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Aromatherapy for Pets: How to Safely Use Essential Oils

When used safely, essential oils can treat your pet’s skin conditions, calm his nerves, soothe her muscle aches and even repel insects.

By Rebekah Olsen

I’m very sensitive to smells (I probably get that from my dog). I especially am sensitive to yucky smells, so I keep a steady flow of delicious candles and scents wafting through the house. Even a hint of foul play will send me running for the Febreeze.

Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to aromatherapy and essential oils. I started applying lavender in the evenings and peppermint in the mornings to my wrists and neck. The effects were relaxing, comforting and stimulating. My nose was on cloud nine!

You’ve probably heard of the recent aromatherapy craze, or dabble in it yourself, but did you know that aromatherapy may also be beneficial for your pet?

When used safely, essential oils may help with your pet’s skin conditions, calm his nerves, soothe her muscle aches or even repel insects. Before you get started, however, it's important to do your homework. While it's true that essential oils are natural, that doesn't mean you can throw caution to the wind. Following are some safe tips to keep in mind as you begin to research will oils may help your pet.  

The Benefits of Essential Oils for Pets

An essential oil is a liquid distilled, usually by steam or water, from the leaves, stems, bark, roots or other elements of a plant. Most essential oils are clear while others may have a yellowish tint. Unlike coconut oil, they don’t have that oily-feeling. Essential oils can be applied to the skin or fur, ingested or inhaled for therapeutic benefits.

“A lot of times, people use essential oils to try and treat certain conditions naturally,” says Dr. Kristal Turner, a veterinarian at Animalia Health and Wellness in Franklin, TN. Since the clinic opened in 2010, Animalia has been working with holistic treatments for pets and has recently expanded their interest to include essential oils.

While there are too many oils and benefits to list here, some examples include lavender (calming, anti-itch, antifungal), peppermint (repels insects), chamomile (anti-inflammatory), ginger (aids digestion, helps with motion sickness) and so on.

The benefits of essential oils will depend on the oil you choose. This website does a great job of breaking down essential oils that have been used on pets and their specific benefits.

Choosing Essential Oils for Your Pet

When choosing essential oils for your pets, pay close attention to the quality and ingredients of the oil.

“I would start with the basics. Make sure you’re using pure, 100% therapeutic grade oil. Avoid adulterated oils; it means it has been cut with something else,” advises Maggie Odle, who is an independent distributor of Young Living Essential Oils in Nashville.

Sara Jakubowski, an independent distributor of dōTERRA Essential Oils, agrees. She says, "Many companies claim to be 100% Pure therapeutic grade essential oils, but be careful. They only must have 10% of the actual essential oil in it to be labeled 100% pure. This is very important because many people go out and get an essential oil that they think is pure and end up causing more harm to their pets. A good rule of thumb is to never put an essential oil on a pet if the bottle says 'do not ingest'."

Pets, unlike adult humans, have sensitive senses of smell and metabolize and react differently to oils. Cats, especially, are unable to metabolize items in the same was as dogs and are even more susceptible to adverse reactions.

“A lot of emergency clinics have seen cats coming in with respiratory effects with some essential oils. Some people are misguided in thinking that essential oils are natural so there’s no harm, but they’re potent,” warns Dr. Turner. She suggests that when it comes to your pet, you should follow the same protocol you would if you were using essential oils with an infant. Use only high-quality, pure essential oils that are diluted with a carrier oil (a type of vegetable oil). Always talk with your veterinarian first and start with oils that have been proven to be safe on pets, such as lavender, cardamom, frankincense and roman chamomile. “Definitely be cautious. It can do so many great things, but they’re really potent, and there are some that are off limits."

Dr. Turner also recommends researching information at AnimalEO to find essential oils that are safe for pets. It was founded by Dr. Melissa Shelton, an internationally recognized holistic veterinarian who specializes in the use of essential oils for animals.

How to Safely Use Essential Oils

First, introduce essential oils by applying them to yourself and allowing your pet to become accustomed to the smell. To safely use essential oils, Odle emphasizes one key point: “When using oils with [pets], it’s all about dilution, dilution, dilution.”


Always begin with small amounts of the essential oil and avoid the eyes, nose and genital areas. Young Living recommends using only three to five drops and diluting heavily with a carrier oil. For every one drop, use four to five drops of the carrier oil. Test a small area and watch for any adverse reactions, such as inflammation, irritation or burns.

“The place you don’t want to apply is on their feet because that’s where they sweat and cleanse the body,” says Odle.


If using a diffuser, provide an escape route for your pet. If your pet decides he doesn’t like the smell, he should be able to leave the room quickly and easily. You can also place a diluted drop on your dog’s collar or dilute with water in a spray bottle, like this grooming spray recipe.

If your pet dislikes the oil or you accidentally place it where it shouldn’t be, do not rinse with water. This will only spread the oil. To remove, Odle says you should use a fatty oil, such as coconut oil. Apply the oil directly to the area and then wipe off with a tissue.


Before you give your pet essential oils to ingest, consult a veterinarian that is knowledgeable in essential oils and use only high quality, 100% pure oil. You can put the oil in an empty gel capsule or in the pet’s food if they don’t mind the flavor. It’s recommended to only use one drop when ingesting internally.

Do you use essential oils on your pet? SHARE your experience with us on social media!



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