Dr. Dressler stresses over and over in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide the need to manage your emotions. There’s a reason for this. It’s because managing your own emotions is so important to ensure your dog is stress-free. A happy, relaxed dog copes with illness better than a stressed out dog. And since dogs pick up on our emotions so quickly, keeping ourselves as calm as possible is a high priority.
When your emotions are under control, you make the best decisions. And, you’re able to continue bonding with your dog … which is what he or she most wants, anyway.
Lavender Oil for Dogs: It’s Not Just a Pretty Smell
Lavender is a beautiful, blue-purple flower with a strong fragrance. The scent is sweet. And, fruity. It’s the kind of scent you imagine as you’re walking into a flower garden.
The scent of lavender makes it a common plant found inside of homes. Even though it’s not native to the United States, it’s easy to grow.
It’s in all sorts of household items. Soaps, shampoos, fabric softeners and cleaning supplies often have lavender fragrance. Next time you visit the store, look to see how many items have lavender fragrance, you’d be surprised. (The scent found in most soaps, shampoos and other household items often isn’t real. It’s synthetic.)
We haven’t just recently discovered lavender’s properties. It’s been around for centuries. Approximately 2,500 years to be more precise. Still, lavender plants are becoming increasingly popular, and lavender is the most used essential oil in the world today.
How Essential Oils are Made
Essential oils are extracted naturally from plants, usually by distillation. But, there are two methods:
- Distillation was practiced in ancient times and continues today. Distillation is completed at lower temperatures than extraction. During distillation, the plant is placed in water. The essential oils from the plant aren’t water-soluble so they rise to the top of the water. The essential oils are separated from the plant with steam. The steam gets condensed using cool water.
- The second type of extraction is called expression, or cold pressing. This is common to citrus essential oils. Cold-pressing, or expression, is mechanical which takes less time. And, allows a company to make more product than using distillation. You can think of the expression method as the ‘assembly line’ method.
As you can imagine, ‘assembly line’ products aren’t as high in quality. Think about it like your favorite toy. A toy that’s handmade has been carefully constructed with every detail perfected. If it’s not perfect, it’s not sold. It’s only sold with the highest quality.
Now, think about the toys that are made on an assembly line. The assembly line is made to create a lot of toys, to be sold in large quantities. The details don’t matter. All that matters is that the toy is somewhat functional.
It’s the same with essential oils.
The more time a company is willing to dedicate, the higher the quality of the essential oil. Distilling the essential oils takes time, but results in a higher quality oil.
Lavender Essential Oil Helps Calm Your Dog
Lavender essential oil can help you handle your emotions. And, can help handle your dog’s emotions too.
Dr. Dressler writes in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide about the importance of handling emotions. When you’re upset, the brain blocks you from learning new information. Stress forces the brain into decisions we wouldn’t have made if we had been thinking clearly.
Our stress transfers to our dogs. Dogs can sense our emotions. And, according to Dr. D, a dog who is depressed or stressed isn’t as easy to heal as a dog who is calm.
A study conducted in 2006 proved lavender essential oil calms a dog’s nervous system. The study focused on dogs during travel and found dogs who were given lavender essential oil showed less movement and fewer vocalizations.
Lavender Essential Oil Helps Calm You
Lavender essential oil has been shown to calm symptoms including anxiety, depression, stress, and insomnia.
It’s so effective, a medication called Silexan has been developed using lavender oil, which has been shown to reduce anxiety within 2 weeks. And, has been said to have similar effects as Alprazolam (Xanax).
Another study conducted research on patients in a dental waiting room awaiting treatment. The dentist diffused lavender aroma to half of the 340 patients studied. The study found those exposed to lavender were less anxious about their upcoming treatment.
Other Uses of Lavender Essential Oils for Dogs, and Humans
Reducing anxiety is one of the effects of lavender essential oil. There may be other uses in dogs, too, including reducing skin irritation, treating burns, bruises, grazes, flea bites, repelling fleas, reducing scarring, treating hotspots, and for fungal infections.
In people, we’ve found a range of uses too. Lavender can help improve brain function, reduce acne, improve sleep quality, treat a headache, slow aging, and treat burns and wounds.
How to Use Lavender Essential Oil for Dogs
There are two common methods when using lavender oil for dogs:
- Diffusion: Add a few drops of lavender essential oils to your essential oils diffuser.* Using a diffuser spreads the oils out into the air in a fine mist, making them easy to smell. For stress and anxiety in dogs, a diffuser is the most recommended method.
- Inhalation: Place a few drops of lavender essential oil cotton balls in a bowl. Leave in a high area where your dog can’t reach.
- Topical: Some essential oils can be applied directly to the skin, although this isn’t always their best use. Most need to be diluted in a carrier oil, first, to reduce skin sensitivity. Even the gentlest of oils, including lavender, can be better absorbed by diluting with a carrier oil. The oils reduce the concentration of the essential oil without changing the oil’s qualities. The best carrier oils include jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, almond oil, avocado oil, or almond oil, and you should add 3-6 drops of essential oil per 30 mL of carrier oil. There are conflicting opinions about whether you should use undiluted lavender oil on a dog’s skin, so to be perfectly safe, dilute it with a carrier oil first. But for us humans, lavender is a universal oil which means we can use it without diluting it.
How Lavender Essential Oil Works
Dr. Jeanne Gallway, a naturopathic physician, has a good video about how lavender essential oil works and affects the brain. This is pretty fascinating stuff.
Essential Oil Quality
Not every essential oil is the same. There are some that are just synthetic fragrances, bottled in tiny bottles. And, even if the label says “therapeutic,” “aromatherapy grade,” “food grade,” or other safety terms, this doesn’t mean it’s a great oil. These are marketing descriptions, but they aren’t regulated.
There are many companies that make essential oils for sale in health food stores and boutiques. There are also several multi-level marketing companies (also called network or referred marketing companies) that make high-quality oils, but keep in mind that they are not just in the essential oil business — they are also in the business of building their business.
Whatever brand you use, for use in aromatherapy, as discussed in this article, you want to look for pure, organic, unadulterated lavender essential oil from a reputable essential oil producer. (And remember, essential oils are unregulated — so just because a company claims they make the best oils doesn’t mean they do.)
So, how to find the best essential oil? Ask people who use oils professionally. They will have informed opinions. You can consult a certified aromatherapist or holistic practitioner about which oil companies they like to work with by searching the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.
According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, there are some factors you should be aware of. Aromatherapist Kristen Leigh Bell, the author of Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals, lists several points about how to choose the best essential oils for your dog:
- Look for small companies. Small companies often distill their own oils or have good relationships with farms who do.
- Find out which country the oil originates from. Find out the growing conditions. And, find out how the oil was extracted.
- Quality essential oils are bottled in dark amber or blue glass.
- Quality essential oils are labeled with Latin names, the lot number, and the batch number.
- Be suspicious of unusually low prices. If the price is low, the quality is likely low. High-quality oils are expensive to develop, which is why they’re relatively expensive to purchase.
Lavender Oil for Dogs: Keep Calm and Carry On
The lavender aroma can be in your home using a diffuser,* at all times of the day, making your house smell like a flower garden while decreasing your and your dog’s anxiety.
Just as Dr. Dressler says in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, managing emotions is the main priority as our dog’s guardian.
*Affiliate link. Please see our disclosure page for details.
Amber L. Drake has been working with dogs for over 10 years. Throughout this time, she has served as a Canine Behaviorist and Canine Nutritionist working with dogs throughout the United States. She has worked with private clients, rescue organizations, shelter organizations and corporations. She has also been an Adjunct Instructor of Biology at a local community college teaching Animal Sciences for the past seven years and Kaplan University for the past two years.
In addition to experience in the field, she has earned a Doctor of Education (ABD), a Master of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She has completed coursework in Pre-Veterinary Science at Cornell University, Veterinary Technology at Penn Foster and Biochemistry at UC Berkeley. Drake is currently finishing a second Master’s Degree with Kaplan University.
She is continuously enrolling in additional courses, seminars and conferences to remain up-to-date in all dog-related topics. She has a desire to share her passion, knowledge and experiences with others.