Safe Aromatherapy for Pets

by Elizabeth Bloom, DHI, DI Hom, founder of Elizabeth Essentials

Aromatherapy is gaining popularity and acceptance as a natural alternative therapy for our animal friends.

We all want the best for our furry friends, however, seeking out advice via the Internet, blogs and social media may not always contain safe use that applies to animals. It is important to seek out professionally trained aromatherapists and to communicate with your veterinarian, especially if your pet has any serious health issues, prior to undertaking any essential oil treatments.

Essential oils for dogs, horses and some other farm animals can be used topically for spot application, massage therapy and for skin and hoof/paw care. Atomizer-diffuser units and spray mist bottles are used for inhalation therapy and clearing and infusing the environment.

Essentials oil use for cats is limited due to their sensitive metabolic system and their internal organs: the liver and kidneys do not breakdown certain substances due to lack of enzymes.

Essential oils for use with animals may include the following safe methods of application:

  • Inhalation
  • Diffusion (avoid use near fish tanks or any bird’s cage/area)
  • Topical (spot application, massage therapy, bathing)

Safety Precautions and Contraindications:

  • Keep all essential oils and aromatherapy products out of reach of children and pets.
  • Do not give essential oils internally to your pets/animal clients.

Animals will often lick the area where essential oil blends or botanicals have been applied. This normally does not cause a problem – but watch to make sure that the animal does not have an allergic reaction or negative response. If they do, wipe the area with a cool wet cloth and diluted mild soap, rinse and repeat. If necessary seek immediate veterinarian assistance.

Other and more serious clinical signs to watch for with your pet that can result from ingestion of essential oils are: vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lethargy, weakness, excessive drooling/salivation, mouth sores, seizures, tremors, increase in liver enzymes and temporary paralysis.1

Do not get essential oils near or in the eyes. If essential oils accidentally get into the eyes or sensitive areas, flush the area with water or sterile saline solution until the area is clear. If water is not helping, try a bit of milk which will help to absorb the essential oil residue.

Never apply essential oils directly to an animal’s muzzle area, inside nostrils, ears or mouth, and genital areas.

Do not force essential oils onto animals by way of a head or muzzle mask breather-type device/gear.

If irritation occurs (this can happen via topical, diffusion and inhalation), discontinue use of essential oils and re-evaluate. If your animal has a coughing or breathing issue due to the aromas, remove the animal from the area and, if symptoms persist or get worse, contact your veterinarian.

Do not apply essential oils neat (undiluted) to animals. Essential oils should always be diluted when applied topically to animals. Overuse of essential oils and neat applications can cause sensitization issues.

There are certain essential oils that should not be used with animals: one in particular is tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), which for some pets can cause poisoning and other serious health concerns.2, 3

Do not apply a controversial and unsafe technique called Raindrop Therapy (RDT) to your animals. This and other ‘neat and excessive drops of essential oil’ type of applications can cause sensitization, severe allergic reactions, skin sensitivity, respiratory difficulties, dermal burns, toxic overload and other serious health concerns.

Remember: less is best with essential oil use. Do not be tempted to think that if it’s good, then more is better. This is especially true with sensitive animals: they are entrusting us to use essential oils safely and wisely. Always use the rule “When in doubt…don’t.”

When using essential oils within a barn or kennel type facility, it is best to store aromatherapy products in aroma-safe containers and in a locked cabinet. Keep away from animals and children.

Be mindful of your fellow barn/stable/kennel mates and their animal friends. Remember that not everyone can tolerate the same aromas that you and your animals enjoy. Smell is unique to each individual and lavender is not loved by all!


Elizabeth Bloom, DHI, DI Hom, is founder of Elizabeth Essentials. Her essential oil blends for pets including Flea Be Gone and Derma Relief can be found at Marlene’s Market & Deli. She can be reached at elizabethessentials.com or by calling 888.575.0272.

References:
1. ASPCA Animal Poison Control http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/
2. Pet Poison Helpline: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/tea-tree-oil/
3. National Capital Poison Center: http://www.poison.org/poisonpost/winter2010/teatreeoil.htm

Resources: Animal Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435
Tea Tree Essential Oil-Toxic to Cats Article: http://www.messybeast.com/teatree.htm
The Lavender Cat: www.thelavendercat.com
NAHA (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy): www.naha.org
The Holistic Animal Association: www.holisticanimalassociation.com
Content provided from the: Animal Aromatherapy Practitioner Certification Course(sm): www.ashitherapy.com