Aromatherapy.....not just another pretty smell.

I am always interested in learning more about different complementary health care practices. Most recently I have been exploring the world of aromatherapy. When you hear the word aromatherapy, what do you think about.....soft music, scented candles and fragrant soaps? That’s what most people think about, but in fact aromatherapy is something else entirely. It is a practice that is completely misunderstood.

Aromatherapy is strictly defined as the therapeutic use of essential oils and hydrosols for holistic health treatments. Essential oils are extracted from the leaves, roots, stem and bark of plants. Pure unadulterated essential oils are very powerful substances. They have many therapeutic properties including antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, sedative, stimulating and anti-inflammatory properties. Essential oils can be used to benefit both both and humans and animals. In dogs essential oils can be used to treat many common ailments including hot spots, bad breath, rashes, itchy skin and smells ears. They can also be used as flea and tick repellents.

Safe use of Essential oils in dogs

As with anything, there are some very important points to consider before you try treating your four-legged friends with essential oils.

  • One of the most important concerns is the quality of the oils. You want to use high quality unadulterated oils and these are not generally sold in drug stores, grocery stores, health food stores, pet stores, etc. Companies frequently add synthetic components to the oils to make them go farther and increase their profit. Do some research and find a reputable supplier who is highly educated about the oils that they sell.

  • Do not use essential oils on puppies until they are at least 10 weeks old and then introduce them very gradually. If the dog shows any signs of distress (Drooling, panting, whining, rubbing their faces on the floor.…) around the essential oil, stop using it.

  • NEVER use undiluted oils on your dog. A dog should be treated with a dilution similar to what you would use to treat a baby. This is generally 25% of the standard adult dose. What exactly does this mean? It is 10 drops of essential oil in 15ml of a base oil or 30 drops of essential oil in 8oz. of shampoo base. As the saying goes---“Less is more.” Dogs can be very sensitive to the oils so go slowly.

  • Always mix the essential oils with other 100% natural ingredients. Don’t add pure oils to synthetic bases like dishwashing liquids or synthetic shampoos. Read the labels.

  • Keep oils away from the dog’s eyes, nose and genital area. Never give any oils internally unless on the recommendation of an expert in aromatherapy.

  • Do NOT use essential oils with cats. Cats are extremely sensitive to certain essential oils. They do not have the ability to breakdown certain substances and excrete them. These substances can build up in their little bodies and become toxic. A safer alternative for cats is the use of hydrosols. Hydrosols are a water based byproduct of the steam distillation of essential oils. To learn more about hydrosols contact someone trained in aromatherapy or find a book written by someone well trained in the use of essential oils with animals.

Which oils are safe for my dog?

Not all essential oils are safe for dogs. The following is a list of a few that are considered safe to use. There are many others also consider safe for use in dogs. Remember NONE of these oils are safe for cats.

Carrot Seed, Atlas Cedarwood, German chamomile, Roman Chamomile, Clary Sage, Eucalyptus, Geranium. Ginger, Lavender, Green Mandarin, Sweet Marjoram, Myrrh, Niaouli, Sweet Orange, Peppermint, Rose, Thyme, Valerian

Before experimenting too much with aromatherapy and essential oils on your pet I would recommend reading doing some reading and research or taking a class taught by someone well versed in the safe use of essential oil with animals. A book that I have found to be a wonderful resource on the use of essential oils and aromatherapy in animals is Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals written by Kristen Leigh Bell. Bell has extensive training, experience and research in the use of essential oils for animals.

Below are a few simple recipes for commonly used dog products taken from Bell’s book.

Skin Soothing Shampoo

Add the following oils to 8 oz of all natural shampoo base:

2 drops Geranium EO(essential oil)

6 drops Rosewood EO

6 drops Lavender EO

1 drop Roman Chamomile EO

2 drops Carrot Seed EO.

Canine Calming Blend

15 ml base oils such as sweet almond or hazelnut

3 drops Lavender EO

3 drops Sweet Marjoram EO

3 drops Roman Chamomile EO

3 drops Sweet Orange EO

This blend should be stored in a dark glass bottle. It is most effective when applied topically such as with massage for inhalation.

As always please remember that this information is not meant as a substitute for veterinary care. If you think that your dog is ill please contact your local vet.

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