Aromatherapy for Dogs

The following article is a great primer about aromatherapy for dogs.

Written by Kristen Bell, a certified master aromatherapist, it will quickly explain why and how, this works to calm your dog.

Using Aromatherapy to Calm Your Frazzled Fido
by K.L. Bell, Certified Master Aromatherapist

The use of nature’s most concentrated botanical substances — essential oils, is an excellent way to use aromatherapy for dogs,calm dogs who are fearful, agitated and hyperactive.

The very nature of these substances is such that they work quickly and do not leave the animal in a drugged or listless state, as common tranquilizers such as Valium do.

Unlike herbal calming tablets, which take time to digest, aromatherapy for dogs essential oils are inhaled and quickly begin their work.

Over the last ten years, I have not found one dog who was not fascinated with the scent of truly natural essential oils.

While aromatherapy for dogs, may shy from synthetic scents and perfumes, they are drawn to essential oils.

Perhaps they know that they are of botanical origin, or perhaps they are just so used to the cloying scent of synthetic products that their attraction is one of innate curiosity.

Either way, essential oils appear to have a strong affinity with aromatherapy for dogs, and they do their work on several levels.

There is much confusion in the United States as to what aromatherapy is and how it can help to calm animals.

Aromatherapy For Dogs does not involve lighting candles or incense on the floor around your pet.

It does not involve potpourri, raspberry or pear scented bubble bath, or new age mantras.

What it does involve is the use of pure, unadulterated essential oils, which are specifically diluted for use with dogs.

That dilution is usually on par with what you would use for a human baby of one year of age — 25% of the dose you would give to an adult.

Of course, there are certain essential oils which we would avoid using on children, and we avoid using those on dogs as well.

But for the purpose of calming, those potentially risky, high-ketone or irritating essential oils would never be employed.

When I refer to the fact that essential oils work for aromatherapy for dogs, on several levels, I am referring to the physical, the spiritual and the emotional.

Physically, essential oils are concentrated substances which contain very distinct organic chemical constituents.

This is what determines their range of activity on canine or human physiology — whether or not an oil is calming or stimulating, irritating or anti-inflammatory, anti-viral or antibacterial.

For the purpose of calming, we look for essential oils which contain high levels of esters, linalol alcohols and other organic chemicals.

Some of these oils include:

  • lavender
  • marjoram
  • green mandarin
  • petitgrain
  • neroli
  • rose
  • valerian
  • spikenarde
  • vanilla
  • sweet orange
  • vetiver
  • and ylang ylang.
  • The chemicals in these essential oils have sedative effects on the nervous system. Essential oils contain these types of chemicals in differing amounts, and this is also what makes one oil smell different from another while still offering a similar effect.

    When you topically apply an essential oil blend to the neck and chest of a aromatherapy for dogs, you wish to calm, you are providing a means for the essential oils to evaporate from the fur and be inhaled.

    Once inhaled, the large nasal cavity of the canine gives plenty of area for the aromatic essential oil molecules to be absorbed into the bloodstream, not only through the nasal cavity, but also the sinuses, throat and lungs.

    It is in this way that essential oils act so quickly, exhibiting varying degrees of calming effect.

    The second way that essential oils work on animals is what I refer to as "spiritually." A more apt term would probably be vibrationally, however, I have found over the years that many shy away from that term, seeing that it implies something unknown, unseen and unproven.

    If you are familiar with Bach Rescue Remedy, or use any flower essences, then you are using vibrational remedies.

    These forms of energy healing affect the emotional states of the body, mind and aura. If you tend to disapprove of this sort of thing, that’s perfectly fine.

    But hundreds of holistic veterinarians using flower essences on animals can’t all be wrong.

    Essential oils, like flower essences, also carry their own vibrational energy and kirlian photography of certain essential oils and individuals having just used essential oils shows vibrant changes in the body’s energy field (aura), as well as vibrant colors.

    Essential oils have a very powerful life force, as they truly are the embodiment of the very soul of the plant from which they were taken.

    In this way, essential oils of varying frequencies can aid in calming a frightful or hyperactive dog.

    The third method in the aromatic calming trio is that of an emotional aspect.

    The application of essential oils to an animal involves human touch — something that all animals constantly crave and need for their domestic survival.

    I always suggest that essential oil blends be applied in the most positive manner — most often, via a tender and loving massage, which will bring pet and owner closer together.

    This aspect is particularly important when we consider the Pavlovian behaviors which dogs exhibit in response to certain stimuli.

    Pavlov trained his dog to salivate at the sound of a bell by offering food every time the bell was rung.

    You too, can train your dog to react calmly and serenely to the application of aromatherapy for dogs, essential oils by rewarding your dog with a massage during application, and initially applying the essential oils at a calm and positive moment.

    The scent of the essential oils will thus trigger the rewarding experience, and much like Pavlov’s dog salivating at the sound of the bell, a calm state of mind will be produced at the scent of the essential oils associated with the positive experience.

    While animals may be fully capable of producing pure emotional responses to essential oils as humans do, there is no scientific research to support this, so we must rely on the simple fact that aromatherapy for dogs, relate experience to experience via trained behavioral patterns.

    It is in this way that essential oils can work to produce to most positive behavioral modification.

    Essential oils can safely and effectively be used in a variety of situations, and they have no known interactions with other holistic remedies or allopathic drugs or tranquilizers.

    Many dog owners find that often a combination of holistic remedies is necessary to achieve an optimum effect for aromatherapy for dogs.

    For instance, a pet owner who is at work all day but with a dog who is fearful of storms might consider using flower essences on a daily basis.

    On a day when storms are forecast, the owner might give an aromatherapy massage to the dog 5-10 minutes before leaving, in conjunction with an herbal pet calming tablet.

    The effect of the aromatherapy for dogs, will last anywhere from 30-60 minutes. Since the herbal tablet is being digested, its calming effect will begin later as needed.

    This same pet owner might even consider having an aromatherapy diffuser with a timer in the same room as the dog, set to go off at hourly intervals, diffusing the calming essential oils into the air.

    When creating calming blends for dogs, I never suggest the use of a single oil. Essential oils work most effectively when they are combined with one another.

    This concept is referred to as synergy, and simply relates to the fact that the differing chemical compositions of essential oils is such that where one leaves off, another picks up and does the job.

    I usually suggest blends of 3-5 essential oils at a time.

    All blends should be made using what you know to be pure, unadulterated, therapeutic grade essential oils- be they ones you purchased on your own, or in a blend made by an aromatherapist who has experience in working with animals.

    I have found that many pet owners prefer to leave the use of essential oil blending in the hands of professionals such as myself, but if you possess a basic knowledge of aromatherapy for dogs, and have respect for these powerful substances, you too can create a calming blend for use with your dog.

    If not, safely pre-blended oil blends and sprays do exist, made specifically for dogs.

    For dosing, the size of the dog is the determining factor.

    I recommend 2-6 drops, depending on whether the dog is small, medium, large or extra large.

    A toy or tea cup breed might need only one drop, while a Great Dane would receive 6, or possibly 8.

    Always start off with the smallest amount and work your way up.

    Always initially introduce essential oils in the most positive manner.

    Never apply the oils near the eyes, or directly on the nose. Always be sure that they are properly diluted.

    K.L. Bell is a Certified Master Aromatherapist and member of the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. She is the founder and president of Aromaleigh Inc., a company specializing in holistic aromatherapy products for pets.

    Her articles have appeared in various pet publications nationwide. She has written a book on holistic aromatherapy for pets, titled Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals.

    Additional Resources

    For essential oil bottles and mixing supplies:

    For pure, excellent quality essential oils:

    for further information, aromatherapy articles, resources, products and education.

    ©1992-2005 Kristen Bell, Aromaleigh, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the author.

    This article appears on Dog First Aid 101 with the express permission of Kristen Bell and Aromaleigh, Inc.

    I hope you found this article interesting and useful in helping you understand how aromatherapy for dogs works.

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