By Denise Bertolotti and Dr. Kristen Miller
It’s no secret that I’m not an animal lover. I don’t have – nor do I really want to have – pets. I’m on the go way too much. I like the freedom of not having to worry about planning my schedule around a dependent creature. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only Young Living essential oils I do not own are the Animal Scents oils.
But I get it, people love their pets. And I want to provide the best education, even when I don’t have all of the answers or first-hand experience. So I searched the community for a qualified person to contribute a post about essential oils and pets. Denise Bertolotti and Dr. Kristen Miller wrote this for me to bring a little insight about using essential oils with your beloved furry (or feathery, scaly, or hairy) companions.
Why the Concern?
“You rescue what? Did you say rabbits?”
Usually a wide-eyed look or an awkward nod accompanies those questions. Yes, I volunteer with a rabbit rescue group. No, I never thought this would be my life’s work nor did I know there was even such a thing. I spend my days and nights protecting abandoned, neglected and abused domestic rabbits and finding safe, loving forever homes for those I am able to save. I say we are here to create “hoppy” families.
Animal rescue goes hand-in-hand, or should I say paw-in-paw, with my quest for a clean, natural lifestyle for my family. As the mother of two rabbits and two guinea pigs, every product choice I make in my home affects my beloved furry family members, often in a more amplified way than it does the humans in my family. The guinea pigs sometimes eat off of the floor. The rabbits, on rare occasions when I’m very lucky, give me gentle bunny-kisses. So if there’s anything on the floor or my skin containing harmful ingredients, their little bodies will be subjected to the negative effects on their body systems.
Anything that touches an animal’s skin, fur, scales, or feathers gets into their blood streams. As many animals navigate their lives through their sense of smell, whatever is in the air or their environment has a direct, strong impact on their wellness.
Using Essential Oils On and Around Animals
No matter the species or breed, animals have different levels of sensitivity and toxicity to essential oils than humans do. At the most basic, it’s always a good idea to start slowly and in small doses. When choosing the oils and method of usage, it is important to consider the following:
- The animal’s size
- Density of hair follicles
- Sense of smell
- Unique sensitivities that a species may have
For your animals, avoid using essential oils in ways that you would avoid for yourself. Oils that contain synthetic compounds can create a toxic response which, factoring in the considerations above, can be elevated in an animal. Avoid putting oils in the eyes or in the ears. And remember, if an oil is on you and you touch an animal, that oil is on him/her too!
You want to introduce oils into your animals’ environment slowly and carefully monitor their response. Reactions can take 2-3 days to appear when oils are administered topically or ingested.
Topically: Particularly with small animals, our preferred method is topical application. Simply put 1-2 drops of an oil in your palms, rub it in a bit to avoid dripping, then gently stroke the animal. For an animal who is very tiny or new to oils, you may choose to dilute with a carrier oil in your palms.
Most animals should not have essential oils applied to the bottoms of their feet. Oils containing menthol, like peppermint, should generally not be used on sensitive areas like the belly. Photosensitivity applies to animals as well, so be mindful when using citrus oils on animals who live or play outside or near windows.
Diffusing: When diffusing, keep the space open so an animal can move away from aromas that are unpleasant to them. If the aroma smells strong to you, it is even stronger to an animal.
Indirect: Another popular application technique for your smaller or more sensitive animals is indirect application. Put a drop of oil on the corner of a blanket or a toy. Alternatively, mix up a room spray diluted with water or witch hazel to mist in the animal’s area.
For Bathing: If you choose to use essential oils in bath water, be sure they have a dispersing agent, such as Animal Scents shampoo.
Ingestion: For larger animals requiring specific support, you may choose to add Vitality oils to their drinking water. Start with a drop (or less) and always have clean water available as well.
Finding a holistic veterinarian who is experienced with essential oils and natural wellness can be difficult. But, just like modern human medicine, more practices are embracing holistic treatments as complementary and alternative medicine. It can be helpful to first do a quick internet search for holistic and integrative veterinarians in your area, visit their website, and read their mission statement. A mission statement will give you a very good idea of the practice. After narrowing it down, schedule an appointment to meet the veterinarian. During that visit, you can ask questions about the practice and their services.
Birds are very sensitive to essential oils, but Young Living oils – when used correctly – are not toxic to them. Some people choose not to diffuse at all around birds. However, birds’ skin is very thin, so diffusing with a water-based diffuser rather than topical application is most often recommended. Keep the diffuser at a distance from the bird and use 1-4 drops of oil. Another option when using essential oils with birds is indirect application, diluted or neat, to a birds perch. Remember to monitor the pet’s response carefully.
Cats have a unique way of metabolizing synthetics, which is why there is a lot of internet hype around cats and essential oils. Just like any other animal, start small and be attentive to their responses. We’ve never met a cat who doesn’t show exactly how he/she feels! To read a bit more about essential oils and cats, check out this post.
The most common ways to use essential oils with dogs are aromatically and topically. For our rescue friends, any oil that is comforting and calming to us will have similar effects on dogs. Apply the oils to yourself, and snuggle with your dog to share the aromatics.
Exotics, rodents, and other small animals often have thicker or more hair than dogs or cats, which will absorb the essential oils faster. Always consider body weight. If one drop of an essential oil can have a great impact on a human, a full drop is far too much for a 3-pound rabbit or a 2-pound chinchilla!
Reptiles are hypersensitive to smells and have extremely sensitive skin. Be mindful of those factors when diffusing in their rooms or touching them with oils on your hands.
Since treating fish for health issues is rather difficult, prevention is the most effective approach. Make their water quality, nutrition and sanitation priorities. If the fish tank looks like it needs to be cleaned, you’re waiting too long in between cleanings. If you choose to incorporate oils or Thieves cleaner in their environment, use the smallest amount possible; less than a drop in most cases.
Horses and Other Large Animals
Even though horses, livestock and wildlife are (usually!) larger than our companion pets, you should still start slowly when introducing oils. All of the same rules apply. Don’t let their size fool you into thinking you can start pouring oils on undiluted, unless directed by a trusted, knowledgeable veterinarian. Using oils in their environment, leaning toward the indirect application method, is a great way to introduce oils and can aide in keeping the environment clean and fresh. And remember they will reap the aromatic benefits of oils you have applied to yourself when you are caring for them. Watch for their signals, and you will be able to tell which oils they are drawn to as they are naturally diffused from your skin!
Our Favorite Oils for Animals
For dogs, Animal Scents PuriClean, Infect Away and Mendwell are must-haves! While the Animal Scents oils are already diluted, you will want to dilute even more for your small dogs or dogs new to oils.
- PuriClean is great for cleansing. Make a spray with distilled water for a gentle, allover spritz or apply with a roller fitment for targeted cleansing.
- Follow up with Infect Away, either spritzed like the PuriClean or via direct topical application.
- Infect Away is great before or after a visit to the dog park or a walk outside.
- MendWell, a blend of cleansing and soothing oils, is best applied topically, so simply pop a roller fitment on the bottle or put a drop in your palms for a loving puppy massage!
- Your dog or cat will let you know when they need ParaGize but it’s good to keep on hand before those occasions arise! Blended with many of the same oils as Digize, ParaGize is best applied topically to the abdominal area. As always, dilute, dilute, dilute for your small pets.
- RepelAroma is a must-have for any animals who live or play outside.
- T-Away works well with any species with whom you choose to use oils. Diffuse it, use indirect application, or rub it in your palms and gently pet your companion to promote soothing and joy!
In Denise’s House
My guinea pig Princess Patch 5000 gets oils applied daily. I heavily dilute, so she looks a bit greasy, but at just less than 2 pounds, neat application would be too much for her. She had a uterine tumor 2 years ago, and I decided against surgery considering her age and size. We chose holistic treatment for her, under Dr. Miller’s care, and Princess is thriving, with no signs of a tumor! Her special Princess blend of oils to help maintain her wellness is two drops of sacred frankincense, one drop of helichrysum and one drop of lemon. We fill the rest of a 10 mL dropper bottle with V-6 carrier oil and apply one drop of the mixture to her back daily. She loves getting her oils!
For our rabbits, we most often opt for indirect application. On 4th of July, as the fireworks are bursting outside, I put a drop of Animal Scents T-Away oil on the corner of my rabbit’s blanket. I mist my couch with a diluted Thieves household cleaner and my rabbit reaps the benefits of the Thieves blend when he hops along the cushions.
In Dr. Miller’s Practice
In the practice where I work, we use essential oils on a daily basis. I like to start each day off with diffusing scents in the exam rooms as well as in the treatment area. In the exam rooms I will often reach for lavender or frankincense to set a calming vibe for the patients. If I have an acupuncture or reiki appointment, in I will diffuse White Angelica, as it helps everyone to relax and enter into a meditative space. I also wear frankincense and rub my palms together near the patient prior to a session so they can inhale the aroma indirectly. I have found essential oils to be a part of my daily veterinary practice as well as my personal life.
Go on and Oil Up Your Pets!
From rabbit rescue to veterinary practice to our own homes, essential oils complement the wellness and happiness of the animals we care for and love.
Your furry, scaly and feathered family members can safely enjoy essential oils, too, as long as you keep the specific needs of their species a priority!
Dr. Kristen Miller, DVM, CVA, and Level 2 Reiki practitioner, currently works at an integrative practice in Long Island, New York. Along with Western Medicine, she incorporates aromatherapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and energy therapy to treat her patients.
Follow Denise Bertolotti’s tales of rabbit rescue, animal rescue and wellness at Believe In Bunnies.
For a great DIY for your dog or other animals, check out this Peaceful Pup DIY recipe!
For all the health and wellness education in the Essential Oil Encyclopedia, come and check out The Club!