Previous month:
January 2011
Next month:
March 2011

February 2011

Clinical Aromatherapy For Pets

 by Sue Olmos



The use of essential oils dates back to ancient times, but through research and clinical application, today they are being used for more than “recreational” aromatherapy alone. Essential Oils have been used very successfully on many different animals. They are regenerating, stimulating and oxygenating. Many oils are muscle relaxants, digestive tonics, circulatory stimulants, and all will enhance immunity to work with the body to heal itself. When treating animals (especially internally) oils must be pure and of the highest quality. This discussion will explain how to approach your animal for treatment and how to decide which oils to use for different issues.

What Are Essential Oils..?

EO’s are made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of every cell. They are aromatic, volatile liquids which are distilled from plant parts such as bushes, flowers, bar roots, and fruits, etc. EO’s are much more potent than herbs. They leave no oily residue as they are rapidly absorbed into the skin. The quality of the oil produced is wholly dependent upon the type of planting (i.e., organic), the harvesting and distillation method used to preserve the natural chemical structure of the whole plant. Any alteration, contamination or adulteration to the end product reduces the oil’s usage as solely therapeutic. Most oils are produced for the food and cosmetic industries, so only about 2% are truly therapeutic and can be safely applied, inhaled and/or ingested or retained to promote health and healing. The chemicals within the plants can be anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial, immune enhancing and much, much more.

A Brief History…

Essential Oils are some of the oldest and most powerful healing agents known. There are multiple references to oils and “spices” in various Judeo-Christian texts, where they were used for anointing and for treating every ailment and illness known in those times. The Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, Europeans, and many other nationalities used oils exclusively for thousands of years. With the advent of pharmaceuticals, the interest in EO’s began to wane until the mid-twentieth century. A French chemist doing research on EO’s accidently burned his arm in a laboratory accident and used pure lavender oil to ease the pain. The oil promoted faster healing with no scarring! Dr. Gattefosse was so amazed with the results that he began to intensify his research of the many oils and their healing capacity and is credited with the return of clinical aromatherapy to the modern world.

Oils and Animals…

The use of oils with animals is similar to use with people: inhalation, absorption, ingestion and retention. The difference is in the amount used and the method of “introducing” the animal to the oil’s scent. There will follow a few cautionary remarks for usage with cats and certain cautionary notes on some oils for all animals.

Animals have highly developed olfactory systems which can create extreme reactions (pro and con) when smelling the oils. Single oils are often better accepted than blends, too. It is believed that the blends “confuse” the animal’s olfactory due to their multiple ingredients. Therefore, in situations where I’m introducing the oils, I try to honor the animal’s needs by first letting them sniff the whole, uncapped bottle. If their reaction is more of curiosity than repulsion, I’ll remove the bottle and let them sniff just the cap. Finally…I present the opened bottle. Each of these steps also provides some direct inhalation time, so the oils are working their way into the respiratory and circulatory systems immediately.

In a more acute situation where an animal is ill and most likely would find any strong odor offensive, I must select the appropriate oils to use regardless of their reaction. I say a brief prayer that they will understand and accept my desire to help them through their crisis and then administer the needed oils. I will either apply “neet” (straight from the bottle) or diluted depending upon their reaction to the odor [i].

Some dogs will act as though the oils are very off-putting while others will literally want to run away with the bottle! Horses are more willing to sniff at-will and I hang onto the bottle rather firmly having had a few bottles whisked away in the mouth of an avid equine fan!

You only need a few drops of an oil to be effective. Too much can overload the body. Some sites that are good for application include the inside of the rear legs, between the pads on the paws and tips of the ears. You can also spread the fur and let the oil drip onto the skin. If some oil lands on the fur, not to worry! The oil will travel the hair shaft and enter through the skin/hair follicle. You can also place a few drops in your palms, rub hands together and gently hold around the nostrils allowing the animal to inhale the aromatic molecules. Once inhaled or absorbed, the oils quickly enter the blood stream increasing oxygen levels over 28% within minutes!

Oil application for horses is typically done around the coronet bands, on the frogs of the feet, inside the legs, ear tips and nostrils as well as anywhere on the body. I prefer to apply the oils to horses in the evening hours as some oils are photosensitive (mostly citrus oils), and may cause some hive-like spots on the body where applied. They will go down in a few hours to a few days and they aren’t the cause of any worry due to the fur’s protection, but I would caution riding until they subside to reduce any irritation from a saddle. Oils can be added to sugar cubes, dog or cat food as well.

Cats require a little more attention not only because they have sensitive noses too, but also because they are more sensitive to certain oils containing phenols. Phenols are chemical constituents that can be warming to the skin’s surface. They are best diluted with a carrier oil than applied neet. Never use water as a dilutant. Water will enhance the action of the oils, so, for example, a “hot” oil will feel even hotter. There has always been a controversy re: using oils on cats. Many believe that a cat’s metabolism won’t tolerate the oils at all. I am certain this fallacy has arisen due to the usage of non-therapeutic oils. Any oil contaminated by chemical solvents or pesticides used during the planting season will harbor dangers not only to cats but to any user as well! See the final paragraph on quality before you purchase and try oils on your animals.

Safety Issues…

  1. For any animal that seems more sensitive to the oil’s fragrance, the use of a cold-air diffuser may be preferred. One could also make hydrosol sprays by adding the appropriate oil to spring water in a spray bottle and spraying around the animal’s body (obviously avoiding the eyes).
  2. Never put oils directly into the ear as they could harm the sensitive eardrum.
  3. If your horse is competing at the FEI level, some of the chemical constituents may test positive. Eucalyptus, peppermint and rosemary oils have camphor in them and will test positive. The oils are eliminated via the urine within a few hours of application. However, the aroma lingers due to the fur absorption and may last for days, though not as intensely.
  4. EO’s will metabolize petrochemicals. Most pharmaceutical drugs have a petrochemical base, so oils should be applied several hours before or after medications to avoid reducing the medicine’s potency.
  5. Avoid Hyssop and Tansy or any other oil with thulone in cases of epilepsy.

Oils For Certain Conditions…

Since the oils have multiple chemical properties (a single drop of any oil contains from 200-800 different chemical constituents!)…some oils will have many different uses. Here is an “Alphabet” of the more widely used oils and some of their purpose(s):

  1. Lemon - antiseptic; decalcifies (bone spurs, kidney stones, etc.).
  2. Lavender - the “Swiss army knife” of EO’s. Used for sedation, respiratory conditions, skin rashes, scars and insect bites among other uses.
  3. Peppermint - reduces fever; soothing/cooling; anti-inflammatory.
  4. PanAway - a blend of oils to reduce inflammation and discomfort.
  5. Valor - another blend that balances the body’s natural frequency and relaxes paraspinal muscles.
  6. Myrtle - for hypothyroidism.
  7. Fennel, Coriander, Dill - for insulin-related disorders.
  8. Frankincense - general balancing, anti-tumoral.
  9. Helichrysum - circulation and anti-coagulant.
  10. Clary Sage - hormone balancing.
  11. Peace & Calming - a blend for relaxation, calming to nerves.
  12. Bergamot & Melrose - antifungal; useful for ear and yeast infections.
  13. Di-Gize - digestive disorders; useful w/colic and bloat issues.
  14. Any Eucalyptus - helpful for respiration/congestion; flea repellant.
  15. Ginger - good for motion sickness.
  16. Thieves - excellent blend to combat all anti-microbial issues; regenerates proud-flesh tissue.
  17. Purification - anti-septic to wash and clean wounds; Diffuse to kill airborne microbes; repels fleas and ticks.
  18. Idaho Balsam Fir - “Poor Man’s Helichrysum”; cleansing, regenerating, calming. Enhances feelings of pleasure.
  19. Mountain Savory - anti-inflammatory.
  20. Melaleuca Alternafolia (Tea Tree) - for respiratory ailments.
  21. Myrrh - anti-inflammatory and anti-viral; helps teething pain in puppies; helpful support post-vaccinations; repels ticks.
  22. Roman Chamomile - tissue regeneration and desensitizing wounds.
  23. German Chamomile - calms pain.
  24. Valerian - calms pain.
  25. Vetiver - mix with Valerian for stronger application.
  26. Cypress - circulation; reduces bruising.

Raindrop Technique…

The Raindrop Technique uses a sequence of highly anti-microbial essential oils designed to simultaneously reduce inflammation and kill viral agents. It integrates “Vita-Flex” (a specific form of finger massage to stimulate electrical impulses) and massage with essential oils to bring the body into structural and electrical alignment. The oils are dispensed like drops of rain from a height of 4-6″ above the back and are then massaged in specific fashion along the vertebrae to enhance absorption. With horses, we also layer on the back legs, coronet bands and frogs of the hoof. With dogs and cats, oils are often applied to the pads of their paws. Although the entire process takes about 45 minutes to complete, the oils will continue to work in the body for 5-7 days following treatment, with continued re-alignment taking place during this time.

The Raindrop Technique is often used when one is ailing with either a known or unknown cause of either metabolic or musculo-skeletal symptoms. It is not a cure-all or “magic bullet”. A healthy body is the result of a well-rounded program of exercise and proper nutrition. The Raindrop Technique is merely one tool to help restore a balance in the body that will encourage better health.

The technique is performed out of the direct sunlight. The horse (dog, cat or person receiving the oils) should stay out of direct sunlight for at least 4 hours after the procedure. (A momentary venture outside for a dog to do his “business” is all right.) Horses should not be ridden for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days, depending on how he/she is feeling.

Which Oils Are Truly Therapeutic..?

As mentioned earlier, roughly 2% of all the oils produced throughout the world qualify as truly 100% therapeutic in quality. To earn that distinction, all crops must be grown in a pure, organic environment (not just the soil, but the surrounding area must be free of pollutants from industrial wastes), harvesting must occur at the peak opportunity of blooming and distillation must occur within specified time frames to assure full capture of the chemicals within the plant’s system. Distillation methods are also crucial to the outcome of the oil’s quality. Distillers should be made of stainless steel and the temperatures closely monitored to insure proper “cooking” and separation occurs. In Europe, there are governmental agencies and laboratories that assay the oils for quality using different techniques for quantifying the chemical constituents and testing for contaminants. The main standards are known as AFNOR (Association French Normalization Organization Regulation) and ISO (International Standards Organization). Oils passing their purview assure buyers that they are purchasing a superior grade oil rather than lower grade substance.In the US, only one company adheres to the standards not only in growing and processing of their oils, but in sending batch oils in for testing to 4 independent laboratories in addition to qualifying for AFNOR/ISO quality. Those oils are Young Living Essential Oils. They are the only oils I am comfortable in using and recommending to others based upon their safety and quality assurance record. When in doubt about any EO (many have labels claiming to be “Pure” “100% Natural” etc.,) I would highly question their authenticity without one or both of those standards notated on the label. I certainly would never take them internally as I would the Young Living oils. These oils are not sold over-the-counter, but only through responsible distributors, [ii] many of whom are practitioners in the area of aromatherapy for all animals…2 and 4 legged alike!