Essential oils offer dog owners a simple, respectful way to keep their dogs happy and healthy. Essential oils can help boost your dog’s immune system, fight problems such as itchy skin, separation anxiety, or digestive upset (to name but a few), and increase the level of trust and understanding between you.
How To Use Essential Oils For Dogs Safely
In the wild, animals keep themselves healthy by eating plants and minerals that they need. Yes, even carnivores eat herbs and grasses – you’ve probably seen it in your own backyard. When your dog eats grass, or drinks from a dirty puddle, he is expressing that instinct.
Scientifically this is known as Zoopharmacognosy.
When using essential oils, we use this natural sense and allow dogs to select which essential oils and herbal oils they need.
In our home, we limit our dogs’ choices, controlling what they eat, who they play with, and how they spend their days. This causes stress.
But when we offer essential oils we reduce this stress, by respecting their choices and listening to their preferences. Any time we reduce stress, we increase health.
Zoopharmacognosy: The Basic Rules
First, decide which oils might help your dog.
Make a shortlist of about five oils and put the closed bottles on the floor, well spaced out. Encourage your dog to smell the bottles. Watch carefully and take note of which ones your dog sniffs more intently, or tries to lick. Once he has found the oil he needs, he’ll stop sniffing. He might also try to pick up the bottle, so be prepared to stop him from running off with it.
The ability to pick exactly what they need is so acute that I have watched dogs go through my collection of 60 essential oils, sniffing the closed bottles, till they find what they want. Every animal is clear about which essential oil he needs, and will guide his own healing if given the chance.
The Major Responses
There are three major ways in which dogs choose to interact with aromatic extracts:
- Localized topical application
Inhalation is the most powerful, as the essential oils go straight into the brain via the olfactory system, altering the brain chemistry. Dogs often go into a trance, eyes flickering, or fall into a deep sleep. I have seen emotional problems clear up completely after one session like this.
Dogs are more likely to want the oils orally if they have a physical problem, or one that isn’t deeply rooted.
Often dogs will indicate by pointing at their body with their heads, stamping a foot, or moving into you. This tells you that they want the oil topically on a particular spot, many times an acupuncture point. In this case, rub a little oil into the area indicated.
Understanding Your Dog’s Responses
When you offer essential oils to your dog, you must watch carefully, interpret his responses and follow his direction on how he wants to interact with the oils. This develops your listening and observational skills, making you more attentive to your dog in all areas of his life. And your dog loves that!
To start, hold the open bottle in your hand and let your dog come towards it. He may look a little surprised or perplexed at first, sometimes even wary.
If your dog likes the oil, he will keep his head turned towards you or come closer. If he does not like the oil, he will turn away, put his head down, or otherwise avoid the smell. Licking the lips quickly is another indication of interest in the oil. A big, yawning lick can indicate they are feeling stressed and you need to move the oil further away.
Allow your dog to settle at a comfortable distance from the bottle; he may move away from it at first. As long as he stays in the room with you, with his nose in your direction, it is a positive response. Allow your dog to leave the area if he chooses.
One of the keys to success is patience.
Don’t rush to decide if your dog likes the oil or not; just wait quietly and give your dog time to decide what he wants to do.
Take the character of each individual into account: shy ones need more time to interact; greedy, enthusiastic types need to settle down and engage fully.
Dilute The Oil
Once your dog has chosen the oil(s), dilute each oil separately, with 1 to 3 drops in 1 teaspoon of cold pressed vegetable oil, such as sunflower or olive oil. Offer each diluted oil separately and follow your dog’s responses.
Offer the oils once or twice a day until your dog loses interest. He will have a different response to each oil he has chosen and the responses will change daily.
If his response is very keen, offer the oils twice a day, for a moderate interest offer once a day. Your dog will lose interest in the oils within approximately three days to a week, at which point you should see a marked change in the problem.
Use only good quality essential oils. The best quality is usually available from small companies who cater to professional aromatherapists.
Always dilute essential oils. Overuse of essential oils can cause liver failure and commonly causes skin irritation. Undiluted essential oils assault the dog’s sensitive sense of smell.
A very small amount of essential oil is highly effective, so there is no need to take the extra risks involved with using undiluted oils.
Never be tempted to add essential oils to your dog’s food, rub them on him if he doesn’t want you to, or otherwise force him to take them. This can cause adverse reactions.
**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).