Aromatherapy for Animals



In the early 1900's, Rene Maurice Gattefosse fathered modern aromatherapy. He was interested in using essential oils, the aromatic or volatile part of a plant, as medicine. Before he began using these oils on people, he tested them on dogs and horses. He was pleased with the results, and began working with people. His studies on horses and dogs combined with those of his contemporaries formed the beginning of modern aromatherapy. To date, most aromatherapists have concentrated on humans. In the nineteen-nineties, aromatherapists, like Nelly Grosjean and Kristen Leigh Bell, did research involving essential oils and animals. A lot of the information in this handout is based on their work. This is still a new field and we are all pioneers.

The term aromatherapy can be very misleading. Products in stores with labels like mango shampoo, strawberry candles, honeysuckle bubble bath, and others, profess to be aromatherapy products because they have a scent. An aromatherapist would question the ingredients. Mostly they are fragrances, not essential oils. Fragrances are synthetic materials made in laboratories. Essential oils are not synthetic, and come from plants, usually through steam distillation.

Essential Oils vs. Fragrances

How do you tell if an oil is real or synthetic? It is synthetic if it comes in a clear bottle, is inexpensive, has a powerful scent, and a fruit name such as: apple, banana, cherry, coconut, grape, watermelon, or has a floral name such as: lily of the valley, hyacinth, sweet pea, or wisteria. This is a dead give-away that the oil is not real, but cooked up in a lab. True essential oils are always in a dark bottle with varying degrees of prices. A bottle (10ml) of true, steam distilled rose essential oil is over $100. Some oils can be inexpensive, like peppermint essential oil at $5 for the same amount of oil. Essential oils come in a variety of scents. They can be very pleasant to smell, as well as medicinal, and there are some that do not smell good at all. Usually essential oils are sold with common and scientific names so you can easily identify the plant source. The country of origin is a way to distinguish between fragrances and essential oils. Fragrances come from laboratories, not countries. Essential oil should have information on how they were processed. Usually this will be through steam distillation. I would ask the supplier those questions if any of this information is missing from the label.

Essential Oils are highly concentrated. It takes pounds of plant material to make small amounts of essential oils. An animal may not have problems with the plant, but can have a bad reaction to the oil. Natural does not always mean it is safe for an animal. In the wild, animals instinctively go to plants to help them. Essential oils can be used the same way. In the beginning, you want to dilute the oils. Using one (1) drop for 25 pounds of body weight is a good guide to follow, or seven (7) drops for 1oz of water or carrier oil. You may use less. This ensures the safety of sensitive animals. So far cats and birds are the only animals we know of that need more special attention. Here is where you may find that one (1) drop of essential oil per one (1) ounce of water or carrier oil is better for a cat. Also, individual animals may prefer some oils over others. Even if an oil is listed okay for that species, this does not mean it is right for your animal. Always check in with your pet to make sure that the oils you are using are okay with them.

Emotions and Animals

There is one thing that has become clear with our work on essential oils and our pets. Animals are extremely sensitive creatures to emotional energy. As a part of your family, they tend to want to take care of everyone around them. The problem is that they do not release it. So little is known about this. We have literally witnessed animals run in front of cars or just run away because the emotional debris that they carry is too strong and overwhelming for them. This is when energy work and noticing where the animal holds the emotional debris becomes helpful to their well being. Essential oils are wonderful tools to help clear emotional debris from your animals.

Using the Oils on Dogs and Horses

Dogs and horses are similar to humans and tend to handle a variety of essential oils well. Animals appreciate the essential oils you introduce to them. Our pug, Winston, will ask for oils if he feels he needs them. He goes into the oil room and stays until we get the message to follow him. When mosquito season is bad, Winston will not go outside until he has been sprayed with his personal diluted lemon eucalyptus in water spray.

There are three ways to choose essential oils for your animals:
1. Kinesiology - Muscle testing for each blend or each essential oil.

2. Smelling - Rub a few drops of essential oil onto the palms of your hands, offer your hands to the horse or dog, and notice their reaction. Do they inhale deeply? Does their tail wag or sway? Do their nostrils flare? Or do they walk away or turn their head? Never force an oil on your animal.

3. Pendulum - Using a tool to test for each blend or essential oil similar to kinesiology.

Some oils are best used in massage and diffused. Take care with internal use of essential oils. In the beginning use the oils topically and through the olfactory (diffusing). It takes experience to know how to use oils internally.


Essential oils can always be used singularly. However, most therapists find that combining oils creates a "synergy" that enhances the benefits. It is easy to combine essential oils. You can use fixed oils to dilute the essential oils which will allow them to go further and create safety from burning oils. Or you can mix essential oils with water and alcohol to make misters. Drops are based on a dog's size: 1 drop of essential oil per 25 pounds of weight, or 7 drops of essential oil(s) per one (1) ounce of carrier oil or water.

Popular Oils

Sweet Basil- pulmonary, muscular, and emotional issues Rosewood- muscular, insect repellant, wound issues
Roman Chamomile- emotional, muscular, and wound issues Helichrysum- wounds especially bruising, emotional, muscular
Blue Chamomile- emotional, better at muscular and wound issues Vetiver- calming, wounds, muscular
Cypress- cardiovascular, muscular, and insect repellant issues Clary Sage- digestion, calming, female reproductive
Eucalyptus- pulmonary, wounds, and muscular issues Myrrh- skin dryness, gastro-problems, gum and teeth problems
Lemon Eucalyptus- insect repellant, muscular, emotional issues Nutmeg- muscular, calming, circulatory
Frankincense- pulmonary, emotional, wound issues Clary Sage- digestion, calming, female reproductive
Geranium- emotional, wounds, muscular issues Myrrh- skin dryness, gastro-problems, gum and teeth problems
Juniper- muscular, insect repellant, and wound issues Nutmeg- muscular, calming, circulatory
Lavender- muscular, wounds, emotional, cardiovascular Orange- emotional, skin, purifying
Tea Tree- pulmonary, insect repellant, itching, wound issues Cardamom- digestion, emotional, circulatory
Rosewood- muscular, insect repellant, wound issues Peppermint- digestion, mental alertness
Helichrysum- wounds especially bruising, emotional, muscular Coriander- digestion, immune-boosting
Vetiver- calming, wounds, muscular Ylang Ylang- calming, muscular, disinfects

Blends for Animals

Skin Irritation and Allergies
3 drops Geranium Rose or Egyptian
3 drops Rosewood
10 drops Lavender NW or Bulgarian
3 drops Roman Chamomile or Blue
Blend into 8 oz. Of Fixed Oil, Liquid Soap, or Mister

Minor Wounds and Insect Bites
5 drops Geranium Rose or Egyptian
10 drops of Helichrysum Essential Oil
5 Lavender NW or Bulgarian
Blend into 8 oz. Of Fixed Oil, Liquid Soap, or Mister

Flea and Insect Repellent
5 drops Clary Sage
9 drops Lemon Eucalyptus
5 drops Peppermint
4 drops Juniper Berry
Blend into 8 oz. Of Fixed Oil, Liquid Soap, or Mister

Tick Repelling
2 drops Geranium Essential Oil
5 drops Rosewood Essential Oil
3 drops Lavender Essential Oil
2 drops Myrrh Essential Oil
Blend into 8 oz. Of Fixed Oil, Liquid Soap, or Mister

Increasing Appetite
1 drop Cardamom
10 drops Lemon, Yellow
9 Bitter Orange
Can be taken internally
Blend with 8oz. Water or Fixed Oil

Fresh Breath
8 drops Cardamom
4 drops Coriander
4 drops Peppermint
Can be taken internally
Blend with 8oz. Water or Fixed Oil

5 drops Cardamom
5 drops Nutmeg
5 drops Lemon, Yellow
Can be taken internally
Blend with 8oz. Water or Fixed Oil

5 drops Vetiver Essential Oil
5 drops Sweet Marjoram
5 drops Bitter Orange
Blend into 8 oz. Of Fixed Oil, Liquid Soap, or Mister

Abandonment and Separation Anxiety
5 drops Geranium Rose or Egyptian
5 drops Ylang Ylang Essential Oil
5 drops Roman or Blue Chamomile
Blend into 8 oz. Of Fixed Oil, Liquid Soap, or Mister

Good Circulation
4 drops Cardamom
10 drops Cypress
4 drops Frankincense Essential Oil
2 drops Sweet Basil
Blend into 8 oz. Of Fixed Oil, Liquid Soap, or Mister

Immune Boosting
5 drops Eucalyptus, True
10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
5 drops Coriander
Blend into 8 oz. Of Fixed Oil, Liquid Soap, or Mister

Cats and Birds

Both animals seem to be more sensitive to the oils than other animals. You will want to be careful using essential oils with them. Both animals have a keen sense of smell and a delicate nervous system. The best way to introduce the oils to them is through diffusion. If the animal receives the oils well, you may go on to hydrosols or a very weak dilution of essential oils, which is less than 1% dilution.


Cats are believed to have a delicate metabolic system. Literature varies greatly on the subject of the use of essential oils and cats. There seems to be controversy. Some literature suggests a 3% dilution is okay to use with cats. Other reference materials say not to use essential oils at all, and that only hydrosols can be used. Others go the opposite direction to say Pennyroyal is fine to use. There are incidents in which Pennyroyal has been known to kill cats however, is fine for other animals. Generalizations made are too careful, while others are not careful enough. It is our opinion that it depends on the individual sensitivity of the cat.

Essential oils are broken down in the liver. Most animals go through glucoronidation. This process uses the necessary enzymes to break down the compounds to use or secrete them as waste. A cat’s metabolism is different from most animals. Cats lack this ability to detoxify. Toxins move slowly out of their system. With repeated exposure, toxins build-up. As to the amount of exposure to certain substances like essential oils, it may not always show up immediately. Symptoms can occur over time like vomiting, diarrhea, sluggishness, and uncoordinated actions, appearing as a drunken reaction. Most cats are good at knowing what is good for them and will stay away from substances that will harm them.

Cats also have delicate, thin skin and detest strong odors. The essential oils with the chemicals pinene and limonene seem to create the most harm. Oils in the pine and citrus family need to be avoided. Other oils need to be used with care and attention to how each cat reacts to each individual oil.


Hydrosols are the left over water from the essential oil distillation process. It has trace amounts of essential oils, and small amounts of plant material. Hydrosols can go bad. To keep their shelf life, preservatives can be added, thus making it not a truly natural product. You can also make your own hydrosols with a drop or two of essential oils in a pound of water with an optional splash of alcohol to emulsify and preserve the mixture as naturally as possible.

Safest Oils for Cats





Lemon Verbena