We get asked almost daily in our safety group about using essential oils with pets (usually dogs and cats). Because the usage information for dogs and cats is not the same, I have split the information in two posts: this one for dogs, and one for cats.
General Safety Tips
Before I get into the lists of essential oils which are safe to use, I want you to understand some basic safety information:
- dogs are more sensitive to essential oils than humans are. Essential oils should always be used diluted, even when just inhaling. This is important to remember, as we humans don’t dilute when inhaling.
- most issues that dogs have can be addressed with the inhalation of diluted essential oils. There are a few issues which can be addressed with topical use, and they will be addressed below.
- only use essential oils with your dogs when needed to address a concern – not to “prevent” a health issue. An example is to have them inhale a digestive essential oil after they eat, when they don’t have any digestive issues. This is not recommended.
- this is probably obvious to most of us, but it goes without saying: do not add essential oils to your dog’s food or drinking water
- avoid using essential oils with puppies under 10 weeks of age – use hydrosols instead.
Selecting which essential oils to use – Zoopharmacognosy
Caroline Ingraham is recognized as the go-to expert when it comes to using essential oils with animals. She founded the approach, referred to as applied zoopharmacognosy, which allows animals to self-select the essential oils which will benefit them the most.
Applied Zoopharmacognosy enables self-medicative behaviour in domesticated or captive animals by offering plant extracts that would contain the same, or similar constituents to those found in an animal’s natural environment. The practice encourages and allows an animal to guide its own health, since unlike their wild counterparts, captive and domesticated animals rarely have the opportunity to forage on medical plants. The extracts offered include a variety of essential oils, absolutes, plant extracts, macerated oils, tubers, clays, algae, seaweeds and minerals. Once the animal has selected its remedy, it will then guide the session by inhaling it, taking it orally, or by rubbing a part of its body into it. (source)
When offering essential oils to your dog, you want to first pre-select 3-5 essential oils from the safe list which you believe to be the most effective for the issue that needs addressing. There are often several essential oils which can be beneficial, and allowing your dog to choose which one specifically will ensure you do not go wrong.
As explained in this free essential oil course, the essential oils are offered as closed bottles, one at a time. Allow your dog to sniff the closed bottle (remember, dogs have an incredible sense of smell and even when the bottle is closed, this is enough for them) and once you know which one(s) your dog prefers, you can then dilute accordingly. Nayana Morag shows in her video course offering her hand to her dog, with the diluted mixture on her hand. The dog can then inhale or lick.
How often to offer essential oils to your dog depends on the situation, and is beyond the scope of this post. Please check out the Resources listed at the bottom of this post for more information.
Essential oils safe to use with dogs
Here is a list of essential oils that are known to be safe for use around dogs according to the essential oil animal experts (listed in resources below). You can find uses and actions of the essential oils in the book The Aromatic Dog. The book also contains information on hydrosols, carrier oils, the zoopharmacognosy method, relieving specific problems, first aid suggestions, how to make lotions, and more.
- Angelica Root Angelica archangelica
- Basil (linalool chemotype) Ocimum basilicum ct. linalool
- Bergamot Citrus bergamia, Citrus aurantium subspecies bergamia
- Black Pepper Piper nigrum
- Cajeput Melaleuca cajuputi
- Caraway Carum carvi
- Cardamom Elatteria cardamomum
- Carrot Seed Daucus carota, Daucus carota subspecies sativa
- Chamomile (German) Matricaria chamomilla, Matricaria recutita, Chamomilla recutita
- Chamomile (Roman) Anthemis nobilis, Chamaemelum nobile
- Cinnamon Leaf Cinnamomum verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum
- Cistus Cistus ladanifer, Cistus ladaniferus
- Citronella Cymbopogon winterianus, Cymbopogon nardus
- Coriander Coriandrum sativum
- Cypress Cupressus sempervirens
- Elemi Canarium luzonicum, Canarium vulgare
- Eucalyptus Eucalyptus radiata (this is the species specified, but the other species have the same safety issues)
- Fennel (Sweet) Foeniculum vulgare
- Frankincense Boswellia carterii (this is the species specified, but the other species have the same safety issues, with the exception of Boswellia papyfera which is not recommended to use during pregnancy for humans)
- Geranium Pelargonium graveolens, Pelargonium x asperum
- Ginger Zingiber officinale
- Grapefruit Citrus paradisi
- Helichrysum Helichrysum italicum (this is the species specified, but Helichrysum splendidum has similar properties and therefore also should be safe to use)
- Juniper Berry Juniperus communis
- Lavender Lavender angustifolia, Lavender officinalis
- Lemon Citrus limon, Citrus limonum
- Lemongrass Cymbopogon flexuosus, Andropogon flexuosus, Cymbopogon citratus, Andropogon citratus
- Mandarin Citrus reticulata, Citrus nobilis
- Marjoram (Sweet) Origanum marjorana, Marjorana hortensis, Origanum dubium
- Melissa Melissa officinalis
- Myrrh Commiphora myrrha, Commiphora molmol
- Neroli Citrus x aurantium
- Niaouli Melaleuca quinquinervia
- Nutmeg Myristica fragrans, Myristica moschata, Myristica aromatica, Myristica amboinensis
- Opopanax Commiphora erythraea, Commiphora guidottii
- Orange (Sweet, Blood) Citrus sinensis, Citrus aurantium var. sinensis
- Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii, Andropogon martinii var martinii, Cymbopogon martinii var motia
- Patchouli Pogostemon cablin, Pogostemon patchouly
- Peppermint Mentha piperita
- Petitgrain Citrus aurantium
- Plai Zingiber cassumunar, Zingiber montanum, Amomum montanum, Zingiber purpureum
- Rosalina Melaleuca ericifolia
- Rose (Bulgarian, Damask) Rosa damascena (this is the species specified, but it’s actually the Rose which needs the most dilution, so it stands to reason the other Rose species are also safe)
- Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
- Sandalwood Santalum spicatum, Santalum album (this essential oil was not listed in either book below, but was verified to be safe by Kelly who runs the EO animal group)
- Spearmint Mentha spicata, Mentha cardiaca, Mentha crispa, Mentha viridis
- Spikenard Nardostachys grandiflora
- Tangerine Citrus reticulata, Citrus nobilis, Citrus tangerine
- Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia For more info on tea tree please see below…..
- Thyme (linalool chemotype) Thymus vulgaris ct. linalool
- Valerian Valeriana officinalis
- Vanilla Vanilla planifolia, Vanilla fragrans, Vanilla tahitensis
- Vetiver Vetiveria zizanoides, Andropogon muricatus, Andropogon zizanoides, Chrysopogon zizanoides, Phalaris zizanoides
- Yarrow Achillea millefolium
- Ylang Ylang Cananga odorata, Cananga odorata genuina
Reasons to use essential oils topically
I mentioned in the safety guidelines above that there are some valid reasons to use diluted essential oils topically with your dogs. Some of these reasons include:
- skin issues such as eczema, bacterial or fungal infections
- flea control
Knowing how much to dilute for inhalation and topical use
Essential oils must always be diluted before using topically or offering them to your dog to inhale when using as a remedy. Although dilution guidelines may differ depending on the individual essential oil and issue that needs addressing, the general rule of thumb for dogs is to use a 1% dilution for emotional issues, and a 2-3% dilution for physical issues.
Please note that physical issues don’t always require topical application. Nayana shows in her EOs for dogs course that inhalation can be effective for pain control and wound healing.
For information on calculating dilutions, visit this post: Diluting Essential Oils Safely.
There are many carrier options available, and none are known to be unsafe for dogs. You can read my post Choosing Carriers for Essential Oils for some ideas, which include oils, as well as lotion and aloe vera. You can allow your dog to select the carrier oil the same way you offer them essential oils.
You can make your own gel base by whisking together 1 teaspoon of xantham gum and 1/2 cup hydrosol for topical application.
Don’t underestimate the power of hydrosols
Hydrosols can be used safely with dogs (and puppies!). You can add them to their drinking water, when applicable. Hydrosols are gentle, yet effective. Just like when offering essential oil choices to your dog, offering choices of hydrosols is also a good idea.
For emotional issues, up to 10 drops can be added to their drinking water. For acute issues, add up to 1 teaspoon to their drinking water.
In some cases of shock or trauma, 1-3 drops of hydrosol can be applied directly to the tongue without dilution, as long as the dog is agreeable. Add the drops to a pipette and judge your dogs response to the pipette before applying to the tongue. Never force it.
The following are highly respected references for using essential oils with animals, all of which I own (books) or completed (courses): this book, and this one, this free course, this dog- specific course, and this dog-specific book.
On facebook: EO animal group.
For herbal suggestions, read An Introduction to Canine Herbalism.
* The Question of Tea Tree and Dogs from Lea
This question comes up often, because in my post about dogs I have Tea Tree listed as safe for use with dogs when used appropriately. This was after consulting two popular books about aromatherapy and animals, and taking a highly respected course on animal aromatherapy.
But some people believe it is NOT safe at all based on another group’s info (run by a woman I respect). I checked out (again) that particular info and here are my comments and why I take the stance that Tea Tree is NOT toxic to dogs if used appropriately:
The group has a file which states: “There are certain essential oils that should not be used with animals: one in particular is tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), which for some pets can cause poisoning and other serious health concerns [2, 3, 4]. ”
2 is a link to this page: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/poison/tea-tree-oil/
Which states: “As little as 7 drops of 100% oil has resulted in severe poisoning, and applications of 10-20 mls of 100% oil have resulted in poisoning and death in both dogs and cats. Products containing tea tree oil concentrations less than 1-2% are generally considered non-toxic if used according to labeled directions.”
I think we can all agree using THAT much of ANY essential oil is not cool! And it DOES state here 1-2% dilution IS NON-TOXIC. And I only recommend 0.25% topical use.
3 is a link to this page: http://www.poison.org/articles/2010-dec/tea-tree-oil
Which states: “Tea tree oil and pets: Veterinary toxicologists have reported that large amounts of tea tree oil applied to the skin of cats and dogs caused poisoning. Symptoms have included muscle tremors, weakness, difficulty in walking, low body temperature, and excessive salivation. With pets, as with people, following label instructions is essential.”
Note “LARGE AMOUNTS” and “APPLIED TO THE SKIN”
4 is a link to here: http://messybeast.com/teatree.htm
Which discusses that it is unsafe around cats (I agree).
This all said, if you disagree, and want to avoid using Tea Tree around dogs – go for it 🙂
Lea Harris is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist Scholar's Program graduate from Aromahead Institute. This website, and its sister website, LearningAboutEOs, is home to educational advice and information about using essential oils safely. Lea founded and runs the Using Essential Oils Safely facebook group, with hundreds of new members joining each week. Lea is the author of The TRUTH About Essential Oil Safety, and the creator of Safe Essential Oil Labels and the UEOS App. You can find FREE classes here: Free Essential Oil Classes.
Lea received her herbalist certification through The Herbal Academy of New England. Lea is a contributing writer for Natural Herbal Living magazine, and blogs about herbs and natural living on her website, Nourishing Treasures.
Lea is Professional level member of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists.
Businesses, groups, and individuals can hire Lea to consult on safety, product formulation, and more on her website Lea Harris CCA.