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Aromatherapy – Benefits for Animals

Updated: Mar 3

horse running through lavender aromatherapy field

Aromatherapy is a holistic medicinal approach in which we utilize plant extracts to treat several health problems and promote animal health and well-being. This technique has been widely used in human medical practice, and now it has gained its importance in the veterinary field.

Aromatherapy is a well-known essential oil therapy as various essential oils of plant origin improve the body, mind, and spirit. It is a holistic approach, and a holistic approach affects the physical body and aims to improve the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health of an individual. Only because of its wide action span, aromatherapy is famous among humans and animals.

aromatherapy bottles for animals

History of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy finds its roots back in the ancient cultures of China, India, and Egypt. The people in those cultures have extracted and used essential oils for treatment and religious purposes. These substances were believed to have both medical and spiritual benefits. In documentations, Egypt was more established in extracting essential oils and was focused on medical treatments using these essential oils.

However, nowadays, this topic is under the attention of many stakeholders, and scientists are trying to find out the potential benefits of essential oils. Till now, we don’t have research results that prove how essential oils work to improve health. However, evidence-based observations of patients and owners of pet animals are promising to believe that aromatherapy is efficient to do wonders.

horse and dog running together

Benefits of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy works to improve pet health and well-being. It has a wide range of actions; mainly, it relieves stress, anxiety, and agitation. Pets often suffer from various kinds of anxieties, and their behavior becomes unpredictable and unbearable. Aromatherapy affects body receptors to make your pet calm, alleviate stress, anxiety, agitation and boost the immune system and digestive system. It allows your pet to be more energetic by eliminating all the discomforts.

Furthermore, aromatherapy improves the pet’s well-being; it reduces severe pain, improves sleep quality, and treats headaches and migraines. Essential oils are anti-agents. Some of the valuable properties of essential oils are;

  • anti-microbial

  • anti-fungal

  • anti-bacterial

  • anti-insect

  • anti-toxin,

  • anti-venom

  • anti-anxiety

  • anti-inflammatory

Therefore, they have a broad action spectrum covering individuals' physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Because of its anti-inflammatory action, it treats and prevents several joint problems and infectious diseases. If your pet has osteoarthritis or any inflammatory condition in the body, it will reduce the inflammation and pain, putting your pet at ease. Aromatherapy boosts the digestive system, which is the basis for the animal’s good health. Also, it improves the immune system making your pet strong to fight any pathogen that enters the body.

aromatherapy for pets

How does Aromatherapy Work?

You can do this at home, but you should be in contact with your veterinarian regarding the dose and time of exposure of essential oils to your pet. However, there is a huge difference in the sense of smell of humans and animals, especially dogs. Dogs are very sensitive to smells, and therefore they will have more effects of essential oils than humans. This is because animals' essential oils and their doses are different from humans. Your veterinarian can help you find the exact amount and time of exposure to essential oils.

The aromas of essential oils are powerful, effective, and should be used in diluted form. The exact period of exposure is unknown, and therefore you should carry out aromatherapy in the presence of a professional. Oils are always diluted approximately at the ratio of 10 drops to 1 ounce of the carrier. This is not the universal ratio because the dilution ratio is different for different oils.

The most common form of administration is by using a diffuser. The diluted oil is placed in the diffuser, and the diffuser releases the oil in the form of vapors. The diffuser utilizes heat to evaporate the oil and disperse it in the room. You should provide the escape route for your animal if he is unwilling to carry on with the session or hurts. Read our blog "Are Diffusers, Wallflowers and Room Sprays Toxic for Pets?" for more information.

For further information, you can read this book, Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals.

Essential Oils and Their Potential Benefits

Various essential oils are available for aromatherapy, and each essential oil has its benefits. Principally, two or more essential oils are used for broad therapeutic actions.

practitioner using aromatherapy for horse

Following are some of the essential oils and their potential benefits for horses:

  • Bergamot (Citrus bergamia): It is responsible for the emotional balance in the body. It reduces frustrations, anxiety, and depression and makes your horse feel relaxed and happy.

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Lavender is one of the most popular essential oils used for treating shyness, shock, fear, and stress. It can intensify focus and concentration. Apply it to the poll area or let the horse smell from your hand.

  • Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana): It is meant for grounding your horse. It is a muscle relaxant that reduces cramps, palpitations, and grief.

  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum): has a fresh herbaceous scent. It's muscle-relaxing and can help reduce associated tension. It is best to use this as aromatherapy and not topically.

  • Rose Damask (Rosa damascena): It is meant for relaxing and stabilizing. It makes it easy for your horse to let past abuse, nervousness, fear, and anger.

  • Ylang (Cananga odorata): It causes sedation and is meant to treat nervousness, neurological disorders and insecurity issues.

Read more about herbal supplements and oils for horses here.

dog enjoying aromatherapy

Following are some of the essential oils and their potential benefits for dogs:

  • Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana): It is meant for grounding. It is a muscle relaxant that reduces cramps, palpitations, and grief.

  • Myrrh: has been shown to reduce pain, reduce inflammatory problems like irritable bowel disease, asthma, and aids wound healing.

  • Frankincense: has an antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties. it anti-bacterial, great for osteoarthritis, stiffness and reduces pain.

  • Cedarwood: is a natural flea repellent and smells great. It is also a great anti-fungal and anti-bacterial oil.

  • Chamomile: anti-spasmodic, calming, and anti-microbial. You can also use as anti-inflammatory for skin irritations.

  • Rosemary: if used as a herbal supplement, it can help with brain function and coat growth. It also can be used as a bug repellent when used topically.

aromatherapy for cats and catnip

Following are some of the essential oils and their potential benefits for cats:

  • Frankincense: has an antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties. it anti-bacterial, great for osteoarthritis, stiffness and reduces pain.

  • Fennel: can help cats who have thyroid, pituitary, and pineal gland issues. It also can help with detoxification by breaking up toxins in the tissues.

  • Helichrysum: antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal benefits. It is also an antioxidant that can reduce inflammation.

  • Catnip: this oil must be diluted for cats as it is too potent for them in the original form. Some cats show no interest, while others love it. It can also be a stimulant or have a relaxing effect. This smell just makes them happy.

What are the Risks?

Most of the essential oils are safe for use, but there are some considerations that you should keep in mind before using. First of all, you should use essential oils in diluted form because they have a very powerful odor. You should avoid their topical application because they may cause an allergic reaction to your pet. If using topically, you should consult your vet if having a skin test is best before using essential oils. If you find your pet allergic, you should wash and remove the oil from the body. Consult a veterinarian for further action.

Some oils are either toxic to certain animals or can be dangerous for pregnant or lactating animals. Be sure to know what oils are safe for your animals before you use them. We have listed some of the oils to avoid for the specified animals below.

horse in stall with essential oils

Oils that are dangerous to horses:

  • Anise

  • Birch

  • Blue Tansy

  • Camphor

  • Clove Bud

  • Oregano

  • Wintergreen

happy dog essential oil

Oils that are dangerous to dogs:

  • Pennyroyal

  • Peppermint oil

  • Cinnamon

  • Wintergreen

  • Pine

  • Thyme

  • Sweet birch

  • Tea tree oil (melaleuca)

  • Anise

  • Clove

  • Ylang ylang

  • Juniper

cat enjoying himself on the cat tree

Oils that are toxic to cats:

  • Oregano

  • Thyme

  • Wintergreen

  • Sweet birch

  • Pennyroyal

  • Cinnamon

  • Clove

  • Peppermint oil

  • Ylang ylang

  • Eucalyptus

  • Bergamot

  • Tea tree oil (melaleuca)

Symptoms of essential oil poisoning include:

  • Drooling

  • Difficulty Breathing

  • Weakness

  • Trouble walking — sometimes they stagger and stumble (this can indicate a problem with the central nervous system)

  • Vomiting

  • Liver Damage

  • Skin Irritation

Please contact your veterinarian if you suspect any illness in your animals.

Final Thoughts

Humans have relied on holistic therapy for a long period. Holistic therapy has proved itself a beneficial and safe. Essential oils have been an integral part of medications, perfumes, and cosmetics. Aromatherapy has been a common practice among humans, and in recent years, people have been interested in applying aromatherapy to pet animals. Aromatherapy in pets have similar results as in humans.

Ask us how you can boost your animals acupressure or red light therapy session with aromatherapy! We offer all the good smells for a safe and effective session. We do not apply any oils topically or offer oils for ingestion.

equine practitioner doing aromatherapy for a horse

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