Using Essential Oils Safely with Dogs
Just as for humans, essential oils can be wonderful tools to support the physical health and emotional wellbeing, as long as you are educated on general safety considerations, appropriate dilution ratios, and most effective application methods.
General Safety Tips
Quality of the Essential Oils
Many essential oils available in stores today are adulterated, of very poor quality, and often created synthetically in a laboratory. Those essential oils can contain many unnatural, harmful elements. Even if they are extracted from plant materials, they can contain chemicals from solvent extraction, pesticides, heavy metals, microbes, mold spores, fillers, and other unhealthy or unnatural components. Toxins in inferior oils can become culprits causing adverse reaction or side effects when used with humans and pets. Make sure your essential oils are 100% pure therapeutic grade and please don’t be fooled, only because a bottle says 100% pure it can still contain all the harmful elements mentioned above. To learn about which questions to ask and how to determine whether your essential oils are of therapeutic, medicinal grade – read this article on essential oil quality.
Let Your Dog Decide
Trust your dog’s instincts when selecting an essential oil to support their health. Let your dog sniff the essential oil from your hands first. If your dog starts drooling, whining or runs away use an alternate essential oil that has similar properties and your dog reacts positively to. Dogs just like humans are naturally drawn to essential oils that will benefit us due to their inherent frequency.
Topical Use of Essential Oils
Topical application of essential oils can offer immediate comfort, be calming and soothing. It can support the immune system, nervous system, muscles and bones, and skin.
Essential oils that are appropriately diluted can be applied along the spine, rub their ears (never put inside of ears), or even on the toes/pads (see reflexology chart for dogs). Essential oils can be applied directly to a particular area you want to support like the skin, muscle, or joint. But remember to avoid the eyes, nose, inner ears, anal, and genital areas and only use essential oils that are labeled for ingested use as your dog might lick itself and inadvertently ingest the essential oil.
Appropriate Dilution Ratios
Dogs tolerate therapeutic grade essential oils generally well but they also vary greatly in size. As a Certified Aromatherapist, I generally suggest to use the dilution ratios appropriate for infants and children for dogs, just instead of age we dilute according to weight.
For a 10 ml bottle filled with carrier oil (I prefer fractionated coconut oil) add the following amount of essential oil:
Up to 25 pounds: add 1 drop of essential oil = 0.5% dilution
25 to 50 pounds: add 2 drops of essential oil = 1% dilution
50 to 90 pounds: add 4 drops of essential oil = 2% dilution
over 90 pounds: add 6 drops of essential oil = 3% dilution
For acute use and brief periods of time, the dosage may be increased. Please only do so under the guidance of a holistic veterinarian or certified aromatherapist.
Another factor impacting the selection of essential oils and dilution ratio, is the general health of your pet, any medications it might be taking, and age. Do not apply essential oils topically on puppies under 10 weeks of age and only under appropriate guidance with senior pets and pregnant dogs.
Avoid eyes, nose, anal area, and genital areas. Flush with milk if irritation occurs.
Essential Oils NOT to Use Daily
Certain essential oils should not be used on a daily basis. Those include: Wintergreen, Thyme, Clove, Cassia, Camphor, and Oregano. They can be used occasionally to support their health but not for prolonged periods of time.
Keep in mind that if a dog is toxic from medications or has not been on a natural raw food diet then it is best to use greater dilution ratios at first and apply only once a day for the first week. As with humans, the essential oils will support the body with eliminating toxins. When too many toxins are shed out too quickly, it can make your dog feel nauseous or lethargic.
Essential Oils NOT to Use Topically
Melaleuca also known as Tea Tree Essential Oil
Melaleuca essential oil has phenolic compounds that can be more difficult for a dog’s body to process. The oral toxic dose of phenol in dogs is about 0.22 grams per pound of body weight. 4 drops of Melaleuca are about 0.22 grams. So Melaleuca can be toxic but generally only in high doses. Some dog owners have experienced adverse reactions to Melaleuca that’s why I generally recommend to select an alternative essential oil.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus, when ingested in sufficient amounts, can be an irritant to the gastrointestinal system and cause discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is also a neurotoxin and can cause neurological symptoms as well, such as depression, confusion, and seizures. As dogs may lick themselves, please do not use Eucalyptus essential oil topically. When diffusing, make sure it is Eucalyptus radiate (there are over 900 species of eucalyptus). Please read this article for more information.
Aromatic Use of Essential Oils with and around Dogs
Essential oils can be used aromatically to support moods, help a dog feel calmer and less anxious, improve sleep, support the respiratory system, support the immune system, and the nervous system, and also cleanse and purify the air.
Tips for Aromatic Use
There are different options on having your dog benefit from essential oils aromatically. You can use an ultrasonic dffuser, apply a drop to the dog collar, put a drop on a bandana tied around the neck, spray a mist over the dog bed, create a spray with distilled water and a few drops of essential oil and spray into the air.
When diffusing essential oils make sure the area is well ventilated and that your dog has the option to leave the room where the essential oil is being diffused. Again, I can’t stress enough to “listen” to your dog and watch its behavior when you are using an essential oil aromatically. If your dogs reacts in a negative manner, select an essential oil with similar benefits your dog reacts positively to.
Take Breaks and Switch it Up
I can’t emphazise enough the importance of taking breaks and alternating essential oils. You do not want your dog to develop any sensitivities and you like to see the greatest benefit. Taking breaks and changing it up is an essential step. After using an essential oil for about a week, take three days break. If continued use it necessary, take a week break after 3-4 weeks.
Change it up! The effects of essential oils are all related to their chemistry. Many essential oils have similar chemical profiles, so desired effects will also be similar. Find essential oils that have similar desired effects and keep switching it up a bit for sustained long term benefits.
Common Uses of Essential Oils with Dogs
Essential oils are wonderful for supporting your dog’s skin. Use Lavender or Frankincense for minor skin irritations and to clean dog’s skin. You can apply your essential oil blend to a cotton ball and dab the dog’s skin. Another great idea is adding a drop to your dog’s natural dog shampoo. To encourage healthy blood-clotting use Helichrysum. Other options to support the skin is creating your blend in a spray bottle.
Some of the best essential oils to support the digestive system are ginger, peppermint, and fennel. Lavender is calming and soothing to the nerves in the abdomen area. Lightly rub one to two drops of your blend directly to the stomach area or use a spray bottle and then gently rub in. Start with only once a day, then work your way up to max. three times per day. Remember about taking breaks and switching it up!
Aromatic use of essential oils can offer great respiratory support for your dog. You can diffuse single oils or a blend of peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, and rosemary (one drop each is sufficient), and diffuse in the room, mist the dog bed or apply a drop to the dog’s bandana. Dogs also have vitaflex points on the bottoms of their paws and between toes. Apply the essential oil diluted for your dog’s size to the bottom of the paws where indicated for respiratory support.
After removal of a tick, dab a cotton ball with Lavender (diluted appropriately to your dog’s size) on the affected area twice a day.
Flea and Tick Repellent Mist or Shampoo
Mist: Use a 16 oz glass spray bottle, fill with distilled water, add 8 to 16 drops of Rosemary, Lavender, Peppermint and Lemongrass essential oil. Shake well before use. Lightly spray dog, avoiding the eyes. Reapply as needed.
Shampoo: Use 8 oz of an all-natural dog shampoo and add 2 drops each of Rosemary, Lavender, Peppermint and Lemongrass – avoid eyes when shampooing dog.
Support Ear Health
Create a blend diluted to your dog’s weight with Lavender, Basil, and Geranium essential oil. After cleaning the ear with a natural cleanser, apply the blend and lightly massage in behind the ears, at the base of the ears. Do not use inside ear canal. Repeat twice a day as needed to support ear health.
Loss of Appetite
Support against Seasonal Threats
Blending Lavender, Lemon, and Peppermint offers great support when seasonal challenges start affecting your dog’s respiratory system. Diffuse during the day or at night (2 drops Lavender, 2 drops Lemon, 1 drop Peppermint), apply 1-2 drops of the blend to your dog’s bed or add to a bandana that’s tied around the neck.
If you dog suffers from allergies you may want to consider a raw food diet. Many allergies are caused by diet.
Immune System Support
A great blend for immune system support is a blend of Wild Orange, Clove, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary. Dilute appropriate to your dog’s weight and apply a drop under bottom of paws or onto spine. This blend is also great when diffused in the room where your dog sleeps. Make sure the diffuser has an intermittent setting, the area is well ventilated and that your dog can leave the room where it is being diffused. Other essential oils you may want to consider to support your dog’s immune system are Vetiver, Ginger, Rosemary and Peppermint.
Joint and Muscle Support
Some of the best essential oils for muscle and joint support are Frankincense, Copiaba, Peppermint, German Chamomile, Marjoram, and Wintergreen. Create a blend appropriate for your dog’s weight, apply a few drops to your hands, rub along the spine or problematic areas to ease discomfort. Another option is to create a spray, apply to the area, and lightly massage in.
Support Nervous System and Mood
Essential oils are wonderful tools when it comes to affecting moods. Aromatic use has the most immediate effect but topical use is also a good option. Diffuse in room, apply to collar or bandana, or spray on bedding.
- For calming: Lavender or a blend of Lavender, Sweet Marjoram, Roman Chamomile, Ylang yYang, and Sandalwood.
- For moodiness: Frankincense or a blend of Spruce, Ho Wood, Frankincense, and Blue Tansy.
- For confidence: Vetiver
- For sad dog: Apply 1 drop of Frankincense on spine and 1 drop of lavender on paws.
- Essential oils with other calming properties: Geranium, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang, the Joyful blend Elevation. The joyful blend contains the essential oils of lavandin, tangerine, elemi, lemon myrtle, melissa, ylang ylang, osmanthus, and sandalwood
As a Certified Aromatherapist, one of my main tasks is creating custom aromatherapy products and essential oil blends for people and pets, taking into consideration age, weight, health history, any sensitivities, and desired benefits. Many custom 10 ml blends range from only $20 to $28 and you can be assured that the highest quality essential oils are used with appropriate dilution.
I hope this article answered some of your questions and was detailed enough for you to make an informed decision on which oils you can use safely with and around your dog. Please share a link to this web page with other dog lovers to keep our pets safe!