Conventional veterinarians and even many holistic veterinarians are hesitant to recommend essential oils for pets; however when prepared, selected and utilized properly, they can be an effective and safe modality to prevent and treat many conditions that afflict our dogs and cats.When to Use Essential OilsPest PreventionSadly, many pet owners are led to believe that it is necessary to apply a monthly spot-on pesticide to their pet’s skin to prevent fleas and ticks from biting the pet. Some of these products contain known carcinogens and others are suspected. Some cause itching and hair loss. Essential oils such as cedarwood, lemongrass, peppermint, and eucalyptus can provide an effective and healthy alternative.
Bacterial infectionsMicrobes are becoming increasingly resistant to conventional antibiotics, and topical disinfectants can adversely affect the immune systems and organs of humans and pets who come into contact with them. Essential oils offer a healthy alternative for this dilemma. A blend of clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, and rosemary has been shown to kill pseudomonas, methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and toxic black mold. This same blend has saved dogs from toe amputation due to antibiotic-resistant nail bed infections.
Pain ReliefIn lieu of, or as an adjunct to steroidal or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, essential oils can decrease pain or redness due to trauma, arthritis, or allergic reactions. Many conventional drugs have side effects such as gastrointestinal ulceration, liver or kidney disease or even dry eye. Avoid this by applying helichrysum for bruising, copaiba for arthritis, or a blend which contains wintergreen for that warm/cool feel that is so soothing to swollen tissues.
Lavender – Oil of Many UsesPerhaps the oil with the most notoriety and diversity of uses is lavender. Lavender is emotionally calming, topically soothing, antimicrobial – and orally delicious when used to make ice cream! Therapeutic grade lavender products can be consumed internally. Lavender can soothe burns, insect and cat bite wounds and prevent infection. It can be applied with vitamin E to incisions to promote healing and decrease scarring.
Congested CatsExposing a cat who has severely congested nasal passages to a blend of ravensara, eucalyptus, peppermint, wintergreen and lemon in a cold air diffuser which nebulizes the oils can be curative. For cats who are difficult to medicate, this approach can be a life saver!
Behavior DisordersTreating pet behavioral disorders with antipsychotic meds is in vogue. Veterinarians do not yet know what long term side effects may occur from these drugs. We are fortunate to have the option to massage our pets using calming essential oils or to simply utilize aromatherapy. There are clip on collar diffusers available and auto diffusers so that pets can be exposed to these oils easily and in a variety of environments.
SafetyPoorly distilled, adulterated or improperly applied oils can cause some serious problems. When you choose an essential oil for your pet, be sure that it can be used internally. This speaks to the quality of the oil, the safety and the efficacy. If a human can ingest it, then it will be OK if your pet licks it.
Cats: For those of you with cats, be cautious with “hot oils,” which may contain phenols; felines cannot metabolize these oils properly because they lack some of the normal human and dog liver detoxification enzymes. Cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and clove are examples. One drop of oil goes a long way for a kitty just as for a human infant.
Tea tree or melaleuca has a reputation for causing illness in some dogs and cats. Yet blends of therapeutic grade oils containing melaleuca have been used successfully on many pets when applied in small amounts or when diluted properly with a healthy vegetable oil such as olive or coconut oil. These oils are called carrier oils. They can be used to dilute essential oils and to remove essential oils if they are inadvertently applied to an easily irritated tissue such as a mucous membrane or the eye.
Quality oils can be expensive, but small amounts can be very effective.
Alternative modalities can be integrated into conventional pet care. Essential oils are a great example of how natural “medicines” can be safe and effective. To get started with your new resolution, contact a holistic veterinarian who is experienced with using oils on dogs and cats.
About Dr Jodie Gruenstern Jodie Gruenstern DVM CVA has been practicing veterinary medicine in Muskego, Wisconsin since 1987. She is a certified veterinary acupuncturist and food therapist by the Chi Institute. Dr. Jodie is the owner of the Animal Doctor Holistic Veterinary Complex, an integrated, full-service small animal practice.
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