Essential oils have surged in popularity recently as health-conscious consumers search for safe, natural, and holistic solutions to their wellness needs.
Yet the application of essential oils hasn’t stopped at humans; more and more pet owners now swear by the use of essential oils for their dogs.
Essential oils can’t be used haphazardly on animals; unless you take specific precautions, you could place your pet’s health in danger. If you’re tempted to jump onboard with this trend, take a minute to read this post and educate yourself first.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are potent organic oils extracted from plant matter, including flowers, stems, leaves, barks, roots, and fruits. These oils are the “essence” of the plant, which explains the name.
Each oil is defined by unique properties that range from antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory to sedative and analgesic. It’s well-documented that essential oils like thyme, myrrh, cinnamon, ginger, peppermint, and sandalwood have been used by humans since ancient times for their therapeutic and aromatic effects.
Today, more than 90 essential oils have become popular among natural and alternative health advocates. They’re most commonly used in aromatherapy, the practice of inhaling or topically applying essential oils to promote health and wellbeing.
Research indicates that essential oils may improve a wide range of physical and emotional conditions. Wounds, coughing, fever, allergies, headaches, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stress are just a few of the most popular therapeutic applications of essential oils in humans. But do essential oils offer the same impressive benefits in canines?
The Hidden Dangers of Aromatherapy for Dogs
As a pet owner, you’re committed to keeping your dog as happy and healthy as your own children, but that’s not always an easy task. Allergies, arthritis, anxiety, and other issues often develop with no warning. You don’t want to turn your beloved family pet into a walking pharmacy, so you turn to promising natural remedies instead.
You’re not alone! Pet owners are drawn to alternative remedies like essential oils, CBD oil, and nutraceuticals because they don’t want their dogs to rely on prescription drugs that carry a long list of side effects and risks. They assume that essential oils are safe for use in pets since they’re safe for humans.
That’s unfortunately not the case since the canine body reacts to essential oils differently than humans. Aromatherapy for dogs carries its own risks and needs to be used with caution. Just one wrong dose or uninformed choice of oil can place your dog’s health and comfort in jeopardy.
First, dogs have an enhanced sense of smell that magnifies their exposure to essential oils. A dose that might seem subtle to you could leave your dog feeling sick or overstimulated.
Second, even though essential oils are natural plant-based substances, their chemical constituents and oxygenated compounds are quickly absorbed into the body and metabolized by the liver. The livers of puppies, dogs with liver disease, and elderly dogs can’t properly handle the influx of essential oil chemicals and compounds.
If all of that wasn’t enough, some essential oils that you enjoy the most, such as rosemary, tea tree, cassia, wintergreen, and juniper, are known to be toxic to dogs. Even slight exposure can trigger a negative reaction in your dog such as:
- Respiratory problems like coughing, sneezing, and difficulty breathing
- Drooling and vomiting
- Redness around or in the mouth
- Loss of coordination
- Chronic runny nose
Though it’s true that gentle oils like lavender and peppermint oil have been shown to soothe itching, sore muscles, and anxiety, there’s no way to predict or guarantee your pet’s reaction to aromatherapy for dogs.
If your dog has especially sensitive or raw skin, the application of an essential oil may exacerbate the condition and create an entirely new allergic reaction that can only be treated with steroids or antibiotics.
Essential Oils for Dog Allergies: Safe or Risky?
You don’t have to look too far to find blog articles touting essential oils as miracle cures for canine allergies, but you shouldn’t blindly buy-in to the hype. Though it’s true that gentle oils like lavender, chamomile, clary sage, and peppermint oil have been shown to soothe itching and discomfort, there’s no way to predict or guarantee your dog’s reaction to essential oils.
Even a veterinarian can’t identify every specific trigger of your dog’s allergies! So should you use essential oils for dog allergies?
The current testing technology can only identify the 200 most common environmental allergens. While it’s possible that lavender, chamomile, and other essential oils for dog allergies will reduce your pet’s symptoms, it’s also possible that those essential oils will make the condition much worse.
Essential Oils for Arthritis in Dogs: Easy Fix or Not Safe?
It’s heartbreaking to watch the effects of arthritis overtake your once lively and energetic dog. Many essential oil products promise to alleviate canine arthritis pain, and you might be tempted to give it a shot. However, the benefits of essential oils for arthritis in dogs don’t last long, if they even help at all.
The essential oils used to combat the pain of arthritis function by increasing circulation to the skin, but this can have an adverse effect in some dogs. It’s possible that essential oils for arthritis in dogs can intensify the sensation of pain and exacerbate the underlying inflammation.
If your dog is lucky and essential oil application does successfully relieve pain, the sense of comfort only lasts a few hours. Essential oils must be reapplied topically every four to six hours to maintain results, but the underlying cause of the arthritis pain never improves.
When Should You Talk to Your Dog’s Vet
As a pet owner, it’s your choice to help your dog in whatever way you believe is best. Essential oils and other home remedies have value to alleviate minor problems. However, only a veterinarian can take a comprehensive assessment of your pet’s health and apply the latest professional research to suggest a long-term solution.
Health problems like arthritis, chronic allergies, and other ongoing issues may require more than essential oil applications to fully resolve. The longer you wait to bring your pup to the vet, the greater the risk of the existing condition progressing into something even harder to treat.
Talk to your veterinarian about stem cell therapy and other gentle, minimally invasive procedures that can improve your dog’s health without the unwanted risks of pharmaceuticals or surgery.