I have always been a smell person and the idea that certain scents could promote well-being always intrigued me. Once I started learning more about it, I discovered that it could benefit my dogs, which lead me on a mission to explore the art and science of aromatherapy even more.
Aromatherapy is a wonderful addition to your holistic approach to dog care and has been in use for over 200 years. To most, the word aromatherapy conjures up images of candles and room deodorizers meant to freshen up a room or mask foul odours. However, as defined by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy "Aromatherapy, also referred to as 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." How beautiful.
Although aromatherapy is amazing and multifaceted, there are a few precautions to take into consideration.
1. Essentials oils should never be used on cats as they are sensitive to certain compounds found in some essential oils.
2. Always dilute essential oils when using them with dogs.
3. Pure, high quality oils are a must.
4. Go slow - make sure to gently test any oil before apply it all over your dog.
5. To be safe, never administer essential oils internally (although some licking is permitted).
What signs to look for that indicate a strong negative reaction?
- panting and/or drooling
- pacing or restlessness
- sneezing or snorting
- rolling on the ground or rubbing up against things like furniture
- turning nose away
If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms, don't pursue and perhaps find another alternative. Just like people, dogs may have a dislike for certain scents AND they have 50 times more olfactory receptors than people. Oils that should be avoided at all costs are Camphor, Clove Leaf & Bud, Juniper, Pennyroyal, Red or White Thyme, Wintergreen, Wormwood, and Yarrow.
Start off by diffusing an essential oil. This approach is gentle and if the dog shows any signs of dislike or distress, you can remove him from the area and ventilate. The next step would be to use the oils (highly diluted) in a spray bottle. Typically you would want to build up to about 30 drops of the essential oil (or combination of oils) in a 16oz bottle.
Some of my favourite oils for their calming effects (and safe for dogs) are Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Valerian and Ylang ylang. If you are looking for a natural bug repellent, try a combination of Cedarwood Atlas, Rose Geranium, Lavender, and Peppermint. This will help repel fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes and is safe for your dog and the furless members of the family (essential oils aren't recommended for kids under 2). Sweet Marjoram, Myrrh, Niaouli, and Bergamot all possess antiviral/fungal/bacterial properties so would work well for skin and ear issues. Typically when making a topical spray with oils you would need to start with vegetable glycerin, and a solubilizer that will allow the essential oils to mix with the water. I use polysorbate which is used in gum to spread flavour. Next you would want to add witch hazel to help preserve your mix. Then your essential oils and finish it off with distilled water.
Now go and experiment and have fun!