Complete Guide to Essential Oils for Dogs: Benefits, Uses and Cautions

It is well known that dogs have a very developed sense of smell and a very acute perception of odors, dozens of times stronger than humans (dogs have 200-300 million olfactory receptors compared to only 5-6 million in humans), and dogs also have the special ability to store and analyze odors between breaths, so they can identify more detailed odors and the total number of odors they can sense is far greater than humans.


The sense of smell is not only a gift and a tool for dogs, it is also extremely important to their physical and mental health. Their nature seems to be very compatible with aromatic oils, and with a small amount, they can achieve a healing effect on their body and mind with half the effort.
Dogs have similar physiological and metabolic mechanisms to humans, so most essential oils can be well tolerated by dogs. But after all, they are not the same species as humans and have differences in size, physiology and characteristics, which leads to many considerations in the selection and application of essential oils.

So, when using essential oils on dogs, we need to follow the following basic principles.

1. Dilute use, gradual, small amounts

Currently, there is no uniformity in the concentration of essential oils for dogs, but the consensus is that a safer concentration of essential oils is 1-3%, or 100d base oil + 1-3d essential oil, with reference to the oil use practices for babies/children.

Of course, specific essential oil concentrations and dosages need to be measured and reasonably adjusted based on the dog’s breed, size/weight, age, health, area of use, purpose of oil use, and the properties of the specific essential oil used.

For home care, the recommended concentration of essential oils for adult dogs (for reference only) is

✔For whole body or larger body areas
Large dogs 2-3%
Medium size dogs 1-2%
Small dogs 0.5-1%

✔ Topical or spot application
Large dogs 3-5%
Medium dogs 2-4%
Small dogs 1-3%
With some experience in aromatherapy, the concentration of essential oils can be adjusted upwards for some emergency situations. However, relatively high concentrations should only be used for short-term emergencies, and when symptoms improve, the concentration of the oil should be gradually reduced.

In short, the most basic principle of using oils for dogs is to dilute them in large proportions, and to use them gradually and in small amounts as often as possible

2. Choose the type of essential oil carefully

Essential oils that are suitable for humans are not always suitable for dogs. Try to avoid using essential oils for dogs that have a high phenolic and ketone molecular content, as well as those that are considered to be more toxic. On the one hand, the overly stimulating smell may affect the dog’s normal olfactory function. On the other hand, excessive use of such essential oils may have some neurological and hepatic and renal toxicity for dogs. Therefore, it is recommended to use oils with milder scents and properties that are more acceptable to dogs and protect their sense of smell.

As with essential oils for humans, it is important to differentiate the varieties of essential oils available for dogs based on age and life stage. In special stages, such as puppy, pregnancy and illness, special attention needs to be paid to the essential oils used.

In her book “Aromatherapy for Pets”, pet aromatherapist Christine recommends the following list of 20 essential oils for adult dogs (not limited to the following 20): Atlantic cedar, German chamomile, Roman chamomile, happy sage, Australian eucalyptus, geranium, ginger, permanent flower, real lavender, green orange, sweet orange, sweet marjoram, myrrh, green-flowered melaleuca, euphorbia, rowan Saffron, rose, incense alcohol thyme, valerian, carrot seed.

Base oils: olive oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, etc. In addition, agarwood oil, calendula infused oil, St. John’s wort infused oil are also very good therapeutic oils for dogs.

Puree: Contains trace amounts of aromatic molecules and is a very mild substance. Compared to essential oils, purees do not require caution in dosage and are safer, making them ideal for use on puppies and small dogs. Basically all purees can be used for aromatic care of animals, the common ones are rose puree, lavender puree, chamomile puree, etc.

The list of essential oils prohibited or used with caution for dogs is disputed by different sources, and the following list is for reference only.

Prohibited species: mugwort, white wormwood, sage, cotton fir daisy, head lavender, camphor, camphor rosemary, peppermint eucalyptus, blue gum eucalyptus, hyssop, Tibetan fennel, cypress, green peppermint, hu mint, marigold, upland hyssop, yellow birch, round-leaf buchu, blue aster, calamus, etc.

There are risky species that are not recommended by non-professional aromatherapists: wintergreen, cinnamon, thymol thyme, oregano, winter mint, wild ground mint, sacred basil, multiflora, Indian Tibetan fennel, tea tree, etc.

A special mention of tea tree essential oil is in order here. Many people may wonder why it appears in the list of risky essential oils. In terms of the properties of the oil itself, tea tree essential oil is gentle and good to use and often appears in the list of oils for children. However, similar to the case of cats, it has been found in known but not many studies that dogs may trigger some symptoms of toxicity after using tea tree essential oil.

So, if we have a need to use to tea tree essential oil, we may want to consider: green flowering white millia as an alternative essential oil to use.

3. Let your dog choose its own favorite scent

Dogs love to smell, but that doesn’t mean they like all scents. The primary premise of aromatherapy applied to animals, especially through the olfactory route, is to allow them to choose and judge for themselves.

So, whether we use essential oils in everyday life by diffusion, or in specific scenarios for healing by application, it is especially important to allow the dog to judge a preference for a certain scent before applying it.

In general, dogs are receptive to lighter scents, which requires indirect sniffing or dilution when we let them sniff essential oils.

Unlike humans and doctors who can communicate verbally, communication with dogs can only be seen in their behavioral language. Observe your dog’s reaction to the essential oil and if you notice any unusual behavioral reactions (such as wailing, snorting, drooling, or rubbing their nose on the floor or carpet), adjust the type or dosage of essential oil or simply stop using it.


4. other notes

There are also the following points that we need to be aware of.

✔ Do not use undiluted essential oils directly on your dog.

✔ Never use essential oils in and around sensitive areas of your pet (including eyes, nose, anus and genitals).

✔Do not add essential oils to your dog’s food or drinking water.

✔Ensure some ventilation in the space where the dog is when diffusing.

✔Be careful with dosage for older dogs, pregnant or sick dogs.

✔Do not use any essential oils on small puppies under 8 weeks of age, we recommend using pure essential oils instead.

✔Puppies over ten weeks old are also best treated with pure lotion in no special circumstances. In case of emergency, the concentration of oil used can be referred to infant oil practice, about 1% (depending on the essential oil formula and the dog’s age and specific breed before making a decision), but generally this type of care requires considerable experience before it can be administered.

✔ Please store essential oils in a cool place away from light and out of reach of your dog to avoid accidental ingestion

Final Thoughts

Lastly, it is important to emphasize that most people do not have the ability to distinguish between good and bad essential oils due to the wide variety of essential oils on the market today. Therefore, I recommend that only professional aromatherapy brands be considered for aromatherapy products for dogs, and that you choose essential oils, purees and carrier oils that are certified organic.

While aromatherapy is a great way to care for your dog, there is a lot to learn about the use of oils for dogs, and owners need to keep a learning mind.

I prefer to believe in the gifts that nature has given us, including the little ones, than in chemically synthesized drugs. May, every dog be healthy and happy, with us, and with each other!

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