Aromatherapy for Dogs?!
By Annette Davis (Originally written for the June, 1996 Pomeranian Review)
I’m sure many of you looked at the title to this article, raised your eyebrow and said “Aroma what?, boy the editor is sure desperate for articles in this issue!” I don’t blame you. That’s what most people think when they first hear about Aromatherapy. Because I use Aromatherapy however, I don’t have to use chemical insecticides, flea shampoos, or bug bombs. My Poms rarely get car sick on the way to shows and I can quickly calm down anxious pets. Those who visit my house frequently comment about how sweet my dogs smell, how nice their coats look, and are pleased that pests are chased away naturally. Hopefully your interest is peaked enough to continue reading?
True Aromatherapy is the use of therapeutic essential oils. It is part of a larger field called Phytotherapy (plant therapy). Essential oils are the volatile essences steam distilled from medicinal plants. They are extremely concentrated. Depending on the plant, it can take a ton or more of plant matter to yield one liter of essential oil. The use of aromatic oils and plant medicine dates back to the very dawn of recorded time. Aromatic plants were used in ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Rome. The Bible tells us that Frankincense and Myrrh were among the precious gifts from the Wise Men to the Christ Child. Knowledge of distillation and essential oils was brought to Europe in the tenth century and came into general use as a medical practice in the sixteenth century. The most advanced work in Phytotherapy & Aromatherapy has been conducted in France. After French physicians complete medical school, some complete several more years of training so that they may use Phytotherapy in their practice. My mentor, Dr. Jean Claude Lapraz, is an eminent French physician who has successfully used Aromatherapy in his practice since 1973. He presents seminars in the USA for physicians and other health professionals (see www.restorehealth.us for more information).
Aromatherapy is very popular in France, England and many other countries. As frustrated Americans search for alternatives to chemical products, holistic practices like Aromatherapy are quickly gaining popularity in the U.S. as well. Many dogs (and their owners) are sensitive or allergic to chemical products such as insecticides and synthetic perfumes. Insecticides, antibiotics and other drugs may also be damaging to the immune system. A damaged immune system often leads to skin problems, metabolic disorders, and a general lack of good health. A suitable essential oil can often replace the damaging chemical agent. Allergies to natural essential oils are far less frequent than to chemical fragrances, however essential oils are often adulterated, so it’s important that you obtain pure and genuine essential oils from a reputable source such as Time Laboratories.
Enough said on the history, now let’s talk practical. After all, what good is a lengthy dissertation on how great alternative practices are if you can’t use them at home? There are dozens of ways to use essential oils at home. I will profile several of my favorite essential oils here. (I also use herbs and supplements to care for my Poms, but that will have to be the subject of another article).
Hundreds of essential oils are available for use. One that some of you are probably familiar with is Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia). It is steam distilled from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia tree that grows in Australia. It has been used as a medicinal agent in Australia for centuries. It is extremely useful as a broad spectrum antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral agent. It is soothing to skin irritations such as insect bites and itching eczemas. During war time, Tea Tree was standard issue in Australian soldier’s medicine kits. Its production was considered to be so important that workers involved with harvesting and producing the oil were exempt from military service. You can apply a small amount diluted in a carrier such as olive oil to cuts, burns, stings, and fungal infections. To make a medicated shampoo, simply add a drop or two to a squirt of your favorite dog shampoo (mix well in the palm of your hand before applying).
Another extremely useful and versatile oil is Lavender. It is steam distilled from the flowers of Lavandula angustifolia. In addition to being extremely useful medicinally, Lavender has a delicate and beautiful fragrance. It is calming, anti-depressive, anti-inflammatory, and helpful for treating burns. It is extremely useful as a fungicide and germicide. It can be applied to the skin (dilute in a suitable carrier oil or lotion), incorporated into sprays and shampoos, and is wonderful diluted in distilled water and alcohol for use as a room freshener (shake well before each use unless you add an emulsifier to your spray). To calm down nervous or hyperactive dogs, place a few drops on the underside of your dog’s crate pad or papers. Also, rub a little diluted oil on the foot pads.
Peppermint is an oil that I always keep on hand. It is steam distilled from the leaves and flower tops of the Mentha piperita plant. It is extremely useful to prevent motion sickness and nausea, and very effective in discouraging insects. It’s smell is wonderfully cool and refreshing. To prevent car sickness, place a drop of Peppermint and Lavender on the underside your dog’s crate pad or papers (take care that your pet doesn’t come into direct contact with undiluted essential oil). For your use, Peppermint and Lavender are extremely effective to relieve headaches. Place a small amount diluted in a carrier oil or lotion on your wrists, temples (don’t get into eyes). A small dab of diluted oil can also be used under your tongue.
One of the most widely used essential oils is Eucalyptus. It is steam distilled from the leaves of the Eucalyptus tree. There are several hundred varieties of Eucalyptus. Eucalyptus radiata and Eucalyptus globulus are extremely useful for respiratory complaints. Eucalyptus citriodora is an effective insect repellent. (Always dilute in a carrier oil or lotion before use.) Used in a diffuser (a special machine that vaporizes essential oils), it helps inhibit the spread of contagious disease. Eucalyptus works exceptionally well combined with Citronella and Lemongrass to repel insects and deodorize. Time Laboratories offers a ready made blend which contains these oils. It is available as a pure essential oil blend called Aromatic Pest Away as a spray called Aromatic Pest Away Mist, and as Shampoo. You can use a few drops of the pure essential oil blend on the underside of bedding, mixed into shampoo, and added to your cleaning solution for mopping. Aromatic Pest Away Mist is one of my favorite grooming sprays and I also use it on my family in the summer to keep mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs away.
General dilution guidelines: Vegetable oils such as grape seed, olive, and coconut make excellent carriers for essential oils. You can also use an unscented lotion or cream. Caution: Beginners should start with a 1% dilution (1 drop of essential oil diluted in 99 drops of carrier). Please do not exceed 5% essential oil (5 drops essential oil diluted in 95 drops carrier) unless you have special expertise using aromatherapy for animals. The recommended dilutions apply to dogs and humans only. Cats and birds are more sensitive and require special expertise in order to use essential oils safely. Eucalyptus and Peppermint oils should be applied to or near the faces of infants and children.
Reputable source for Aromatic Pest Away (Pure Essential Oil Blend, Mist, & Shampoo), Aromatherapy products, herbs & supplements: Time Laboratories