Essential oils can be an amazing resource when you’re faced with a health problem- for both you and your pets. Of course, we know you want only the best for your fur and feather babies, and as with anything you want to take special care in how you treat them. Here is some guidance on essential oils and how to go about using them for your pets.
In much the same way as essential oils can be used to induce specific outcomes in the brain and limbic system, we can make use of their properties to treat a host of problems in our pets. It’s not always as straight forward or as easy as it might be when choosing an oil for yourself though, and it’s very important to make sure you understand the effects of essential oils on your pet before you expose them to something they might respond well to.
Cats are dangerously hyper sensitive to certain compounds which are present in differing forms in almost all essential oils (harmful oils of note are thyme, cinnamon and tea tree). Cats absorb essential oils through their skin and paws and their livers cannot process them in the same way other larger mammals or humans can.
Although it seems that certain essential oils can be used in minute quantities on cats, a very specific knowledge is required to use these safely. As such, the potential harm of exposing cats to essential oils is so great that it is our recommendation to avoid them entirely and to leave this type of treatment to your holistic vet.
Recently, there is a movement away from artificial chemicals in the home and many people are using essential oils, or products containing essential oils to clean the home, as these are considered more natural. Certain essential oils most commonly used in cleaning and cleaning products contain pinene and limonene, e.g. Orange essential oil and Pine essential oil. These essential oils leave traces on surfaces which will be picked up by your cat and this can be poisonous. A cat may not exhibit symptoms of poisoning right away and the poison can build up in the animal through prolonged exposure until it is very ill.
It is best to make sure that the cleaning products you use are safe for use with cats in the home and to ensure that your cat does not encounter your essential oils at all.
Birds have been known to develop extreme breathing problems or even die quite suddenly when exposed to many vapours in the household, including the vapours of essential oils. As birds are known to be sensitive to fumes and vapours, the use of Aromatherapy is largely discouraged, although the limited use of hydrosols (floral waters) seems to be approved of and encouraged.
Most experts in the field suggest the use of certain very diluted hydrosols in the bird’s drinking water, e.g. 1/8 teaspoon pure, unconcentrated and fresh hydrosol to around 480 ml of clean, fresh water.
Wolves and wild dogs are known to eat certain plants when they are feeling ill and you might notice your own dogs eat grass when they want to expel any unwanted substances. While most of these wild urges have been bred out of our dogs we can reintroduce these instincts to our dogs through Aromatherapy.
A common approach called ‘Kinesiology Aromatherapy’ discussed in the field of aromatherapy is to let your dog decide whether it likes a specific essential oil or blend and to use this to lead you to which oils it thinks will help it. Let the dog decide whether it likes a blend or an oil by allowing it to smell it first (under supervision of course).
Any essential oil must be diluted before being used to treat a dog as dogs have a larger, more intricate and sensitive sense of smell. This means that a concentration or blend of essential oil as used on a human will be far too strong to use on a dog and if a dog is sick, old or young, the essential oil must be diluted even further. The size of the dog also plays an important role and it is recommended to use a weaker dilution on a small dog, regardless of its age or state of health.
Horses and large farm Animals
Horses, cows and other large farm animals can also be treated by following the same guidelines, dilution rates and methods as mentioned for dogs.
Other Links in the Topic
Information in this article was based on research gleaned from the following books:
- Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristen Leigh Bell. Publisher: Findhorn Press. ISBN 978-1-899171-59-0
- Essential oils for Pets by Alexander Huffington. Publisher: Alexander Huffington. ISBN 9781522927952
- The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia. Publisher: The Perfect Potion (Aust) Pty Ltd. ISBN 0 646 20670 2
- The Animal Desk Reference: Essential Oils for Animals by Melissa Shelton. ISBN 9781483914947