Just as aromatherapy can benefit humans both physically and psychologically, it can also benefit dogs.
It is important to remember that the essential oils blends and aromatherapy that human beings can handle and enjoy, might not produce the same reaction in our pets.
In fact, some oils can be quite dangerous.
Dr. Richard Palmquist has the following to say about essential oils and your dog:
“Oils have been shown to have many possible desirable effects such as reducing anxiety and inflammation, fighting oxidative processes, battling toxins and fighting infections by inhibiting bacteria, fungi and viruses. Oil odors can also be used to affect mental states and memory. Modern doctors are looking for agents that will assist in management of resistant infections and cancer, and these natural products may well hold the key to several major advancements.”
Essential oils contain a host of biologically active and powerful compounds.
Used correctly, they are an indispensible part of integrative medical care.
However, they can cause undesirable and even dangerous side effects, and people using oils medically should seek specialized training.
Plants manufacture oils for many reasons. Plants cannot move and escape predators and infectious threats, so they produce compounds that neutralize or repel pests and pathogens.
Essential oils are absorbed by inhalation, ingestion and contact with the skin. They rapidly enter the body and the blood stream and are distributed to various tissues.
As with all compounds, some chemicals have a biological affinity for specific tissues, and doctors — or those knowledgeable about oil use — can use this property to select oils that will target specific tissues.
The compounds present in essential oils are powerful.
Very small amounts of these substances can have powerful biological effects on every system of the body.
For example, lavender oil has powerful effects on the brain and creates a calming sensation.
Small amounts of lavender oil can be used when traveling to calm pets or make them feel sleepy.
Some Safe Oils To Consider
Veterinarians are skilled in the diagnosis of disease in animals and should always be consulted — especially in situations where symptoms are severe or persist.
Always tell your veterinarian what natural products your pet is using and involve him or her in these decisions.
The following oils can be used in first aid and are safe for short-term use:
- Lavender: Universal oil, can use pure or diluted. Useful in conditioning patients to a safe space. May help allergies, burns, ulcers, insomnia, car ride anxiety and car sickness, to name a few.
- Cardamom: Diuretic, anti-bacterial, normalizes appetite, colic, coughs, heartburn and nausea.
- Fennel: assists the adrenal cortex, helps break up toxins and fluid in tissue. Balances pituitary, thyroid and pineal glands.
- Helichrysum: Anti-bacterial, reduces bleeding in accidents, skin regenerator, helps repair nerves. Also useful in cardiac disease.
- Frankincense: Has helped some cases of cancer. Works on the immune system. Has reduced tumors and external ulcers. Increases blood supply to the brain (although it can worsen hypertension so use caution).
- Spearmint: Helps to reduce weight. Good for colic, diarrhea, nausea. Helps balance metabolism, stimulates gallbladder. When diluted and used short term, this oil is helpful for many gastrointestinal issues in cats.
While oils are useful in healing and affecting mentation, they are powerful and can cause a wide variety of adverse effects. Principles of safe use are recommended.
The largest problem with essential oils is that they may contain contaminants or adulterants that make more serious issues arise.
For this reason, one should only use therapeutic grade oils from reputable companies and verify the quality of oils before using them.
Animals have sensitive senses of smell, so in most cases it is best to use oils that are diluted and always provide an escape route.
If a pet does not like an oil, do not enforce its use.
Cats are particularly at risk for oil reactions and in most cases we use oils very sparingly on cats.
One drop of essential oil diluted in 50 drops of a pure dilutional oil such as grape seed oil is usually sufficient.
Since animals metabolize and react differently to essential oils, it is important to know about species-specific differences before using oils.
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.
Lavender oil is highly useful, but it contains no antioxidant compounds and can therefore oxidize as it is stored.
These oxidized alcohols can aggravate patients and lead to the development of allergic responses.
Some essential oils can cause liver and kidney toxicity in sensitive species.
Cats use a different system in their liver to detoxify and are particularly sensitive to essential oils that contain polyphenolic compounds.
These are so-called “hot” oils like cinnamon, oregano, clove, wintergreen, thyme and birch, which are oils that should be avoided in cats.
Cats should not receive melaleuca (tea tree) oil – which can also be toxic to dogs. Never put essential oils into the ear canal as they can damage cats’ delicate ear drums and nerves.
Care is needed around eyes as well. Always wash your hands after handling oils to prevent accidentally getting them into your eyes.
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 treatment 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 entire article here