The Nose Knows: Aromatherapy and Your Pet

by Meg Wittenmyer

If you Google aromatherapy and essential oil use on dogs and cats, you could get lost in a web of information and never come up. There are the basic oils that have proven to work in specific ways, and then there are the blends, of which there are about ten for every ailment you can imagine.

Sense memory in humans is an amazing thing. How many times have you walked into a shop or passed an open doorway and your nose raised a tad and you sniff that scent that takes you back to a place and time you thought you’d forgotten? Also, certain scents illicit certain reactions. We all know that lavender and chamomile have calming properties in humans and it is the same with dogs. Therapeutic grade essential oils may be used alone or in concert with traditional animal medicine for mental, emotional, and physical ailments.

For instance, depending on the origin and cause of the pain, there are at least five oils which can help dogs with arthritis, wobblers, hip dysplasia, stifle pain, or pain from cancer. There are several oils which can be used alone or blended to repel ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. Digestion and intestinal problems are another area where traditional treatment can be greatly boosted with essential oils.

Essential oils can be used in various ways. If placing directly on the skin, apply to the outside of the ear or paws, and make sure you dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil such as almond, olive, or jojoba, so as not to irritate sensitive skin tissue. You can also add a few drops of oil in the water of a diffuser in your dog’s room or where he lays frequently. Spraying diluted oil on your dog’s bedding is also a good way to introduce it to his environment. Remember that a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times stronger than ours and no more than a drop or two should be used at any one time. Other things to be aware of are that you should never use oils around a dog’s eyes or on his nose. Normally, oils are not ingested, but if you feel that would be the best way to treat your pet, please refer to your veterinarian first. There are also some oils which are unsafe for pets: juniper, birch, yarrow, and clove to name a few. And always allow your pet the opportunity to get away from the scent by leaving the room or area in which it is being used. They know what they need and if you listen, they will even tell you.

One final warning regarding essential oil use on our feline friends. Cats, even though mammals and carnivores, do not assimilate the phenols and benzyl alcohols present in some essential oils due to the lack of an enzyme which helps them to metabolize the oils. This can cause high amounts of toxicity in the body and could result in serious illness or even death. It is imperative that the chemical compound in the oil you wish to use is known before using an essential oil with a cat. Research the constituents of the essential oil and consult with a Natural Animal Health Practitioner before you use it. If the essential oil contains a phenol or benzyl alcohol property, it should not be used without the supervision of a holistic veterinarian or animal aromatherapist. PLEASE do not just start applying oils to your cat, especially if they are not therapeutic grade.

Some of the oils you may find to be most useful in your pet first-aid kit are provided here. Some of the blends (in bold) are proprietary to Young Living Essential Oils and can only be procured from an authorized distributor; but most other single oils are available from several different companies. The most important thing to remember is that you should always purchase therapeutic, pure essential oil. It helps to be aware of how and where the oils are produced and what tests are performed to verify the therapeutic grade.

• Cuts, wounds and disinfection – Melrose, Purification (use in place of hydrogen peroxide or iodine), and Animal Scents.
• Cuts, wounds and tissue regeneration – Lavender, Melrose, Purification and Animal Scents.
• Pain – Helichrysum, PanAway, Ortho Ease, Ortho Sport, Peppermint and Valerian.
• Infection – Thieves, ImmuPower, Lavender and Melrose.
• Respiratory/urinary tract – RC, Raven and Melrose.
• Inflammation – Helichrysum, Copiaba, Frankincense, PanAway.
• Bleeding – Helichrysum, Geranium, or Lavender.
• Stomach (digestive, colic, constipation, diarrhea, motion sickness) – Chamomile and Peppermint.
• Muscles (torn, spasm, sore, aching) – PanAway, Marjoram, Peppermint.
• Burns – Second Degree: Lavender. First degree (outer skin only): Lavender, Helichrysum, Melrose and Valor.
• Itchy skin – Chamomile, Geranium, Lavender, Melrose, Purification
• Lyme Disease – Immupower, Melrose, Peppermint, Thieves.
• Stroke – Brain Power (on head and brain stem), Valor (on paws).
• Insect stings, spiders, etc – Purification, Lavender, Chamomile.
• Concentration and focus – Brain Power, Clarity, and Peppermint.
• Calming, relaxing, trauma and shock – Peace & Calming, Valerian and Lavender.
• Coming out of anesthesia/sedation – Brain Power, Clarity and Peppermint.

Finally, one of several long-distance learning courses which are available for pet owners so they can learn about aromatherapy use with dogs and horses is offered by Essential Animals, www.essentialanimals.com.

Meg Wittenmyer owns Bifrost Farms boarding kennel and whole dog center. She practices a natural lifestyle with her pets and those in whose care she is entrusted. As a canine nutritionist, Meg offers food coaching and sells premium quality holistic, organic, and natural pet food.

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