Essential oils are concentrated aromatic compounds extracted from plants. Of late, they are gaining popularity as an all natural way to improve health and ward off illness.
In fact, aromatherapy and essential oils can even be used on pets. Dogs, in particular, can greatly benefit from certain treatments. However, just as the oils can do good, they can also do harm if used incorrectly. So whether you are an avid oil user yourself, or you are just jumping on the natural remedy bandwagon, it is helpful to know what kind of oil treatment your canine requires.
This article will deal with what essential oils are, which ones are safe versus dangerous, and finally how to correctly use them on your dog.
What are essential oils?
Essential oils (or EOs for short) are produced by a wide variety of plants. These organisms are able to produce composites that ward off predators. Some of these specific oils can be highly effective in healing or health work for other living creatures. EO healing practices have been traced as far back as the ancient Egyptians, Indians, and Chinese.
There are veterinarians that specialize in essential oil use with animals because different species require very specific treatments. A human does not react to an oil in the same way that a horse does. In the same sense, a tiny puppy will not have the same reaction as a full grown dog. ALWAYS be sure to talk to your local veterinarian before experimenting with essential oils. If you care about your pet’s health it makes the most sense to handle it right! It is also a great idea to do some research as well, especially for your specific breed of dog.
Good oils for your Dog
Here are some expert-recommended oils and their uses:
- Lavender (Lavender angustifolia, Lavender officinalis): This universal oil is extremely calming. Lavender can soothe your pet so that they are sleepy and more comfortable with travel. The scent will help relax separation anxieties, storm anxieties, and aggressive behaviors as well. Topically, lavender can be used to help ear infections and heal burns.
- Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum): Can be helpful with skin repair. The oil is also antibacterial so it is great for nerve mending and pain reduction. Helichrysum may be useful if your dog has a cardiac disease.
- Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica): Protects your dog’s coat. Cedarwood, or also by the name of cedar oil, can repel and fight off pests (such as fleas). The oil is also healthy for the skin and loss of mobility due to aging or arthritis. In general, Cedarwood is a strengthening oil that will help fortify your dog.
- Cardamom (Elatteria cardamomum): A fantastic oil for internal use. Cardamom has a reputation of working great with respiratory and digestive systems. This essential oil will help normalize gastrointestinal problems, stomach pains, heartburn, indigestion, and breathing issues.
- Frankincense(Boswellia carterii specifically): Another mild oil that is a good fail-safe scent to use. Interestingly, frankincense has been known to fight cancer. It reduces tumors and aids in blood flow. This oil is awesome for an immune boost.
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata): Similar to Cardamom, this oil can also aid in regulating the intestinal and digestive systems. It will staunch nausea, diarrhea, and colic. Under the specific instruction of veterinarians, spearmint can also improve metabolism and assist your dog in losing weight.
- Basil (linalool chemotype, Ocimum basilicum): Sanatizes ears from the presence of microorganisms. Any oils used on the ears should normally be applied after the ear is cleansed by an ear cleaner.
- Carrot Seed (Daucus carota): Good for skin and reduction of dryness/flakiness. Carrot seed is very rejuvenating and stimulating in terms of tissue regrowth.
- Eucalyptus Radiata (Eucalyptus radiata): Eucalyptus is wonderful for curing chest congestion and inflammatory problems. This oil is strong and so it is one you need to be cautious with around puppies or smaller dogs. (In general dogs under 10 weeks old should not be using essential oils).
- Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelum nobile): This oil has many uses. They include: teething relief, muscle pain relief, cramp easing, and nerve calming.
- Thyme ct. Linalool (Thymus vulgaris ct. linalool): Considered a “must-have” oil for dogs. Thyme is not only a pain reliever, but it is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal as well.
There are many more oils that can be safely used around dogs, but these are just some of the more popular ones. Always remember that if your dog has a unique or pressing concern you can speak to a veterinary. They may recommend a more focused approach to certain oils as opposed to others.
Dangerous oils for your dog
There are also certain essential oils that should not be used for or around the dog. Some of these EOs include:
- Ylang ylang
- Tea tree
These essential oils can trigger a range of issues from allergies and skin sensitivities to interference in their natural body processes(organic aromas). Many sources debate whether or not these potentially hazardous EOs are as bad as most may think. A few (one being tea tree) may not be negative in some circumstances. Regardless, unless a specialist suggests that you use one of these oils, it is wiser to stick with the safer options.
There are certain symptoms that can occur from unsafe EOs. These symptoms are warnings that your pet may not be responding well to the aromatherapy and should be checked by a vet immediately. They include:
- Muscle tremors
- Weakness and fatigue
- Scratching and pawing at mouth or face
- Excessive drooling and salivation
- Trouble walking or moving
- Hard time breathing
- Redness or burns on the lips, gums, tongue, or skin
- Cold to the touch due to low body heat
Dr. Janet Roark is an expert when it comes to aromatherapy and animals. In an interview for the Dr. Ericz website, she advises that dogs that are pregnant, dealing with regular seizures, or having problems with bleeding should stay away from aromatherapy.
Important to know:
The label “essential oil” does not always ensure quality. I think because oils are viewed as a more natural remedy, people usually assume that they are always effective. However, oils can be manufactured or developed poorly.
A great indicator of high-quality essential oils is whether or not the brLatinncludes the Latin version of the name. For instance, the ginger oil latin name is Zingiber officinale. One example of a popular website that provides the Latin name is Doterra
A lot of the time when an oil doesn’t include this information, it is more of a perfume with the aroma simply added in. The more information on the bottle the better. It is wise to avoid buying from grocery stores or markets because you want high-grade pure oils from companies that specialize in aromatherapy. They are more natural and most likely have not been diluted by potentially harmful substances. Chances are they are also more expensive, but this is only because they are the real deal. The development of pure essential oil requires a substantial amount of plant life.
Caution also goes along with using essential oils on yourself. You live with your pets, so even if you are using an oil on yourself, you will want to make sure that it is either not harmful to them or that they are not around you while the scent it present.
It could be useful to note that cats are highly sensitive to many oils. If you have a cat in your home, be very cautious when you are using oils on your dogs. The cat may not respond in the same way. Cats cannot be around oils such as; cinnamon, tea tree, thyme, birch, wintergreen, clove, and oregano.
How to use EOs on your dogs:
When introducing an oil to your dog for the first time, you should always start by diluting the oil. You can dilute EOs with other carrier oils. These might include almond oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, or avocado oil.
Dogs have about 50 times as many smell receptors as humans do. Their senses of smell are unbelievably sensitive compared to ours. Having used them myself, I know that essential oils can be super overwhelming for my nose even with just one drop applied topically. I cannot even imagine what that would be like for a dog. It is way better to start too diluted and then slowly add more for the desired results, rather than springing an unknown force on your pup’s ultra-sensitive muzzle.
EOs can be applied topically, aromatically, and internally. However you are applying oils to your dog, look for behavioral reactions. If they are rubbing the applied area, rubbing their nose, squinting or trying to get away from the smell then it is likely that they do not react well to it.
Topical application: Stroke the oils along the pup’s spine. Typically this works the best. EOs can also be applied to the tips of small ears (not long) and on the skin between the pads of the paw. The latter two methods are not always tolerated well, so start diluted and watch your dog’s reaction if you attempt this technique. Never apply to the eyes, nose, or genitals.
Aromatic application: In order to serve this purpose you will need a diffuser. When using a diffuser, such as a Nebulizing diffuser, make sure to keep a door open or a way to leave the room so your dogs are not trapped with the EO. A water diffuser is also a good way to introduce an oil to your dog.
Internal application: If you put EOs in your dog’s drinking water, it needs to be 1 drop per 2 cups drinking water. Oils can also be mixed into foods, but you should try and ration it about the same way as water.
Overall, if you have decided to use aromatherapy on your dog you have probably assessed that it is pretty complicated. It might seem overwhelming to try and make sure that you are only using the right oils and that you are being safe with your dogs. It is a lot of work, but it is well worth it to see your dogs happier and healthier! Vets are always ready to help answer any questions you might have and you can always start out very slow when trying out some EOs with your dog. Actually, the slower the better because dogs need time to adapt. Essential oils can make a world of a difference for both your pet as well as yourself. You are both already a team, so why not embark on this naturally healthy lifestyle together!