Pets

Essential Oils for Pets: What You Need to Know

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We love using essential oils for ourselves, our home and family, so we, of course, would love our pets to benefit from them as well.  But, before you begin using essential oils for pets, you should be aware of some tips, do’s and don’ts.

Can you use essential oils on dogs, cats, and other pets the same way you use them on humans? How much essential oils should you use? What is the best way to share essential oils for pets with topical and internal use?

Essential oils for pets - what you need to  know

It is important to note that animals can’t tell us if something is working or not, or, if it is bothering them in some way, so it is our responsibility to use caution and use essential oils for pets safely and responsibly.

Please note that these are general recommendations for use. Check with your veterinarian at your pet’s next visit. If your vet suggests other usage, go with their recommendation. If your pet is pregnant, nursing, or has a medical condition, consult your veterinarian prior to use.

Your vet is a trained professional in the unique physiology of animals, and what’s more, they know your pet. They know its specific medical history, and they understand how their body works differently. In every case, your veterinarian should be your first point of contact before using any oil with your furry friend.

Essential Oils for Pets: Some Basic Guidelines

There are some general tips and suggestions you’ll want to keep in mind as you share essential oils for pets.

  • Do not use essential oils on and around cats or dogs under 8 weeks old because they are developing at fast rates; it is easy to mess up the proper dilution for each breed.

  • Animals are generally more sensitive to essential oils than humans are. It’s best to heavily dilute essential oils and use them in moderation.

  • Every animal is different, so carefully observe how your animal responds to essential oils. Use common sense and good judgment as you try different methods.

  • Be especially careful to not get essential oils in an animal’s eyes.

  • If diffusing, always allow your pets to freely leave the room or area so they can avoid the diffused oil.

  • With all animals, avoid using high-phenol oils—such as Oregano, Wintergreen, Clove, Mountain Savory, and Thyme. This is especially important with cats.

  • Additionally, these essential oils should be avoided for pets: cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, and ylang ylang. If ingested or applied directly to the skin, these essential oils can damage your dog’s skin and even cause seizures.

  • Use special caution with cats and essential oils. Avoid applying citrus oils topically, diffusing the scent around cats, and having your cat ingest them.

Some other things to consider when using essential oils for pets:

  1. Cats lack the enzyme glucuronidase and are not able to break down the phenolic compounds in essential oils. Therefore, cats should not be given essential oils orally and any topical use should be carefully considered. The high-phenol oils and citrus oils should be especially avoided. (High-phenol oils include oils such as Clove, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Cinnamon, and Cassia.)
     
  2. Each animal’s weight and size play a role. How much your pet will be sensitive to an oil seems to be related to their size or weight. Larger animals such as some dogs and horses seem to respond well to topical application in the limited studies that have been done. Never use oils with puppies or kittens.
     
  1. If a plant is known to be toxic to a pet, chances are the oil is also. For example, eucalyptus is toxic to cats if ingested, and it stands to reason that the oil of the same plant is as well. By the same reasoning, many cats hate the smell of citrus because it can be toxic to them if they eat it. Not all cats react to citrus, but it is always best to be cautious and avoid using citrus essential oils with cats as well.
     
  2. Start small, always dilute, use always in moderation. If you are going to use an oil topically after consulting your vet, keep it to a small area, dilute heavily with carrier oil, and do it rarely.
     
  3. Generally, avoid internal use. Because of the lack of research, check with your veterinarian before using essential oils for pets internally. 

There is some research on using essential oils for pets, such as this one from Veterinary Practice News and this one from Dr. Doug Knueven, DVM.

In essence, do your research, use only pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils for pets (and humans!) such as those grown and sold by Young Living.

How to Get Your Pets Used to Essential Oils

Your pets may need a bit of time to adjust to the new scents and sensations of essential oils. Use these tips to introduce your pets to essential oils in an easy and comfortable way.

  • Wear essential oils throughout the day, so your pets will be exposed to the aroma as you hold them, play, or cuddle on the couch. I use a healing blend daily, so my dog is used to the scent.

  • Diffuse essential oils in spaces where your pets like to relax. Keep in mind that dogs tend to stay in a room with their owner even if something is bothering them. Closely watch for signs of irritation—such as whining, sniffing, nervousness, and excessive scratching—while diffusing around them.

  • Apply an essential oil to your hands and let your pets smell them, so they can explore the scent on their own terms.

How to Dilute Essential Oils for Pets for Topical Application

Your animal’s size affects the amount of oil you should use and how much you should dilute for topical application.

  • For cats, small dogs, and other smaller animals, use a carrier oil—such as Coconut or vegetable oil or even V-6™ Vegetable Oil Complex—to dilute the essential oil before application. It is suggested to use a 9:1 ratio of carrier oil to essential oil.

  • For medium sized dogs dilute 4:1 carrier oil to essential oil.

  • If you’re using essential oils on medium-sized animals—like large dogs—dilute 3:1 carrier oil to essential oil.

  • For very large animals—including horses and cattle—start with a 1:1 dilution on the back and, if desired, move to the directions indicated on the bottle or where you purchased them from (hopefully, Young Living as our Seed to Seal promise guarantees the purest and highest quality oils!)

Topical Use of Essential Oils for Pets

Once your pets are used to essential oils, they’ll better handle topical application. Keep these tips in mind as you experiment with using essential oils on your pets.

  • It is recommended to apply essential oils to the back for dogs and cats, being sure to rub your hands together until they are no longer shiny before rubbing the essential oil on the pet.
  • For animals with hooves, apply to the spine and flanks, avoiding the face. Apply oils to places that allow them to evaporate and breathe. Do not apply oils under any tack or saddles.

  • For easier application in large or hard-to-reach areas, combine essential oils with V-6 or water in a spray bottle.

Animal Scents® Ointment is a protective, soothing salve designed specifically for external use on animals. The gentle and safe formula is enhanced with pure Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) and Myrrh, two of nature’s most powerful essential oils.

A portion of all proceeds from Animal Scents products goes to support Vital Ground, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the habitat of grizzly bears and other wide-roaming wildlife.

Internal Use of Essential Oils for Pets

Animals can ingest essential oils, but you need to follow some general rules before you give your fur baby essential oils internally.

  • It is highly recommended to consult with your veterinarian prior to administering oils internally to your pets. You should not attempt to mix oils with food unless directed by a veterinarian. (I do give my dog Ningxia red – just a capful – in his food to assist with his own immune system).
  • If you choose to mix essential oils with your pet’s food, keep in mind that the smell may make the food undesirable to the pet; this is especially true for cats.

  • If you apply oils to places on their body they can lick, they will likely consume some of the essential oil as they groom and play. Make sure you dilute heavily, so the amount your pet licks is minimal.  This is another reason why apply essential oils to the pet’s back is one of the best ways to use them.

  • Never force your pets to consume essential oils or food mixed with essential oils.

Supplemental Products Containing Essential Oils for Pets

Young Living also offers a full line of animal-specific products, including essential oil blends made just for animals, cat treats, dental pet chews, as well as natural and safe  Animal Scents® Shampoo. You can find the whole Animal Scents line here.

The below graphic, from Young Living, is a wonderful reference source for essential oils for pets and other domestic animals. 

infographic - essential oils for pets

What Essential Oils Are Safe for Dogs?

God created plants for us to enjoy and to use for food and healing – that goes for our pets, as well. In the same way we look for holistic solutions to our own health issues, our sweet pets can also use essential oils to boost their immunity and soothe aches and pains in a natural way.

Here are some wonderful remedies for common ailments our dogs can face:

Chamomile

Many would agree that few things beat a cozy blanket, a comfy couch and a cup of chamomile tea. Our faithful pets can experience similar calming effects from chamomile, too.

Rub a little bit in your hands (until it is no longer shiny) then rub along the dog’s back.  It can ease their stress and settle an upset tummy.

Also, if you have a shy or fearful pup, like we do, a little chamomile oil can help them learn to socialize better down at the local dog park. (We also use T-Away for this, both topically and diffused when we must leave him in a cage while we go out).

Frankincense

Frankincense and myrrh date back so far in history, it’s no wonder they make the list of safe essential oils for our dogs. Frankincense oil assists in your pet’s health and immunity of their cells.

If they seem to be not behaving like themselves or you suspect they aren’t feeling well, you may want to boost their immunity with a little frankincense. It can also support their digestive tracts if a bit of stress is causing an upset stomach.

Ginger

You’ll keep noticing the similarities between human and pet benefits to most of these essential oils. Just like some hot ginger tea can clear out our respiratory tracts or soothe our stomachs, the same can be said for dogs.

It can help them if they’re experiencing certain digestive problems; it can also help them breathe a little easier. Interestingly, ginger may also help them with some of their joint pain. You’ll often find that our go-to essential oils serve more than one main purpose, which is quite the natural blessing.

Lavender

Speaking of relaxation and collectedness, lavender is another great alternative for a stressed-out pup. It can be used to tame the onslaught of anxiety and car sickness.

One of the nicest ways to apply this essential oil is by applying it to your fur baby’s ear fur. A nice, gentle massage during application can set things in motion nicely.

We diffuse lavender, frankincense and white angelica in our bedroom each night. Our pup goes right to sleep when we turn it on!

Myrrh

Myrrh essential oil has been studied to help pups who are dealing with skin irritations. Myrrh has an antiseptic quality (as well as astringent properties), making it a great cleanser. It may, if applied regularly, clear up patches of irritated skin.

Peppermint

Dogs can have seasonal allergies, just like people. If you notice your little one sneezing more often or scratching their fur, they may have allergies (Or, it could be a new scent introduced to the home.)

Still, peppermint can help support their respiratory systems and return clearer breathing to their sweet furry faces. Peppermint can also be used to ease aches and pains in their joints, making it another one of those amazing, multi-purpose oils.

Peppermint should only be used in a diffuser and in low amounts. It can be toxic if ingested.

DIY Essential Oils for Pets Paw Balm

(from the Young Living blog)

There’s little worse than watching your furry friends in pain. After hikes, playdates in the snow or on hot pavement, and daily walks with the family, your dog or cat might need some TLC. When they spend all day on their precious paws, this homemade ointment is sure to do the trick. Try this DIY paw balm to keep your pet’s paws happy all year round.

Dog with recipe for DIY Pet Paw Balm

Ingredients:

(I’ve linked to the products that I use and love. The last 4 items can be found on the Young Living site.)


  • 2 tablespoons shea butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons beeswax
  • 1 teaspoon V-6™ Vegetable Oil Complex
  • 1 drop Animal Scents® Mendwell™
  • 1 drop Animal Scents® Infect Away™
  • 1 drop Animal Scents® PuriClean™

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and place over medium heat until everything is melted and mixed well.

Pour into a small glass storage container and let cool for 2–3 hours or until fully solidified.

Massage a small amount into your pet’s paws when in need of a little extra pampering.

Do you use essential oils for pets in your home?  Of course, always use caution when using essential oils for pets, but, when used properly they can help our beloved pets live healthier, happier lives.

For a great essential oil that every home needs, check out this post on lemon essential oil!

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