Aromatics are a safe option for animal health IF we use them as nature intended: short term and well-diluted. Combine that with zoopharmacognosy (animal self-selection) and you can't go wrong. However, here are a few more specific safety points.
The Most Common Problem
Anything can cause harm when overused. The most common problem in the world of aromatherapy is when long term exposure to essential oils cause an allergic reaction. This is known as sensitization. This usually comes about through over use of topical applications. But shutting animals up in a closed space while diffusing can cause sensitization, or a toxic build up in the liver.
Although self selection is based on natural processes an essential oil or dried herb is not the same as the total plant in nature. We have removed much of its bulk and many of nature's own regulatory measures. Thus, it's important to dilute essential oils and regulate your dog's intake accordingly. Further, self-selection is based on taking something until you feel better. Sometimes the trigger for the " not good" feeling is something in the environment. For example, diet or other stresses. If you do not remove the source of the problem , your dog may not know when to stop. This increases the risk of sensitization.
Know When to Call in the Professionals
If your dog has these symptoms, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian or qualified natural health practitioner as soon as possible. While natural medicine is great for your home pharmacy, sometimes you need stronger medicine. Building good relations with your vet ensures that your dog has the best possible care. Together you can work out a treatment plan that includes aromatics.
- Together you can work out a treatment plan that includes aromatics. Some Basic Guidelines For Safety's Sake
Allow your dog to self select
Dilute your essential oils well
Use high grade essential oils from a reputable supplier
Allow your dog to smell EACH aroma before EACH application. To apply without offering is at best annoying (imagine being smothered in a perfume you hated with no way to wash it off) and at worst dangerous.
In the unlikely event of your dog showing a reaction, such as skin irritation or shortness of breath, immediately discontinue use and contact a vet.
Store essential oils in a cool, dark place with their caps firmly closed
Never leave essential oil bottles in reach of dogs. They have been known to steal them from counter tops and swallow them.
Do not use on pregnant dogs without further guidance from a professional
Pay attention to the cautions and safety issues with each essential oil
If your dog is still interested in oils after 2 weeks, contact a professional for advice.
Avoid using wintergreen (gaultheria procumbens), birch (Betula lenta), cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia), oregano (origanum vulgare) and other hot, mucus membrane irritant oils.
Finally, whatever you do, when you have a problem, don't go to the internet and canvas the opinions of well meaning but unqualified people. They have no special training in animal aromatherapy and do not specifically know your dog.
The hardest thing about allowing dogs to self-select aromatics is letting go of the notion that YOU know best ! We may think something is wrong and want to fix it with an essential oil. But in basically healthy dogs, most things get better with time and patience. And sometimes things that concern us or we think are problems are actually nature's way of healing.
A good example of this is a sore leg, when a dog limps, our conditioning says pain killer, and we may want to rub something onto the leg. But pain is nature's way of saying "stop rest, heal'. If we take away the pain, we slow the body's own healing mechanisms.
You might think that a pain relieving oil, such as Plai may be helpful in this situation. But if your dog says " No thanks", please respect that. If you go ahead and apply the oil anyway, you are likely to cause distress and slow down healing. Dog's are working under nature's guidance , in tune with their instincts and know exactly what they needed.
Reference: The Aromatic Dog : Nayana Morag