Essential Oils and Doodles
Society as a whole continues to say no to drugs and explore holistic healing opportunities, why not extend the benefits to our beloved pups? In lieu of an anti-anxiety drug, what if a little lavender could go a long way? Big Pharma has their grips on the veterinary field too, and I have seen prescription drugs be prescribed far too readily. I believe there is a balance between natural vs. Pharmaceutical. Modern medicine has made great strides and helped tremendously. However, if Mother Nature has a cure for some of the minor ailments then I want to use that knowledge to my fur-baby’s advantage. Most recently, the vet prescribed Furosemide to my pregnant Goldendoodle. Furosemide is a diuretic that has had great results in preventing water babies in the bulldog breed. However, a Goldendoodle is not a Bulldog. One day after giving her the first pill (to be given the last 6 days of pregnancy), her water broke. I immediately took her into the Vet and he advised to not give it to her anymore. A more natural approach would have been to give dandelion or hawthorn, both of which are safe for dogs. I can almost guarantee you that if my doodle needed it, she would have eaten either one growing in the yard.
Before you begin, it's important to ask yourself what essential oils are safe for dogs. Their sense of smell is astronomically stronger than ours, so scents (even natural ones) can have an adverse effect on them. And, believe it or not, they are the best ones to make the decision if they like it or not! While we have about six million olfactory receptors in our noses, dogs can have up to 300 million! We can't even do the math on how much of an impact that has on their sense of smell. Simply open the bottle and hold it open around your dog. If the dog doesn’t like it, they will quickly move away from the smell. If they do like it, they will try to come closer or not move away. Be careful to not let them lick the bottle, as that could present an overdose. You are only looking for their initial reaction. This is not to say that they will automatically move away from an oil that could be harmful, but most of the time, they will naturally try to get away from something that is harmful to them that comes from nature.
Below I have outlined some essential oils that have consistently made the cut as safe for dogs. Following the safe is the Not Safe. It is also SO important to make sure that the oils you are using are high quality and have been tested. Essential oils are not mandated to be tested and are not controlled so you can get an “oil” that doesn’t contain much (if any) of the oil it is supposed to be. If a company is doing the testing they will tout it and the test results will be easily available for your review. I can say that if the essential oil is “cheap” then chances are it isn’t good. Sourcing essential oils and testing them is expensive if it is being done right. That cost will translate down to the final sales price. For example, it takes 4-5 pounds of lavender flowers to create a 15 ml bottle of pure essential oil. Add in the testing to ensure it is free of impurities and it will cost between $18 to $23 per bottle. I have found that if the oil can be sourced in the USA then the cost is more towards the $18 than if it can only be sourced overseas. The lower the price = higher amount of impurities.
What Essential Oils Are Safe for Dogs?
Nature always knows best. In the same way we look for holistic aids, our beloved companions can also boost their immunity and soothe aches and pains in a natural way. Here are some wonderful remedies for common ailments our dogs can face:
Few things in life beat a prime seat on the sofa, a soft blanket, and a cup of chamomile tea. Our beloved sidekicks can experience similar calming effects of chamomile, too.
Let's say you're house-sitting your bestie's uptight Chihuahua and it's causing some stress for your low-key buddy. You might consider offering him or her a little chamomile oil. It can ease their stress and also settle an upset tummy.
Also, if you've adopted a generally shy or fearful pup, a little chamomile oil can help them learn to socialize better down at the local dog park.
Frankincense and myrrh date back so far in history, it's no wonder they make the list of safe essential oils for our dogs. Let's start with frankincense; this oil takes aim at the health and immunity of their cells.
If they seem to be acting a little differently in, say, doggie daycare, you might want to consider beefing up their immunity with a little frankincense. It can also support their digestive tracts if a bit of stress is causing an upset stomach.
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.
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 furbaby's ear fur. A nice, gentle massage during application can set things in motion nicely. There are 45 different kinds of Lavender, so please do your research and use the right one. The most common one we see in the USA is Lavandula angustifolia. This is the one most noted for its calming properties.
Now for myrrh. This oil is noted 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's possible that, when applied regularly, it can help clear up patches of irritated skin.
Dogs can be plagued with seasonal allergies, just like us. If you notice your little one sneezing more often, it may be time to consider what kind of an impact this year's allergy season is having on them. Sometimes it's a new scent introduced to the home as well.
Still, peppermint can help support their respiratory systems and return clearer breathing to their horizons. Peppermint can also be used to ease aches and pains in their joints, making it another one of those lovely, dual-purpose oils.
Peppermint should only be used in a diffuser and in low amounts. It can be toxic if ingested. I have a big pot of Peppermint on my back patio. My dogs will sniff it, but will not chew the leaves as they do grass when their tummy is upset. One more example how they DO know what is good for them.
How to Administer Essential Oils
There are two common ways to administer essential oils. You can apply them topically or administer them through a diffuser.
Here's the most important point: never apply an undiluted essential oil straight to your pet's skin. Even if they're on the list of essential oils safe for dogs, an undiluted oil can make them sick. This is where carrier oils come in. They're safe, lightly-scented oils that help deliver the oil safely to your dog's skin.
Great carriers include coconut oil, avocado oil, aloe vera, sunflower oil, and sweet almond oil. To dilute your essential oil, aim for one drop of essential oil for every tablespoon and a half of carrier oil. This creates a 0.25% dilution, keeping things in a safe range.
Conduct a patch test before you begin a regimen. Apply a dime-sized amount and keep an eye on the area for about 15 minutes. If your pup appears to be unphased by it, then proceed (with a careful eye) in your administration.
Diffusers work for pets in the same way they work for us. Simply add one to two drops of essential oil to a water-based diffuser. When we use them in our homes, we tend to just drop in the oil and go about our business. However, when using them as a pet aid, only run the diffuser for ten minutes. Then, let the air clear for about 30 minutes. Since you never want your dog to actually swallow any of these essential oils, make sure you place the diffuser in a place where it can't be knocked over and lapped up. Also, if their bed is on the east wall of the living room, then set up the diffuser on the west wall.
What Essential Oils Are Unsafe for Dogs?
While there's a healthy list of essential oils that can benefit our beloved pups in a multitude of ways, unfortunately, there's also a long list of oils that are absolute toxins when they enter their systems. Here are the primary offenders:
Citrus Oils (all varieties)
Unfortunately, this rules out a lot of our favorite clean-feeling household scents. Citrus oils bring on a similar wave of symptoms. Your dog may vomit, experience lethargy, or even go through the horrors of a seizure.
Cinnamon and Pine
Cinnamon Bark and pine (all varieties): the two go hand in hand in the cooler months of the year, but not for our pups. Pine tends to be both a skin and stomach irritant.
You know what that means; you may be forced to clean up vomit or diarrhea in the corner. But, the horrors of pine go even further, with cases of liver damage and central nervous system damage.
While tea tree oil can clear up so many symptoms in humans, it can be toxic to our fur-baby. You don't want to expose them to the detriments of this oil.
Symptoms can range from minor side effects like skin irritation or vomiting, to major complications like depression or paralysis of the rear legs.
Ylang ylang has a beautiful scent. In fact, it's an additive to many of our favorite perfumes. However, this oil does nothing more than make our fine friends loopy. Ylang Ylang is also in a slew of blends so pay attention to your pet’s reaction if diffusing a blend.
It can make breathing difficult for them, create a general sense of weakness, and, again, force them to vomit the toxin out of their system.
How Do You Know If They've Been Poisoned?
Since this list isn't exhaustive, how will you know if you've exposed your pup to a harmful toxin? First of all, don't panic if you let the diffuser run on a toxic oil once, for a short amount of time. Chances are, your sidekick will be just fine. At worst, they may vomit to clear their system of any harm.
If, however, you've been applying a harmful oil topically to them for extended periods of time or constantly running a hazardous oil through the diffuser, you may be poisoning them. Here are some of the symptoms of essential oil poisoning:
Lethargy, Weakness, Diarrhea, Vomiting, Excessive drooling, Difficulty walking, Muscle tremors
If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your vet immediately.