Using essential oils on dogs is a controversial topic. Some say you can while others are firmly against it. The internet is full of remedies … but are essential oils safe for dogs?
The short answer’s yes, but you need to be sure you’re following a few guidelines.
If you’ve been afraid to use oils around your dogs, you’re not alone. But you should feel empowered to introduce essential oils as long as you go about it safely.
Here are some safe and effective ways to use essential oils with dogs. Remember, the number one rule is to trust your instincts. When in doubt, don’t do it. Listen to that wise voice inside your head and don’t take a risk with your dog’s health or well being.
How To Make Essential Oils Safe For Dogs
1. Let your dog’s powerful sense of smell guide her healing.
Your dog has amazing innate wisdom. Use that wisdom as a guide. Give your dog the freedom to inhale or avoid essential oils. This can be as simple as leaving the door open when you’re blending, formulating or diffusing so that your dog can leave if she wants to.
This simple act is the process of self-selection and empowering your animal. Essential oils are powerful and meaningful and work effectively via the inhalation route of absorption for animals. Often inhalation is all they need to heal.
Don’t feel like you’re losing effectiveness by sticking to inhalation. Dogs have one nose but three routes of administration. A dog has about 300 million olfactory receptors as compared to humans who have 5 million or so.
When your dog breathes in, her airflow is split into two paths. One for breathing and the other for smelling. The aromatic molecules are absorbed through the mucous membranes in the olfactory tract while the lungs enable molecules to enter the lungs and therefore the bloodstream. And then there is the Vomeronasal organ. You can see when an animal is using this because her mouth will hang slightly open. Aromatic molecules activate the VNO receptors which send signals to the emotional centers of the brain.
2. Do not use essential oils on skin or fur.
You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) use essential oils as remedies directly on your dog’s skin or fur. Your dog has an incredibly powerful sense of smell, which makes essential oils all the more effective, but this also means you should be all the more respectful of your dog’s wishes. You must have an advanced education in both essential oil chemistry and animal care to use essential oils on skin. Pet owners should never use essential oils in this way.
Avoid listening to advice from people who don’t have a strong background in clinical aromatherapy or animal wellness. You’ll find people online recommending using certain “safe” oils on their pets’ skin, ears or fur. It’s easy to jump online and post about essential oils, but usually these lists don’t take into account dosing, dilution or an individual animal’s health concerns.
3. Offer essential oils gently and respectfully.
The method of inhalation for dogs is incredibly simple. Open a bottle of essential oil and hold it out where your dog can approach. A good distance is no closer than 1 or 2 feet from her nose. Let her experience the oil from this respectful distance.
If she likes it, she’ll lick her lips, or blink rapidly or mouth. Don’t let your dog touch the bottle or lick the oil.
Pay attention to your dog’s signals. When you offer an essential oil to your dog, offer one at a time. Be patient if your dog is inhaling the oil. Don’t chase your dog with it or force your dog to smell it. Then offer the next essential oil. You’ll know when your dog no longer wants any more.
The signs that your dog is done with the oils are:
- Lack of interest
- Backing away from the remedy
- Going into a deep sleep
- Turning her back to you for a long time
That’s it! Wash your hands when you’re done.
Always avoid using essential oils, especially undiluted, on your own skin where your dog may lick you or where you might rub against your dog’s fur.
4. Try using gentle hydrosols.
The only exception to the “no skin or fur” rule is to use plain hydrosols (also known as essential waters) instead of essential oils. Hydrosols don’t contain concentrated essential oils. They’re the byproducts of distillation, and they’re safe for dogs (and even babies), but you should still let your dog choose the hydrosol. Never hold her down or force her to be sprayed by a hydrosol.
Instead, spray onto a clean cloth and let your dog give it a sniff. If she rubs up against it or licks it, she likes it. Spray onto your hand and pet her.[Related: How are hydrosols made? Find out here]
5. Use a diffuser to enjoy the same remedies that help your dog.
An aromatherapy diffuser can be found in most stores and online for a very small investment. It creates a thin stream of mist, diffusing the aroma and tiny droplets of essential oils into the air.
Make a stock blend and add a few drops to your aromatherapy diffuser or aroma stone. Using a diffuser has the added benefit of making the treatment enjoyable for everyone in your home.
You and your dog don’t have the same taste. Don’t assume that because you love the smell of a certain essential oil, your dog will like it as well. If your dog regularly leaves when you’re diffusing an oil, do not use it in your home or any of your dog’s spaces.
13 Essential Oil Blends
Here are some of my favorite recipes for essential oil blends.
For each recipe, combine 5 drops of each oil for a stock blend. When the recipe calls for a hydrosol, mix 5 drops of each oil into 2 oz of the hydrosol.
Use the inhalation method with your small stock blend or use in a diffuser.
Precautions: Don’t use any of these essential oil recipes for dogs directly on skin or fur. Never allow your dog to ingest oils in any way.
- Separation Anxiety: Neroli (Citrus aurantium var amara), Violet Leaf (Viola odorata), Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Rose hydrosol.
- Fear of Thunder and Fireworks: Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), Rose Otto (Rosa damascena), Hops (Humulus lupulus), and Cornflower hydrosol.
- Fear of Vet or Groomer: Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), Violet Leaf (Viola odorata), Linden Blossom (Tilia cordata).
- Past abuse/ Physical Trauma: Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), Linden Blossom (Tilia cordata), Melissa (Melissa officinalis), Rose Otto (Rosa damascena), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
- Anxiety: Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), Violet Leaf (Viola odorata), Linden Blossom (Tilia cordata), Roman chamomile (Chamomilla nobile), Hemp (Cannabis sativa). Thia blend of essential oil to calm dog anxiety is really effective.
- Allergies and Itchiness: German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), and Yarrow or German Chamomile hydrosols. These are great essential oils for dogs itching and scratching.
- Fungal Skin Infection: Melissa (Melissa officinalis), Lemon (Citrus limon), Sandalwood ( Santalum album).
- Lick Granulomas: Roman chamomile (Chamomilla nobile) to inhale, German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla).
- Ear Infection: German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Lemon (Citrus limon), Melissa (Melissa officinalis), Sandalwood (Santalum album), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Thyme thymol (Thymus vulgaris ct thymol).
- Eye Infection: German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Sandalwood (Santalum album), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Wild Carrot Seed (Daucus carota), and Cornflower, Elderflower, or Helichrysum italicum hydrosols.
- Urinary/Bladder: Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis), Sandalwood (Santalum album), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
- Diarrhea: Garlic (Allium sativum), Clove bud (Eugenia caryophyllata), Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Thyme thymol (Thymus vulgaris ct thymol).
- Spaying/Neutering: Sandalwood (Santalum album), German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Wintergreen (Gaultherria fragmentissima).
[Related: You can use essential oils for natural flea prevention. Find out how here]
By following these guidelines, you can enter a new world of safe, natural treatment and make essential oils safe for dogs. Consider studying aromatherapy in depth to begin to formulate your own recipes and gain a deeper understanding of why essential oils affect humans and dogs so profoundly.
**If you believe that your dog has ingested essential oils or come in contact with undiluted oils, call your holistic veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680).