(Updated April 2018) You may have heard about essential oils, like Young Living, or doTERRA, that are being used in everything from tea and food, to beauty products and room sprays. Did you know that essential oils can also be used to support the health and wellness of our pets?
It's not as easy as just splashing some oil on their skin – which can be harmful or even dangerous! – it's important to understand the right ways to use them, and it's best to consult with a professional before diving into the world of essential oils.
Some safety tips to remember:
- Not all essential oils that are good for humans are good for animals
- Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils, and concentrated oils should never be applied directly to their skin. Read more about the dangers of essential oils with cats in this article from the Pet Poison Helpline.
- Some oils are photosensitive, meaning exposure to the sun can cause burns
- Start with a small amount and only use more if needed
- Always dilute in a carrier oil
- Never put essential oils in your pet's eyes or ear canal
- Search for professionals in your area who are experienced with essential oils for pets
What are Essential Oils?
Essential Oils are derived from plants through steam distillation or cold pressing. They're the "naturally occurring volatile aromatic compounds . . . found in the seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other parts of plant." (doTERRA) The volatility comes from how quickly they change from a liquid to a gas, which is what allows us (and our pets!) to smell them.
Oils can be administered through inhalation (diffusion, aromatherapy), ingestion (food or drink), or topically (directly onto skin).
Image by BrindleBerry Acres
Cat Safety Note: The following tips are focused on use for dogs. Cats are much more sensitive, and should never be given or exposed to oils derived from lavender, peppermint, oregano, citrus, tea tree, cinnamon, and more.
Smell receptors are part of the limbic system, which can affect emotions and behavior. Diffusing or simply smelling essential oils can have either a calming or invigorating effect, depending on the oil.
- Lavender or Serenity (doTERRA) oil to calm and relax, or reduce seasonal allergies.
- Frankincense to help with energy healing or Reiki.
- Thieves oil to eliminate airborne odors and germs.
- Peppermint oil to energize and reduce fatigue.
When ingesting essential oils, they enter the bloodstream and get sent around to our organs. Too much essential oil can be toxic, so be sure to only use the recommended, diluted amounts.
- Thieves oil to boost the immune system.
- Peppermint oil to aid digestion.
Essential oils are easily absorbed by our skin. Using a "carrier oil" to dilute the essential oil and help distribute it (like coconut oil or olive oil) helps to protect their skin. The often recommended ratio is 1 drop essential oil to about 3-4 drops of carrier oil. (Be sure to avoid eyes, inner ears, and any open wounds or broken skin!)
- Lavender oil around their ears or neck for a calming effect. Also apply to minimize scar tissue or relieve dry skin.
- Peace and Calming (Young Living) oil on bottom of feet, ears or shoulders to reduce stress.
- Frankincense oil on minor cuts or bruises to reduce discomfort, or on the back of the neck to relieve stress.
- Peppermint oil over sinuses and forehead to ease congestion.
- Purification (Young Living) oil on bug bites or blemishes to clear and soothe itching.
Other essential oil uses for pet owners:
- Thieves household cleaner is a pet-safe way to clean your home.
- Mix 2-3 drops of Purification (Young Living) oil with 1 cup of baking soda, and mix in with your cat's litter box to naturally eliminate odors.
- Make homemade dog biscuits or horse treats using essential oils.
- More recipes for using essential oils with dogs
Image by BrindleBerry Acres