Essential Oils for Dogs
Essential oils have been used as effective natural alternatives for treating a wide range of physical and mental health concerns. Essential oils contain many therapeutic properties such as anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and soothing qualities that can be used as an alternative to pharmaceutical products. Since human physiology has been shown to benefit from essential oil use, it begs the question – can you use essential oils on dogs?
It’s an easy question, but one with a relatively complicated answer. The relationship between dogs and essential oils is convoluted, and made even more so by a wide variety of holistic pet products that contain potentially harmful essential oils. Dogs do not have the same biology as humans, and should not be expected to react the same way.
To conduct aromatherapy for dogs, essential oils can either be diffused or applied. Diffusion is generally considered the safest and most mild application. For topical application, essential oils should always be heavily diluted before applying to the animal. Always take extra precautions with essential oils and dogs to prevent accidental ingestion.
Note: Using essential oils for pets can be dangerous, as some essential oils can be harmful to animals. Extreme caution should be used when treating or dealing with dogs and essential oils. Safety guidelines concerning essential oils for animals differ significantly based on the animal itself. Always consult a veterinarian before treating your pets with any essential oil, even if it is considered safe.
The leading voice concerning essential oils and animal treatment is Dr. Melissa Shelton, vet and internationally recognized holistic medicine author and advocate. Shelton has published a number of books concerning the use of essential oils for animals, and has devoted herself to researching and treating pets with holistic alternatives.
Medical grade essential oils, natural whole food supplements, and a bevy of other natural health practices are the tools used by Shelton. Animal hospital and dental clinic owner, she has been successfully treating pets and animals for years, many of whom could not be treated successfully by traditional medicines. Dr. Shelton is the go-to source when it comes to essential oils and pets.
Below, Essential Oil Experts has complied an easy to use essential oil guide to help keep your dog healthy, happy and safe while using essential oil products.
Essential Oils for Fleas
In recent years, essential oils have been used as natural alternatives for flea removal on pets, instead of traditional shampoos or chemical-based flea collars. Today, there are several products that use essential oils for fleas and ticks on the market.
Juniper essential oil has been reported to be used by veterinarians in everyday practice, and is known for its natural insecticidal properties. Citronella and thyme based products are both considered a natural and safe tick repellent for dogs.5,9 Essential oils for ticks on dogs should always be used in low concentrations, especially with collars and essential oil flea spray.
Products using cedarwood essential oils for fleas and ticks do exist, but these must be sourced carefully. Users should ensure the product uses Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) essential oil, as oil from White Cedar (Melia azedarach) can be toxic.12 Be careful to check the label thoroughly before using cedar essential oil for fleas.
Lavender essential oil flea spray and tick control products are effective, but the concentration needs to be verified before being used. Lavender can be toxic for dogs, and should only be used in very low concentrations.
Essential Oils for Dog Arthritis
If your dog is suffering from arthritis, there are alternatives to pharmaceutical painkillers and anti-inflammatories. Of the essential oils for arthritis, frankincense essential oil has been noted as one of the best. In a 2012 study, frankincense essential oil was shown to improve symptoms of canine inflammation and arthritis in 71% of animal subjects. With natural anti-rheumatic and anti-inflammatory properties, frankincense essential oil may help soothe your aging pet.14
Essential Oils for Itchy Dogs
As one of the common canine ailments, itchy skin can cause extreme irritation for dogs. You can use essential oils for dogs itching to provide natural relief. To date, there is limited scientific research on the effectiveness of essential oils for dogs’ itchy skin. Anecdotally, helichrysum essential oil has been used to help soothe itchy skin and heal canine wounds. Considered a non-toxic plant to dogs, helichyrsum essential oil is featured in one of Dr. Shelton’s products.13
There are many topical treatment products that use lavender, chamomile, and marjoram essential oils for dogs’ itchy skin, but these are potentially toxic and should be avoided.1, 6, 7
Calming Essential Oils for Dogs
The best way to use essential oils for calming dogs is via aromatherapy. A dog’s nose is more sensitive than our own and is a huge part of how your canine friend perceives the world.
Using essential oils to calm dogs can be a safe and effective way to naturally alter your pet’s mood. Any product or mixture that has relaxing properties can be used as calming oils for dogs. Lavender essential oil and frankincense essential oils are particularly pleasant essential oils to calm dogs via diffusion.
Note that lavender is toxic when applied topically or ingested by your dog, but it has been reported that it is safe to be inhaled via a diffuser.
You can also use aromatherapy essential oils for anxiety in dogs. This may be especially useful for breeds that suffer from stress or tension related conditions. With anti-anxiety and stress-relieving properties, lavender and bergamot essential oil are particularly effective essential oils for dog anxiety.
Simply diffuse the essential oils in an open, indoor space with your dog, making sure they do not ingest or come into contact with the essential oils. Dogs are just like people, some may just not like certain fragrances, regardless of their holistic properties.
Essential Oils for Dogs’ Skin
Canine skin is prone to dryness and irritation just the same as ours. While there may be several possible essential oils for dogs’ dry skin, helichrysum essential oil mixed with almond or coconut carrier oils may provide soothing relief. Some dog owners have applied 1-2 diluted drops of this oil topically to their pet’s affected area to help moisturize and reduce irritation.
Take care when using essential oils for dog skin problems, as allergic reactions to the oils can make matters worse. Always consult with a veterinarian before using essential oil products on your pet.
Essential Oils for Dogs’ Ears
Your dog’s hearing and ear health is important, and there are a few effective essential oils for ear mites in dogs that will help keep their ears in top shape. In vivo clinical studies have shown that one of the most effective essential oils for dog ear infection is oregano essential oil as its natural anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties can safely help fight off infection.9
While these products were applied directly to the ears of the dog, allowed to sit briefly, and then were flushed out, users should not attempt to do this and home. Always consult with a veterinarian before using essential oils in a dog’s ear.
Essential Oils for Dog Hot Spots
Hot spots are a form of skin irritation that may be caused from an allergic reaction, mites or fleas, infection, or simply stress.
While clinical data is lacking, helichrysum and frankincense essential oil for dogs’ hot spots and skin conditions have been used by pet owners as topical treatments. After confirming the use of these oils with your veterinarian, use essential oils for hot spots on dogs by diluting 1-2 drops of essential oil with at least 1 Tbsp. of carrier oil, such as coconut oil, and gently apply to the affected area.
Essential Oils for Dog Skin Allergies
Using essential oils for allergies in dogs is a tricky proposition as essential oil carries the risk of being an allergen itself. The potential harm from unforeseen complications means it can be dangerous to use essential oils for dogs with allergies, particularly for skin irritation. Because your dog already has a skin condition, consult with your veterinarian before using an essential oil on its skin to avoid further irritation.
Essential Oils for Dog Odor
Dogs are lovable, but sometimes their smell is anything but. Whether it’s wet dog smell, or other undesirable fragrances, essential oils can offer pleasant odor relief.
To use essential oils for dog odor, dilute 1-2 drops of citronella essential oil into at least 11 oz. of water and gently mist areas that your dog has left odors on, to help mask and eliminate undesirable scents.
Essential Oils for Dog Bad Breath
In recent years, there has been some scientific investigation into the use of essential oils for dogs’ bad breath which have shown some promising findings. In a 2013 study, pepper-rosmarin essential oil was noted to have natural antimicrobial properties, believed to be caused by the high levels of thymol in the essential oil. When a diluted pepper-rosmarin essential oil mouthwash was given to dogs, it significantly reduced bad breath, helped fight gingivitis and promoted a healthy canine mouth.3
Essential Oils for Seizures in Dogs
At this time, there is no publicly available clinical research on treating seizures or epilepsy in dogs using essential oil products. Therefore, it cannot be recommended to treat canine seizures using essential oils without veterinary consultation.
Veterinarian Dr. Melissa Shelton, expert on essential oils and pets, has previously suggested using a product that contains a mixture of frankincense, ocotea, ruta, dorado and ylang ylang essential oils, to treat seizures, anxiety, and neurological conditions in dogs.13
Safe Essential Oils for Dogs
There are a lot of contradictory claims regarding essential oils and pets. Many products available on the market contain essential oils bad for dogs, and finding credible information about safe essential oils for dogs can be difficult.
Dogs and their immune systems are very different from our own. Just because a product is harmless to humans, doesn’t mean it will be harmless for dogs as well.
Today, there are a select number of essential oils safe for dogs, including frankincense, helichrysum, and lemon essential oils. Many other essential oils can be toxic unless diluted properly, so it is always advised to consult with your veterinarian before use on pets.
Lavender Oil on Dogs
Some pet owners may wonder ‘is lavender safe for dogs?’ According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), lavender is toxic and should not be ingested by dogs.1
Despite this, it is common to use lavender oil for dogs. Lavender oil for fleas and mite treatments is the most prevalent use, but can also be used for calming nervous dogs.
Topical application of lavender essential oil may cause an allergic reaction in dogs and increases the chance of ingestion, making it a potentially dangerous product for your pet. If your veterinarian approves, you may be able to try diffusing lavender as a safer method.
Is Eucalyptus Oil Safe for Dogs?
The ASPCA lists the eucalyptus plant and eucalyptus essential oil as poisonous to cats, dogs, and even horses. Keep eucalyptus-based products far from your pets.8
While many pet products use low concentrations of eucalyptus oil, fleas and mite infestation products in particular, these should never be used on your dog due to potential complications.
Frankincense for Dogs
One of the most versatile essential oils is frankincense, safe for dogs and used to treat a variety of ailments. Frankincense essential oil can be used to calm your dog via diffusion and can even help to manage arthritis pain.14
Is Peppermint Safe for Dogs?
With several beneficial properties and a highly appealing smell, pet owners may wonder ‘is peppermint bad for dogs?’
While using any form of peppermint for dogs can cause adverse reactions, peppermint essential oil in particular, is considered highly toxic.10 Flea sprays with peppermint essential oil have been reported to cause adverse reactions, such as agitation, anorexia, hypersalivation, lethargy, retching, seizures, tremors and vomiting.4 Applying any product that uses peppermint oil for dogs carries a risk of accidental ingestion and is not recommended.
Is Lemongrass Safe for Dogs?
According to the ASPCA, owners should never use lemongrass essential oil for dogs, as it is a toxic plant that becomes far more dangerous when used in essential oil form. The naturally occurring cyanogenic glycosides within the oil can lead to severe digestive issues in dogs. 2
Is Grapefruit Bad for Dogs?
Citrus essential oils, including grapefruit essential oil, can be toxic if ingested by your four-legged friend. Clinical signs of toxicity include vomiting, diarrhea or depression.11
Cedarwood Essential Oil for Dogs
Cedarwood essential oil needs to be carefully sourced to make sure that it is safe for your pet. Eastern red cedar essential oil can be used for dogs, but white cedar essential oil can be toxic.12
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Lavender. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/lavender – View reference
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Lemongrass. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/lemon-grass – View reference
- Girão, V. C. C., Nunes-Pinheiro, D. C. S., Morais, S. M., Sequeira, J. L., & Gioso, M. A. (2003). A clinical trial of the effect of a mouth-rinse prepared with lippia sidoides cham essential oil in dogs with mild gingival disease. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 59(1), 95-102. doi:10.1016/S0167-5877(03)00051-5
- Genovese, A. G., McLean, M. K., & Khan, S. A. (2012). Adverse reactions from essential oil‐containing natural flea products exempted from environmental protection agency regulations in dogs and cats. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, 22(4), 470-475. doi:10.1111/j.1476-4431.2012.00780.x http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1476-4431.2012.00780.x/abstract
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Thyme. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/thyme – View reference
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Chamomile. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/chamomile – View reference
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Marjoram. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/marjoram – View reference
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Eucalyptus. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/eucalyptus – View reference
- Lans, C., Turner, N., & Khan, T. (2008). Medicinal plant treatments for fleas and ear problems of cats and dogs in british columbia, canada. Parasitology Research, 103(4), 889-898. doi:10.1007/s00436-008-1073-6 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00436-008-1073-6
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Mint. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/mint – View reference
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Grapefruit. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/grapefruit – View reference
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (n.d.). Pride-of-India. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from – View reference
- Shelton, M. (2012). The animal desk reference: essential oils for animals. Retrieved May 18, 2017 from http://www.oilyvet.com/uploads/ADR_Sample_Pages.pdf
- Reichling, J., Schmökel, H., Fitzi, J., Bucher, S., & Saller, R. (2004). Dietary support with boswellia resin in canine inflammatory joint and spinal disease. Schweizer Archiv Für Tierheilkunde, 146(2), 71-79. doi:10.1024/0036-72188.8.131.52, from http://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/abs/10.1024/0036-72184.108.40.206