Essential Oils for Pets

Depending on your animal’s needs, essential oil therapy may be added to your animal’s treatment plan
for allergies, immune support, decreasing pain and inflammation, and more.

Mobile Veterinary Essential Oil Therapy in Edmonds, WA

Dr. Justus uses essential oils therapy to not only assist in acupuncture treatments, but also to help manage various disease conditions.

Essential oils are an aromatic, volatile liquid within many plants. They are produced through a distillation process requiring large amounts of plant to distill out a very small volume of essential oil. The essential oil is quite concentrated- much more so than the dried form of the plant (as in herbal medicine).

Essential oils continue to be controversial in veterinary medicine. There is a lot of misinformation, especially on the internet, regarding toxicity, uses for oils, species on which to use oils, and more. However, through using only medical-grade oils and carefully diluting the oils as needed for animal use, Dr. Justus has not seen any negative reactions.

There are many different reasons to use essential oils in veterinary medicine- allergies, immune support, decreasing pain and inflammation, among others. Depending on your animal’s needs, essential oil therapy may be added to your animal’s treatment plan.

Pet Essential Oils FAQ

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are an aromatic, volatile liquid produced by some, but not all, plants. They contribute to the long-term survival of the plant by aiding it in fighting off predators (microscopic and otherwise- from bacteria and fungi to herbivores) and attracting pollinators. The chemistry of essential oils is extremely complex. There is typically one dominant chemical group, but most EO’s are made up of many different compounds. Temperature, sunlight, rainfall, etc can all influence the final composition of an essential oil. So no one batch of lavender, for instance, is exactly the same. Essential oils are extracted from plants usually through steam distillation. They are extremely concentrated. A good example of this is rose essential oil. It takes 5000 lbs of rose petals to produce 1 kilogram of rose oil.

How do essential oils work?

Using plants as medicine has been around for thousands of years. Essential oils are an extension of this. As we learn more about their chemical make-up and subject them to more rigorous scientific studies, we begin to see the many benefits of oils. Some essential oils have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti fungal properties, some have calming aromas, or aid in respiratory disease by decreasing congestion.

At the molecular level, EO’s interact with cellular membranes to produce many of their effects. Through selective and non-selective binding of proteins, interacting with neuro- and hormone receptors, and bonding to DNA and RNA, EO’s produce numerous effects within the body.

How do I use essential oils on my pet?

The three primary means of using essential oils are through ingestion, topical application, and inhalation. I use all of these methods, sometimes on the same animal. It’s hard to avoid inhalation therapy due to our animals’ keen sense of smell. Some level of inhalation is present just about anytime oils are used.

Ingestion can be particularly beneficial for gastrointestinal issues. Blends of ginger and peppermint are very soothing to the GI tract and can help with nausea due to illness, motion sickness, etc.

Topical use of oils is so helpful for various skin conditions. Treating injuries is an obvious one, but oils can also be used for hot spots and skin infections. Applying oils to tips of ears and paws can be a great way to affect many different organ systems- from balancing the mood to boosting immunity.

Finally, and most commonly, inhalation is a wonderful, non-invasive way to use essential oils. It can be especially beneficial in respiratory disease, but can be used for many different conditions.

Are essential oils safe?

The short answer is.. sort of. Purity is so important when choosing where to buy essential oils. Not all oils are created equal. Some have been heavily adulterated (particularly lavender). This means the oil itself could be a hybrid, or it could have been mixed with synthetic extenders (to yield more oil), or mixed with less expensive oils (mixing Rose oil with Rosewood oil, for example). Adulteration can result in something as innocuous as the oil being less effective to causing the oil to be dangerous- burning the skin, causing rashes and irritation.

In addition to purity, we also have to think about potency. Essential oils are extremely potent! Our animals have more acute senses than we do. I always dilute essential oils when working with my veterinary patients. An organic carrier oil is used as a base and a few drops of essential oil are added to it depending on the dilution needed.

Some oils should never be used or used only in rare instances in animals. Hot oils like oregano, mustard, and wintergreen are rarely used because of the possibility of skin reactions. Other oils can be toxic to the kidneys or cause neurologic side effects such as tea tree oil. Always ask a professional before using oils on your pet!

What about using essential oils on cats?

Ah, the great debate.. Should essential oils be used on cats? There is so much conflicting information out there. Some references say, no, never, absolutely not. Some say, it’s not problem as long as the oils are diluted appropriately. I tend to be somewhere in the middle.

Cats are very sensitive. Never force oils on cats. My method of introducing cats to essential oils is to open up a bottle of diluted lavender- 1-2 drops in 1 oz of carrier oil- rub a little on my hands, and see how they react. I’ve had multiple feline patients that will voluntarily come up and sniff the oil or rub their heads against it. My own cat did this! Anytime I broke out the oils, he was in my lap checking everything out.

Just because your cat likes lavender (or doesn’t like it as the case may be) doesn’t mean the response to other oils will be the same. Anytime I am adding a new oil with a feline patient, I go through this same method of introduction. I primarily rely on inhalation as a means of using oils on cats.

Where do you get your essential oils?

Type “essential oils” into Google and you will find many different places to buy oils. You will probably find them in the grocery store, too! But because purity is so important for our animals, the essential oils we use must be held to the highest standards. I only use Young Living essential oils. Their standards and testing practices are the best I’ve found. When I am recommending an essential oil therapy for an animal, I am only referring to Young Living oils.

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