We love our dogs as part of our family, sometimes they are our family. When a dog has anxiety it is rough on their humans. Veterinarians have a variety of prescription remedies for dog anxiety, but many people are looking for more natural ways to help their pets deal with this relatively prevalent issue. This is where essential oils can be of great benefit to dogs with anxiety issues.
The type of anxiety your dog experiences is going to dictate how you will be treating it. Whether the stress is related to loud noises, separation, or you’ve got a rescue with an unpleasant past that causes fear, there are essential oils that can help. As with humans, no essential oil is going to have exactly the same effect on every dog. Dogs, like humans, have personal preferences for different aromas. Fortunately, there are a variety of methods for delivery and a variety of essential oils that can be tried in order to find what works for your pooch.
Before delving into the benefits of the particular oils I’d like to offer a word of caution/advice. Essential oils should never be applied directly to your dog’s skin. A carrier oil should always be employed, we use sweet almond oil (buy here) Be wary of applying oils too close to the nose. Dogs’ sense of smell is about 40 times better than humans, so they are MUCH more sensitive to the effects of essential oils than we are. Keeping this in mind will make being treated with essential oils a much more tolerable and pleasant experience for your Fido. We all know how trainable dogs are, and if they have an initially negative experience with oil, you may just be unable to utilize that one ever again.
A good rule of thumb is to just stay entirely away from anything in front of the ears. Another precaution to take is to not use essential oils on pregnant or nursing dogs. Bitches aren’t in either condition for very long, so it’s best to forego the oils during these delicate times.
HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS WITH DOGS
Essential oils can be used with your dog the same way you would use them on yourself. Blending an EO with a carrier agent, such as fractionated coconut oil or distilled water, is a safe topical application method. If mixing with distilled water in a spray bottle, be certain to shake the bottle vigorously prior to each application, as oil and water don’t mix! Once the carrier agent and the oil are mixed it can they can either be sprayed on a cloth (I use a cotton sock over my hand) and rubbed onto the pet’s fur or sprayed directly onto the pet. I prefer the spray and rub method, as the pet gets the additional tactile attention, and there is little chance of the oil going into the nose or eyes.
My favorite way to use EO’s for anxiety reduction is to diffuse them into the air. Using this method with your dog will be less stressful to your dog as nothing is being DONE to them, they are simply breathing. If the pet has an aversion to the scent it can distance itself from the source. If the oil is applied directly to the pet, they’re stuck with it! Keeping the pet confined to a smaller room with the diffuser running in it will ensure that the oil is reaching its target, without being overpowering.
GOOD OILS FOR REDUCING ANXIETY IN DOGS
- Roman Chamomile Essential Oil (buy here) is of the best calming extracts for humans and canines. It is good for general soothing and central nervous system calming.
- Clary Sage Essential Oil (Buy Here)– calms the central nervous system, sedating. Should be used in small amounts. This is one that is best used in a diffuser, rather than applied directly to the animal.
- Lavender Essential Oil (buy here)– Everyone should be using lavender! It’s great for soothing both humans and pets. Plus it can be used for a variety of other pet ailments. There is no concern with applying this directly to the dog’s fur (diluted with a carrier agent).
- Sweet Orange (Buy Here) -Another nerve-calming essential oil for anxiety. Plus when used in a diffuser makes your house smell great!
- Valerian (Buy Here)– nerve-calming as well. Very soothing to dogs with noise or separation anxiety.
- Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil (Buy Here) -This one may not be as effective as some others but some dogs may enjoy the scent so it doesn’t hurt to try it.
HOW TO DECIDE WHICH ESSENTIAL OIL FOR ANXIETY TO USE
Just like when I make a mix for my kids I like to have the dog “smell test” the essential oils before I mix them. I just uncap the bottle and hold it near their face (a few inches from their nose) and observe their reaction. If they show an immediate aversion by turning away or scrunching their muzzle, I won’t use that one. If they get closer or try to lick to the bottle I’ll add that to the mix. You don’t want to torture your pet with an aroma that’s unpleasant to them!
As with humans, I try to judge which essential oil seemed to be the favorite, second favorite, third, etc. on down the line to the least favorite. I begin the mix with 8-10 drops of the most favored oil, then 5-7 of the second, and then 3-4 of the third. For a diffuser, I use an empty half gallon milk jug and fill it with distilled water prior to adding the oils. Once the oils are added I shake the jug vigorously and then add the mixture to the diffuser. For direct application I would do the same thing, only reducing the number of drops proportionally to the size of my spray bottle.
TESTING YOUR ESSENTIAL OIL MIX
This may be the toughest part. How can you tell if your mix is going to help your dog? Unfortunately, the only way is to wait until anxiety is kicking or is about to happen. Apply the mixture or start the diffuser. From there you just have to wait and see their reaction. If the issue is separation anxiety I would apply or diffuse the mix, leave for just a short while, and come back and see how your dog is doing.
At the end, your love and attention need just a little help to aid your dog. Aromatherapy is good for dogs with anxiety, give it a try. You could read more about diffusing essential oils reading this article here.