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Safely Using Essential Oils with Pets

Safety Considerations

#1 -Enough cannot be said about the quality of essential oils that you are using. This first and foremost important factor before using essential oils for therapeutic purposes.

#2 -Cats and Dogs are completely different animals. Each one has a list of oils that are safe and not safe to use. Get informed about what those oils are. It is also important to mention that oils for cats have special considerations. Cats do not metabolize oils in their liver, which is said to cause a build of toxins, and can cause toxicity with cats. They also are lacking an enzyme that metabolizes essential oils. It is simply part of their physiological body. It is this reason that many aromatherapists advise to not use essential oils around cats at all. It is also suggested that essential oils not be used for birds, reptiles, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. On the flip side of the coin, there are veterinarians, aromatherapists and other practitioners that utilize essential oils on smaller animals successfully. There is much controversy surrounding this topic. This is something you will have to determine yourself. Research it till the cows come home. Gather information from reputable aromatherapist's (or other experts) that specialize in pets. Then make a decision.

#3 -I mentioned this in Choosing a Quality Essential Oil blog post, and I will mention it again. Price! The almighty godfather of decision making. Now, I am all for saving a buck, and I can say I have all too often purchase supplements and other healing products that were the bargain basement price. I also found more times then not, that that cheaper item was of poor quality and did absolutely nothing for the purpose it was intended to do.

This is NOT one of those times, where you take the risk of your pets health and even life, by making a decision based on price. Essential oils are powerful! Don't underestimate that they too have cautions and are to be used with professional consideration and safety.

As an example. If you happen to be looking for Elemi essential oil. Comparison shop several companies for the price. Take note as to the size of the bottle and botanical name that each company is offering, so that you are comparing exactly the same size and species of oil. This will give you an idea of market prices. If one company is far below the other companies, you can safely assume that this is one company to avoid all together. Keep in mind price is only ONE way to evaluate the quality of essential oil you are purchasing. There are several factors involved in determining quality of an essential oil and all those factors should be measured together. Basing your decision merely on price is not a thorough evaluation of an essential oil company and it's oils.

Gather information from blogs, forums, social media groups on what are the best and safest oils to use on pets. There are several FB groups out there that offer information on quality essential oils for pets.

Safety Rules for Using Essential Oils for Pets

Rule #1 - Less is Best!

A good place to start using essential oils for your pets is to apply oils on yourself and allow your animals to become accustomed to the aroma just by being near you.

Another simple introduction, would be to remove the cap from the bottle, hold the bottle in your hand, and approach your pet with the bottle. Attempt coming as close as 1-2 feet in front of them. See if they are comfortable with that. There is no need to shove the bottle in their nose, or follow them around, determined for them to inhale the inviting aroma. Allow them to come to the bottle, or allow them to take in the aroma from a distance. They might decide to put their nose in the air and walk away. Let it be their choice. Just as you will choose what oils you enjoy more than others. Some oils you want to jump right into the bottle, it smells so good, other oils, you back up, shake your head and say, ‘next’! Let your pet make those very choices. If they walk away, they may have received all they need from the aroma, or they have decided that is not an oil that interests them.

However, when it comes to offering oils to your pet for wellness and body support, then there are different approaches. But, for now, just allow your pets to get used to the oils, and allow yourself to get more comfortable offering it to them.

Rule #2 - Dilute, Dilute, Dilute!!!

When your pet (and you) are ready and you would like to take the next step of applying essential oils topically to your pet, then remember this simple rule. Always dilute an essential oil before applying to your pet’s body. The smaller the pet, the less essential oil you will use. Dilute with a carrier oil. Carrier oils dilute your essential oil, to allow for a more friendly (and safer) application. General rule, the smaller the animal, the more you dilute = More carrier oil, less essential oil.

After applying, monitor response before applying any more oils. Allow several hours, up to 24-48 hrs. to monitor your pet.

Remember that applying topically is primarily for therapeutic purposes. It is not always the next step. Animals can receive therapeutic benefits by simply inhaling essential oils.

Methods of Dilution:

Carrier Oil (vegetable oil)

Water based diffusing

Allowing the oil to absorb into the palm of your hand, then stroking your pet

Water based misting -combining an essential oil diluted in water (preferably distilled water), in a spray bottle

Mixing with gels, coconut oil, clays, etc. are also methods of dilution

Rule #3 - Medications & Essential Oils

Check with your veterinarian, if your pet is currently on any medications, to see if there are any contraindications.

Understand any contraindications for certain oils, especially for pets that are epileptic, seizure prone, are bleeding (or have a tendency to bleed), diabetic, on anti-coagulant medications, pregnant, older pets or pets that are facing a serious illness.

Always consult with your veterinarian first.

Rule #4 - Photosensitive & Hot Oils

Understand the cautions of using essential oils that are photosensitive. Photosensitivity refers to oils that are not to be used topically, if exposed to direct sunlight within a 12 hour period. All the citrus oils, Angelica and Bergamot are examples of photosensitive oils.

There is a list of 'hot oils'. These are oils that should never be applied 'neat'. Neat means applying an essential oil topically, without diluting it first. Hot oils are: Cinnamon, Clove, Lemongrass, Oregano, Black Pepper, Peppermint, Rosemary, Eucalyptus & Thyme

Rule #5 - Ears and Eyes and Nose

DO NOT drop essential oils directly down your pets ears

DO NOT apply oils in or around the eyes

If you get oils in the eyes, flush with a carrier oil, NOT water! Water will only intensify the agitated sensation.

DO NOT use oils close to the nose, that would include nostrils as well as the structure of the nose

Rule #6 - Applying to Skin

DO NOT apply essential oils, undiluted to genitals or surrounding areas, thin skin, or bare skin areas

DO NOT apply directly to wounds, cuts or abrasions

Rule #7 - Diffusing Essential Oils

Diffusing essential oils with animals. Animals are much more sensitive to smells. If diffusing in a room with an animal, be sure that the animal has a means to leave the room at free will. DO NOT leave a caged animal in a room, next to a diffuser and leave the room for several hours or even minutes. Diffusing, when done safely, should be introduced slowly.

The smaller the animal, the more important that the diffusing time is introduced with very brief periods of time, under the watchful eye of it’s caregiver. Monitoring any noticeable response. Also, keep in mind that each animal is an individual and a large animal may leave the room the moment a diffuser is being used, while another animal that is smaller may enter the room and enjoy the diffusing. The important part of this, is allowing the animal to be able to make their own choice about how much oil they take in, and how long they care to enjoy the benefit of the aromatherapy.

Starting out slow ensures a general rule of safety. Diffusing for a brief period of 1-2 minutes may be all that is needed. Even as little as 30 seconds. If the animal is in need of the oils for therapeutic reasons, then increase the frequency of the diffusing, instead of the period of time the animal is exposed to the diffuser. Follow the advise given by the aromatherapist or veterinarian that is suggesting for therapeutic purposes. Seek guidelines from a professional first, before making determinations of a prescribed treatment plan. Also keep in mind that once an oil has stopped diffusing, or applied topically, the constituents of that essential oil are still offering therapeutic value beyond the initial exposure.

Note: In times of illness and when immediate care is required, there can be exception’s to this rule. I once took a barn kitten (6-8weeks) with a respiratory infection and diffused for 3-4 minutes, in a tent like fashion (see Melissa Shelton, DVM's book, Animal Desk Reference), 2x/day. I first introduced the kitten to shorter periods of diffusing, 1-3 days prior to working up to 2x/day. When the kitten responded positively, I then decreased the frequency of exposure. The kitten eventually was no longer in need of the diffusing and recuperated from the respiratory infection.

Copyright April 6, 2016. All Rights Reserved

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