By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is calendula?

Calendula (Calendula officinalis), also known as pot marigold, is most used as a topical anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. It contains antioxidants, flavonoids, and terpenoids that likely contribute to its anti-inflammatory effects. Its antiseptic effects are not as reliable. It has also been used less often to treat and prevent gastric ulcers, and to help lower blood sugar. Calendula is most often used in dogs, cats, and horses.

"Calendula is most often used in dogs, cats, and horses."

Dietary supplements are substances that can be used to supplement the diet, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics. While many supplements are sold over the counter, they still contain ingredients that have biological effects that should be managed by your veterinarian. Follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

There are differences in how countries regulate supplements. In the United States, these substances are not as vigorously regulated by the FDA as other medications, which means they can be sold without the manufacturer proving their effectiveness, safety, and without a guarantee of consistent or accurately reported ingredients. In Canada, products that have been evaluated for quality, safety, and effectiveness by Health Canada and authorized for sale will have a license number on the label.

How effective is calendula?

Limited studies in animals have been performed, but there is anecdotal evidence that calendula works to support skin healing by treating inflammation.

How is calendula given?

Calendula is given topically (on the skin) in the form of a cream, salve, ointment, or oil. It can also be given by mouth in the form of a liquid solution or tincture. If giving by mouth, give with food to avoid stomach upset. Measure liquid forms carefully.

What if I miss giving my pet the supplement?

If you miss a dose, give it when you remember, but if it is close to the time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed and give it at the next scheduled time, and return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding side effects is also limited. Generally, calendula is considered safe. Side effects may include mild gastrointestinal upset when ingested. Mild skin irritation may occur when used topically.

Are there any risk factors for this supplement?

Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding risk factors is also limited. Do not use calendula in pets that are allergic to it or other plants in the same family, such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies. Calendula should be used cautiously, if at all, in pregnant or nursing pets, as studies are limited, and it may cause early labor. It should be  used cautiously in pets with low blood pressure or diabetes.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with calendula: sedatives such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates, blood pressure medications, insulin, or antifungals.

"Vitamins, herbal therapies, and supplements have the potential to interact with each other, as well as with prescription and over the counter medications."

Vitamins, herbal therapies, and supplements have the potential to interact with each other, as well as with prescription and over the counter medications. It is important to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including all vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this supplement?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working.

How do I store calendula?

Because this supplement comes in many forms, please follow the storage instructions on the label. In general, store at room temperature in a dry, dark place.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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