It's not always easy being a dog or a cat, in fact, our pets can experience many of the same feelings of stress that we can! But fear not, with the help of some essential oils, you can help to improve the wellness of your pet (and maybe even yourself too!) So what is aromatherapy? To put it simply, aromatherapy is the therapeutic use of natural essential oils to restore or maintain wellbeing. Essential oils are botanical extracts of the volatile liquids in the bark, leaf, flower, rind, root, stem, or wood of aromatic plants. Essential oils aren’t the same as fragrance oils or perfumes. Typically, fragrances contain synthetic chemicals like solvents, stabilisers, preservatives, and dyes. Pure essential oils only contain plant extracts, making them a safe and effective alternative therapy for cats and dogs. It is important to be aware that some essential oils are toxic for cats and dogs. Always, always do your research and if you are unsure whether something is safe for your pet, always consult your vet first. Be sure to monitor your pet when introducing anything new to their routine and immediately stop using essential oils if you notice any adverse reactions.
What to Look For in Essential Oils
Not all essential oils are created equal! When looking for oils to buy, it is important to invest in good quality products that are pure and safe to use. Always use 100% pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils on animals, just as you would for yourself. When looking at essential oils, here are some key factors to keep in mind;
Check the ingredients. Good quality aromatherapy oils contain a very small number of select ingredients, all labeled as 100% pure. All ingredients should be listed, exact amounts noted, and labeled as biologically active.
Origin information. Each bottle should include extraction information, lot number, extraction date, and country of origin.
Latin name. Both the Latin and common name should appear on the label.
Packaging. Look for oils that are packaged in amber glass bottles to avoid degradation. Violet or cobalt glass bottles are also effectively used for this purpose.
If you are unsure of the quality of a product, ask a medical practitioner or your vet for their recommendations.
Image via Sniffing for the Cure.
There are three delivery techniques that are used for pet aromatherapy; diffusing, spray, and topical application.
Topical application. You can apply essential oils to your pet by massaging or petting them! Make sure to dilute the essential oil in a base oil first. Create a ratio of one drop of essential oil to 45 drops of base oil for a dog. This ratio equates to a dilution of about 0.25%. For cats, use one-part essential oil to 50 parts base oil. Some good base oils to use include almond oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil or sunflower oil. Once you have created your mixture, rub a good amount of oil between your hands and apply to your pet using a circular motion.
Spray. Using a spray bottle or mister, spray diluted essential oil into the air. You can dilute the oil in water, 1 to 2 drops is usually enough depending on the capacity of your spray bottle. Do not spray directly onto your pet or their bedding.
Diffusing. Add 1 to 2 drops of essential oil into a water-based vaporiser or diffuser. Turn your diffuser on for 10 minutes, then off for 30 minutes so that you are diffusing intermittently. Be sure to keep the diffuser out of your pet’s reach. Diffuse away from your pet’s usual resting spot or in another room to ensure that they do not receive too much exposure.
Generally speaking, diffusing essential oils is considered a safer practise than applying them topically to your pet. Always start with a weaker concentration and never expose your pet to undiluted essential oils. As with anything new that you're incorporating into your pet's routine, monitor their reaction and if you notice anything that may be cause for concern, immediately cease usage and consult your vet.
Toxic Essential Oils
Some essential oils are incredibly toxic to cats and dogs. You should never expose your pet to these oils, even if they are diluted. If you think your pet has been exposed to one of these oils, seek medical attention immediately. Some of the most common essential oils that are toxic for pets are:
- Ylang ylang
- Tea Tree
- Lavender (for cats)
- Sweet Birch
There are several common symptoms of poisoning in pets. A good rule of thumb as a pet owner is to stay alert if you see any changes of behaviour in your pet. Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:
- The smell of essential oils on their fur, skin, breath or vomit
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty walking or stumbling
- Muscle tremors
- Pawing at the mouth or face
- Redness or burns on their lips, tongue, skin or gums
Which Essential Oils to Use
Essential oils that are safe for dogs include:
Essential oils safe for cats include:
Rosemary is believed to reduce inflammation, relieve allergies, sooth anxiety and reduce restlessness. Chamomile is thought to be soothing, calming, anti-inflammatory and eases teething pains. Frankincense is used to support the immune system and is believed to increase blood supply to the brain and reduce ulcers.
Aromatherapy is considered a complimentary therapy, and is not a replacement for medical treatment. If your pet is unwell, it is important to take them to the vets to receive medical care and not to rely on complimentary therapies alone. Always consult your vet before starting new treatments with your pet, including aromatherapy. All guidance provided has come from expert sources, however please use your own judgement when deciding what is safest for your pet.