Essential Oil Therapy for Animals
Essential Oil Therapy for Animals has many benefits for both pets and carers. Essential Oils are a highly useful tool for those who wish to care for their pets naturally and holistically and it is easy for animal owners to learn the basics needed to use essential oils safely and effectively.
Essential oils are extracted from healing plants and contain ingredients that animals would routinely select for the maintenance of their own well-being if they were in the wild.
Because of the volatile nature of the oils when we smell them we absorb their chemical constituents into the brain via the olfactory system. The sense of smell is connected to the limbic system of the brain where emotions, memory and certain regulatory functions are situated, so when the oils are inhaled they trigger neurotransmitters which in their turn act to reduce pain, sedate, stimulate, calm or whatever their function is. It is widely accepted that our emotional state influences our physical state. We know that stress suppresses the immune system and laughter is a great healer. The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) brings together knowledge from endocrinology, immunology, psychology, neurology and other fields and shows a unified view of how the body works and interacts with itself and its environment. Essential oils work simultaneously on the emotional and physical level - e.g. oils that calm angry inflations of the skin also calm the nerves- and it is often apparent that as a physical condition clears there is a change in an animal’s disposition.
People are at last utilising the therapeutic potential of essential oils. The emergence of aromatic medicine sees medical herbalists successfully incorporating the use of essential oils (by inhalation, ingestion or topical application) in the holistic treatment regime of allergies, eczema and diabetes. Clinical trials in hospitals are proving that essential oils (administered by nurses) can provide effective solutions for wound care management and palliative care.
So how are they used in animals? In traditional aromatherapy, oils are blended and then massaged into the skin. This obviously has its drawbacks when you are presented with a fur-covered mammal. The method that has been developed in the past decade by aromatherapists and vets working together uses the fact that animals instinctively know what they need to heal. Oils are selected based on a detailed history of the animal and an analysis of its character and habits. Kinesiology is also used to help select the right combination of oils. Once the oils have been selected they are diluted to a 1% solution in a base of vegetable or infused herb oil. Each essential oil is then offered individually to the animal to smell, not more than five oils at a time for horses and three oils for dogs and cats. The bottle of oil is held firmly and at a distance of at least six inches from the animal’s nose. If the animal needs the oil it will either smell it intently for a few minutes often going into a trance like state, or show signs of wanting to lick the oil bottle, or indicate in some way that topical application is required. If the animal has shown signs of wanting to lick the bottle a tiny amount of oil is dabbed on the hand and the animal is allowed to lick it off.
This procedure is then repeated once or twice a day depending on the degree of interest the animal shows, ceasing once the animal turns away from the offered oil which can take anywhere from one day to (rarely) several months. The average length of time that the oils are taken is five days to two weeks. Allowing the animal to guide us in this way has taught us that less is more, often just the smell of an oil is enough to trigger the healing process especially if the problem comes from emotional trauma. Cats are particularly sensitive and oils should be used only under the supervision of qualified people. Hydrolat is often used instead of the oil itself.
Animals enjoy the oils and it is a great pleasure to be able to offer them help in a way that allows them to participate in their own healing. Also allowing the animals to choose which oils they want returns some autonomy to lives which are all too often in someone else’s control. This is a great way to increase the bond of trust between animal and carer which is particularly useful where there is a history of abuse or multiple medical procedures that have led to “hate the vet” syndrome. Although they are natural substances essential oils should be used with care as they are highly potent and can be toxic if misused. However it is easy to learn how to use them safely and effectively and then they can be a wonderful way to help maintain your pet’s well-being.
Essential Oil Therapy should NEVER be a substitute for veterinary attention and only a qualified vet can diagnose and treat a medical condition. Always seek guidance from a properly qualified Essential Oil Therapist before offering oils to your animal.
For more information and to find out how to train in Essential Oil Therapy for Animals, please contact Lorretta at GEOTA (The Guild for Essential Oil Therapy for Animals) on 01869 349813 or visit www.geota.co.uk
Case study by Nayana Morag (committee member of GEOTA)
Chappy was a laminitic rescue pony. For twelve years he had lived alone in a neglected weed patch and had been tormented by the local children. Now he was living in a pleasant pasture with two other horses and had a loving owner, however.... he bit, climbed out of his stable, wouldn’t be left alone, barged into anyone who entered his paddock and chewed the gate anxiously as people approached. He was also arthritic in two shoulders, the near back leg and his knees. His glands often swelled and his nostrils were always inflamed, some days he had a deep raucous cough.
The oils that were selected were:
Seaweed (Fucus vesiculosus) - strong immune stimulant that gets things moving.
Great mugwort (Artemisia aborescens) - an anti-histamine and effective mucolytic.
Flouve/Hay (Anthoxanthum odoratum) - often indicated for allergies on the homeopathic principle of like cures like.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) - also anti-allergenic and a strong anti-inflammatory plus it releases past trauma on an emotional level.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) - warming and analgesic, stimulates circulation and builds a sense of self worth.
These oils were all diluted at 5 drops per five mls in comfrey infused oil. He accepted all the oils, inhaling the seaweed and great mugwort and licking the others. The physical symptoms of allergic reaction and coughing had cleared within a week. He allowed his owner to show him affection and enter his space without anxiety and lost interest in most of his oils. He showed continuing interest in the ginger until he was put on a herbal maintenance mix for the arthritis. I also made him up a blend of oils to apply topically on the days when his arthritis seems bad. Nowadays he ‘always seems to be smiling’ according to his owner.
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