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.


Health Is In the Cells

A Critical Look at Cellular Inflammation & How to Protect Our Canines

Life is in the cells, thus, health is in the cells. Nothing can exist without cellular function. As a practitioner, my focus is zeroed in on what is happening at the cellular level. A common and growing concern in our modern age is chronic cellular inflammation in both humans and animals. When we think of inflammation, most people will bring to mind swelling, heat, pain, redness, and loss of function such as what is experienced with an injury. Cellular inflammation, however, is something entirely different; for one, it is not discernable. Truth be told, it is the leading cause of chronic disease. When inflammation of the cell membrane occurs, it disrupts cellular communication, adversely modifies cellular detoxification, and affects gene expression which often leads to a genetically predisposed disease. More specifically, cellular inflammation is characterized by increased activity within a cell as a result of an adverse outside influence which directly causes a disrupt in hormonal signaling throughout the body network.

We live in a world that is inundated with chemicals and pollutants that are directly contrary to the needs and functioning of cells. Cells receive the majority of their needs from food, water, and air. The major concern when feeding our dogs (and our own bodies) is the less-than-adequate, highly processed, genetically modified foods grown in mineral-deplete soils with a generous measure of pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides. The bodily cells of too many dogs are relying heavily upon these foods for their nutrient needs. And unless you offer water that is filtered by reverse osmosis (and possibly the addition of UV light) you can add a copious array of heavy metals and additional chemicals and contaminants to the list of cellular antagonists. And why not throw in the air pollutants? In defense, cells must do their best to protect and repair themselves for the purpose of maintaining life. When the barrage of antagonistic environmental and food factors is consistent, we are left with a chronic condition that generally spells a life of chronic disease, pain, suffering, and premature death. Our pets are left most vulnerable. Their life expectancy is far lesser than ours and thus have a greater need for being protected from environmental onslaught and inadequately supplied nutritional requirements.

If we examine chronic cellular inflammation more closely, it is not difficult to recognize that this is a very real concern. Every cell contains what is known as Nuclear Factor-kappaB (NF-κB), a gene transcription factor. When an increased activity in NF-κB occurs, the inflammatory response is activated. The NF-κB is activated by reactive oxygen species1 (ROS), microbial invasion (acute illnesses or infection), and the cells own generation of eicosanoids (signaling molecules) and their interaction with inflammatory cytokines (vital for cellular signaling; the primary cytokine that activates NF-κB is TNF- tumor necrosis factor). It has been shown that NF-κB activation is heavily influenced by diet. Thankfully, NF-κB can be controlled through a nutrition strategy that greatly reduces inflammation rather than promoting it.

One such study found that essential fatty acids have the greatest influence on NF-κB activation. Of particular note is the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid (AA). The study found that AA activates NF-κB, while the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) does not2. More recent studies have determined that the single most influential factor in cellular inflammation is insulin. Insulin is produced and secreted by the pancreas in the presence of glucose. Glucose is the digested or broken-down form of carbohydrates. While the inflammatory response is the same in humans as well as dogs, dogs have absolutely no requirement for carbohydrates making them far more vulnerable to the effects of carbohydrate consumption, especially in the form of processed commercial foods and homemade diets that contain starches, grains, and beans (species inappropriate foods). Dr. Francis M. Pottenger’s cat study3 speaks volumes to the effects of offering species inappropriate (cooked and adulterated) inflammatory foods to animals and thereby the conditions and diseases these produce and transfer to each consecutive generation. Dogs consuming high carbohydrate diets are at the highest risk for further inflammation that occurs not only in the cell membrane, but also in the inner mitochondrial membrane. The mitochondria are the power generators of the cells. When mitochondria become inflamed, metabolic processes, defense mechanisms, health, vitality, and energy levels plummet.

For our canines, it is not enough to simply supply required nutritional needs such as through commercially prepared processed diets, homemade meals, or tap water without any regard for the probable inflammatory-producing activity the food and water may generate. This is a key explanation for why we see chronic disease and cancers in both commercially and homemade fed dogs. While processed commercial foods have shown to be a direct and leading cause for chronic cellular inflammation, homemade foods that contain inflammatory foods are in no way a better option. The vehicles (foods) by which we deliver nutrients to the body is of fundamental importance. A so-called “complete and balanced” diet is in no way complete or balanced if NF-κB activation occurs and leads to a chronic inflammatory condition thereby greatly increasing the likelihood of a diseased state. We must look at the whole picture. Food is meant to nourish the body in ways that go far beyond simply protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Foods contain a plethora of components and constituents that affect the body either positively to produce health or negatively which promotes disease. True nutrition science looks at the affects and effects that foods have on biological systems.

Gut inflammation from species inappropriate foods is often the start of a chronic cellular inflammatory condition. Offering foods that are not appropriate to a canine’s digestion and physiology are the cause for inflammatory activation within the intestinal cells. The result is irritation of the gut lining. A series of physiological actions follow hence decreasing cellular network communication most notably with the brain. The effects of an irritated and inflamed gut decreases nutrient uptake and absorption. The whole goal of nutrition is to deliver adequate nourishment to the cells. Foods are meant to provide the vital nutritional energy and components that are required to maintain life, cultivate optimal health, and amplify the ability of the cells to efficiently defend and heal. If cells become inflamed, cellular nourishment is not achieved. Preventing malnourishment begins by offering biologically-appropriate unadulterated wholesome foods that prevent inflammation. This begins with knowing which foods are implicated in inflammatory responses in canines. Inflammation producing foods are:

  • Rendered fat, rancid fat, & cooked fat (pancreatic inflammation)
  • Grains, legumes, & processed carbohydrates
  • Processed, adulterated proteins & meat by-products
  • Preservatives & food coloring
  • Starches, insoluble fibers, & fillers
  • Canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil (dogs are carnivores and require animal fats)
  • Foods that cause sensitivity symptoms as per the individual dog (any and all, especially allergic responses)
  • Fish oils
  • Proteins from animals fed grains (especially genetically modified grains such as corn and soy)
  • Toxin-heavy foods such as farmed fish and conventionally raised/grown foods
  • Commercially-raised grain-fed chicken and pork (high in omega-6 fatty acids)
  • Commercial eggs from grain-fed caged birds
  • Tap water (and conversely, offering distilled water. This will mineral-deplete your dog FAST!)
  • Heavy supplement use, especially synthetic isolates and inorganic minerals
  • Unbalanced diets & unbalanced fats

Avoiding or healing cellular inflammation begins by greatly reducing or eliminating the above listed foods. What follows is the restoration of the cellular membranes via an anti-inflammatory diet strategy. A species-appropriate balanced raw diet is by far the best strategy for a carnivore IF, and only if, the diet includes easily digestible foods that, first and foremost, do not irritate the gut and thus adequately nourish cells and discourage an inflammatory response. Adding in phytochemical and antioxidant-rich organic vegetables and fruits can also be a part of an anti-inflammatory strategy. Be sure to first discover if your dog is able to digest the vegetation you choose. And be aware that many dogs cannot have fruit as the fruit sugars can be problematic in reactive dogs thus contributing to an overgrowth of yeast. This is a prime example of an inflammatory response to healthful, nourishing foods.

While chicken and pork are heavy in omega-6 fatty acids, they should not be avoided entirely as omega-6 fatty acids are essential to the cells. However, offering your dog free-range chicken and pork is a much better option and helps to nourish cells rather than encourage cellular reaction. Knowing how to balance fats is pivotal to the prevention of inflammation. As indicated in the study above, the omega-3 fatty acid EPA prevents NF-κB activation. Including foods and whole-food supplements into meals that are rich in EPAs is essential. Because of the condition of our food supply coupled with environmental toxin exposure, feeding omega-3 fatty acids in a ratio of 2:1 omega-6 to omega-3 is highly recommended. Wild-caught fatty fish (free of contaminants) are excellent sources of omega-3 fats as well as grass-fed beef and bison, pasture-raised chicken and duck eggs, marine phytoplankton, and krill oil. Raw diets that contain a variety of red meats, poultry, fish, and omega-3 supplements are the most appropriately balanced and provide the greatest protection against cellular inflammation.

On a final note, completely avoiding all grains, legumes, and starches is a vital step. Carbohydrates in the presence of fats has been shown to exacerbate the inflammatory response. In the presence of insulin, animal and vegetable fats can become inflammatory on top of the inflammatory producing grains, legumes, and starches. While these foods may be beneficial to humans when sprouted and pressure-cooked to remove toxic anti-predation lectins, anti-nutrients, and enzyme inhibitors, they are not suitable for canines. These are rich in gut-irritating insoluble fibers (even to humans) and non-essential carbohydrates that break down to useless sugars spiking insulin and resulting in inflammation, weight gain, and an enlarged pancreas. Additionally, grain and legume proteins lack the correct amino acid ratios for carnivores besides the very obvious fact that carnivores do not and would not consume grains even in the absence of prey. Carnivores lack the digestive capacity to breakdown grains and legumes for nutritional purposes.

The purpose of nutrition is nourishment and to provide the body with an energy source. Feeding the body foods that encourage cellular reactivity and are problematic to digest requires the use vital energy making more work for the body. This serves to lower vital nerve energy and create a state of enervation. Energy and vitality are the highest representations of true health and wellness.

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

1 Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are reactive molecules containing oxygen that are produced by excess free radical formation via environmental toxins, metabolism, blood cells, emotional stress, as well as being introduced via diet that directly damage cells.

2 Camandola S, Leonarduzzi G,Musso T, Varesio L, Carini R, Scavazza A, Chiarpotto E, Baeuerle PA, and Poli G. “Nuclear factor kB is activated by arachidonic acid but not by eicosapentaenoic acid.” Biochem Biophys Res Commun 229:643-647 (1996).

3 Francis Marion Pottenger Jr., Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition, Price Pottenger Nutrition; 2nd edition, June 1, 2012.



Warring Within a Broken & Battered World

A Crusade to Protecting our Canines from Modern Living

At some point we all have to carefully consider the question, will raw feeding and a natural approach to canine health care guarantee the prevention of chronic disease, health conditions, DCM, cancer, and other issues? The truth? No. There are simply no guarantees in this life except that all beginnings will have an ending. The problem is, we live in a broken and contaminated world. There are thousands upon thousands of chemicals, contaminants, and pollutants that are warring against us and our pets. Too many people have no regard for our planet, our food sources, our air, or our water. Couple this with the modern purebred dog that has their pedigree funneled down to a tiny gene pool that no longer contains sufficient healthy DNA. We are in a literal battle for health…for LIFE. Naturally-reared and lifetime raw fed dogs are still getting diseases and dying prematurely. Everyday in my Facebook news feed I encounter anywhere from two to six posts from distraught pet parents grieving the loss of their beloved companions. Their battles were fought naturally and bravely, but with everything in this life, an end is inevitable. While it can be delayed, it cannot be stopped.

It is my wish for everyone that the understanding of just how precious and fragile life truly is would take precedence in their life. It is a gift to wake up and have another day. It is a blessing to have our pet companions by our side to add purpose and joy to our lives. We owe it to them to do the best we can to protect and defend them from this fallen and diseased world. It is up to us to educate others about the dangers of processed, mineral-deficient, chemically-laden GMO foods; heavy metal and chemical-filled vaccines; insecticide flea and tick pills, sprays, collars, and dips; toxic worming protocols; chemical and pollutant contaminated tap water; exhaust and pollution saturated air; and yards and neighborhoods sprayed and sprinkled with glyphosate, weed killers, and chemical fertilizers. When and where does this end? It can end now with each one of us making the decision to improve our world by the choices we make. Our pets depend entirely on every decision we make.

Nearly all of us understands the pain of experiencing the effects of our beaten and battered planet. We have lost pets…too young and too soon. What we thought was beneficial turned out to be not enough. We say our good-bye and wonder if what we do is even worth the effort. I want to assure you, it is! How much sooner would you have possibly said your good-bye had you not put forth the energy and effort into providing YOUR best for your dog? Press forward! Do not back down in this battle with our battered world. Nature is fighting back. We must support her!

The face of The Holistic Canine, my Siberian Husky, Damon, is facing such a battle, and I, his guardian, am all he has to provide him with an arsenal sufficient for him to move forward in battle for as long as he is able to proceed without pain and suffering. The sad truth is, bad things happen in this world. I am not ready to back down in this fight for health and for our world. Will you stand with me? Our dogs are counting on us and we need an army to rally for nature, for health, and for LIFE.

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