Good intention, marketing and misinformation has fuelled the improper use of essential oils for dogs.
It’s a dangerous movement for pet owners. And it’s led to people giving their dogs essential oils … internally or on the skin … without dilution.
People think that because they’re natural … that means they’re safe. But nowhere in nature are large amounts of oils produced by a single plant! Plants produce oils in minuscule amounts to communicate, reproduce and protect themselves.
To produce more than a few drops of essential oil … it takes pounds upon pounds of plant matter to distill, express or extract the oil. For example, it takes 16 lbs of peppermint leaves to make one ounce of peppermint essential oil.
This means one drop of a plant’s essential oil is more than 75 times stronger than its herbal counterpart. This formidable strength makes essential oils an extreme form of natural medicine. Don’t ignore their potency!
Safety is a huge concern … especially when you use essential oils internally or in their undiluted state.
Oral Dangers Of Essential Oils For Dogs
There are exceptions to every rule. For some health conditions … like cancer and antibiotic-resistant bacteria (MRSA) … treatment with essential oils is appropriate.
But advising people to give their dogs (or themselves) daily internal doses of undiluted essential oils is not only irresponsible … it’s dangerous.
All animals and humans react to essential oils a different way and you need to use caution.
Robert Tisserand … master aromatherapist and author of Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals … states:
“With ingestion, various risks increase. Including gastric irritation, interactions with conventional medications, and fetal damage in pregnancy. And long-term, depending on dose and frequency, there’s a risk of accumulation in the body. Possibly leading to systemic toxicity. You may not notice anything … but some types of toxicity do not announce their presence in the early stages.”
Tissue damage is one of the reasons you should never allow your dog to take undiluted essential oils. For example … people often tell me they’ve begun adding essential oils to their dog’s water.
Please don’t do this.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying oil and water don’t mix. Well, when you put essential oils in your dog’s water bowl, the oils sit on top of the water.
So when your dog drinks … the oils can irritate the lining of his mouth and throat as well as the stomach and intestines. Prolonged ingestion can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting … and even kidney and liver damage.
Symptoms of toxicity include …
- Excess salivation (drooling)
But remember … these symptoms appear over time. So by the time you notice them, they’ve already harmed your dog.
Using undiluted essential oils on your dog’s skin is also risky.
There’s a strong likelihood of skin sensitivity, inflammation, or damage … and if your dog licks it off his fur, he’ll get an internal dose too.
So always dilute your essential oils before you use them on your dog in any way.
Dilution Of Essential Oils
Essential oils need to be diluted in a carrier oil. This separates the essential oils into tiny particles again.
Dispersing the oil through dilution in a carrier oil helps you get the most healing benefit with the smallest dosage.
Good carrier oils are almond or apricot kernel oil.
How To Dilute Essential Oils
For dogs, I recommend a 0.5% to 1% dilution. This means you add only 3 to 6 drops to an ounce of a carrier oil.
There are more safety issues with essential oils. And that’s in the way they’re marketed.
GRAS, Labeling And Grading
The FDA has classified certain essential oils as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).
Manufacturers argue that essential oil’s GRAS status … make it safe for ingestion and undiluted use. This argument can give consumers a false sense of safety … because an essential oil’s GRAS rating does not stipulate quantity. So it doesn’t tell you anything about how much is safe.
Also … just because the FDA approves a substance doesn’t make it safe. FDA-approved drugs are responsible for over 100,000 deaths per year (see fda.gov). Deaths from adverse side effects caused by those approved drugs. The FDA also allows for the inclusion of many toxic substances in personal care products.
Grading of oils is another misnomer.
When you read these words …
- High grade
- Low grade
- Aromatherapy grade
- Food grade
- Therapeutic grade
… know that they are only descriptions, not regulated classifications.
For aromatherapy, therapeutic benefit and holistic care … you need pure, unadulterated, organic or unsprayed oils from reputable essential oil producers.
Unfortunately there’s no such thing as an authentic grading system … it doesn’t exist. When you see an oil labeled Grade A … that’s just from the company marketing and selling it. It doesn’t mean anything.
In the last few years the term therapeutic grade has saturated the essential oils market. What used to be a term to identify oils for therapeutic purposes … has now become a qualitative word to judge all other oils.
Therapeutic grade is a marketing term.
Sadly, even reputable companies are now forced to use these buzzwords to compete.
Use High Quality Essential Oils
Be wary when companies boast that their oils are the best essential oils available.
Essential oils are a natural product that you can’t replicate over and over to a single standard.
Oils differ from batch to batch and geographic location. Moisture, soil quality and variations in the extraction process can affect their quality.
For example, lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil grown in Oregon near the sea … is quite different than the same species grown at high elevations in France.
Purity is of the utmost importance in using essential oils for health.
To help choose quality unadulterated essential oils, Certified Master Aromatherapist Kristen Leigh Bell … author of Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals, suggests the following guidelines:
- Look for small companies who distill their own oils … or have direct relationships with the farms that do.
- Get information on … country of origin, growing condition, elevation and the method of extraction.
- Make sure your essential oils are in dark amber or blue glass. And that the label includes their Latin names, lot and or batch number.
- Each essential oil has a price range. The pricing should range according to individual oil type. If the price is much lower than the typical average price, the oil is suspect and is likely adulterated.
- Ensure your chosen company has good customer service practices. They should give you the results for a gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC/MS) test. This testing helps to determine the purity of the essential oil.
Related: 5 steps to make essential oils safe for dogs …
Buying essential oils is a “buyer beware” business.
There is no regulatory system for essential oil standards. Variations in quality exist and you must do your due diligence when shopping for oils.
If you’re new to using essential oils or confused about how to use them safely … contact a certified aromatherapist or holistic practitioner. Look for someone with a high level of experience using essential oils with animals.
If you’re using, selling, or making products with essential oils, it’s important to learn how to use them safely.
Bottom Line On Essential Oil Safety
Essential oils should only be used internally or undiluted when absolutely necessary for certain health conditions … and then only under the care of a certified herbalist or experienced holistic vet.
These physical, emotional and energetic healers are available for the benefit of our dogs and ourselves … but, used unwisely, they can also be harmful.