Medicinal plants as therapeutic options for topical treatment in canine dermatology? A systematic review

BMC Vet Res. 2019 May 27;15(1):174. doi: 10.1186/s12917-019-1854-4.


Background: Medicinal plants have been used traditionally since centuries for wound care and treatment of skin diseases both in human and animals. Skin diseases are one of the most common reasons for owners to take their dog to the veterinarian. The demands for treatment and prophylaxis of these diseases are broad. A wide range of bacteria including antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be involved, making the treatment challenging and bear an anthropo-zoonotic potential. The aim of this review is to systematically evaluate based on recent scientific literature, the potential of four medicinal plants to enrich the therapeutic options in pyoderma, canine atopic dermatitis, otitis externa, wounds and dermatophytosis in dogs.

Results: Based on four books and a survey among veterinarians specialized in phytotherapy, four medicinal plants were chosen as the subject of this systematic review: Calendula officinalis L. (Marigold), Hypericum perforatum L. agg. (St. John's Wort), Matricaria chamomilla L. (syn. Matricaria recutita L., Chamomile) and Salvia officinalis L. (Sage). According to the PRISMA statement through literature research on two online databases a total of 8295 publications was screened and narrowed down to a final 138 publications for which full-text documents were analyzed for its content resulting in a total of 145 references (21 clinical, 24 in vivo and 100 in vitro references).

Conclusions: All four plants were proven to have antibacterial and antifungal effects of a rather broad spectrum including antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This makes them an interesting new option for the treatment of pyoderma, otitis externa, infected wounds and dermatophytosis. Marigold, St. John's Wort and Chamomile showed wound-healing properties and are thus promising candidates in line to fill the therapeutic gap in canine wound-healing agents. St. John's Wort and Chamomile also showed anti-inflammatory and other beneficial effects on healthy skin. Due to the wide range of beneficial effects of these medicinal plants, they should be taken into account for the treatment of dermatologic diseases in dogs at least in future clinical research.

Keywords: Calendula officinalis L.; Dermatology; Dog; Hypericum perforatum L.; Matricaria chamomilla L.; Salvia officinalis L.; Topical treatment.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Dog Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Dogs
  • Phytotherapy / veterinary
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use*
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Skin Diseases / drug therapy
  • Skin Diseases / veterinary*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Plant Preparations