Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Not all of the therapies recommended by your holistic vet are going to help your dog. Aromatherapy can be very useful, however, or it may end up making things worse. Here are several essential oils that you can use to make your dog's life even better.
What Is Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is defined as the therapeutic use of aromatic, essential oils to promote health. The essential oils are taken from plants and then diluted into a neutral base that can then be used as a shampoo, a massage oil, and even an inhaler. This therapy can be used to help your dog, too.
Despite its proven value, it is not accepted in traditional veterinary medicine. (Aromatherapy has been proven to help patients fall asleep quicker and sleep deeper than when given sleeping pills, and a Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center study found that it reduced anxiety facing treatment.) It is not discussed in veterinary colleges, nor it is accepted by the professors, and thus it is never even tried by most of the veterinary graduates.
Although some of the oils are so potent that they are only available by prescription in some countries, aromatherapy is like other alternative therapies in that it is not promoted by the multinational pharmaceutical industry, and thus it has little chance of ever being accepted.
When Should Aromatherapy Be Used?
Aromatherapy uses essential oils to treat a few types of health problems, sometimes those for which traditional medicine has not been effective. It can be used in cases of lameness not responding to other therapies, as an alternative therapy for arthritis, for ear infections/itchy skin, and even to control fleas and ticks.
Aromatherapy has also been suggested as a way to treat some anxiety cases, like separation anxiety and phobias due to fireworks and thunderstorms.
When Should Aromatherapy Be Avoided?
Do not use this therapy if your dog is pregnant or if your dog is epileptic. If you are using aromatherapy, even in massage, you should test a small amount first and watch your dog the next day, just in case there are any adverse reactions. Be especially careful with small dogs, puppies, and very old dogs.
There have been some anecdotal reports of deaths occurring in dogs due to improper use of essential oils. Several websites recommend the use of products that are listed as toxic on other websites. Many of these are commonly used in people and are sold for use in dogs also. A few examples are mustard, birch, and anise (There are others, however).
If essential oils are used topically, they should be dissolved in a carrier, such as olive oil. If used as an aroma, they should also always be diluted. (One recommendation is 10 drops of oil to 10cc of olive oil. I prefer coconut oil because of the potential antibacterial and antifungal effects of that product.)
Contact a Holistic Vet for Advice
Essential oils can be dangerous, and I have listed below only those products that all holistic veterinary practitioners have found safe. If you are interested in this therapy, I recommend you do as much reading as possible, and if at all possible contact a holistic vet in your area that can help you with choosing the therapy.
Please leave me a comment if I can be of any help.
Which Essential Oils Can Help?
A constant complaint in veterinary practice is “My dog smells." This is an area in which aromatherapy can definitely help! No other form of alternative or conventional medicine even attempts to address this issue.
You can either add a few drops of chamomile and 8 drops of lavender to a small bottle of your dog's regular shampoo, or make up a solution by adding 8 drops of lavender, 3 drops of peppermint, and 3 drops of eucalyptus to one cup of water, and then using it as a spray. Unless your dog has an underlying problem (like dental disease, an ear infection, or passing excessive gas), the problem will be solved.
This list discusses only a few of the oils available, but all of the following are safe:
- Lavender: May be effective in anxiety cases, since it has a calming effect. The American Veterinary Medical Association has published research on its efficacy. It is also used with chamomile to treat ear infections.
- Chamomile: This plant has some anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, so the essential oil is used to control itching. It is also said to be effective in relieving muscle cramps and pain from teething.
- Niaouli: This oil has some antibacterial effects so it is used for skin infections, allergies and ear infections. It is not as irritating as Tea Tree oil but should still be diluted before using it on the skin. Use 10 drops to about 200 milliliters of water.
- Peppermint: This is an effective way to kill fleas for those people who do not want to put insecticides on their dogs. Use 7cc of mint oil in 20cc of rubbing alcohol. You spray it on the dog, similar to vinegar, making sure none gets in her eyes or nose. The only health problems I have found associated with this oil is when it is given orally in excessive amounts.
- Ginger: Although many of the essential oils are used in pain relief, this oil has significant anti-inflammatory action and may be effective in ways that we do not yet understand. It provides potent pain relief in cases of arthritis and hip dysplasia, but of course, should be diluted as described above.
A Few Warnings
- If you are going to buy essential oils, make sure you learn the proper names so you are getting the correct product. A lot of the products for sale do not list all of the ingredients, where they are from, if they are organic, etc. If you find solutions for “ear infection” or “anxiety” that do not list the ingredients, avoid them.
- You should also avoid them if the price is too good to be true. Essential oils are expensive to produce, and if they are too cheap, they will probably have something else added.
- If you have a dog with a chronic medical condition, you should consult with a holistic veterinarian. Do not try putting any of the essential oils on your dog's food unless you are following a holistic vet's recommendation.
This video shows one case being treated with aromatherapy.
References and Links
- Anxiety: Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Wells, 2006 Sep 15;229(6):964-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16978115
- Ear inflammation:Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future, Srivistava, Molecular Medicine Reports. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895–901. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/
- Antibacterial effects: Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases, Orchard, Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine. 2017; 2017: 4517971. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5435909/
- Flea control: Adverse reactions from essential oil-containing natural flea products exempted from Environmental Protection Agency regulations in dogs and cats, Genovese, Journal of Veterinary Emergency Critical Care, 2012 Aug;22(4):470-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-4431.2012.00780.x. Epub 2012 Jul 16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22805458
- Pain relief: Effect of Essential Oils from Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and Turmeric (Curcuma longa) Rhizomes on Some Inflammatory Biomarkers in Cadmium Induced Neurotoxicity in Rats, Akinyemi, Journal of Toxicology, 2018; 2018: 4109491. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6196928/
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
wetnosedogs from Alabama on August 29, 2012:
Wow, learn a thing about computers here. Glad you are back.
I am going to try it in the spring. I do have mint(i think it's peppermint) growing at the side of the house, it can grow wild.) I will plant some in the back where the dogs hang out. I will let you know.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 28, 2012:
Sorry I havent been able to answer for so long. My computer crashed because of the salt (in the air).
I was trying to find an answer about the peppermint but I can not find anyone who has tried it as an experiment, just a lot of anecdotes saying it will work.
Do you want to try it? Mint will not grow here (I have tried it) but if you do plant (and it is effective against fleas) let me know!
wetnosedogs from Alabama on August 18, 2012:
I wonder if I planted peppermint in the back yard if that will chase away fleas. What do you think?
Love your acrobatic dog=perhaps she is so involved with that leaf, she doesn't realize you took that picture.