As loving pet parents, we will try just about anything for our dogs. Nothing is off limits to try if it means our dog could feel a sense of relaxation and peace, and aromatherapy is known to have these exact benefits. People have been using aromatherapy for themselves for years, and our pets can also reap the benefits.
With any new method you try, be aware that your dog might not have the reaction that you expect. For example, some oils that are safe for people aren’t safe for dogs. Additionally, some dogs may be allergic or not get a lot out of this practice. Like their dotting humans, all canines are unique.
If you’ve been considering starting aromatherapy for your dog, read on to learn about how it works and some of its benefits.
What Is Aromatherapy for Dogs?
Aromatherapy for dogs is the practice of using essential oils to help with both physical and behavioral troubles. Essential oils are combined specifically to help certain ailments: Not every dog will need the same essential oil mixture.
How Does Aromatherapy Work?
Aromatherapy for dogs can work in two ways: through smell and through skin absorption. You can diffuse oils into the air, massage oils onto your dog’s body, and use different skin or paw balms on your pet to maximize the effect.
Diluting Essential Oils: The Basics
Dog’s skin is sensitive — often more so than our own. Just like when we use essential oils, we want to dilute them. Diluting essential oils is easy. Simply combine a few drops of essential oils with a dog-safe carrier oil, like coconut oil or olive oil. Pure essential oils are highly concentrated — too much for pups and people.
What Are the Benefits of Aromatherapy?
If you’ve done aromatherapy for yourself, some of the following benefits might sound familiar! Don’t be surprised if it takes a few days or weeks to see some of the benefits, as your dog has to get used to the new smell. Sometimes wearing the essential oils on yourself for a few days supports a positive association with the oil, boosting the effects when introduced to your dog’s care plan.
1. Reduces Anxiety
One of the main benefits of aromatherapy is how using specific essential oils can help reduce your pet’s anxiety. Aromatherapy targets the limbic system, which regulates emotions and mood. A dog that is in a panic is going to be experiencing an overwhelming response in their limbic system, but aromatherapy may help calm the central nervous system.
A dog’s olfactory bulb is connected to their limbic system, which also influences memory. A dog uses their nose so often that it carries a more intense connection to certain smells. When exposed to aromatherapy, a dog is impacted by it quicker than a human would be, and it can calm them down at a faster rate. This is especially true as a dog memorizes certain smells and associates them with feeling calm and relaxed.
If your dog experiences separation anxiety, having a diffuser going while you’re away for a little might do just enough to calm your dog and help them through it. Ensure the diffuser is dog-safe; if the device is tipped over, there should be no risk of hot water burns.
Lavender essential oils are especially helpful in reducing anxiety in dogs, mixed with Frankincense. You will also need to ensure that all of the essential oils are pre-diluted so that your dog doesn’t have any irritation due to the strength of the smell.
Treating anxiety often requires more than some chamomile and calming music. In those cases, chat with a Certified Pet Trainer to develop a well-rounded wellness plan. The team at AskVet is available 24/7 to advise on all animal family members’ health and happiness.
2. Boosts Happiness Levels
In addition to anxiety when separated from their humans, dogs can feel sad or depressed at other times as well. When you’re gone, their motivation to play might be down, and they might spend most of their time looking out the window, waiting for you to come home.
One possible solution to this can be aromatherapy. Essential oils like geranium Rose and bergamot can help balance your dog’s mood and frustration levels.
You can also spend time with your dog by massaging these essential oils into their body, which benefits both you and the dog. Your dog will never turn down quality time spent with you, and you get to see them happier. A win-win!
3. Physical Health Benefits
Beyond emotional wellness, oils are also associated with physical health benefits. Namely, they can work as a holistic flea and tick repellent. When you mix a certain combination of oils, it can help ward off fleas and ticks due to their own sensitivity to smells.
Combine geranium oil, rosemary, lemongrass, and bergamot together and put it on the back of your dog’s head so they can’t lick it. Of course, if you are using some sort of flea and tick medication, you should continue to do so to best protect your dog. This is simply another way to help repel fleas from even trying to latch on.
We know and love peppermint air fresheners in our cars, but they have a not-so-secret superpower: This puppy-safe essential oil has antimicrobial properties.
How To Diffuse Essential Oils Safely
Dogs have a very strong sense of smell, so if you think your perfume or shampoo smells too strong, your dog would probably agree.
Finding top-quality oils that are pre-diluted can help you to avoid adverse reactions. Overusing aromatherapy might also be dangerous for your dog, so you don’t want to overdo it.
When you do use an essential oil diffuser, don’t let it run for more than an hour (and that’s a tip for us humans as well), or keep it next to where your dog sleeps. Too much might overwhelm them and can cause an adverse reaction.
Think about how sometimes smelling a certain candle can give you a headache; it’s similar to how a dog can respond to too much aromatherapy exposure.
What Essential Oils Are Safe for Dogs?
Like certain plants have high toxicity levels to dogs, some essential oils that aren’t safe for dogs:
- Peppermint oil
- Sweet birch
- Tea tree oil
- Ylang ylang
When it comes to aromatherapy for cats, the list slightly differs but has many crossovers.
The Sweet Smell of Success
When you aren’t sure which oil to use or if you think you need more help when it comes to your dog’s anxiety, AskVet is here to help. Download the app to join today, and you’ll gain access to a variety of resources, from preventative care to behavioral health to diet and nutrition. Plus, with 24/ access to Certified Pet Trainers and veterinary experts, you can call on your virtual support system any time of day or night.