Essential Oils for Dogs
Essential Oils for Dogs and Why They Work
Put simply, essential oils are extracts from the leaves, seeds, bark, resin, roots and flowers of certain plants. Extraction methods vary but the most common is steam distillation. These oils are fragrant and, depending on their purity, they can have powerful effects on humans and animals. Using essential oils for dogs isn't new but until recently it has been something of a well-kept secret. Thanks to dog owners seeking natural solutions to their dog's needs, that secret is out. Every oil has its own properties. Some oils are anti-inflammatory, some are calming, some invigorating. Many work well in blends, while others are at their best when used on their own. Just as with humans, essential oils are absorbed through the dog's skin, or through inhalation (if using a diffuser or spray). Once absorbed, the nervous system reacts by creating physical responses such as relaxation, anti-inflammatory and more.
How to Choose the Correct Essential Oils for DogsDogs may absorb essential oils in the same ways as us but not all oils are beneficial to them and some may be unsafe. Also, if used to excess (just as with humans) even oils considered safe can potentially cause problems. Here is a list of essential oils that you will typically find in use for dogs.
- Lavender (anti-anxiety, antibacterial)
- Ylang Ylang (calming, mood balancing)
- Cedarwood (insect repellent, anti-fungal)
- Neem oil (insect repellent, reduces skin irritation)
- Lemon Grass (insect repellent, anti-bacterial)
- Juniper (Reduces skin problems, antiseptic)
- Rosemary (Anti-inflammatory, hair growth)
There are also an increasing number of vets using essential oils and blends as part of their treatment repertoire. You might find this article by Dr. Andrew Jones interesting, especially if you own cats as well as dogs.
Concentration and Dilution. Our blends of essential oils for dogs include carrier oils (such as coconut oil and aloe vera) and hydrosols (essential oils mixed with purified water) to increase absorption but also to ensure dilution. If you are planning on using individual oils or making your own blends, make sure you do your research on how to correctly dilute.
Trust your dog's nose. When it comes to knowing which essential oil is going to work for your dog, let them decide! A sniff test will normally tell you if it's one you should avoid. We shot a very short video with our young GSD, Loki, that shows his responses to a couple of different essential oils. One is Ylang Ylang (good for mood balancing and calming) and the other is Vertivert (also good for calming). Loki was the name of the mythical Norse god of mischief and believe me, our young man is aptly named because he was an adorable terror as a pup and is still a handful! Remember, every dog is different. If you have lots of furry friends at home, just because one of them loves the scent of lavender, doesn't mean they all will.
When it Comes to Essential Oils for Dogs, Purity Matters
While essential oils are increasing used to improve human and animal health, the biggest users are of course cosmetic companies. Why mention this? Well, these huge corporations naturally want the largest amount of oil for the lowest cost. In response, many oil manufacturers of the most popular oils (such as French Lavender) use extraction methods and dilution that produce high quantities of low-quality oil. Some have even been known to add artificial scent to disguise the inferior quality. Oil quality may not matter so much with perfume but when it comes to using essential oils therapeutically for your dogs (or yourself!), it becomes very important indeed. So, when you are shopping around for individual essential oils or blends, do some research into the source of the oils in question. When I was going through the process of founding Unleashed Oils, I spent weeks liaising with different suppliers - small and large - to find the right sources for the oils we needed and it was time well spent.
Using Essential Oils with Dogs
Firstly, don't use essential oils with young puppies. Personally, I'd consider anything under twelve weeks to be young. The application method you should use will vary, depending on what you are trying to achieve. If we're talking tick and bug repellent then it's simply a case of spraying your dog's fur, while taking care to avoid sensitive areas like eyes, mouth, inside of the ears and genital areas. For a calming spray, which will use oils like lavender and ylang ylang, you can spray your dog's fur and even their bed or blanket Some people use diffusers but I've always found sprays more convenient. There are also other formulations, such as wound gel and paw protectors as well as special anti-inflammatory blends to help reduce pain from arthritis and other aches and pains that dogs get from age or sickness.
If you're looking for detailed information about essential oils for dogs, it's worth reading Essential Oils for Natural Pet Care, by holistic veterinarian, Melissa Shelton. If you're after ready-made, high-quality blends for a specific purpose (such as helping to deal with separation anxiety), then check out our store or, if it's something we don't make ourselves, throw us a question via Facebook or Twitter and we may be able to point you in the right direction.