Scenting one’s home using essential oils is a great and natural way to keep your living space smelling clean and pleasant. Essential oils are affordable and the scents they produce can linger for months. In recent years, essential oils have also been touted as an alternative solution to natural anxiety, depression, fatigue, and a host of other medical problems for animals, so their popularity has skyrocketed among pet owners. However, if you own pets, you may be wondering if essential oils that are safe for dogs exist. Fortunately, you should be able to use essential oils with your pet, but you must take certain precautions and understand the risks before doing so.
What Are Essential Oils?
Derived from plants, essential oils are extracts that have been distilled into oil. Such oils are popular in the realm of alternative medicine, and some have been found to offer certain health benefits. The oils themselves are extracted from flowers, roots, leaves, and other plant parts, and they have been in use for centuries. Some essential oils are even used in modern medicines. These oils are generally helpful in small doses, but they can be dangerous if used improperly or too frequently. It should also be noted that essential oils are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so they should be used cautiously.
Learn more about the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils.
Best Types of Essential Oils for Pets
There are dozens of essential oils in existence, but some are better for your pet than others. Some boost immunity while others can help soothe simple aches and pains. The following essential oils may be able to help your pets with basic health problems.
Lavender is known for its calming properties in both humans and their pets. If your pet suffers from chronic stress and anxiety, you may want to consider utilizing lavender from time to time.
When most people think of chamomile, they imagine a hot cup of tea, but beyond that chamomile is prized for the highly potent essential oil it produces. Chamomile is known to reduce anxiety in humans, but many don’t realize it can reduce anxiety in pets too. It is also used to ease nausea and other gastroenterology ailments. A bit of chamomile may be able to calm your anxious dog during a thunderstorm or before a trip to the dog park.
Often associated with the holidays and boasting one of the most recognizable scents in the world, peppermint is also a highly valued essential oil. Like humans, animals are often plagued with seasonal allergies. Luckily for pet owners, peppermint may be able to soothe the allergies of cats and dogs, as well as many other animals, by offering respiratory support. Peppermint has also been used to soothe aching joints and muscle pains.
Frankincense and Myrrh
Frankincense and myrrh have been used for thousands of years, and they continue to be used in modern times. Both are known to impact cell immunity, so they can reduce your pet’s chances of contracting illnesses. If your pet is frequently outside or around other animals, consider trying a bit of frankincense or myrrh.
Ginger has long been known to offer a wealth of health benefits to humans, but it may be just as valuable to animals. Ginger may be able to soothe your dog’s upset stomach or clear out their respiratory tract, helping them to breathe easier. Ginger has also been found to ease joint pain in older humans and animals.
Choosing the Right Essential Oil
If you have ever asked yourself “Are essential oils safe for dogs?” Some oils can be used sparingly to the benefit of your dog’s health. In general, essential oils are administered to animals in two different ways, either topically or with the help of a home fragrance diffuser.
Always check with your vet before diffusing or giving your pet any essential oils.
You should also note that just because an oil claims to be all-natural, it is not necessarily healthy for your pet. Nature produces numerous poisonous oils you will want to keep far away from your pet. Be sure to do research before selecting the right oil and consulting with your pet’s vet. When comparing products for sale, look for oils with high ratings that have been reviewed by reliable sources. Animals have a powerful sense of smell, so you do not want to bombard them with the scent of unpleasant or unhelpful oils.
To topically apply an oil to your pet, if recommended, suggested, or allowed by the vet, you should never use an undiluted essential oil, even those proven to be safe for animal use. Undiluted oils are far too strong, and if applied excessively, they can make your pet sick. Instead, try using a carrier oil, which is more lightly scented and contains just enough essential oil to benefit your pet. These are some of the most effective and popular carrier oils:
- Avocado oil
- Sunflower oil
- Coconut oil
- Aloe vera
- Almond oil
Choosing a Carrier Oil
Choosing a carrier oil is as important as choosing an essential oil for your pet. Not all carrier oils are created equally, so you must do your research beforehand. You should also consider the needs, as well as the likes and dislikes of your pet. Animals respond differently to different scents, so it is possible one of your pets may love the scent of a particular oil while another pet hates it. When deciding whether to buy a carrier oil, consider the following factors:
- Absorption: The oil you choose should be easily absorbed into the skin of your pet. Some oils absorb easier than others.
- Odor: Many oils have strong, distinct odors, while others have a faint, barely noticeable scents. Choose the odor type your pet is most likely to tolerate.
- Shelf-Life: Some oils can only be used and stored for some time. Never choose an expired or outdated oil for your pet.
- Skin Type: Your pet’s skin should be taken into consideration when choosing an oil. Some animals have more sensitive skin than others, so you should shop around and research further. Some skin types are also more capable of absorbing oil.
As with essential oils, the FDA does not regulate carrier oils, so you should only buy oils from a manufacturer you trust. Seek out pure oils, preservative or additive-free, and cold-pressed. If you intend to use cooking oil, such as coconut or almond oil, as a carrier, first be sure it is cold-pressed and organic.
Once you have selected the right carrier oil, add one drop of essential oil for every tablespoon and a half of carrier oil. Doing so creates a 0.25 percent dilution. When first starting, apply a dime-sized amount of the diluted oil to a single area of your pet’s skin. Monitor the area for at least 15 minutes to half an hour for an allergic reaction.
Using a Diffuser
Diffusers distribute essential oils throughout the air, allowing anyone nearby to breathe in the particles. Diffusers for animals work the same as diffusers for humans, so you just need to add one or two drops of essential oil to the diffuser (if it is water-based). When first using a scent diffuser for your pet, only run it for 10-20 minutes. Afterward, let the air clear for about half an hour. If your pet seems unphased or responds positively, you can run the diffuser again later.
You should exercise caution when using an air diffuser, however. If pets manage to knock the diffuser over and ingest its contents, they could become very ill, so be sure to place your diffuser out of reach. One way to mitigate this risk is to use a whole home scenting diffuser.
Essential Oils To Avoid
As mentioned above, not all essential oils are safe for pet use. Always ask your vet whether essential oils will benefit your pet or not. There are fragrances and essential oils that are toxic to dogs and other animals, so you want to remain vigilant when choosing the right oil. If you are looking for essential oils safe to diffuse around dogs, you want to avoid the following oils completely (note: the impact of an oil on your pet will differ depending on if the oil is directly ingested, topically applied, or breathed in via a diffuser):
The scent of fresh orange, tangerine, or grapefruit can be pleasing to the human nose, but not our pets. When exposed to citrus oils in large amounts, animals can become ill, and more sensitive animals can even suffer seizures. Some of the most common ailments of citrus oil poisoning in animals include lethargy and nausea.
Who does not love a nice cinnamon tea or dessert? Although cinnamon is harmless to humans, it is dangerous to many animals. Cinnamon can be an irritant to animals, especially dogs, and cause symptoms such as low energy levels, vomiting, diarrhea, and fluctuations in blood pressure and heart rate. In other words, avoid cinnamon when possible.
Tea tree oil is known for its ability to clear up skin and ease nausea, but not in animals. This is a very common oil, so you should remain on the lookout for it and double-check to ensure your carrier oil does not have any traces of it. In animals, tea tree oil use can lead to symptoms such as paralysis, depression, skin irritation, and vomiting.
Pine oil is often paired with cinnamon, and unfortunately, excessive amounts of it can be lethal to your pet. Pine is known to be a stomach and skin irritant in animals, and if used too much over a long time, it can also cause liver damage and impact the central nervous system.
Recognizing Symptoms of Essential Oil Poisoning
The previous list of toxic oils is not exhaustive, and your pet may be allergic to other types of oils. If you are diffusing essential oils around dogs and begin to notice any strange behavior, you should unplug your diffuser altogether and try another oil. In most cases, pets will be fine if exposed to a toxic oil in a small amount at a single time, but if they are exposed to larger amounts over a longer period, they may display symptoms of poisoning. Some common symptoms of essential oil poisoning include weakness, fatigue, muscle tremors, diarrhea and vomiting, and excessive drooling.
Due to muscular issues, you may also notice your pet is having difficulty walking. If you notice any of the previous symptoms, it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately. Do not attempt to treat your pet using home remedies or allow the effects to “wear off.” The longer your pets are exposed to the wrong essential oil, the greater the chances of sustaining long-term damage to their physical health.
Using Essential Oils With Caution
As always, you must use caution when applying essential or carrier oils to the skin of your pets. For some animals, a direct application of oil to the skin can be irritating. If your dog has sensitive skin, applying oil is naturally counterproductive and could put your dog’s health and happiness in jeopardy. If you are new to essential oils, it would be wise to contact your pet’s veterinarian and discuss your plans beforehand.
Some diffusers produce a stronger odor than others, so you will want to choose a diffuser that gives off the appropriate amount of odor for your pet (try our best home fragrance system).
Dogs’ noses are many orders of magnitude more powerful than ours, so when diffusing an oil, you must consider this sensitivity
Essential Oils Can Be Safe for Most Pets
In short, if you were wondering “Can I diffuse essential oils around my dog?” the answer is yes, you probably can. Certain essential oils, when used properly and under the supervision of a veterinarian, can have health benefits for your pet. It is important, however, to take your time when choosing an essential oil and to be vigilant and informed whenever you apply or diffuse the oil.