Essential Oils for Pets

How to Use Them Safely



cynoclub/Shutterstock.com

Essential oils are derived from plant-based sources, leading people to equate natural with safe; but that’s not always the case. Knowing how and when to use oils is vital, according to Gary Richter, DVM, an integrative veterinarian and medical director of Holistic Veterinary Care, in Oakland, California. A veterinarian trained in the use of essential oils understands the properties of each oil, along with its proper dilution and application, a subject not generally taught in traditional veterinary schools; holistic medicine requires additional training.

With proper use under professional guidance, essential oils can be part of a larger treatment plan, says Richter. Cats are generally more sensitive to oils because they don’t metabolize medicine as efficiently as dogs, he notes. “As one professor used to tell our veterinary class, ‘Cats are not small dogs, so they can’t be treated as if they are’—always good to remember.”

Soothing Effects

Just as chamomile tea relaxes humans, anxious dogs find its scent calming. Some vets spray the exam room with lavender between appointments to calm anxious clients.

Sally Morgan, a physical therapist and advanced certified practitioner of the gentle animal bodywork therapy known as Tellington TTouch, sees clients in her Northampton, Massachusetts, office. “I put a drop of a peace and calming blend or lavender on the carpet or a pillow,” she says. “It relaxes the animal and dissipates the smells of previous clients. I don’t use diffusers. The odor can be too strong for their sensitive noses. There’s also a danger it could spill and be licked up.”

One thing I'd say is, learn all you can before using oils around pets.
~Gary Richter, integrative veterinarian and founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition

Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed Kim Paciotti, owner of Training Canines, LLC, based in Statesville, North Carolina, finds the scent of green apples relieves anxiety and soothes upset tummies for dogs and puppies that suffer from motion sickness. “Cotton balls placed inside a small container clipped to the outside of their crates deliver the smell,” she says. “They don’t have direct contact, but still reap the benefits, allowing the dogs to self-medicate by sniffing when they feel the need.”

Kimberley Wallace, founder of kW Sustainable Brands, in San Diego, burns organic, sweet basil-scented candles for their antiviral, antibacterial properties. Her pugs love the smell. “Our rescue pug has mast cell tumors which compromise her immune system. I do my due diligence to buy all-natural products whenever I can.”

Proceed With Caution

Susan Schmitz/Shutterstock.comPure essential oils are far too strong to use undiluted, Richter says. Age, physical condition and species are so varied that guessing which oil and how to use it can be dangerous to the pet. “Skin irritation like a hot spot or rash is a relatively minor problem that could benefit from the right essential oil. An open wound requires a veterinary visit,” he says. “Some oils aren’t recommended unless under veterinary guidance. Reactions can range from mere annoyance to toxicity.”

Wintergreen, melaleuca, pennyroyal, tea tree and pine oils cause the most reported problems for dogs, according to PetPoisonHelpline.com. Peppermint, cloves, cinnamon and oregano oil also can be quite strong and require educated use, says Richter. An uneven gait, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and weakness can be symptoms of toxicity, requiring immediate veterinary care to prevent damage to the central nervous system or organ failure.

Helpful Resources
Oil Safety Tips
24/7 Animal Poison Control Center: 855-764-7661

In its fragrance and taste, plants have defense mechanisms to ward off destructive insects or to attract bees and butterflies. Those same properties can help people and animals. The plant’s natural compounds can ward off fungi, bacteria, parasites or inflammation. However, just reading a label isn’t enough to know which oils will work best for these problems.

The Animal Desk Reference II: Essential Oils for Animals, Second Edition, by Melissa Shelton, is a reader-friendly guide,” says Richter. “I touch on the subject in my book The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats, but for deeper study, I recommend Shelton’s book.”

“One thing I’d say is, learn all you can before using oils around pets,” Richter says. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all formula for dilution for safe use. There are too many variables with oils and animals.”

Be more than a well-meaning pet lover—also be well-educated.


Sandra Murphy is a freelance writer in St. Louis, MO. Connect at StLouisFreelanceWriter@mindspring.com.


This article appears in the February 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

News Briefs

Dog Walk and Pet Fair Benefits SPCA

Dog Walk and Pet Fair Benefits SPCA

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 4, at FDR State Park, in Yorktown Heights
Birds of Prey Day at Green Chimneys

Birds of Prey Day at Green Chimneys

Visitors will have a chance to get “up-close and personal” with eagles, hawks, owls and falcons.
Holistic Expo Will Raise Funds for ‘Zen-Tuary’

Holistic Expo Will Raise Funds for ‘Zen-Tuary’

10 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 2 at Fable: From Farm to Table, in Ossining
Inner Harmony Expert Brings ‘Empowered Self Relating’ to Rhinebeck

Inner Harmony Expert Brings ‘Empowered Self Relating’ to Rhinebeck

At the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck June 21 to 23.
The Temperance Center Plans New Classes and Workshops

The Temperance Center Plans New Classes and Workshops

Services include yoga, meditation and special workshops and trainings.
Stress-Fighting Tools Can Preserve Physical Health

Stress-Fighting Tools Can Preserve Physical Health

Reiki I class on May 6 and 7
Golden Prana Is a ‘Wellness Oasis’ in Katonah

Golden Prana Is a ‘Wellness Oasis’ in Katonah

Designed to enhance peace, promote healing and cultivate self-awareness.
Science

Science

7 p.m., May 17, at First Unitarian Society of Westchester, in Hastings-on-Hudson
Light Therapy Can Have Emotional and Visual Benefits

Light Therapy Can Have Emotional and Visual Benefits

“Light therapy is a means of bringing the nervous system into balance."
Ayurveda Can Improve Women’s Health

Ayurveda Can Improve Women’s Health

“The key, from the Ayurvedic perspective, is living in balance so that the body’s intricate systems can function properly.”
Sleep Apnea Often Treatable with Oral Appliance Therapy

Sleep Apnea Often Treatable with Oral Appliance Therapy

“If you or your bed partner snores, please call me and ask about a sleep apnea consultation.”
Integrative Medical Pioneer to Disburse His Document Collection

Integrative Medical Pioneer to Disburse His Document Collection

"I would like to pass this on to an institution, a clinic or a few individuals who will cherish them."
Elizabeth Pasquale Achieves Certification in Neuro-Hypnotic Repatterning

Elizabeth Pasquale Achieves Certification in Neuro-Hypnotic Repatterning

“Now I have another valuable technique to help people reach their goal of health, vibrancy and happiness even faster.”
Centenarian Master Yogini to Teach Briarcliff Workshop

Centenarian Master Yogini to Teach Briarcliff Workshop

1:30 to 4:30 p.m., June 8, at Club Fit, in Briarcliff Manor
Lucky Orphans Hosts Faces of PTSD Gallery

Lucky Orphans Hosts Faces of PTSD Gallery

noon to 5 p.m., May 18
Meditation Helps Massage Therapist ‘Listen’ to the Body

Meditation Helps Massage Therapist ‘Listen’ to the Body

“I assess where the client is emotionally, listening to what their muscles have to say."
Micro-Business Training in Pleasantville for Adults with Autism

Micro-Business Training in Pleasantville for Adults with Autism

Through hands-on training, participants can learn skills like order processing, packaging, marketing, distribution and customer relations.
Life Energy Arts Opening in Mount Kisco

Life Energy Arts Opening in Mount Kisco

Grand opening 2 to 4 p.m. on May 5
5Rhythms Family Dance Makes Hudson Valley Debut

5Rhythms Family Dance Makes Hudson Valley Debut

2 to 3:30 p.m. on May 4, at the Ascend Center, in Cold Spring
Holistic Group Holds Regular Networking Events in Yorktown

Holistic Group Holds Regular Networking Events in Yorktown

“We are a relaxed group of professionals offering a supportive community, networking events, many affordable marketing opportunities and fun.”
Local Heart Walks Happening This Year

Local Heart Walks Happening This Year

Heart Walks fund the AHA’s research and awareness programs.
Unique Therapy Effects Transformation through Movement

Unique Therapy Effects Transformation through Movement

“Change the Dance of Life healing reshapes emotional patterns of life and relationships at the cellular and conscious levels by physically moving subtle energy.”
Local Wellness Coaches Building a ‘Gym for the Soul’

Local Wellness Coaches Building a ‘Gym for the Soul’

“The center will be a hub for heart-centered collaboration, personal evolution and business growth—a spiritual home for healers and those seeking healing, alike.”
World Tai Chi Qigong Day: One Breath, One World

World Tai Chi Qigong Day: One Breath, One World

On April 27, In Balance Tai Chi Studio, in Brewster, will invite the public to celebrate the 20th annual World Tai Chi and Qigong Day (WTCQD) with a presentation.
Qi Revolution Comes to Danbury

Qi Revolution Comes to Danbury

The three-day training will be available in Danbury, Connecticut, from April 13 to 15 at the Amber Room Colonnade.
A Quarter-Century in Green Lawn Care and Pest Control

A Quarter-Century in Green Lawn Care and Pest Control

“I do a lot of research and testing of my oils; I even make a pet line and a human line. It’s all safe and natural."
Awaken Wellness Fair Returns to Tarrytown

Awaken Wellness Fair Returns to Tarrytown

April 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel
Bethany Arts Community Accepting Applications for Artist Residencies

Bethany Arts Community Accepting Applications for Artist Residencies

The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. EST on April 30

Add your comment: