DOG

How To Ease Your Dog’s Pain With Aromatherapy?

It never crossed my mind that dogs would appreciate or benefit from aromatherapy. But nowadays, it is not uncommon to find veterinary places offering alternative practices like aromatherapy massage, herbal remedies and acupuncture for pets.

The first time my dog’s swim coach suggested I use aromatherapy on my 14-year old miniature schnauzer to ease the pain in her hips, I shrugged it off as new age mumbo jumbo. But last night, with a bottle of lavender essential oil on hand, I decided to give my dog an aromatherapy massage. It turned out to be a great bonding experience.

Humans use aromatherapy for mental and physical healing. Apparently, so can our dogs. Essential oils have antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-microbial, calming and detoxifying properties that apply to both humans and canines. When used properly, essential oils are safe, gentle, effective and therapeutic in treating a host of doggie problems including fear, anxiety, skin conditions, liver function and joint pain.

How Aromatherapy Works For Dogs

Aromatherapy works by stimulating the lymbic system of the brain – the part that controls mood and emotions. Properties of essential oils can help eliminate feelings of stress, fear and pain. For example, the calming scent of lavender oil can put a dog into a relaxed and restful state. Just like humans. The main difference is dogs are highly sensitive to scent and only need a tiny amount to work. When we smell an aroma, multiply that by 50 and you get how acute a dog’s sense of smell is. Given their relatively smaller build to humans, when they inhale the aroma of essential oils, it passes through their bloodstream very quickly. This makes aromatherapy a fast-acting and efficient way to treat a dog’s condition.

Dogs that benefit most from aromatherapy are ones that have the following issues:

  • hyperactive or aggressive behavior
  • separation anxiety and nervousness
  • skin irritations due to allergies
  • parasites such as ticks and fleas
  • joint pain

How To Apply Aromatherapy For Dogs

Take a drop or two of essential oil and slowly massage it into your dog’s skin. Give a gentle all-round body rub. Depending on what condition is being treated, target and spend more time on those areas. To maximize the oil’s benefit, concentrate a little on fur-less areas like underbelly, inner legs, thighs and ears. Do not overdose your dog on essential oil. Not only will the strong scent irritate your dog’s senses (and skin) but dogs tend to lick. Essential oils are made from concentrated chemical compounds and can be toxic.

Many dog grooming products have an aromatherapy line that uses essential oils like shampoos and conditioners. You can also have an aromatherapy diffuser or candle-oil warmer to infuse the living space you share with your dog. 

What Scents Are Suitable For Dogs

Essential oils can smell divine but not all scents are dog-friendly. Best ones for dogs are:

  • lavender
  • bergamot
  • chammoile
  • eucalyptus
  • peppermint/spearmint
  • sandlewood
  • ylang ylang
  • rosewood

Avoid:

  • birch
  • camphor
  • cassia
  • clove
  • oregano
  • wintergreen
  • woodworm

Safety

Never use essential oil to treat puppies or pregnant and nursing dogs. While aromatherapy is a gentle, safe and effective way of treating certain dog ailments, it is not meant to replace your regular veterinary care. This should be used as a complimentary treatment alongside any mainstream therapies or prescribed medication from your vet. 

Using essential oils for dog is a bit of a learning curve. Every dog reacts differently to scents. Observe your dog. Does it perk up more when using a particular essential oil? Is it more relaxed and sleeping for longer hours? The first time I massaged lavender oil on my dog, she slept through 8 hours straight on her bed!

When it comes to essential oil dilution, there is no hard and fast rule. Some people prefer to dilute (it’s probably safer) and some prefer to use it straight. If you want to dilute your oil, the general ratio is 1:10 for small dogs below 10kg and 1:5 for bigger dogs. If you prefer to use 100% pure oil, then use very, very little (1 to 2 drops for small dogs and 3-5 drops for big dogs) will suffice. Remember, dogs are highly sensitive to smell and touch. If your dog is prone to skin irritations or loves to lick it’s coat, then you should dilute your oil. 

Choose skin nourishing oils like grapeseed oil, olive oil or coconut oil as dilution oils. These not only make great base oils, they also give your dog a healthy and shiny coat. 

If you have any doubt, always discuss with your vet first.

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