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How to Use Essential Oils for Dogs

Using essential oils for dogs can be part of a natural dog care plan. You do need to know how to safely use the oils.

Here's some information and suggestions about essential oils and dogs, including blends for baths, shampoos, and flea and tick control. Much of this information is based on Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols with Animals by Kristen Leigh Bell, who specialized in aromatherapy for dogs for more than ten years.

Start by knowing a few safety guidelines:

  • Don't use essential oils on medium/large-breed puppies until they are eight weeks old or on small-breed puppies until they are ten weeks old.

  • Use essential oils in moderation with dogs, especially old, pregnant, or ill dogs. Be especially careful if the dog has epilepsy or is prone to seizures. Use less essential oil for small dogs than for larger dogs.

  • Always dilute essential oils for dogs. Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals recommends starting with a one to two percent dilution. (A one percent dilution is one drop of essential oil in one teaspoon of carrier oil.)

  • Understand the difference between dilution and dosage. Dilution is the amount of essential oil in the carrier base. Dosage is the amount of the final blend used with a dog, expressed in number of drops or in spritzes, if using a spray. Use smaller dosages for small dogs than for larger dogs.

  • Use only the highest quality essential oils and all-natural shampoos and other ingredients for your blends.

  • Spot test an essential oil or blend on a small area before using it on a larger area to make sure the dog isn't sensitive (uncommon if you stick to safe essential oils, but possible).

  • Keep essential oils away from the dog's eyes, nose, and genitals.

  • If your dog shows any signs of distress (whining, panting, drooling, and so forth) around an essential oil, stop using it.

Bell lists 52 safe essential oils for dogs in her book. Some of the more common essential oils safe for dogs include: carrot seed, cedarwood, German and Roman chamomile, clary sage, eucalyptus radiata, geranium, ginger, helichrysum, lavender, marjoram, myrrh, niaouli, orange, peppermint, rose, and valerian.

As for essential oils bad for dogs, Bell recommends avoiding oils high in phenols and ketones, such as cassia, clove, hyssop, oregano, and wintergreen.

Basic Aromatherapy For Dogs

Lavender helps calm both people and animals. If your dog is stressed or upset, put a drop of lavender on the bed or blanket, or you can rub the essential oil (diluted in a carrier oil) into paws for instant relief.

Peppermint essential oil works for an upset stomach or motion sickness. Put a couple drops on the dog's bed or blanket, or blend with carrier oil and rub into the dog's paws. You can also mix a tiny amount of prepared peppermint tea into the dog's water.

Caution: Peppermint isn't a cure for vomiting or prolonged stomach trouble. If your dog becomes sick for no apparent reason, see a vet immediately.

Aromatherapy Spray for Smelly Canines

Is your pooch a bit smelly? Use essential oil sprays to freshen him/her up a bit. Here's a recipe from Bell's book:

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
  • 1/2 ounce grain alcohol or vodka
  • 1 teaspoon sulfated castor oil
  • 1 ounce aloe vera
  • 10 drops grapefruit extract
  • 6 ounces distilled water
  • Essential oils of choice (see suggestions below)

Mix ingredients in a dark or opaque mister bottle. Shake before each use. Avoid spraying the dog's eyes, nose, or genitals.

Suggested essential oil blends:

  • Minty: 6 drops spearmint, 6 drops peppermint
  • Spicy: 5 drops bay leaf, 4 drops cinnamon leaf, 3 drops caraway, 3 drops black pepper
  • Floral: 6 drops petitgrain, 4 drops lavender, 4 drops rose, 2 drops ylang ylang
  • Woodsy: 6 drops atlas cedarwood, 4 drops rosemary, 3 drops vetiver, 2 drops patchouli

Bath Essential Oils for Dogs

Here are some common essential oils for dogs safe to use in bath:

  • Lavender is good for skin conditions and is also calming.
  • Carrot seed is useful for dogs with dry, flaky skin that is sensitive to allergens and prone to infection.
  • Geranium is beneficial for skin ailments and yeast overgrowth.
  • Helichrysum essential oil is calming.
  • Marjoram is calming and also useful for wound care.
  • Myrrh may help relieve inflammation, fight viruses, and repel ticks.
  • Orange is good for calming, deodorizing, and helping repel fleas.
  • Rosewood is good for skin conditions and may help repel ticks.
  • Roman chamomile helps relieve cramps, spasms, and muscle pains.
  • Valerian is good for dogs with separation anxiety or who are fearful of loud noises.

To add a single essential oil to the dog's bath, dilute it first in a carrier oil—no more than 10 drops of essential oil in one tablespoon of carrier oil. Use less for smaller dogs.

Use essential oil blends for synergistic effects.

Dog Shampoo Blends

Add these blends to 8 ounces of an all-natural shampoo.

For a puppy shampoo:

  • 2 drops rose
  • 2 drops ylang ylang
  • 5 drops geranium
  • 2 drops Roman chamomile
  • 5 drops petitgrain

For a relaxing dog shampoo:

  • 3 drops valerian
  • 2 drops vetiver
  • 4 drops petitgrain
  • 3 drops marjoram
  • 2 drops orange

For a flea-repelling shampoo:

  • 4 drops clary sage
  • 2 drops citronella
  • 8 drops peppermint
  • 4 drops lemon

Here's another aromatherapy flea control shampoo for dogs. Combine the following ingredients in a jar:

  • 2 drops lavender
  • 2 drops peppermint
  • 2 drops eucalyptus
  • 2 drops rosemary
  • 12 ounces distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon castile soap

Place a cap on the jar and then shake well. Dampen your dog. Add enough shampoo to work up a lather and work it into the dog's coat. Rinse off well.

Spray and Oils for Tick and Flea Control

Using essential oils for dogs as a method of tick and flea control is nearly as effective as toxic sprays and powders. Make your own flea and tick spray by combining about 25 drops of one (or more) of the following suggested oils into eight ounces of distilled water:

  • Peppermint
  • Citronella
  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemon
  • Geranium
  • Bay laurel
  • Myrrh

Shake the mixture well and spray it on your pet, being careful to avoid the eyes. You can also spray this mixture anywhere that you think bugs may be breeding.

Oil to repel fleas:

  • 1 drop citronella
  • 3 drops lemon
  • 4 drops clary sage
  • 7 drops peppermint
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut or almond oil

Blend oils in a dark glass bottle. Apply 2 to 4 drops of the blend to your dog's neck, chest, legs, and base of tail.

Oil to repel ticks:

  • 1 drop bay leaf
  • 2 drops geranium
  • 4 drops myrrh
  • 2 drops rosewood
  • 3 drops lavender
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut or almond oil

Blend oils in a dark glass bottle. Apply 2 to 4 drops of the blend to your dog's neck, chest, legs, and base of tail.

Related: How to massage your dog and Using essential oils with cats and horses.

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Photo Credit: Ron Armstrong from Helena, MT, USA - HMKC Spring 2007 Agility Trial, CC BY 2.0.