Essential oils are created from the extracts of plants and herbs through a distillation process using natural methods. Steam is a widely used agent to create the oils through distillation thereby keeping the actual essence natural and pure. There are many uses for essential oils including for health and beauty products, medicinal purposes, adding scents to cleaning solutions, and to create incense or household deodorizers. Because they are natural products, essential oils from many plants and herbs have properties that have multiple uses to also help us keep our dogs healthy. If your family includes a cat also, be aware that many oils that are appropriate for use with dogs might be severe irritants, or even toxic, to cats.
Some beneficial uses of essential oils for dogs include stress and anxiety reduction, flea and tick repellent, treatment of digestive disorders, joint pain, hygienic uses such as shampoos or outer ear cleaners, and to enhance skin and coat health. There are different oils used in different combinations for each of these, so homework is required if you want to add essential oils to your dog’s health regimen. Some oils can be used topically or given orally mixed in their food. Before using any oil with your dog, it is always good to do a whiff test: put a drop on your palm and let her have a whiff of it. Most dogs like the aroma of many essential oils and you will be able to tell immediately if the aroma is pleasing or not by your dog’s reaction. It is good to remember that oils should not be used around the eyes, nose, genital area, mouth, or with puppies younger than 10 weeks old. When purchasing essential oils, buy therapeutic grade and you will often see the Latin name on the bottle also. Quality oils are usually sold in amber, cobalt blue, or violet bottles so that light will not lessen the potency; and you want the label to say “100% Essential Oil”. Your dog deserves the best!
Here is a list of some essential oils that are appropriate to use for your dog: Cedar wood, lavender, chamomile, eucalyptus, ginger, peppermint, sweet orange, Valerian, and geranium. This is not a complete list and it is important to check which oil is best for specific uses or any warnings (for example, peppermint might not be good for some small dogs and should not be used with pregnant dogs). Essential oils should be diluted with either olive or canola oil, or with water and sometimes almond or coconut oil, depending on the mixture recommended for the particular use. We will give you some examples of how to use essential oils for your dog.
For nervous and anxious dogs, your first line of defense for stressful times or long car rides can be aromatherapy. Some veterinarians have found benefit in having lavender scent in their waiting rooms to calm down their anxious patients. One simple way to use lavender oil to take a small spray bottle, add water with a couple of drops of lavender essential oil and use it as a spray on your dog’s bed, on her collar, or give her body a spritz when anxious or before an outing. Some dogs are skittish during walks when trucks go by or kids on bicycles or skateboards pass and this will help calm her nerves. Remember when doing this that our dogs have a sense of smell much stronger than ours, so take it easy and use only a drop or two until your dog is familiar with the oil.
Flea season is always a challenge and with global warming it is extended in areas where it was would only last for a couple of months. And for those in warmer climates, it is continuous. Certain essential oils have flea repellent properties. There are many formulas for flea control, but we will give you an example of one that uses essential oils and is easy to prepare. Add 6 drops of the following essentials oils to a cup of water: Eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, and citronella. Pour into a spray bottle and spritz your dog’s coat every other day or after a bath. Or you can use this flea collar formula made with a plain cloth collar: Take 2 tablespoons of almond oil and 2 drops (total if you are using more than one type) of essential oils such as cinnamon, rosemary, clove, peppermint, or cedar wood and mix them together. Apply the mixture to the collar and let it dry thoroughly before putting it on your dog. Check it every couple of weeks to make sure that the scent is still present so that you will know when to treat the collar again.
Fleas are not the only reason our dogs scratch themselves. Dry skin and dermatitis caused by elevated fungus or yeast on the skin are often the cause of irritation and can cause excessive scratching. A mixture of a few drops of essential oils (either chamomile or sweet marjoram are an option) with coconut oil applied topically can help heal these conditions. There are other essential oils that are specific to particular skin conditions, so with a little research you can find the right mix of oils for your dog’s condition.
Arthritis pain in older dogs, and sometimes in younger large breeds, can make life difficult for your dog. Essential oils believed to have an anti-inflammatory effect or to lessen joint pain are clove, lemongrass, wintergreen, and rosemary. There are oil mixtures recommended for topical use and oils that can be used as a supplement in her food. With a little research you can find an oral formula for arthritis that is perfect to help lessen her pain and increase her mobility.
We want to remind you that when buying essential oils, for humans or dogs, to purchase the therapeutic oils and read the label to make sure it is pure. Every dog is different, so don’t forget the whiff test to see which oils she likes and then you are on your way to a more aromatic and healthier life for you and your dog.