Canine Aromatherapy: Are Essential Oils safe for Fido?

We love our dogs, don’t we!  They are family.  I frequently hear questions about pets.  Are essential oils safe for my pets?  Where do I apply the oils on their body?  How do I know if my pet doesn’t like the oils?  Today, I want to specifically write about dogs, but before I do that I want to address some misconceptions.

What are essential oils?  First of all, essential oils are not actually oils at all.  Essential oils are a concentrated plant substance derived from different plant parts (leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, fruits, stems) through a variety of extraction methods.  A hydrosol is the byproduct of on those extraction methods, steam distillation.  Although much less concentrated, hydrosols are also valuable and will be discussed later.  Dogs have a highly sensitive sense of smell.  Their olfactory senses are exponentially more sensitive than that of humans.  For that reason, essential oils may be more valuable for dogs than even humans.   

What are some ailments that can be addressed in dogs through Aromatherapy?

Fear, Mange, Allergies, Anxiety, Teeth cleaning, Dirty ears, Flatulence, Motion sickness, Bad breath, Joint pain and more.

Although rare today, a few vets are using EOs for their patients.  A Chamomile hydrosol is used in exam rooms in one practice to calm a stressed pet (and owner). That same practice in Tinley Park, Illinois uses a combination of Citronella and Orange for pets that come in with fleas.  Lavender, Chamomile and Valerian can be diffused in a waiting area to calm entering pets. Another practice in San Diego directs owners to massage a drop of Lemongrass + a teaspoon of Almond oil a few times a day into dog joint injuries.  Lavender can be used to calm skin irritation.  Does your dog dread his kennel?  Consider a few drops of Lavender, Valerian and Vetiver on a towel in the bottom of the kennel.

How do I administer essential oils on my pet?

Topical application is the most common way to administer aromatherapy on animals.  EOs can be applied via sprays, shampoo or massage.  Most pets respond to their owner’s touch in a positive manner so massage may be the most enjoyable.  There are times when oils can be ingested by dogs, but it is more rarely used that topical application.  If a dog does lick off the oils, it is not cause for concern.  Do not use oils in or near the eyes, on or near the nose or near the anal or genital areas.    On mucosal tissue of any kind, essential oils can deliver a serious burn!

Remember how strong Essential Oils are.  It takes 50 lbs. of Eucalyptus to produce one pound of essential oil.  It takes 2,000 lbs. of rose petals to produce 1 lb. of Rose Essential Oil.  I mean strong!  The hydrosol byproduct is a water-based shadow of the powerful essential oil.  It is safe for all young and compromised dogs.

As Essential Oils become more popular so will the temptation to offer cheap adulterated alternatives.  Be cautious to only use high quality oils from a reputable supplier without synthetic fragrance oils. We recommend and sell Plant Therapy Essential Oils for their quality, purity and price.

How do I know if my pet dislikes certain essential oils?

Behavior such as whining, panting, pacing, drooling, sneezing, trying to rub the oil off on the ground all logically suggest that an animal does not appreciate a particular essential oil.  If your dog leave the room each time you put “X’ oil in your diffuser, “X” is not your dog’s favorite.  The following oils are stimulating and can be a source of agitation to your dog:  Peppermint, Rosemary, Niaouli, Tea Tree (Melaleuca), Spearmint, Ravensarae and Eucalyptus.

Which Essential Oils should I avoid with dogs?

Anise, Birch, Bitter Almond, Boldo, Calamus, Camphor, Cassia, Chenopodium, Clove, Crested Lavender, Garlic, Goosefeet, Horseradish, Hyssop, Juniper, Mugwort, Mustard, Oregano, Pennyroyal, Pine, Thyme, Rue, Santalina, Sassafras, Savory, Tansy, Terebinth, Thuja, Red or White Thyme, Wintergreen, Wormwood and Yarrow.

How much should I use?

DILUTE!  DILUTE!  DILUTE!  Please remember that essential oils are very powerful.  For dogs, dilute oils to 25% of a human dose, 1-2%.   If you can adding EOs to your dog’s shampoo repel fleas, use no more than 30 drops in an 8 oz. bottle of shampoo.  Be even more cautious with small breeds, pregnant, nursing, ill or old dogs.  While there are no studies that suggest that it affects seizure-prone dogs, Rosemary Essential Oil can encourage seizure symptoms in humans.  When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

Which oils will support my dog?

Anxiety:                                        Lavender & Roman Chamomile
Tummy Issues:                          Cardamom & Spearmint
Fleas and Ticks:                         Eucalyptus, Cedar & Lemongrass
Wounds and Skin Irritation:   Thyme, Lavender & Frankincense Carteri

What about puppies?

Do not use oils before puppies younger than 10 weeks of age.  Use a very small dose or use hydrosols on young dogs.

Our dogs are family and we want the best for them. The next time a thunderstorm upsets your dog or Fluffy gets itchy, I hope you ‘ll consider trying these natural alternatives rather than synthetic options. 

In another blog, I will discuss the ever-elusive cat.  Cats are sensitive creatures that need special care.