    March 2, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I cannot comment on what others are doing, nor can I give you specific advice for your cat. Please discuss all supplement use with your veterinarian.

  7. MC
    March 1, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    Dear Dr Hofve:

    I am a little worried about this comment from your article:

    “and long-term use may have some effect on nutrient absorption.”

    My 10 year old cat has trouble with regurgitation, it is thought (my vet and I are in agreement) that poor motility (from poor diet for about 6 years) is the culprit. SEB has seemed to give her quite a bit of relief, along with diet change (raw and canned fed, very limited, cannot tolerate variety).

    She is getting an average of 1/8 tsp of SEB a day 5 – 7 days a week. I simply mix the 1/8 tsp of powder into a half ounce (.5) meal of canned food and a little hot water, usually her mid day meal. It seems this is about as good as it is going to get for her (regurgitation is reduced to less than once a week, it’s been two years since the diet change) I am reluctant to stop or reduce the SEB, as it really does seem to help, but I am worried about “long term use and interference with nutrient adsorption”. Would you be willing to share your thoughts on this. Thank you.

  8. jhofve77
    July 24, 2013 at 8:07 am

    If stress is the problem, treating the diarrhea will not help. You have to fix the stress. If she’s living in constant terror because of the dog, then you must control the dog: Then build up her confidence by providing a safe, 100% dog-proof “base camp” and plenty of up-high perches for her, and utilize play therapy to help her feel comfortable in her territory again. It was her house first, after all.

  9. junebug
    July 23, 2013 at 12:28 am

    My 6 1/2 year old RagaMuffin has been experiencing very soft stools with a very gross odor and lots of gas for about 9-10 months. The Vet feels it could be a result of the stress she feels from our puppy we got two years ago. Her breed suggest she should accept other cats, dogs, children. However, she will hide when someone comes over. There are no children in our home. We thought she would do fine with the 4 lb. puppy, but she has become mean to him; slaps at him, jumps on him, tried to bite him a few times. After trying shots, liquid medication, fiber powder, nothing helped. She lost down to 6 1/2 lbs. Normal weight is 7 1/2 to 8 lbs. She’s never gotten to the weight of most female RagaMuffins.
    I searched until I found your site and began putting 1/8 tsp. SE on her kibbles. She’ll eat it like this, but not as a gruel. Three days ago, I bumped up to 1/4 tsp. SE. So far, SE hasn’t changed her stools and he often doesn’t get to the litter box in time to pass gas & will poop on the floor. Sometimes, it’s a full poop and others maybe three small size poops.
    Do I need to add more SE? Try something different? The Vet said she may have to be put down as pooping in the house can’t continue. I certainly don’t want to do this.
    Please help.

  10. jhofve77
    December 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    It is not a risk for dogs that are “prone to struvite.” It is a slight risk in dogs with a current, active bacterial infection. In dogs, struvite crystals form due to a bacterial infection in which E. coli attach to the bladder walls. Bacterial metabolism quickly raises the pH up to a range where struvite crystals readily precipitate. Cats typically get sterile cystitis: no bacteria. Magnesium is not a significant factor in struvite formation unless and until the pH rises; it does not cause pH to rise.

  11. MC
    December 30, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I’m having a little trouble understanding part of your article.

    “However, it is somewhat high in magnesium, so may be contraindicated in dogs who have an active infection with an elevated urinary pH, where struvite crystal formation may be a risk. ”

    If the high magnesium is a risk for dogs that are prone to struvite, wouldn’t it also be a risk for CATS who form struvite?

    Thanks for any clarification

  12. jhofve77
    September 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    That’s great news, thanks for letting me know!

    I haven’t ever seen an allergic reaction in a cat, although with cats, anything is possible! The sign of such an allergy would most likely be increased diarrhea, in which case you would just stop giving it…of course since the original problem was diarrhea, it could all be a little confusing…you’d definitely want to work with your vet in that case! The other potential manifestation would be skin symptoms, especially a rash or itchiness around the face, and the same precaution would apply–have your vet check it out.

  13. jeweljunkie
    September 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Whew, that is a relief to know! Hopefully she will continue to just eat it but now I won’t worry.

    I just wanted to update (knock on wood). After weeks of stress diarrhea from IBD, I mixed 1/8 tsp SEB with her wet food Saturday night. The next day she had firm stool, and each day since. She also seems to feel better (again knock wood). I am so pleased!!

    General question, have you ever known a cat to have an allergic reaction? I see from reading that people can (though it’s rare) and just wondered if that is something pet parents should look out for.

    Thank you again.

  14. jhofve77
    September 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    That’s a good question! However as long as the swallowing reflex is intact, there is no danger of choking. We usually worry about choking with unconscious animals (e.g., under anesthesia). I suppose if you cranked the mouth wide open and shot the fluid at high velocity directly at the tracheal opening (which is only open during the inhale phase of the breath) you could get some in a bad place, but this would be very difficult (if not impossible!) in a conscious animal. Ordinary carefulness is plenty good to ensure safety. :)

    I’m glad you asked, cuz I’ll bet a lot of people wonder!

  15. jeweljunkie
    September 22, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    This may be super paranoid, but is it safe to syringe something of this consistency? I hate giving my cats liquid medicine (I am a pilling champ) because I worry about aspiration. I would be even more worried about this egg-white texture going down the wrong pipe. Is this something I should really be worrying about? Is there a good technique to reduce the chance of aspiration?

  16. jhofve77
    June 15, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Not general enough, I’m afraid. This is really specific advice for your cat. And you know what I’m gonna say! Did you read our article on Inflammatory Bowel Disease? And the one on Constipated Cats?

  17. rcoers
    June 14, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    First of all, thank you for all the information on cat care & conditions (I’m adding you to my bookmarks.) Ok, I’ll try to keep my question generic. For feline inflammatory bowel disease, where diarrhrea is the primary presenting symptom, could combining Slippery Elm Bark powder with psyllum husk powder (in wet food) provide too much fiber and result in constipation? And would adding the contents of a probiotic capsule, in addition to fiber, be overkill?

  18. LilyLindquist
    May 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Thank you we will take her to the vet ASAP.

  19. jhofve77
    May 6, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Sudden onset and rapidly worsening vomiting in a cat this age ABSOLUTELY REQUIRES a trip to your veterinarian. There are hundreds of potential causes, many of them life-threatening. Slippery elm may help her symptoms, but it will not fix the cause. You say you don’t “think” a vet can do much. You are SO WRONG. What if this is cancer, or thyroid disease, or kidney failure? These are all treatable! You may lose your window of opportunity for effective treatment if you delay. Please please please take her to your vet immediately!

  20. LilyLindquist
    May 6, 2012 at 12:08 am

    So excited to try this treatmeant. Our cat (Biscuit) will be 16 this month and she is the nicest happiest cat ever a while ago maybe a month and a week she started to vomit daily at night time and then it went to twice a day. Then 3 times. There is never a day she doesn’t vomit. It’s usually beige or brown it looks like bike or food depends. She has no behavior change. We switched to Blue Buffalo and it did nothing to help. She didn’t loose or gain weight but we never saw her eat so we started buying her wet food. She loves it she eats 1 can a day and it takes her 3 sittings. When we wake up she howls to to get some. But she still vomits but she is happier. The way she vomits her back moves forward it’s very strange and painful looking. We are not wanting to take her to the vet because she is acts scared when someone is over or a loud noise she just hides and we don’t think they can do much. It’s 3am and I was researching to try to resolve this and I fell upon this article. We are going to make the “soup” and try chia seeds. I am going to Vitamin Shoppe tomorrow. Really hoping this helps her. Also going to research on how much chia seeds we should give her. I will post our story successful hopefully in a week! Thank you!

  21. Pontorson
    April 26, 2012 at 7:56 am

    This is rather a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question, but how long would it be reasonable to persist with Slippery Elm if there is no apparent result? Both cases are long-term idiopathic conditions for which allopathic vet treatment has completely failed. I do not expect a quick reaction but would be interested to know the longest anyone has experience of a positive result? My Slippery Elm tastes like hazelnuts! Many thanks.

  22. Carmen
    January 7, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Thank you and understood. I should rephrase – I was basically looking for input what user’s ‘experiences’ have been on time frames when using it for stomach acid and if in those experiences it too took a few days to show improvement.
    I give SEB to my other cats when they show signs of constipation and have had great success.

  23. jhofve77
    January 7, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Sorry, I cannot give veterinary advice for individual cases. Please consult your veterinarian about the best way to use this or any supplement for your cat’s particular situation.

  24. Carmen
    January 7, 2012 at 8:59 am

    What is the best way to use SEB for stomach acid? My cat has a hyperacidic stomach due to CRF and pancreatitis (which he is recovering from). Pepcid or Zantac in normal maintenance doses (1/4 tab) don’t last long enough for him and he vomits clear or foam in the morning despite feeding a snack late night. I gave him a tsp of SEB gruel last night and again 5 min before breakfast, but he vomited anyway. Does it take a few days for SEB to show effects on stomach acid as well?

  25. jhofve77
    January 5, 2012 at 11:31 am

    You may wish to consider getting a second opinion if your vet is out of ideas. But “massive diarrhea” can debilitate a cat past the point of no return…he needs immediate veterinary care.

  26. Brenda Paul
    January 3, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    It has been several days of slippery elm treatment, and my sweet Chopin is still seeping from behind and has massive diarrhea. I know he has a chronic bowel condition that is caused by the same virus that causes C-difficile (diagnosed by intensive lab testing). I can tell he is cramping tonight by the sounds he is making. I wonder if I should be adding something more to his diet or reverting back to the Chinese herbs that my acupuncturist recommended for this condition? I know my vet is at a loss after trying both Flagyl and Tylosin Tartrate. I know you cannot give out veterinary advice, but should I stop the slippery elm and try another method or go back to my vet for more Rx meds?

  27. jhofve77
    January 3, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Every cat is different, but in many cases you can notice a difference within days.

  28. Brenda Paul
    January 2, 2012 at 10:07 am

    I have started treatment already and they are NOT revolted by the taste (I taste tested first and it was not bitter). I am wondering how long it takes before positive results are seen. Chopin (my black panther kitty) has the chronic diarrhea and Sherman + Mack (the two big grey, and grey/white boys)have lost weight from their mouth inflammation. All three have been vet treated with conventional methods and I have the vet’s support on trying this.
    Thanks so much!

  29. jhofve77
    December 31, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Yes, please let me know how it goes! :)

  30. Brenda Paul
    December 31, 2011 at 11:19 am

    I have rescued several cats over the years. Two of them have a chronic inflammatory oral condition (It has a long name that my vet has nicknamed “hamburger mouth”). I also have a kitty with an antibiotic resistent infection of the colon that my vet said is caused by the same virus as C-difficile. After reading your article and viewing the comments, I have purchased some Slippery Elm Powder at a health food store, brewed the “tea” as instructed and will be trying it out on all three cats. I also have one with chronic constipation who is currently on Chinese herbs. I will keep you posted as to what transpires as things can only improve from here since the traditional veterinary medicine has not worked and Metacam, although very effective, is not a method of treatment for pain that I want to use long-term. My vet is open to my trying anything alternatively at this point. Thank you so much for the very important information on the taste of the mixture. I will most definately taste it before I give it to the kitties. They are my babies and need to be treated with tender loving care!


  31. Carol C
    December 16, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Nature’s Answer has a Slippery Elm supplement that doesn’t have magnesium stearate in the ingredients, also it is organic and a wildcrafted or cultivated herb, that’s what I use for my cat.

  32. balmerhon
    December 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    I make a syrup from the powder. 1.5 t. to 3/4 c. to 1 c. cup water. I beat with egg beater to mix in. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, continually stirring. Keeps in fridge for at least 4-5 days. Good idea above to taste it every time before giving. Roo has CRF, and another GI issue, getting ultrasound. The $$$$ is putting me into more debt, but both cats are very much alive, and cannot put down a cat that can be helped. She is 17, Sratch is 14, had u/s 2 mos. ago, pancreatitis. All I’ve done for that is adding the chia seed syrup, and adding no additional fat. He’s eating good (tho have cut back, he’s too fat!)..Thanks!

  33. jhofve77
    November 25, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Sorry, I cannot give specific veterinary advice for any individual. You’re welcome to print this info out for your veterinarian to discuss, but you need to work closely with your vet when adding or changing any treatment. If you haven’t already, you may want to check out this article:

  34. Paula
    November 25, 2011 at 2:36 am

    My cat has been diagnosed with IBS..he is 16yrs.. having read about Slippery Elm benifits for this complaint..i would like to try it..but am worried about the amount i should give him and how often…my vet has prescribed a low dose steriod.. but as yet i have not started him on i’m not a great fan of drugs if they can be avoided.. any advice i would be so grateful…
    Many thanks in advance..

  35. jhofve77
    November 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    That’s really interesting that the slippery elm changed over time. That’s a little disturbing! If the herbalist has any ideas, please let us know! I guess the lesson is to taste it yourself each time…I will add that to the article! Thanks!

  36. Deb Jacklin
    November 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    You used a tincture and it was effective. Interesting. I was thinking it would have to be the tea to achieve the demulcent effect. I wonder if the glycerine in the tincture also functions as a demulcent.

  37. Deb Jacklin
    November 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks for responding. When I investigate something, I check for consistency of info, etc. I posted that link because you’d asked someone about it, and I had the link.
    Your post (further down) about SE perhaps delaying absorption addresses the subject.
    I’ve been giving my dog the tea about 5 minutes before he eats for a few days, and things are looking up….more solid, yay.
    However, the batch of powder I have seems to have ‘gone off.’ The lastest tea brewed is horrible bitter. It wasn’t previously. Same batch of powder that was pleasant yesterday. I don’t think dog will like it. I’ll get more at a specialized herb store tomorrow, and I’ll ask them about the bitter thing.
    Thanks for all the info. Great site.
    Also, thanks for the reminder to only add/try one thing different at a time.

  38. jhofve77
    November 13, 2011 at 7:51 am

    If the dog is eating the food within 20 minutes that’s fine; otherwise the bacteria, such as Salmonella, that normally live on the outside of the kibble will reproduce rapidly and can hurt your dog.

  39. jhofve77
    November 13, 2011 at 7:50 am

    I have not heard this, it is my understanding that it breaks down within a couple of hours like any other nutritional substance, but you can believe whatever you want on the internet.

  40. Deb Jacklin
    November 11, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Here is one site that makes reference to the subject:

    “Because it is so good at what it does, excessive or prolonged use of Slippery Elm can overcoat the digestive tract and interfere with assimilation of some nutrients. This effect is easily prevented by taking 2-3 days off per week during extended internal therapy, and always mixing the powder with water before administering it to your pet.”

  41. Deb Jacklin
    November 11, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    I wonder if it messes with absorption/function of vitamins, probiotics?

  42. Deb Jacklin
    November 11, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    I have to get my dogs kibble wet. They don’t make large size kibble anymore, and the dog chokes on it if I don’t get it wet first. Isn’t the kibble going to be wet in a minute anyway, after the dog eats it? I’m confused.

  43. jhofve77
    November 8, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Thank you for your comment! That is EXCELLENT advice! I recently updated this article and found a reference online that said slippery elm was bitter…I wondered what they were talking about! I’ve chewed slippery elm bark for a sore throat many times, and yes, it should have a pleasant, sweet taste–do try it yourself, and if it tastes bad, throw it away! If you are having trouble with your source, remember that marshmallow root is a fair substitute, and not endangered; it also should taste mild and sweet.

  44. jhofve77
    November 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Sorry, I can’t give veterinary advice on an individual cat. Please consult your veterinarian immediately, as increased calcium levels can be a sign of serious illness.

  45. Christine Emick
    November 8, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Is it safe to use slippery elm (one capsule daily) and also add additional fiber such as chia seeds to my cat’s food in the evening? I have actually been adding psyllium seed husk fiber (1/2 capsule to his food at night). His calcium levels have gone up and I’m concerned.

  46. Susan Mullen
    November 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    I’d suggest that the human who is preparing the slippery elm bark *taste* it first. Regular slippery elm bark has a mild, slightly sweet taste. The last batch I ordered, though, had a horrible, strong, bitter taste. I will take just about anything if I know it’s good for me, and I had been taking slippery elm bark for several years. But this stuff was “never again” bad. I wrote to the company I ordered it from, and they said that batch had been treated (I forget what the treatment was). I just threw it away. Now I stick to a ground flax seed mix for myself. I’m between cats now, and I’m doing research so I’ll be ready for the next kitty. Thanks for all the information!

  47. Bert
    November 2, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks for the information- and so quickly!

    I will continue the conversation with her vet, altho he is so quick to medicate, it scares me a little. Living in a very isolated area, I don’t have many options and there is no way other than an ‘open wound biopsy’ for testing/diagnosing her condition, but all symptoms fit that it is at least IBS -more likely IBD.

    I had been giving dry food because wet food had been giving her diarrhea more than the dry. Since switching to better quality dry food her symptoms subsided for the most part, but will now venture into better quality wet food(or home made) and see how that goes- thanks for that very important key to helping her manage this condition.

    I will give her the water orally (altho she is a pretty good water drinker on her own) and give it an hour after her food and slippery elm (made by the regular recipe). How much extra water do you think I need to give her until I can get her on a wet diet? Again- living away from a city, it will take time to find/receive a variety of wet food that I can try out until I find one she can tolerate!

    Thank you again- and love your upbeat message- as you know, this is stressful for all concerned!

  48. jhofve77
    November 2, 2011 at 8:10 am

    There is no formal scientific evidence that I know of that slippery elm “treats” IBD, but it can be used to manage the symptoms. Methimazole is a drug used for hyperthyroidism, and has nothing to do with the GI tract. You should discuss steroid use with your veterinarian, who will be able to assess whether it is appropriate for your cat.

    I do not recommend dry food at all for cats, and particularly not for cats with gastrointestinal symptoms. Dry food is far more often connected to food allergies and inflammatory symptoms than canned. I believe it is a major cause of the inflammation that leads to chronic problems, and it certainly helps perpetuate it.

    There isn’t a specific amount of water to add to the slippery elm; it depends on how thin or thick you want it. Do not add it to dry food! Getting dry food wet makes the bacteria that live on the surface of the kibbles very happy and puts them in the mood for “romance”…they’ll reproduce and multiply into the millions within minutes!

  49. Bert
    November 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    I know you cannot give direct advice on a condition, so I will keep my questions general.

    1) Is there evidence that slippery elm/other homeopathic treatments can be the only treatment necessary to help a cat with IBS or IBD, or is methimazole or steroids always needed as well to prevent the intestinal lining from thickening etc? I guess I am nervous about the problem getting worse altho I am keeping the symptoms at bay with the use of Slippery Elm (which btw has been WONDERFUL for my cat with this issue).

    2) You mention being sure to give extra water when using the slippery elm. If dry food is being given, can water by oral syringe work? How much water with each 1 tsp of slippery elm administered? Timing of water? Thinking too soon after the slippery elm could dilute it too much?

    This is such a wonderful service for people and their animal friends- especially ones like me who live far from any holistic help. Thank you so much.

  50. jhofve77
    October 8, 2011 at 9:19 am

    According to experts, slippery elm may *delay* the absorption of meds, so meds should be given separately.

  51. Judi
    October 7, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Hi Kasia,

    We used slippery elm with our crf cat very successfully, but my understanding is you should NOT give with meds as slippery elm can cause the other meds not to be absorbed. I used it always outside of her medication and it controlled the acid from the crf that causes them to have the foamy vomit. I used the Apawthecary slippery elm from animal essentials and I still use for my healthy younger cat. I purchased from We found a great regular and holistic vet and used a range of alternative meds and treatments that gave our baby a healthy long happy life. She was diagnosed in 2002 and given 6 mos to live at that time, but passed last year at 20 1/2. I found this website invaluable in helping her and the crf yahoo group attached created by the creator of the site was a great source for info. Here is the site Take care, Judi

  52. jhofve77
    October 6, 2011 at 11:39 am

    The usual recommendation is to take slippery elm a little before meals in order to get that coating, which soothes the gut lining, but that is not the same as “blocking” any particular nutrients. Mucilage is just a protein, and will be broken down along with food. It could possibly “delay” absorption of medications or herbs, so should be taken separately from those.

  53. Lisa
    October 6, 2011 at 10:57 am

    It was just a person & I’m double checking if they did actually mean to include nutrients from food in this. I did know it could interfere with certain other supplements if taken at the same time (just due to the coating aspect).
    Actually, this all came about because I was trying to find out if it was ok to give Slippery Elm if was also giving Fish oil (if given at at different time of the day). No question in my mind about how good it is. Just looking for an answer in respect to the coating aspect.


  54. jhofve77
    October 6, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Can you provide a reference for that? I researched dozens of papers, and none indicate any problems with usage. In fact, slippery elm itself is nutritious. I look forward to reading your source.

  55. Lisa
    October 5, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    I’ve heard that you shouldn’t use Slippery Elm on a regular/long term basis as it’s coating properties can interfere with nutitional absorbtion (including from food). I was wondering what your thoughts were on this?

  56. jhofve77
    September 28, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Sorry, but I cannot give veterinary advice for an individual case; while slippery elm is very safe, you should discuss long-term use with your veterinarian.

  57. kasia
    September 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    My cat suffers from kidney failure, I was recommended to give her slippery elm (along with her meds). I am wondering if she should stay on it for a extended period of time?

  58. jhofve77
    August 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    No. It must be given orally. It works in the stomach, not the bloodstream. Try giving by syringe prior to feeding if needed.

  59. Anna
    August 30, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Can slippery elm be safely and effectively absorbed subcutaneously?

    In other words, is it possible to dilute slippery elm with water and administer to a cat while giving subcutaneous fluids (CRF) via the injection port at the bottom of the IV line? Or does this herb need to go directly into the stomach? My cat sniffs out any and all medication in wet food and won’t eat it.


  60. jhofve77
    August 26, 2011 at 1:44 am

    I cannot give specific veterinary advice in an individual case. Please work with you veterinarian to develop an appropriate treatment plan for your cat.

  61. Anita
    August 25, 2011 at 8:26 am

    I would like to give my cat slippery elm to help with chronic diarrhea and vomiting. We are trying a number of things with the help of our vet. The cat is also hyperthyroid and so I give her methimazole twice a day. How long before or after the slippery elm is it safe to give other meds?

  62. jhofve77
    August 12, 2011 at 6:39 am

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! Most adult cats are lactose intolerant, and milk typically causes diarrhea. Maybe in your cat, it loosened things up just enough to create a relatively normal stool!

  63. Julia
    August 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I gave my cat a bit of 1% milk 2-3 times/wk in a saucer to help his constipation. He loved it and it really worked to keep things moving. I noticed too that if I bought regular (full fat) cow’s milk he would throw it all up immediately. I think it was probably too much fat.

  64. Jean
    August 10, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Thank you Dr Hofve SO MUCH for this thorough information on SEB. I have used Nature’s Way capsules on both of my kitties for years with great results – liquidizing then using with wet food has worked best for us. Blessings to you.

  65. Josephine
    August 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Hi, Just want to update on my cat’s status. We used to find him vomiting some clear, colourless, bubble-like stuff, in the morning most of the time. After giving slippery elm to him daily before sleep, we never find bubble on the floor in the morning. It seems that slippery elm works on him. Thanks for your web.

  66. Josephine
    July 13, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Thank you very much for your advice. I will use SEB and wait to see the response before further changes. Will keep you informed of our progress. Thanks :)

  67. jhofve77
    July 13, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Hi, here is what I *can* say: slippery elm is very safe and can be used long-term. It does contain a fair amount of fiber on its own.

    I use ground chia seeds in my own cats’ food, because my boy Sundance has a history of idiopathic hypercalcemia, and fiber helps reduce the absorption of calcium from the gut. Fiber helps regulate the speed with which things go through the gut, and it may either remove or add water. As I said in the constipation article, excessive fiber can actually make constipation worse.

    And something I would (and do!) say to everybody: in order to know what is working, it is important to change only one thing at a time, and give it a few weeks to see the response before considering further changes. :)

  68. Josephine
    July 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Dr. Hofve,

    Thank you for your effort in this site. The information really helps me a lot. My cat visits the vet regularly but it seems that our vet doesn’t use remedies such as slippery elm or chia seeds. We are now using the methods in the main stream,sub-Q fluid mainly, to help my cat. My cat has got constipation for years and we have done everything the vet suggested but the problem is still there. I heard about slippery elm last week and tried. It seems work on my cat. This is really encouraging. That’s why I would like to know more about chia seeds as well.

    I have one question regarding slippery elm: Is it safe for long-term use?

    Thanks again.

  69. jhofve77
    July 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Sorry, the law prohibits giving specific veterinary advice to individuals. Please discuss any and all additions to your cat’s diet or treatment with your vet.

  70. Josephine
    July 12, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Hi, I have a 17-year-old cat. He has the problem of constipation for years. The vet said magacolon was the cause. Recently he developed CRF. We started giving him Slippery Elm (400 mg capsule, one capsule per day) last week. I would like to know more about chia seeds, after reading one of the replies above. Does chia seeds help dehydration and can I give it to my cat together with Slippery Elm? Where can I get chia seeds and how much should I give each day? Thanks.

  71. jhofve77
    June 29, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Age is not a disease, and anesthesia done properly is quite safe, even for older kitties. If she has a “bad” tooth, you have to weigh the risk of anesthesia against ongoing pain and spreading infection that could impact her quality of life. It may be worth getting a second opinion from a vet who is willing and able to do anesthesia safely. But anyway, good luck with the slippery elm bark, I’d love to hear your experiences with it! :)

  72. Lola Terrell
    June 25, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    Thanks for this site. I just gave my kitty her first SEB. She has CRF, a current bladder issue going on, a bad tooth, and allergies, terrible itching for years. Anyhow, I’m excited about what I’ve read re the SEB, and have fingers crossed. She is close to 17, so vets say can’t anesthetize (and she has gone from 8 lbs 6 mos ago, to 6 lbs now (6/25/11). So am searching for anything I can use. Do some allopathic drugs, etc. off and on, but would rather go holistic any time. Also trying homeopathy, but no luck in 5 months..still hoping..
    thanks for this site, I will let you know how it goes with the SEB.

  73. jhofve77
    June 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    There is a recipe in the article for a liquid version, which you can give separately from food.

  74. lucia
    June 11, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I would like to give my cat Slippery Elm because she has chronic renal failure and I hate to give her medications to control her nausea, vomiting and acid stomach, but she is so picky about food, that I hate the idea of having to mix it with her food. I think Natures Way has this in capsule form. Could I give her a capsule, or half a capsule instead of mixing it with her food? Would it still be affective?

  75. jhofve77
    May 27, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    I too am a big fan of chia seeds; my cats get ground chia in their food every day! One of my cats has idiopathic hypercalcemia, and the fiber helps moderate the absorption of calcium from food. He has not had an episode since I started the chia seeds 18 months ago! They are also a good source of alpha linolenic acid and many other nutrients.

    Just to let folks know, I should mention that it is important to add extra water to the food with both slippery elm and chia seeds (or any added fiber), as they will both absorb water, and will steal it from the body if it’s not provided in the food.

  76. M. Tishweed
    May 25, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    My 21 year old cat was diagnosed with kidney failure after being hit by a car 1-1/2 years ago. He would throw up every morning unless I got up in the middle of the night to give him (wet only) food. I realized it must be acid stomach. I started him on slippery elm syrup (3 ml/cc’s 2X a day) and never looked back. He never threw up again. He also developed a beautiful coat and started to (finally) gain some weight. The slippery elm was given in conjunction with receiving 100 – 200 ml of lactate ringers solution each day for his CRF. I recently discovered chia seeds which have so helped his electrolyte imbalance and dehydration that he now only gets 50 ml of the ringers solution every other day. Herbs are awesome! If your cat is suffering from dehydration, I am here to tell you that chia seeds are a miracle herb for that condition just as slippery elm is for acid stomach, hairballs and failure to eat. After his car accident I force fed him slippery elm (later on I laced it with honey and vitamins to put some weight on him) for 2 months before he started eating on his own again. It has literally saved his life.

  77. jhofve77
    April 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Not sure how to answer your question…directions are in the article.

  78. scm
    April 30, 2011 at 11:00 am


    My cat has CRF. We are using slippery elm mostly for nausea and stomach acid. We are currently syringe feeding him. How should I give Slippery Elm: powdered in the food, in a gruel an hour before food on an empty stomach?

  79. Kraun R
    April 16, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    My 10 year old cat had the same issue, throwing up almost daily, including throwing up bile. It was frustrating, and stained everything. After eliminating grains,fish and carrageenan from her diet she improved dramatically. She hasn’t thrown up in weeks. Go to a nice pet food store and discuss with the people there. They should help you find the right food for your cat.

  80. jhofve77
    April 16, 2011 at 10:21 am

    As the article states: “This gruel can be given before meals by syringe or eyedropper, or added to baby food, canned food, or a homemade diet. It has a slightly sweet taste and is usually well-tolerated by cats and dogs when mixed with food. Give a dose 5 minutes before meals for sore throat, and before or with meals for digestive tract problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease, until symptoms resolve.” So it depends how many times a day you feed; the stated dose must be given with each meal.

    Magnesium stearate is generally safe; best if it’s from a vegetable source, but not critical.

  81. Mandy
    April 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    I have two questions related to the use of slippery elm for my cat.

    (1) I can only find slippery elm in capsule form. The ingredients include Slippery Elm Bark 400 mg and Magnesium Stearate. Is Magnesium Stearate safe to feed cats?

    (2) How often should slippery elm be given in a day? You mentioned that we should mix 1/4 teaspoon or 1/2 capsule with water. Is this the daily intake?

    Thank you in advance for answering my questions! :)

  82. jhofve77
    March 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    It could indeed help, and it’s very safe, but of course if you haven’t had her checked by the vet, that’s the first step before trying home remedies. There could be a more serious underlying issue that needs attention.

  83. Gladys Hutson
    March 21, 2011 at 6:06 am

    My cat is a pretty healthy cat. Tigger is 13 years old and really happy..that is until she eats. Maybe about a half hour after she eats, it comes back up. Or later in the day she will throw up this bile looking stuff. This is more than just hairballs! It is getting really anoying. On the carpet, on the bed. I just get the carpets cleaned and she starts it all over again. I have read about the Slippery Elm Bark and am wondering if it will help. I am about to try anything.

  84. jhofve77
    March 16, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Great news–thanks for the update! :)

  85. kristin
    March 16, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Thanks very much Dr Hofve! We retested my cat’s iCA and it’s back in normal range, for now anyway! So, I am extremely relieved that I don’t have to contemplate stopping the SEB. Switching from lactulose to miralax seems to have done the trick. Unfortunately, she has a UTI and kidney infection but at least I can continue the SEB because like I said she asks for it and it really helps w/stomach acid, mild nausea etc which helps her eat after getting it.

  86. jhofve77
    March 7, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Well, fiber actually decreases calcium absorption from the gut, and slippery elm has a lot of it…I think the amount of calcium vs fiber probably cancels out any negative effects…Personally I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for my own hypercalcemic cat if he needed it (he already gets extra fiber, which has normalized his blood Ca with no other treatment), I think the benefits are so important. But if I were advising a client, I would probably be more cautious!

  87. kristin
    March 7, 2011 at 11:48 am

    What I have heard/read is that although the amount of CA is relatively small it can somehow increase CA absorption in the gut but I’m fuzzy on the details. Maybe in a similar way to FOS/inulin? Thanks again VERY much for looking into this.

  88. kristin
    March 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Thank you so much!

  89. jhofve77
    March 1, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Kidney disease all by itself can cause increased calcium, so it may not have anything to do with the slippery elm. I haven’t heard of this problem, and it appears that the amount of calcium is actually pretty small, but I’m asking colleagues and doing a little more research on it… I will let you know what I find!

  90. kristin
    February 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Can giving a cat slippery elm bark cause hypercalcemia? My cat has kidney disease and stomach acid that isn’t always controlled with famotidine. The slippery elm really helps and she asks/begs for it when she doesn’t feel well but I keep reading that it has some calcium (9700ppm) and some say can occasionally cause hypercalcemia. Well, my cat’s calcium level has been creeping up and her iCA is now just barely out of normal range. Are you aware of any information about this? We recently switched from lactulose to miralax for constipation because apparently lactulose can also increase CA levels in some cats and she also gets LRS which has some CA. I don’t want to deprive her of something that helps her so much but of course don’t want to make her sicker either! No vet I’ve spoken to has even heard of slippery elm so I was hoping you could at least shed a little light on whether there is any known risk of hypercalcemia from SEB or if it’s theorectical.
    Thank you!

  91. jhofve77
    November 26, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    There shouldn’t be any reactions, but the slippery elm can be given at a different time than drugs to make sure that absorption is not affected. It’s dangerous to suddenly stop giving steroids, so please work with your vet to adjust the dose.

  92. Suzy
    November 21, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    Is it alright to give slippery elm to my cat if he is taking prednisolone and metronidazole – he was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel syndrome a while ago and has been doing so well that I took him off the pred. After about 10 weeks, he all of a sudden began having diarrhea 4-5 times a day. I put him back on the pred and it is not helping.

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