Can You Use Essential Oils as Remedies for Pets?

using essential oils with pets

For those of you that do not know us — we own Stillpoint Aromatics and we import over 400 essential oils and extracts. We have seven cats and three toy poodles and Bella Chica who is a teacup. They are always around the oils — we diffuse oils and we treat the animals with the oils when they are sick. However, we know what we are doing (we studied with the best, Caroline herself). Our cats live into their 20s and dogs into their late teens.

Yikes! What a controversial topic in the aromatherapy world. When it comes to using essential oils on pets, some say yes, some say absolutely not, some say dilute and on and on. Many Facebook pages, aromatherapy blogs, and websites have a list of oils that are safe for pets. THIS IS FALSE! Our animals know what is needed for their own healing. One size does not fit all here (or actually ever when working with oils and other plant extracts). Paracelsus said way back when, “One man’s (animal’s) medicine is another man’s (animal’s) poison.” Please be careful. Generalizations cannot be made when working at this level with extracts and your pets, or people for that matter. ALL animals know how to self-dose and heal themselves.

So, the answer to the question is YES! … and please read on.

The correct name for the method of working with essential oils and plant extracts in this manner is Applied Zoopharmacognosy. Caroline Ingraham is the founder of Applied Zoopharmacognosy and IS the expert in this field of animal self-medication. Please note this is not aromatherapy. It is using the oils as remedies along with clays, plant extracts, fixed oils, macerated oils, etc.

Carolyn and Bella, using essential oils

Wait. Zoo what?

Aside from being one of the coolest words ever (Bella Chica just loves it!), zoopharmacognosy is a behavior in which non-human animals in the wild instinctively self-medicate by selecting and ingesting or topically applying plants, soils, insects, and psychoactive drugs to prevent or reduce the harmful effects of pathogens and toxins and heal themselves. It is referred to as Applied Zoopharmacognosy because we are helping the animals since they are not out in the wild. They are domesticated.

Zoo’ (animal), ‘Pharma’ (remedy) and ‘Cognosy’ (knowing) = Zoopharmacognosy

So how exactly are you helping your animal?

First, it is important to understand that essential oils and extracts are just one type of the remedies offered to the pet for self-selection. This form of aromatic medicine does extend to pets but there is a BIG but here. You need to know the chemistry, the pharmacology, and the pharmacokinetics. As when working with people in a Clinical Aromatic way, you are dealing with pharmacology and toxicology, and it is all about the interaction of essential oils at a cellular level. It is a very direct and effective way of using the extracts. You are now working with cell receptors, membranes, and influencing inflammatory mediators that have antioxidant, antifungal, and antimicrobial influences on the physical body of the animal. The results are nothing short of amazing.

A horse using essential oils

In our opinion, when using the oils in this direct, aromatic clinical way — whether it is a dog, cat, pig, or human — in-person training is an absolute must. You also must be taught by a teacher who is trained extensively in what she or he is teaching you.

How to use essential oils around pets

If you have been afraid to use oils around your pets, here are some safe ways that you can without worrying.

  1. Always leave a door to another room open when blending, formulating or diffusing so that your pet can leave if she needs to.
  2. Ambient diffusing, like from an aroma stone or spa mist, is fine. One of our cats goes right up to the mist and one takes off. This is a perfect example of “one fur baby’s medicine is another fur baby’s poison.”
  3. Phenols and cats do not get along, but phenolic-rich oils are usually not used for ambient diffusion anyway.
  4. Hydrosols are safe for dogs and cats, but let them choose it. Do not chase them to spray them. Hold out the hydrosol or put it on a cloth and let the animal smell it. If she wants it she will let you know. She may rub up against it, or lick the air or her mouth. You will know.
  5. Do not apply the oils directly to the fur of the animals. DO NOT let the oils touch a cat or a cat touch the oil with their nose. This is not the same as diffusing a few drops in a Spa Mist ambient diffuser. Topical application of oils to dogs and horses are out of the scope of this blog.
  6. Do not assume just because you like an oil your pet will also love it.
  7. Ignore the lists of oils that are safe for pets on the Internet, unless it comes from Caroline.
  8. When in doubt, do not do it. Whatever you are doubting about oils and extracts, don’t take the risk.
  9. Listen to that little voice inside of you.

a dog smelling essential oils

Here are some oils that we use with our babies. Remember INHALATION only with your fur babies.

German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) – antihistamine and anti-inflammatory
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – inflammatory pain, wounds
Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana) – antispasmodic, emotionally comforting
Wild Carrot Seed (Daucus carota) – Repair
Linden Blossom (Tillia cordata) – Fear and trust issues
Lemon (Citrus limonum) – Antifungal, antibacterial, immunostimulant
Sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum, album etc) – Bladder and Kidney, End of life
Melissa (Melissa officinalis) – Viral infections, shock and trauma
Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) – Cleansing to liver


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