What Essential Oils Are Safe For Dogs?

essential oils safe for dogs

Everyone’s quick to recommend essential oils for almost any condition … from arthritis to separation anxiety.  But not all essential oils are good for dogs. In fact, some oils can be dangerous.

So, what essential oils are safe for dogs?

Here’s the information you need about essential oils … which ones are safe for dogs and which aren’t. Plus, how to use them safely on or around your dog.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are concentrated compounds extracted from plants, usually by water or steam distillation. They’re the essence of the plant, with many different functions … such as protecting the plant from predators and pathogens, because plants can’t move to escape threats.

Essential oils are expensive because it takes so much plant material to make them. For example, it takes about 250 lbs of lavender flower to make 1 lb of lavender essential oil. This is why essential oils are so powerful.

The body can absorb essential oils into the bloodstream through various methods:

  • Inhalation
  • Ingestion (swallowing or licking)
  • Through the skin

Once the oils get into the bloodstream, they can travel to various tissues. Different chemicals in the oils have a biological affinity for certain tissues. So knowing your oil’s components is the first step in choosing the right oil for your dog.

Are Essential Oils Safe For Dogs?

Essential oils have benefits for humans and dogs … but they can be harmful to dogs if used the wrong way. And some essential oils are extremely toxic to dogs.

If you want to use essential oils around or on your dog, it’s a good idea to check with a holistic veterinarian, herbalist or aromatherapist who’s knowledgeable about essential oils for dogs. Ask which oils are safe, the dilution ratios, and when and how to use them. Always watch your dog for any reaction, and give him a chance to say no to any essential oil you offer him.

Are Essential Oils Safe For Dogs To Smell?

Dogs have a heightened sense of smell and their bodies process substances differently from humans. Some essential oils can be safe for dogs to smell in small amounts, but be careful. Certain essential oils can be overwhelming or irritating to your dog. And dogs should never take essential oils by mouth. 

You can test your dog’s reaction to a specific essential oil by letting him sniff the bottle with the cap still on. If your dog turns away or shows discomfort in any way, don’t use that oil for your dog.

Here’s a little teaser from our Canine Essential Oils course. Dr Isla Fishburn shows how your dog will also let you know if he’s had enough of a certain oil.

Many people ask if essential oil diffusers are safe for dogs. That depends on the oil. Only use oils from the safe lists below. Place only a drop or 2 in your diffuser water … and always make sure your dog (or other pets) can leave the space if they don’t like it. That means you should only use a diffuser when you’re home to turn it off if necessary.

Others ask if essential oil candles are safe for dogs. Usually, they are not safe, even when unlit. They’re often made with cheap waxes that release toxic gases into the air, and they often contain poor quality essential oils.  

Veterinarian Dr Richard Palmquist says this about essential oils and your dog:

“Essential oils contain a host of biologically active and powerful compounds. Used correctly, they are an indispensable part of integrative medical care. However, they can cause undesirable and even dangerous side effects.  This is why people using oils medically should seek specialized training.”

So don’t think essential oils are safe because they are “natural.” Before you use them on your dog, you need to know which oils you can use … and how.

How To Use Essential Oils For Dogs

Essential oils can help your dog with many issues but they’re also very powerful. Be sure to use safe handling principles … or consult an aromatherapy expert so that you don’t risk harming your dog. Always wash your hands after handling essential oils.

Caution: Because essential oils are so popular, there are some bad manufacturers. Some oils can contain contaminants or adulterants, and can cause a more serious adverse reaction. Always use high quality oils from reputable companies. A good company will be happy to answer questions about their product.

Use Diluted Oils
Your dog’s sense of smell is hundreds of times more sensitive than yours so be sure to use diluted oils. Here’s canine herbalist Rita Hogan’s recommendation for topical use of essential oils:

Use a 0.5% to a 1% dilution. This means 3 to 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of a carrier oil. She recommends using almond, coconut or apricot kernel oil.

For internal use, read the cautions in the link below.

RELATED: Be aware of the dangers of undiluted essential oils for dogs …

Which Essential Oils Are Safe For Dogs?

Before using essential oils, check with your holistic vet if your dog has severe or persistent symptoms you’re trying to handle. Also, make sure your vet knows what other natural products you’re using for your dog. This will help you avoid any interactions with other remedies.

Many essential oils have similar healing properties, so if your dog rejects one scent, there may be another one he tolerates better. And NEVER give these oils orally to your dog. Some are considered safe when used topically or diffused, but can still be toxic if licked or swallowed.

Here are some essential oils that are safe for short-term or first aid use …

Best Essential Oils For Dogs

  • Lavender: Calming, helps with anxiety and stress, burns, ulcers, insomnia, car ride anxiety and motion sickness.
  • Cardamom: Aids in digestion, heartburn, nausea, colic, coughs and freshens breath.
  • Fennel: Helps the adrenals and balances pituitary, thyroid and pineal glands. It can also break up toxins and fluid in tissue, supports digestion and freshens breath.
  • Helichrysum: It’s anti-bacterial and can reduce bleeding after an accident, helps regenerate skin and repair nerves. It’s also useful in heart disease.
  • Frankincense: This has helped some cases of cancer and works on the immune system. It can reduce tumors and external ulcers as well as increase blood supply to the brain … although it can worsen high blood pressure, so use caution. Its anti-inflammatory properties have helped in cases of arthritis and asthma.
  • Spearmint: Preferable to peppermint as less menthol makes it less pungent. It helps to reduce weight, balance metabolism and stimulate the gallbladder. It can also be used for colic, diarrhea and nausea. 
  • Chamomile: Soothing, aids in relaxation and digestion.
  • Ginger: Aids in digestion, relieves nausea and motion sickness.
  • Lemon Balm: Calming, aids in digestion and relaxation.
  • Myrrh: Antimicrobial, helps with skin infections and inflammation.

Best Calming Essential Oils For Dogs

  • Clary Sage: Hormone-balancing, promotes relaxation.
  • Marjoram: Supports muscle relaxation, eases pain.
  • Valerian: Calming, aids in anxiety and sleep issues.
  • Patchouli: Soothes skin irritations, promotes relaxation.
  • Bergamot: Uplifting, helps with mood and anxiety.
  • Rose or Rosewood: Promotes emotional balance, soothes skin.
  • Sandalwood: Calming, promotes relaxation and skin health.
  • Neroli: Calming, promotes relaxation and skin health.
  • Sweet Orange or Tangerine: Uplifting, helps with anxiety and depression.
  • Lemongrass: Insect repellent, promotes calmness.

Best Essential Oils To Repel Fleas and Mosquitoes

Lavender, lemongrass and peppermint (or spearmint) have strong scents to repel insects. Other options to repel insects and fleas include:

  • Eucalyptus (in low dilutions and with caution): Supports respiratory health, repels insects.
  • Cedarwood: Repels fleas and ticks, promotes relaxation.
  • Geranium: Repels ticks and fleas, may help with skin conditions.
  • Rosemary: Supports cognitive function, repels fleas (don’t feed). Avoid for dogs with epilepsy.
  • Basil: Supports focus and concentration, repels insects.
  • Thyme: Supports respiratory health, repels insects.
  • Juniper Berry: Supports urinary health, repels insects.
  • Hyssop: Supports respiratory health, repels insects (don’t feed).

What Essential Oils Are Bad For Dogs?

Dogs metabolize and react differently to essential oils. Some essential oils contain compounds that can be harmful to dogs if swallowed, inhaled or even used topically. Remember there’s a huge difference in strength between an essential oil and the plant it came from, even if the whole herb is safe for your dog. 

Always be cautious with so-called “hot” oils like cinnamon, oregano, clove, wintergreen, thyme or birch. Their possible side effects are shown below, as well as other oils you should only use with caution or under expert guidance. In general, it’s safest to avoid them.

  • Cinnamon: Irritation to the skin, mouth, and digestive system, liver damage.
  • Oregano: Gastrointestinal upset, liver damage, skin irritation.
  • Clove: Liver damage, difficulty breathing, bleeding disorders.
  • Wintergreen: Aspirin-like effects, gastrointestinal issues, neurological problems.
  • Thyme: Gastrointestinal upset, irritation to the skin and mucous membranes.
  • Birch: Skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures.
  • Tea Tree (melaleuca) oil: Toxicity, skin irritation, neurological problems.
  • Eucalyptus: Respiratory distress, drooling, vomiting, weakness.
  • Clove: Liver damage, difficulty breathing, bleeding disorders.
  • Cinnamon: Irritation to the skin, mouth, and digestive system, liver damage.
  • Citrus (eg, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit): Skin irritation, gastrointestinal upset, photosensitivity.
  • Pennyroyal: Liver failure, seizures, organ damage, miscarriage (if ingested by pregnant dogs).
  • Pine: Irritation to the skin, respiratory issues, vomiting, weakness.
  • Peppermint (in high concentrations): Gastrointestinal upset, liver damage, respiratory issues.
  • Camphor: Neurological problems, seizures, liver damage.
  • Garlic: Hemolytic anemia, gastrointestinal upset, liver damage.
  • Mustard: Gastrointestinal issues, skin irritation, oral burns.
  • Nutmeg: Central nervous system depression, tremors, seizures, hallucinations.
  • Thuja: Contains a neurotoxin, causes vomiting, diarrhea, kidney damage.
  • Basil: Gastrointestinal upset, skin irritation, potential liver damage.
  • Juniper: Kidney damage, gastrointestinal upset, skin irritation.
  • Citronella: Gastrointestinal upset, skin irritation, potential central nervous system depression.
  • Rue: Gastrointestinal upset, skin irritation, potential liver damage.
  • Yarrow: Skin irritation, potential gastrointestinal upset, liver damage.
  • Tarragon: Gastrointestinal upset, potential skin irritation.

When Less Is More

Dr Palmquist finds that pet owners can run into trouble with good intentions …

 “One problem we see in our clinic involves people overusing oils. A person discovers essential oils and begins to diffuse the oils into their homes leading to an unintentional overdose for their pets. Some essential oils can cause liver and kidney toxicity in sensitive species.”

“To reduce the chances of sensitivity and organ toxicity, we generally use an oil for no more than two weeks and then provide a rest period.”

“Under certain circumstances … like in the treatmen of cancer … we will use oils for longer periods, but this is something best left to those trained in the use of oils.”

You can read Dr. Palmquist’s full article here.

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