The use of essential oils can be dated back to roughly 4500 BC and they are one of the most well researched and scientifically documented healing modalities. These concentrated compounds of plants are made by steaming or pressing various parts of a plant (flowers, bark, leaves, seeds, peel or fruit) to capture the compounds and there is so much more to them than just a nice scent.
Essential oils are like a medicine. When inhaled, the scent molecules in essential oils travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala.
Essential oils are compounds. You could imagine them like a stew. Within a stew you have many components – carrots, onions, potato, meat, etc. You can smell the stew as a whole product and within that stew there are particular flavours and you can pick out (like the carrot for example). An essential oil is the stew. The ingredients in it make up the oil as a whole. Many oils are taken apart – the ingredients are separated out to get a particular flavour or smell. Those individual components of an oil are then used in perfumes, scented products, flavouring in processed foods and drinks, etc. Think of a lime flavoured drink – that has a chemical component found from lime essential oil, but it is only a component of the lime essential oil, not the whole extracted oil. Like many things in nature, there is a synergy found in the whole that is not always found in the part.
Essential oils are extremely well studied. There is thorough and rigorous testing and science that shows the safety and efficacy of the various essential oils. When choosing essential oils for home use, personal care, or health you will want to find a quality source. Choosing a safe, high quality source for oils is important because many brands are diluted or adulterated. Best choices are made with companies that show you 100% pure oils that include the GC/MS testing for their batches.
With proper knowledge, essential oils are safe for use in kittens, puppies, horses, birds, children, adults and more – depending upon the actual oil (this is where knowledge is important). Essential oils are not safe to be used in waterways or around fish tanks. In order to determine the safe use of essential oils at Pet Grocer™ we refer to both human and animal textbooks on essential oil use.
Our favourite sources are: For use in humans and overall safety - Essential Oil Safety: Second Edition by Tisserand and Young. Safety in animals is best found in the textbook Animals Desk Reference – Essential Oils for Animals: Second Edition by Melissa Shelton DVM.
Using essential oils with your pet
It is important to understand that each species has a different way of processing essential oils. These different ways the body metabolizes essential oils set the guidelines for use in each species. For example, horses can tolerate a dilution between 10% - 50, a dog can use between 5% - 50%, and a cat requires a level of no more than 3% - 7%. Those are huge differences and why it is so very important to make safe, educated choices about using essential oils with pets, ourselves, and our human family.
How oils can be administered to you pet
Oils can be used topically, petted onto the animals or rubbed into the fur or skin, or inhaled by letting them sniff the bottle, putting it on a collar or bedding or diffusing with a mister into the air.
With animals we like to recommend that they should have the option to get away from the scents during diffusion. Pets can discern scents many times stronger than we can. Just like people, some pets can be sensitive to certain oil scents.
One type of diffuser people often use is a small vaporizing machine that mixes diluted water and the essential oil turning it into vapour. This allows it to circulate in the room. Or you may have seen simple candle based ceramic or glass diffusers that use a candle to heat the oils and evaporate them into the air.
There are some instances where the option to get away from the essential oil exposure can’t be achieved. Room, linen, and bug sprays (like Pet Grocer's Defence spray) are examples. In these cases the benefits are far greater and worth it. Your pet may or may not love having an essential oil bug spray applied to their coat, but the opportunity to keep your pet safe from pests like fleas, ticks, mosquitos etc. (while avoiding topical chemicals and poisons) is far more important.
Another great option is the passive diffuser, which is also super simple. These are often clay (Pet Grocer carries small terra cotta diffusers for personal use), or a container with a cotton wick that is covered. You add a few drops of neat essential oil to the surface of the diffuser or the wick and are able to inhale the aroma when in close proximity to it.
These passive diffusers can then be worn as a necklace, hung in your car, or placed in a room near you so you can receive the benefits of the oil’s scent compounds. The great thing about a small, passive diffuser like this is that no occupants of the room are forced to be exposed unless they choose to be close to it. Inhalers with cotton wicks are another great way to enjoy a passive use of oils. These have wicks and a cap allowing for easy travel. They are great to keep in a purse, pocket or in the car to use when out and about.
How people can enjoy essential oils
Diffuse into the air, mix into a body oil or add a few drops to an Epsom salts bath. Some may also be added to your shampoo and conditioner or to other body care products. It makes a lovely perfume and/or body mist. For topical use, look up the correct dilution ratios prior to use depending upon who is using it.
The International Federation of Aromatherapists does not recommend that Essential Oils be taken internally by humans unless under the supervision of a Medical Doctor who is also qualified in clinical Aromatherapy.
Want to know even more about Essential Oils? Tune in to our podcast HERE.
References and Disclaimer:
Information shared by Pet Grocer™ is for informational purposes only.
No food, product, treatment, or service mentioned should be considered to be healthcare advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or to replace the recommendation or prescription of your pet’s veterinarian.
You should seek qualified holistic veterinary care if your pet has or you suspect your pet may have a health problem.
An excellent read on how essential oils are broken down and preserved can be found at https://tisserandinstitute.org/effective-use-alcohol-aromatic-blending/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7554841/ - discusses the components in EO’s that act on cannabinoids and increase health and reduce disease and pain.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8510068/ an example of how herbs and essential oils can be studied and used for good health (ie: sage may be good to recommend to dogs with kidney disease)