Essential Oils for Canines

A quick guide to safe essential oil use

When it comes to providing our fur-kids with relief from minor and chronic conditions, ailments, bumps, scrapes, injuries, anxiety, recuperation from veterinary procedures and surgeries, and from fleas and ticks, one of my favorite remedial therapies is the use of essential oils. Essential oils not only have powerful medicinal and relaxing, energizing, anti-microbial, and repellent properties, but also have potent and pleasurable fragrances that impact the mind and emotions making their use multifaceted and truly holistic. Filling your home and environment with their wonderful natural fragrances can purify your air and bring a quiet tranquility or positive energy to both you and your dogs.  

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are the fragrant essence extracts from plants and fruits. Extracts can come from flowers, leaves/needles, roots, bark/resins, berries, and fruit peels. When you pick an herb from the garden and rub the leaves between in your fingers, you experience the delectable aroma. Or when peeling a mandarin orange or smelling a rose blossom, those splendidly appealing aromas are the very essences that have powerful medicinal and healing effects on the body, mind, and emotions.

The extraction process and type is of vital importance to maintaining the purity and potency of the oils. Three such methods are:

  • steam distillation (used for more robust plants)
  • solvent extraction (required for delicate flowers)
  • expression or pressed (for use with fruits and fruit peels)

It is necessary to understand that essential oils are very potent and their fragrances can be overpowering to a dog’s highly sensitive olfactory faculties. Leading expert on the canine nose, Dr. Stanley Coren, writes, “Inside the nose…are bony scroll-shaped plates, called turbinates, over which air passes. A microscopic view of this organ reveals a thick, spongy membrane that contains most of the scent-detecting cells, as well as the nerves that transport information to the brain. In humans, the area containing these odor analyzers is about one square inch, or the size of a postage stamp. If you could unfold this area in a dog, on the other hand, it may be as large as 60 square inches, or just under the size of a piece of typing paper…A dog’s brain is also specialized for identifying scents. The percentage of the dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is actually 40 times larger than that of a human! It’s been estimated that dogs can identify smells somewhere between 1,000 to 10,000 times better than nasally challenged humans can.”

In fact, if you have ever wondered why dogs’ noses are textured with all those bumps and ridges, then you will be interested to learn that it is to increase surface area to fit as many as 300 million scent receptors. Just to compare, we humans have only five million scent receptors. Thus, with a sense of smell approximately one hundred times that of a human being, it is not hard to see why the use of essential oils requires the use of caution.

Although essential oils are considered natural remedies, just as with all plants and fruit found in nature, not all are safe for dogs. Some, in fact, are toxic and may have fatal consequences. So too with essential oils, not all are safe for use with canines. And even among the safe oils, all essential oils must be used with caution. So when using essential oils either on your dog or diffused into the air, keep in mind that the oils must be sufficiently diluted and never used near your dog’s nose, eyes, or mouth.

There are several methods of essential oil use with dogs:

1) Diffused: diffusers are an excellent way to vaporize essential oils into your air. Dogs can gain great benefit from the soothing, calming, and energizing properties of many oils. Diffusers come in several capacities, but I recommend using only 1 to 5 drops per 100 ml of water.

2) Hydrosol spray or Spray mist: you can purchase a hydrosol spray which is the safest option for dogs, or dilute oils in purified water and mist onto your dog’s coat and foot pads and/or on your dog’s bedding and carpet area. If creating your own mist, be sure to have an appropriate application bottle and never spray near your dog’s face while also avoiding the throat and rump area. It is best to mist along your dog’s upper back. My recommendation is to use only a small amount of essential oil(s) in 8 oz. of water. Never use more than 25 drops if making a flea/tick/mosquito repellent even if using on bedding and carpet only.

3) Massage: adding essential oils to a shampoo or a carrier oil can offer incredible benefits when gently massaged onto

  • fungal, yeast, or bacterial infections,
  • minor injuries and sore muscles,
  • irritated, dry, or flaky skin,
  • hair loss,
  • scar tissue, and more.

Massaging anxious dogs will allow them to benefit from both the touch therapy and the soothing scents of the oils. If creating a massage oil, use only 1 to 3 drops for every ounce of carrier oil. Even the smallest amount of essential oil has powerful effects.

4) Pendant diffusers: many companies have created clever pendant diffusers that can be clipped to your dog’s collar, harness, or in an area where your dog regularly sleeps. Add 1 drop of an essential oil to the pendant insert and close the diffuser. Hang the pendant on or near your dog.

5) Topical/Direct application: dilute essential oils in a carrier oil (as directed above) and apply along your dog’s spine. If you have a dog with erect or short ears, applying to the tips of the ears (known as ear tipping) can be very effective. My advice is to avoid ear tipping if you have a hound or other breed with long ears that can reach the eyes.

6) Internal: Before administering an essential oil internally, talk to a clinical aromatherapist or a certified holistic health practitioner trained in essential oils. Add one drop of an oil to a capsule filled with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil. If your dog tolerates the scent, you can even add 1 drop of diluted essential oil to food.

My personal favorite oils for use with canines are frankincense (my FAV!!!), lavender, chamomile, cedarwood, Cyprus, neroli, myrrh, orange, tangerine, calendula, rose, and peppermint.

The following is a list of SAFE oils that can be used on/with/for canines:

Essential OilKey Action
Angelica            
Basil             
Bergamot        
Calendula    
Cardamom         
Carrot Seed
Catnip
Cedarwood
Chamomile
Cinnamon
Citronella
Coriander
Cyprus
Eucalyptus
Fennel
Frankincense
Geranium
Ginger
Grapefruit
Helichrysum
Juniper
Lavender
Lemon
Lemongrass
Mandarin
Marjoram
Melissa
Myrrh
Neroli
Nutmeg
Orange
Palmarosa
Patchouli
Peppermint
Rose
Rosemary
Sandalwood
Spikenard
Spearmint
Tangerine
Thyme
Valerian
Vanilla
Vetiver
Yarrow
Relaxing & Stimulating, Tonic
Energizing
Relaxing
Cleansing
Relaxing
Relaxing
Relaxing
Balancing
Relaxing
Energizing
Cleansing
Energizing
Balancing
Cleansing
Cleansing
Relaxing
Balancing
Energizing
Energizing
Cleansing
Cleansing
Relaxing
Cleansing
Cleansing
Relaxing
Cleansing
Balancing
Relaxing
Relaxing
Energizing
Energizing
Cleansing
Relaxing
Energizing
Balancing
Energizing
Cleansing, Tonic
Relaxing & Cleansing
Energizing & Relaxing
Relaxing & Cleansing
Cleansing
Relaxing
Relaxing
Relaxing
Cleansing

Use the following oils with CAUTION*:

Tea Tree
Ylang Ylang
Cleansing
Relaxing

As with anything new, exercise caution when introducing essential oils into your naturopathic health care plan. Always test each essential oil with your dog before using. To test, dilute 1 drop of essential oil in a small amount of oil and rub it onto the back of your hand. Call your dog and hold out your hand while he/she approaches you. Pet your dog on their chest, head, and between their front legs and watch your dog’s reaction. He/she may sniff your hand, show a clear interest, appear indifferent, act passive and relaxed, lick their mouth, and/or try to lick your hand. If an oil is not a good fit or is inappropriate for your dog, he/she may turn their head away, act repulsed, walk away, and even sneeze. Never force your dog to be in the presence of an oil they clearly do not like.

There are many essential oil blends that can be beneficial for physical, mental, and emotional conditions and situations. Be sure to check with a professional for combinations that are safe and effective for your dog’s needs.

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Food Nutritionist

*Although these oils are listed on most safe lists, some dogs have had adverse reactions to Tea Tree and Ylang Ylang.


Naturopathic Care for Canines

Beneficial Holistic Health Care Strategies

Naturopathic health care is a distinct health care strategy with a heavy emphasis on disease prevention and the cultivation of optimal health. Natural and non-evasive methods along with therapeutic modalities and substances are employed to encourage the inherent self-healing process that is programmed into the DNA of every biological being.  The breaking of the basic biochemical laws, more often than not, results in sickness, pain, and physical degeneration. Naturopathy encourages and promotes adhering to those laws for the prevention of illness and dis-ease conditions. While it does not always exclude medically supervised drug use, it rather considers it as a last resort and not a first. Naturopathic medicine includes both modern and traditional scientific methods, most of which are empirically based. The naturopathic approach to canine health care has the benefit of an extensive array of preventative and therapeutic methods and modalities and is in no way limited to the conventional pharmaceutical and surgical veterinary approach.

There are six principles that are the foundation stone upon which stands the practice of naturopathy:

  1. Vis Medicatrix Naturae (The Healing Power of Nature)
    There is the recognition in naturopathy of the inherent DNA-programmed self-healing process in every biological being that is both ordered and intelligent. The naturopathic practitioner undertakes to identify the cause for a condition or dis-ease, acts to remove impediments to allow for healing and recovery, and assists and supplements this inherent self-healing process.
  2. Tolle Causam (Identify and Treat the Causes)
    The naturopathic practitioner pursues to first identify and then remove the underlying causes of conditions and dis-ease rather than suppressing symptoms and thereby halting the cure in-progress.
  3. Primum Non Nocere (First Do No Harm)
    A strict adherence to the following guidelines ensures the naturopathic practitioner avoids harming the patient: 1) Utilize only those methods, modalities, and medicinal substances that prevent or greatly minimize the risk for dangerous side effects. This is attained by utilizing the least force necessary; 2) Avoid whenever possible the dangerous suppression of symptoms; and 3) Acknowledge, respect, and utilize the biological being’s self-healing process.
  4. Docere (The Doctor is a Teacher)
    The naturopathic practitioner is first and foremost a teacher. They serve to educate their clients and to encourage self-responsibility for their own health and the health of their animals. 
  5. Treat the Whole Person/Animal
    The naturopathic practitioner takes into consideration each client’s individual physical, mental, emotional (spiritual), genetic, environmental, social, and additional factors to ensure healing and that the cultivation of optimal health is not hindered.
  6. Prevention
    Naturopathy emphasizes disease prevention by assessing risk factors, genetics, and predisposition to disease. Following assessment, the practitioner formulates appropriate interventions in order to partner alongside their clients with the single goal of preventing illness and dis-ease.

When considering and planning a health care strategy for your canine, the inclusion of naturopathy into the stratagem broadens the potential for dis-ease prevention and the possibility for full recovery from illness and health crises should they occur. Naturopathy employs the usage of:

  • Nutrition: Species-appropriate fresh whole food is vital for providing life-sustaining nourishment to your dog’s body AND as therapeutic medicine. “Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food.” -Hippocrates
  • Herbs: Herbs are nourishing foods that provide nutrients along with medicinal constituents, healing phytochemicals, and powerful essences.
  • Plant Essences: Plant essences, or Bach Flower Remedies, contain the electromagnetic energy of various flowers that, when taken into the body, intermingles with the physical and energetic body systems offering physical, mental, and emotional healing.
  • Essential Oils: Concentrated oils of plants containing the fragrances and potent healing components. These offer numerous therapeutic properties for the body, mind, and emotions.
  • Sunshine: The sun is our main source of energy for health and healing. The sun provides photons, light, energy, and warmth all of which are required for life.
  • Fresh air: Fresh, clean, pure air is essential for health and healing. Air during the early hours just prior to dawn offer the highest oxygen-saturation. Allowing your dog to take advantage of pre-dawn air is therapeutic on numerous levels.
  • Earth Grounding: Grounding allows your dog to receive a negative charge from the earth floor via the paws and body (when in contact with the ground such as when lying on grass, sand, and soil) to combat ROS*, reduce inflammation, and many other positive benefits. Grounding is essential to prevent cancer and in cancer therapy.
  • Exercise: Exercise is essential for cardiovascular health, strong muscles and bones, endurance, lymphatic massage, and oxygenating the body systems.
  • Pure water: Water is essential for hydrating cells and tissues, cleansing, and internal balance.
  • Positive mindset: Rearing a happy dog encourages the cultivation of optimal physical and mental health and healing. By providing your canine with activities they love, it encourages a moderate and composed temperament and mental poise.
  • Homeopathy: Powerful medicines that must be recommended/prescribed by a licensed and/or certified homeopath.
  • Acupressure: A therapy to free up and reestablish the basic flow of energy to benefit healing, and for the maintenance of harmonious energy flow throughout the body.
  • Acupuncture: Through the insertion of fine needles into specific acupuncture points, acupuncture stimulates pain relief, the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals, improves blood flow, increases tissue oxygenation, removes toxins, and relaxes muscles. This therapy must be provided by a licensed acupuncturist.
  • Massage therapy: Massage stimulates blood flow, relaxes muscles, improves energy circulation, releases “feel-good” hormones, stimulates healing, provides pain relief, and is a great bonding activity.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Reiki therapy are other natural therapy options.

More often than not, disease conditions are a result of imbalance within the body, mind, and/or emotions. Naturopathy serves to restore balance thereby reducing the reliance on conventional medicine and philosophies. The Holistic Canine specializes in nutrition, nutrition therapy, and natural remedies and therapies for puppies through senior adults. Naturopathy is safe, prevents and reduces the frequency of acute health crises, often results in faster recovery from illness, is a long-term solution to chronic disease without the worry of uncomfortable and/or fatal drug side effects, slows the progression of degenerative disease, cultivates balance, and eases the body, mind, and emotions of pain and stress. And the best part? It is far less stressful on your canine than having to make frequent trips to the veterinary office.

Understand, however, that while naturopathy is often a valuable and efficacious treatment strategy, it is never a replacement for licensed veterinary care, especially in the case of an emergency. A veterinarian is trained to diagnose and save your dog’s life in the event of trauma or if a life-threatening condition occurs. Always take your pet to the veterinarian if you suspect a life threatening consequence may result. Never delay! Naturopathy is a passive treatment strategy. In emergency situations, naturopathy is a supplemental ONLY option to work along with emergency after-care from a licensed veterinarian.

For more information on nutrition and natural therapy, go to our contact page and request valuable information!

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Food Nutritionist

*ROS reactive oxygen species