Education is Key!
Purchasing essential oils and botanicals without knowing more about their individual properties/uses and safety cautions; is like putting the cart before the horse (pun intended).
Building an essential oil apothecary can be expensive, and as an investment in natural health; it is wise to also invest in education-which is key to knowing how to use aromatherapy effectively and safely.
As aromatherapy continues to gain acceptance within the Holistic and CAM (Complementary Alternative Medicine) field, there is also increasing interest in incorporating aromatherapy and other natural therapies for use with our animal friends.
It is important to note that animal lovers always want what is best for their pets, and often will seek out information and advice via the internet, blogs and social media groups: the information may not always include or contain safe use, or applies to humans and not for actual use with animals.
If you do choose to explore self-care with essential oils for your pets, it is best to seek out a professionally trained aromatherapist with additional training in animal aromatherapy and to communicate with your veterinarian if your animal friend has any known allergies or serious health issues before using essential oils. Some essential oils are contraindicated for use with certain health care conditions. It is also important to have respect for the animal and their sensitive sense of smell and to not randomly use essential oils without the knowledge in their use and to include both the caregiver and the animal in the consultation and selection process.
One of the most effective and easiest ways to use the power scent with your animal friends is working with them individually to see which essential oils or botanicals are best suited for their needs based on their responses to certain scents/components via their sense of smell. Animals will communicate through their body language and will often signal their interest in particular scents and essences; by learning how to tune-in to their cues, we can listen to their responses and work together with the caregiver and the animal to find what tools work best for their needs.
Essential oils for canines (dogs) and the equine family (horses, donkeys, mules), and with other farm animals (cattle, goats, sheep, alpacas, and llamas), can be used topically for spot application, acupressure, and massage therapy and for skin and hoof/paw care. Inhalation therapy is also used with tools such as a diffuser, and with mist spray bottles to infuse the aromatic scent and healing properties into the environment.
The use aromatics for felines (cats)* is somewhat limited due to a cat’s sensitive metabolic system. Some hydrosols-hydrolats (the aromatic-water from the steam distillation process of plant material such as flowers and leaves) can be a gentler and safer alternative for animals, and for cats, if used in diluted form (based on specific hydrosol components). Always use under the guidance of a professional aromatherapist with additional education in animal aromatherapy.
*The use of some of the hydrosols when diluted is a safer option for cats and other smaller mammals. However, please note we are exploring this particular subject in hopes to bring some additional clarity in regards to the use of some aromatics with cats. There is new thought amongst some veterinarians that cats (or perhaps not all cats) actually may not have the difficulty in breaking down certain components within essential oils (as they do with other ingredients found in some medications and botanicals, in particular, salicylates (found in aspirin as well as essential oils of birch and wintergreen) that was originally thought based on the deficiency of the liver enzyme pathway. More information to come in the future as we explore and expand on this delicate subject.
Irritation or Reaction with Topical Use
With regard to the topical application, essential oils must always be diluted with a carrier base to avoid skin irritation. There are a variety of botanical bases and some are better-suited than others for use with animals. These bases also offer their own therapeutic properties and can often be used on their own without the use of essential oils (especially with animals that are hypersensitive (tend to be allergy-prone) and those that are hairless. If you apply an essential oil or aromatherapy blend and the animal has a negative reaction, before bathing the animal be sure to use a carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil to remove the essential oil residue. Since oil and water do not mix, it is best to first use the plain carrier oil to help remove the essential oils, then if need be, bathe the animal with a diluted mild liquid non-scented soap/shampoo base to complete the removal process. A washcloth with the same soap/shampoo base can be used to remove excess essential oil/blend to smaller areas vs. a full body bath.
*See Safety for Cats section.