Have you noticed that everywhere you look, people are talking about essential oils? What used to be considered just a fringe treatment or a pleasant way to wade into aromatherapy has become part of the American mainstream. The same essential oil trend has extended to the world of pet products, and honestly, I couldn’t be happier.
Lavender Angustifolia essential oil is indicated for skin conditions, fungal infections, muscular issues, high blood pressure, cardiac issues, insomnia, and of course, for its calming effects. This powerful plant oil delivers a natural solution for many pet health concerns as an alternative to using otherwise harmful synthetic products or medications with reactions or side effects for our pets.
Is it safe for my pet to ingest and inhale lavender essential oil?
Pets can safely inhale and ingest lavender however, you should make sure to start them on low doses to gauge their reaction. Since cats metabolize differently, the low doses should be spread further apart and monitored closely. Remember that any time you start your pet on a new health regimen, you should monitor them closely for changes and contact your veterinarian if you notice adverse reactions.
As when using essential oils on people, you should always dilute the oils before using them.
- Start with just a few drops added to your pet’s water or food per day
- Add lavender to your diffuser to calm everyone in the house
- Massage a drop of lavender into your pet’s fur
- Brew your dog a lavender tea with fresh lavender leaves in order to achieve a calming effect. This is tasty for humans too!
- To get rid of fleas, make your own safe repellent by adding five drops each of citronella oil, rosemary oil, peppermint oil, and eucalyptus oil to one cup of water. Shake it up and put it in a spray bottle.
Because lavender helps other plant oils to be more effective, it has also been found to boost the benefits of CBD oil for pets. For example, CBD Dog Health’s CALM tincture for dogs contains 550 mg of full spectrum hemp CBD and a blend of lavender essential oil to help dogs remain calm in storms, fireworks, and during normal bouts of stress, fear and anxiety.
Understanding the Controversy
First and foremost, keep in mind that many products being marketed to consumers as lavender are, in truth, not lavender at all. This popular scent is one of the most adulterated and synthetically altered essential oils on the market. These are the unsafe products that cause adverse reactions in pets and they are NOT pure plant oils.
Because there is no regulation for essential oils, consider it to be a buyer beware marketplace. This makes it critically important to make sure that what you are purchasing is indeed a pure plant oil. The best way to prove an essential oil product contains what it says it does is to ask for a Certificate of Analysis, (COA) from the manufacturer. This will show you what is and what is not in your product. Also, keep in mind that marketing is simply that. Currently, “greenwashing” is a very widely used marketing trend to deliberately make a product come across as natural, organic, or pure when that is not at all the case. Some sly manufacturers even incorporate the word pure or organic into the actual product name in the hopes that consumers will believe that these are actual claims as to the product’s purity. As in all purchases for pets and humans alike, a good rule of thumb to always remember – not all oils are created equally. If the oil is extremely cheap or seems too good to be true, it likely is not pure. Because the industry is currently unregulated, this is a purchase where it really pays off to do your research and make an educated choice.
There are certain essential oils that we should not use around our pets, and for cats, you need to be especially careful what you expose them to since they do not metabolize things in the same manner as dogs. Always avoid using the following essential oils on or around your pet:
- Cinnamon Bark
- Laurus Nobilis
- Melaleuca Quinquenervia
- Mountain Savory
- Tea Tree
Consider Your Pet’s Overall Environment
As part of eliminating toxins that your pet may be exposed to, think about how your pet interacts with their environment. They spend most of their lives lying on our floors, rugs, beds, blankets, pillows, and furniture, so consider how these items are washed, laundered, and treated. Also keep in mind that because our pets are constantly close to the ground, they actually inhale and ingest items from our flooring, so avoid using the following household products:
- Synthetic air fresheners, plug-ins, and scented candles
- Floor and carpet cleaners which contain harsh chemicals or synthetic fragrances
- Laundry detergent with artificial fragrances and chemicals
- Scented fabric softeners and dryer sheets
Cats and Essential Oils
Dr. Melissa Shelton, DVM, is an internationally recognized holistic veterinarian who specializes in using medical grade essential oils for complete and natural care of all animals – including dogs, horses, birds, and yes, cats. She has authored four books on the subject and has taught courses in essential oils in locations across the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan. Dr. Shelton is regarded as the leading expert in the use of essential oils with all animals – from insects to elephants.
In an excerpt from her article, The Science Behind Cats and Essential Oils, Dr. Shelton provides some clarification on the viral social media posts you may have seen regarding cats and essential oil use.
“Where does this controversy come from? Let’s take cats as our example. They are commonly reported as being ‘deficient’ in their liver enzymes. That they just cannot metabolize essential oils, and that they will build up over time, creating horrible side effects and potential death. I would like to think that cats are not deficient, they are just cats. Just like saying that we are deficient in fur, or that Australians drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road from Americans, it is a point of view type of statement. We are comparing a completely different animal species, with a completely different metabolism set up, to completely unrelated species such as dogs and humans. Let’s let cats be cats. And just enjoy them for the unique creatures they are.”
“Where did our misconception about cats come from? One main research article that is used to support that phenols are toxic to cats is from 1972. This is very, very old in the medical field. And if one reads further into the research, it has nothing to do with natural essential oils, and everything to do with benzyl alcohol being injected, added to meat products as a preservative, or used as a bacteriostatic in drug or biological products. Sure, if you only read the headline of “Toxicosis in cats from the use of benzyl alcohol in lactated Ringer’s solution” in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association in 1983, you may worry also about the use of any phenol. However, we really need to evaluate apples to apples. If you knew nothing of veterinary medicine, feline physiology, or the vast difference between a chemical benzene ring and a natural substance containing a benzene ring, you would err on the side of caution. Which seems to be the case for most of the aromatherapy world at this time.”
“And sadly, more current information is out there. Even in the November 1984 edition of Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice – Vol. 14, No. 6; titled Symposium on Advances in Feline Medicine II, there is an incredibly profound statement by Jeff R. Wilcke DVM, MS. “Even drugs known for toxicity in cats can be used safely if we are aware of and compensate for certain peculiarities.” That basically says it all. And that is 1984! Here we are – some 33 years later, still questioning if essential oils are killing cats, and reporting all over the place that it is a huge area of concern. Cats would be dropping over dead all over the world if essential oils were truly as toxic as those reports imply. With the amazing amount of essential oil use in households containing all sorts of animals, I am impressed at the level of safety actually witnessed. Just like with the phenol research, it will matter what quality of essential oil is used. I do not think that synthetics or altered essential oils should be in the same category at all with true and natural essential oils.”
“Essential oils need to be regarded similarly to how we use drugs. There are species considerations, dosing considerations, and interval considerations. This is normal.”
What can lavender essential oil do for our pets?
When you think of lavender, you probably picture the beautiful purple plant, Lavandula angustifolia. The lavender plant can be incredibly beneficial to your garden. In fact, lavender plants have been proven to safely ward off pesky mosquitos while not damaging the environment for bee populations and other helpful pollinators in your area.
Like the plant itself, the lavender essential oil has so many benefits for dogs, cats, and even horses as well. Lavender can:
- Reduce inflammation in both joints and wounds
- Provide relief for itchy or irritated skin
- Be used as a wound wash to take the sting out of bites and burns
- Create a feeling of calm when ingested orally OR when used in aromatherapy (for both people and pets)
- Ward off fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and other pesky bugs
- Fight germs and promote healing
- Help other plant oils to be more effective
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years and operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. She is also the owner of Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and shop. After getting her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine, she founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets. Angela has seven dogs, Odie a 12-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina an 8-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 7-year-old mutt, Maza a 7-year-old mutt, Rhemi an 8-year-old poodle, Potato a 15-year-old shih-tzu, and Miss Daisie a 15-year-old black lab, plus 4-10 more at any time that she is fostering or boarding. She uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day and has since 2016. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Veterinary Cannabis Association, and has trained hundreds of medical doctors and veterinarians about the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals. Visit www.angelaardolino.com for more information.