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  • Jo De Klerk

    Essential Oils

    I love to diffuse my house with essential oils, but recently I heard that dogs can be quite toxic to them. Which ones are dog friendly? I don’t want to upset my Labrador, Charlie. – Ulrica

    I’m glad you asked this Ulrica, as many people don’t realise that essential oils can have an effect on their dogs. In fact, essential oils can be highly potent to dogs. They are very easily absorbed through breathing them in, or through the skin, and the body removes them via the liver. This means any dog which has an underlying liver disease, or a puppy with an immature liver, should not come in contact with essential oils.

    So, what are they? Essential oils are compounds which have derived from plants. They are the aromatic substances found in these plants which give them their incredible smell. They can be used for aromatherapy, as it has been proven that essential oils stimulate the limbic system in the brain. This is the area of the brain which controls emotions, as well as some unconscious functions, such as breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. They have also been proven to have many desirable health benefits by topical application on the skin. These include anxiety reduction, anti-inflammatory properties, anti-oxidative, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal effects.

    But you are absolutely right, some essential oils are toxic to dogs. The following essential oils should be steered clear of:

    • Clove
    • Garlic
    • Juniper
    • Rosemary
    • Tea Tree
    • Thyme
    • Wintergreen

    If you are worried that your dog has come into contact with a toxic essential oil, these are the signs to look out for:

    • Muscle tremors
    • Lethargy or weakness
    • Trouble walking or an uncoordinated gait
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Low body temperature
    • Excessive salivation
    • Vomiting
    • Excessive pawing at mouth or face
    • Drooling
    • Redness or burns on the lips, gums, tongue or skin

    So which ones are good for dogs? The most popular oil used on dogs is lavender oil, as not only does it smell amazing, but it also has incredible anti-anxiety effects. Not only that, it is soothing and anti-bacterial, meaning that it helps with skin concerns, wounds, allergies and infections. Chamomile oil also has very similar effects to lavender oil.

    Another popular oil is peppermint oil. It can be used to cool sore muscles, energise tired animals, and soothe upset stomachs. It also refreshes the air when diffused. This oil can open the airways and promote a healthy respiratory tract, as well as soothe aching joints.

    Frankincense oil is considered a super oil, as it tackles so many different health ailments within the body. The most notable is its potent anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. It also helps to boost the immune system.

    Finally, Cedarwood oil is particularly useful if your dog has a cough. It is an expectorant, which means it helps to loosen the mucus, and is particularly good for phlegmy infections like kennel cough.

    There are many other oils that you can use on your dog, but it is always worth doing your research first and also asking you vet prior to applying or diffusing any oils.

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    Jo De Klerk

    Jo is a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College, London. She has a Masters degree in Tropical Animal Health, and has spent most of her career working in mixed veterinary practice.

    Recently, she has become involved in one of the UK’s fastest growing veterinary telemedicine services for dogs and cats.

    She is a published author of several books, and enjoys working as a freelance veterinary writer around her clinical work.

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