Essential Oil Safety for Dogs

essential oils

This is part 1 of a two-part series on the do’s and don’ts of using essential oils for your pets. Stay tuned for part 2 of our series which examines what oils to use for your pet cats.

Essential Oils For Your Dog

essential oils

With essential oils becoming more and more common in the household, many dog owners have been turning an eye to pet safety. Are they safe to use at all? What, if any oils, can be used? What should be avoided, and what’s the best way to use them?

Pet parents rejoice – even vets use them around dogs! Whether diffusing lavender in the waiting room to help calm your pet, massaging sore muscles with frankincense, or using blends to combat fatigue, some essential oils can be great for your beloved canine. Oils can be used to treat arthritis, scars, and even help control fleas.

Always stick to using oils when addressing an already-present issue; don’t have your pet inhale an oil meant to address a digestive issue when they don’t have digestive issues. Also, when choosing an oil for your dog, make sure you let your dog weigh in. Of the many safe oils for your pet, choose a few that seem like they’ll best address the issue at hand; line them up on the floor and let your dog sniff at them while they’re closed (remember, your dog has an incredible sense of smell!). Take note of which ones they seem to prefer, and which ones they avoid, and follow those recommendations.

What Oils Are Safe To Use

Some of the safe oils include basil, chamomile, cypress, frankincense, ginger, lavender, and rose. A full list can be found here, including specific species information – be sure to double-check you’re using the right kind of an oil, as different species of plant can cause problems. When in doubt, talk to your vet.

While many essential oils are safe to use around dogs in moderation, some absolutely should not be used. These oils are dangerous to dogs even in small quantities, whether ingested or simply applied to the skin. These oils include anise, cinnamon, citrus, clove, garlic, horseradish, juniper, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree (melaleuca), thyme, wintergreen, yarrow, and ylang ylang. Both ingestion and topical application of these oils can be toxic to dogs at worst, and at best can cause irritation in the mouth (if ingested) or on the skin (if applied topically).

Basic Safety When Using Oils

If you use any of these oils for your own personal health, be sure to keep them stored safely away from your pet’s reach. If you apply them to yourself topically, exercise caution when interacting with your pet to ensure they don’t lick the spot it was applied. If you use diffusers, keep them out of and away from the room during your treatment period, and air out the room as much as possible before allowing them back in.

However, not all dangers come from using the wrong oil. Many pet owners, while well meaning, forget that dogs have a much keener sense of smell than their human parents; even oils that are good for your dogs can cause irritation when used undiluted or in large quantities.

For the best pet safety practice, when applying the oil topically, be sure to dilute it; a good rule of thumb tends to be 3-6 drops per 1 oz (30ml) of carrier oil. This rule applies for inhaling the oil, too; never let your pet inhale full-strength oil. Be sure to take into consideration the kind of problems you want to address with your dog; emotional issues should be diluted much further than physical issues.

Keep in mind, however, to use less for smaller dogs, as well as if your dog is either a pup or a senior. Never, ever apply oil around your dog’s eyes, ears, nose, or genitals. Make sure you talk to your vet if your dog is pregnant or nursing – or if your dog has any medical conditions that might need to be taken into consideration, like asthma.

If you’re using diffusers, make sure to invest in a high-quality one that will allow you to control how much oil is diffused at any given time. Make sure to only use high-quality, therapy-grade oils, as well; low-quality oils can be made with additives, or stretched with carrier oils that can more easily trigger your dog’s sensitivities. Worse still, some low-quality oils can be made with different blends of oils, which smell very similar to us, but can potentially be harmful to your dog.

Safety Precautions

Most importantly, keep a close eye on your dog. If your dog’s breath, skin, or vomit smells like the oil, it’s time to stop usage and talk with your vet. Other signs of poisoning include difficulty breathing or walking, drooling, lethargy or weakness, muscle tremors, pawing at the mouth or face, redness or burns on the lips, gums, tongue, or skin, and vomiting. If your dog starts showing any of these symptoms, or starts behaving differently than normal, stop usage immediately and either call your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline (855-764-7661). Rapid treatment can make a huge difference in your dog’s recovery.

A few other important things to remember if your dog shows signs of poisoning: Don’t ever induce vomiting or give your dog activated charcoal – both of these can actually make your dog worse. Be sure to bring the offending oil with you to the vet, sealed in a plastic bag. And if your dog still has any of the oil on their skin or fur, wash it off quickly with hand-safe dish soap.

One of the best things you can do when introducing a new oil to your dog is to go slow. Keep a close eye on them, and monitor them closely to see how they react. Just because an oils is safe for some dogs doesn’t mean they’re safe for every dog – they have allergies too! Remember, as well, that not all dogs will show the intended effects of the oil. Always make sure that your dog has access to plenty of clean, fresh water (and never put oil in their drinking water).

In summary – be sure to talk to your vet about starting oils with your dog, monitor them closely, and read up about any oils you plan on using. So long as you stick with safe oils, dilute them properly, and keep a close eye on your best friend, you might just find a successful – and safe – remedy.