Essential oils derived from plants are the world’s oldest medicines, and are being revived today for their many therapeutic and restorative uses. Pets can benefit from essential oil aromatherapy just as people can. Here at the spa, we use essential oils for several purposes, and we see how helpful they can be for our canine clients in lots of ways!
The reference we use is Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristin Leigh Bell, a master aromatherapist. This book defines aromatherapy as “the therapeutic use of pure, unadulterated essential oils, hydrosols, and other fragrant plant materials for holistic health treatments” (p. 8).
While many products may use the term aromatherapy, “[a] true aromatherapy product is all natural” and of “direct botanical origin.” The capabilities of essential oils “are determined by their chemical composition” (p. 13). Certain essential oils which have been studied and proven to have beneficial effects “exhibit similar physiological effects on all mammals” (p. 14).
Our two aromatherapy shampoos, Tranquil and Invigorated, are made with house-blended essential oil scents for both topical and olfactory benefits.
Tranquil Aromatherapy Shampoo includes:
Lavender for stress reduction and quietness. This sweet-scented oil has been clinically proven to reduce excitement specifically in dogs.
Bergamot for reduced anxiety. This citrus-derived oil is FC-free, meaning a chemical that causes skin photosensitivity has been removed. Pre-clinical studies show that bergamot reduces stressed behavior.
Clary Sage for calmness. This oil, derived from a different plant than common sage, has a mild sedative effect. Studies show that it reduces anxious and dominant behavior in animals.
Invigorated Flea & Tick Shampoo includes:
Eucalyptus to deodorize and kill fleas. This fresh-scented oil has proven antiseptic and antibacterial effects.
Cedarwood to repel ticks. This woodsy oil offers many benefits, including soothing stress, promoting respiratory and urinary health, promoting healthy hair growth, and repelling insects.
Juniper Berry to repel fleas. Different from traditional juniper oil, which is toxic to dogs, juniper berry oil has proven antibacterial and antifungal effects and is a powerful insect repellent.
We also use Young Living’s T-Away blend, applied topically neat, for especially anxious dogs. This blend is crafted specifically for relief of dogs’ anxiety and is made with tangerine peel, lavender, sandalwood, German chamomile, frankincense, valerian, ylang ylang, and other oils.
In addition to the oils we use topically, we diffuse several different essential oils in our spa space. These include:
Sandalwood for soothing nerves. The warm, smooth scent of this oil has proven calming effects. It is an anti-inflammatory as well as an anxiety reducer.
Geranium for excitement reduction. This sweet, rosy-scented oil is calming and also an insect repellent.
Sweet Orange for deodorization. This bright, invigorating oil has also been shown to reduce stress and repel fleas.
Frankincense to promote relaxation. With its sweet, clean scent, this oil is soothing to nerves, skin, muscles, and joints. It also promotes healthy digestion and immune function.
Stress Away, a Young Living blend made with lime, vanilla, copaiba, lavender, cedarwood, and ocotea oils, specially formulated to reduce anxiety and promote calm.
If you choose to use essential oils at home with your pet, be sure to research first! Dogs’ powerful sense of smell means that most oils should be far more diluted for them than for humans. Their skin may also be especially sensitive to some oils. For a summary of how to safely use essential oils with your pets, see https://essentialoilvet.com/safety/.
There are a few essential oils that, while beneficial to humans, are toxic and dangerous for dogs.
Camphor: toxic when ingested or absorbed into the skin.
Melaleuca/Tea Tree: skin exposure can have toxic effects.
Pennyroyal: an insect repellent that is a neurotoxin to dogs; exposure shuts down their organ function.
Pine: toxic if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.
Wintergreen: can be highly toxic and lead to organ damage.
You can find more information about essential oils to avoid with pets in this article.
Some essential oils are great for dogs but should not be used around cats, so if your pup has feline siblings, be cautious!
For more information on good essential oils to use with dogs, see this article on sitstay.com.
With some basic knowledge, care, and common sense, you can use essential oils effectively to improve your fur baby’s mood, health, energy, and life!