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The PupJoy Post

Dog Aromatherapy? Yep, it's a Thing — And Your Dog Needs It. Here's Why.

By Sandi Lee via FetchFind

It’s surprising how a certain smell can trigger such vivid memories.

Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies reminds you of staying home sick when you were a kid. The sweet scent of strawberries conjures up images of making jam with Grandma.

The benefits of aromatherapy have been established in the human realm (especially for sleep & stress), and many health care practitioners are using them as a compliment to their services.

But in recent years veterinarians are discovering the true power it can have in the lives of our canine companions.

Dog aromatherapy — it's a thing. And it could help your pooch live a happier, more blissful life.

What is Aromatherapy?

According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), aromatherapy or "Essential Oil Therapy" can be defined as:

The art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process…

Although aromatherapy has been used throughout the farthest reaches of the world for centuries, this practice was “discovered” in 1912 by a French chemist by the name of Rene Maurice Gattefosse.

As the story goes, Gattefosse badly burned his hands and treated himself with lavender essential oil. The chemist was astounded by his speedy recovery from the burns and was inspired to immerse himself in an intense study of essential oils.

He analyzed the chemical properties of various oils to see how they would react on skin infections, gangrene and wounds incurred by the soldiers during World War I.

By 1928, Gattefossé founded the science of aromatherapy, and by the 1950s massage therapists, beauticians, nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, and other health care providers began using aromatherapy.

However, it took until the 1980s before this practice would gain popularity in the United States.

Dog Aromatherapy and How it Works

Researchers have discovered that the use of pure essential oils stimulates the limbic system of the canine brain brain — the part that controls moods and emotions.

Very specific oils are effective in managing — or completely eliminating — feelings of stress, anxiety, fear and anger, among other emotions. The oils can be inhaled by the dog or absorbed through the skin, and occasionally, some may be taken internally.

When to Use Dog Aromatherapy

Surprisingly, the use of essential oils can be administered in many situations, not just in the calming department. Here are the common ailments essential oils are being used for in the treatment dogs:

  • Sedating/Calming
  • Pain Relieving
  • Energizing
  • Rejuvenating
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antimicrobial (ex. Urinary tract infections, etc.)
  • Antiviral (ex. kennel cough)
  • Repelling Insects (ex. Lyme Disease)
  • Diuretic

The amazing properties of essential oils are working wonders on canines all over the world.

However, with every “medicine” (natural or synthesized) we must take precautions when it comes to our pooches.

Safety Tips and Precautions When Using Dog Aromatherapy

The holistic advantages of using essential oils are highly regarded by most veterinarians, but there are some precautions to take.

First off, unless you know the exact measurements for each tincture, the essential oils should be mixed by your veterinarian to ensure your pooch is getting the proper dosage for his or her specific ailment (too much can be dangerous and too little will be ineffective).

Always bear in mind that your dog’s sense of smell is up to 100,000 times better than ours, so when he or she inhales the aroma, it will enter the bloodstream very quickly.

Take extra precaution when using dog aromatherapy on very young pups, very old canines or those that are already ill. Experts recommend in these cases to use a diffuser (more on that later) instead of the direct contact method.

How to Administer Dog Aromatherapy

First things first: DON'T administer aromatherapy willy-nilly. Dogs have all sorts of sensitivities to various ingredients, and it's vital that you know exactly what you're doing. For this reason, consult a professional before trying it out at home.

The most common use of the dog aromatherapy essential oils is to massage it into the pup’s skin (unless you have been instructed to place it on a specific location like the spine or specific joint).

Experts suggest for an overall aromatherapy treatment, it’s best to massage it in where there is less hair. This would include the belly, inner thighs and legs.

Some essential oils are now being included into shampoos, conditioners and spritzers to make it easy for you to administer in a less concentrated formula.

Another way for your dog to benefit from aromatherapy is through the use of a specially-made diffuser (like a plug-in for your home). Heating the essential oil brings out the fragrance, releasing the tiny particles into the air. This is perfect for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, as the scent tends to last longer.

The last dog aromatherapy treatment is to place the oil directly on the pet’s tongue. However, this must ONLY be done by the direction of a veterinarian, as essential oils are highly concentrated and can be dangerous, even toxic, if ingested.

Common Essential Oils Used in Dog Aromatherapy

There are many safe essential oils that can be used on dogs.

Here is a list of some of the more common and easily found essential oils for canines:

  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile
  • Clary Sage
  • Eucalyptus
  • Ginger
  • Lavender
  • Marjoram
  • Niaouli
  • Peppermint
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • Sandalwood
  • Sweet Orange
  • Valerian
  • Vetiver
  • Ylang Ylang

Remember before you go ahead and apply any of these, be sure to have your dog checked out by a veterinarian and let him/her know you want to use a specific essential oil on your pooch.

This is important as your dog may have an undiagnosed problem that could negatively react to dog aromatherapy.

Essential Oils to Avoid in Dog Aromatherapy

Not all essential oils are good for your dog. Here is a list of aromatherapy oils to avoid, as they can be dangerous and toxic to canines.

  • Birch
  • Camphor
  • Cassia
  • Cloves
  • Oregano
  • Pennyroyal
  • Wintergreen
  • Wormwood

The Last Sniff on Dog Aromatherapy

There are many benefits to dog aromatherapy. Check with your veterinarian to see if there may be an essential oil that can cure what ails your pooch.

But, like with any new therapy, be sure to approach it with caution and with the utmost respect for the details of the treatment. More is not always better, especially when dealing with the power of essential oils.

Sniff away!