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When to Use Essential Oils?

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 support the healthy tissues and organ systems in our dogs and cats.

Comfortable skin

Sadly, 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 by supporting a pet's healthy skin and natural resistance.

Strong immune system

Microbes 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 support the natural immune mechanisms and a healthy environment to diminsh mold and resistant infections. This same blend has saved dogs, in my practice, from toe amputation due to antibiotic-resistant nail bed infections.

Relief of Discomfort and Tissue Redness

Essential oils can support a healthy circulatory system and immune system.The pain and redness associated with the inflammation due to trauma, arthritis, or allergic reactions is improved when the body's circulatory and immune systems are in balance. Many conventional drugs have side effects such as gastrointestinal ulceration, liver or kidney disease or even dry eye. Helichrysum supports the circulatory system which when traumatized is associated with bruising. Copaiba is high in beta-caryophyllene. A blend which contains wintergreen for that warm/cool feel is soothing to swollen tissues.

Lavender – Oil of Many Uses

Perhaps the oil with the most notoriety and diversity of uses is lavender. Lavender is emotionally calming, topically soothing, supports the immune system, and orally, it is delicious when used to make ice cream! Therapeutic grade lavender products can be consumed internally. Lavender can soothe burns, insect and cat bite wounds. It can be applied with vitamin E to incisions to support healthy tissues and decrease scarring.

Congested Cats

Exposing 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 provide great relief. For cats who are difficult to medicate, this approach can be a life saver!

Behavior Disorders

Treating 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.


Poorly 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.

Dr. Jodie's Bio

Jodie Gruenstern, DVM, CVA graduated from UW-Madison in 1987. She is a certified veterinary acupuncturist and food therapist by the Chi Institute. She is Vice-president of the Veterinary Medical AromatherapyÒ Association (VMAA) and member of the AHVMA. Dr. Jodie is the author of “Live with Your Pet in Mind”! She is a nationally renowned speaker and writer and pet product manufacturer. She is the founder of Dr. Jodie’s Natural Pets, Integrating People for Animal Wellness (iPAW), Dr. Jodie’s Integrative Consulting, PLLC, and former owner of the Animal Doctor Holistic Veterinary Complex in Wisconsin. Dr. Jodie resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with her fabulous rescues!

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