Always hold the bottle or aroma so that it is positioned below the nostrils, this way your cat can guide its dose easier since the aroma travels up. If you hold it so that is higher than the nostrils you are more likely to flood the room with the aroma and it will not be as easy for your cat to work with.
When you are offering the aroma to your cat, and your cat slightly turns their head away, don’t follow with the aroma. There is often a temptation to do this. Your cat is positioning itself to get the correct concentration. This may change in the moments to follow and you can slowly bring it closer. Stop as soon as they move their head. Wait and ‘feel’ your way, working slowly. If you follow your cat with the aroma when they have turned away from it, it is likely that they will run off.
Make a note of the extracts which have provided the greatest responses, then re-offer them all again, keep re-working them until there is no further interest.
What to do if an essential oil accidentally comes in contact with a cats coat: I cannot stress enough, how important it is to not let a cat accidentally touch an essential oil. This can happen inadvertently if a cat rushes up to the bottle, or if a drop accidentally touches the cat’s coat, which may then be licked off. If this should happen, immediately sprinkle the coat with dry powdered green clay to absorb the lipid rich oil, or as a second choice wipe it off with a vegetable oil. Do not use water, since this will exacerbate the essential oil’s potency, forcing it to be absorbed further into the skin. It is good practice to offer the essential oil bottle, held in such a way that your fingers act as a barrier to protect the cat from direct contact with the bottle.
Inhalation: Inhalation through the VNO is the fastest route to the emotional centre of the brain, followed closely by inhalation via olfactory receptors in the nasal cavity. Offer from the bottle, dab on the stable door or wall.
Topical: Apply appropriate undiluted oils to isolated areas such as wounds, sarcoids, infection and inflammation and check for pain, such as along the neck, back and TMJ. For muscular problems and large areas apply in a loose aloe vera gel.
Using an aloe vera gel: Aloe vera gels are useful to protect the skin from irritating oils, particularly where there’s less or no hair, or if the application is over a large area. The gel needs to be loose enough to spread. Some gels may need water added, but don’t dilute it so much that it drips off your hand when trying to apply it.
Caution: Take care applying extracts that are photo-reactive in sunlight, unless sun light is needed to activate the beneficial properties of the oils.
Oral: Horses will generally lick the oil from the hand. If a faster route of entry is needed, they will lick with the underneath of their tongue.
Water buckets: Select up to six of the most needed oils. Try to give as much diversity as possible. Add approximately 15-25 drops of each essential oil to individual water buckets. Use stickers to mark which oil is in each bucket, placing the sticker at the water level so that you can see how much of each has been taken. Some horses may just want to stand over the bucket and inhale the aroma. If leaving buckets in the field, putting them in car tyres can help keep them steady and remember that you won’t know which horse is selecting what, or in what volume.
If an essential oil water bucket is drunk overnight add a greater number of drops to create a stronger concentration to the next bucketful. Always have fresh water available. Essential oils that are dermal and mucous membrane irritants don’t appear to be irritating when drunk from a cold-water bucket.
To achieve the best results work in a calm environment where your dog has no distractions; this allows your dog to feel safe. Preferably have one or two comfortable places for your dog to lay down, such as a dog bed or sofa. Always make sure there is fresh water available.
- Be prepared to allow your dog plenty of time to work through the remedy while processing the aromas
- Begin in a place where your dog feels comfortable, such as near the dog’s bed or by a sofa (that can be used), and have a spare bed if possible so that your dog can distance himself away from the aromas to relax and process
- Choose an area that can be cleaned easily, especially if offering extracts orally
- If the room is too big, a lead may be necessary at the beginning of a session, until your dog becomes focused. In these cases keep the lead held in a relaxed manner, so, if needed, your dog can move away from the extracts
- The session should not be interrupted, otherwise results may take longer to achieve
- Remember that essential oils are very powerful and inhalation may be all that is needed. Don’t compare the intake of essential oil with macerates and other remedies, since they are a lot stronger
- Never force an extract onto your dog, even if you believe it’s the right thing for them; they know best. Let your dog guide the session
Dogs have an especially acute sense of smell. The longer the nose, the more efficient the olfactory sense and Bloodhounds are in a league of their own. When a dog actively sniffs an aromatic remedy, it is not out of curiosity, rather it is because the aromatic chemicals are needed. Due to the high volatility of the aromas they reach a dog’s olfactory senses very quickly. With some dogs, however, it may take a little while before you get a clear indication as to what is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ response. Each dog will respond slightly differently to the volatiles - some may initially want to work close to the bottle and others at a distance.
Begin by offering the oil approximately 10-30cm (3-12in) from your dog’s nose, gradually bringing the bottle closer until your dog begins to turn his head away - this will be the distance required for the optimum concentration of aromatic molecules. Your dog may then want to ease into a stronger dose, so bring the bottle a little closer and check.
When offering each aroma wait a while, because sometimes it may look as if an oil is not needed when in fact it is; watch your dog and observe the responses. Look for lying down, blinking or heavy eyes. If an aroma is not required, there will be no interest in it and no reaction afterwards.
Inhalation and topical - behavioural problems
Spray the room and yourself with aromatic mists (waters) when working with anxious dogs. Inhalation is the fastest route to the emotional centre of the brain.
Stroke the chest area or head first with the selected essential oil or aromatic water.
Selected remedies can be left on pieces of cloth / aroma-strip or in an inhaler for dogs who don’t chew. Applied to a tennis ball works well if the dog is chewing due to anxiety (Roman chamomile), or needing comfort (rose). Chewing however may be pain related.
Essential oils and aromatic waters can be offered from the bottle, pieces of cloth / aroma-strip, from an inhaler, on a wall, door, person, object or sprayed in the air.
Inhalation and topical - physical problems: Antibacterial oils may need to be offered frequently to fight bacteria / infection. If they are selected applied over the femoral artery or licked, they will stay longer in the body than inhalation alone. However, putting oils in inhalers and leaving them for your dog to work with while they rest, can be a really practical way for them to frequently ‘top-up’ with the oils.
Inhalers: Place the selected inhalers or aroma-strips in a semi-circle around your dog as seen in the image. Keep the anti bacterial oils together, followed by stomach, liver, behaviour etc. - so that the strongest are at one end and the behavioural oils are at the other end.
In this image you can see that the dog is working with garlic and thyme (red inhalers). When he wants to ‘top-up’ with another oil, he will turn his head. When he has had enough, he will get up and walk away.
A far away look
Closing the eyes
Lowering the head / lying down
Positive reactions mistaken for negative reactions
- Grimacing (helps open the vomeronasal organ)
- Barking or lunging at the extract Anxious (behaviour usually signifies a release, followed by calm)
- Jumping away quickly, or backing away from the aroma (usually indicates releasing an unpleasant memory)
- No reaction or interest - easily distracted
Feline: If the cat is fighting an infection, you may need to offer the remedies frequently throughout the day at least for the first few days. Otherwise offer remedies 1-3 times a day, and try to get the feel of how often they are needed. If you cannot do this so frequently, leave the selected oils on individual pieces of cloth / aroma-strip or in inhalers. It may be that your cat wants one remedy daily, another every three days and another initially throughout the day. Only leave the remedies out that your cat wants to work with.
Canine: If your dog shows a keen interest, or has responded to anti-bacterial oils, then offer the remedies as frequently as possibly - be guided by your dog. Antibacterial and pain relieving oils that are inhaled only, will often need to be offered more frequently, or put out in an inhaler(s). Applied over the femoral artery may be less frequent. Every dog and condition will be case sensitive and so the frequency of offering the oils will vary. Some dogs may only require their remedies daily while others may initially need an hourly top up - this will reduce in the days to follow. When your dog shows no further interest, offer the remedies every other day, then perhaps weekly or monthly to gauge if any ‘top ups’ are needed. If symptoms return, re-offer the remedies. In the winter or damp weather a dog may need more support with conditions such as arthritis, so up the frequency.
Equine: How often do I offer the plant extracts? If an antibacterial oil has been selected, initially it may need to be offered relatively frequently to get on top of any unwanted bacteria. This is usually for the first one to three days. The easiest way forward with this is to put the oils in buckets of water and also offer them on your hand when you are able to. Other extracts may initially be needed once or twice a day. It depends on the condition. If it is severe / acute then the remedies may need to be offered at hourly or three-hourly intervals. If the condition is chronic (persisting for a long time or constantly recurring) the remedies may be needed only once a day. It is a matter of ‘feeling your way’ in the first few days in order to know how often the extracts are needed by your horse. The average time span for taking the remedies is three days to two weeks. Some may be taken every other day and others every third day. Sometimes an oil that was inhaled on day one is taken orally the following day and sometimes a plant oil rejected day one may be the key oil on day two. If you have resolved the problem but then see it returning, the horse is not getting the remedies as frequently as they are needed.
Do’s and Don’ts
Always allow an animal to walk away from any application or remedy
Take care around the genital area - avoid essential oil irritants
Understand the extracts you are working with - use the remedy profile section - read up on how that remedy relates to the species that you are working with
Equines and other herbivores - hold the bottle firmly so that the hand covers most of the bottle, to prevent it from being snatched out of your hand and into their mouth.
Equines and other herbivores - do not use a nose bag for inhalation purposes
Equine and other herbivores - be careful putting bottles on ledges in the stable; the animal may get hold of one while your back is turned. Its easy to forget them and they may fall and break
Cats and dogs - do not use a vaporiser / diffuser unless your cat or dog can walk away from the aroma into another room
Cats and dogs - make sure the undiluted oil does not touch their sensitive nostrils while offering an essential oil bottle. Especially with irritants such as bitter almond, garlic and lemon
Vegetable and infused oils - avoid with animals prone to pancreatitis. Avoid or reduce with overweight animals and those with fatty lumps. If concerned, consult your vet
Avoid applying essential oils directly to stitches - as they could dissolve
Use an aloe vera gel if using essential oils on delicate skin - especially with antibacterial and citrus oils
Make sure that the oil is not phototoxic before applying it topically in sunlight - other than when photoreactive properties are needed. If in doubt, offer in the evenings
Do not mix or add extracts to food otherwise it will interfere with the self-medicative process
In most cases allow an animal to select extracts individually - especially those that work on the physical body
Purines - (which can be found in spirulina) may be detrimental to Dalmatians
Keep all remedies out of reach of children
First aid for adverse reactions
If an essential oil comes into direct contact with the eye - wipe it immediately with cotton wool coated in vegetable oil or milk. This allows the lipid soluble essential oil to absorb into the fatty liquid. Water will exacerbate the problem, intensifying the essential oils’ irritating effects. If concerned seek medical help.
If an essential oil inadvertently touches a cats coat - wipe immediately with dry powdered clay as your first choice. If you don’t have clay or chalk powder, wipe off using cotton wool coated with vegetable oil. This allows the lipid soluble essential oil to absorb into the fatty oil. Water does not effectively mop it up and may cause the oil to touch the skin and pass through the dermal layers.
If an essential oil irritates the skin - this could happen with undiluted essential oils that are dermal irritants when applied to healthy skin, such as over the femoral artery. It can also happen where there are no underlying problems, such as muscle damage. In other words, if the oil is not needed on or under the skin, it may irritate the skin. Irritation can also occur if dermal irritants such as the antibacterial and citrus oils, even though needed, are applied undiluted frequently over several days.
The antidote - make up a paste using green clay and water to form a consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Apply to the irritated area. Any heat / redness should clear almost immediately. Repeat as necessary. If the paste is too thick it will not be effective.
Signs of irritation - redness or nibbling on the area. If you are concerned that an oil may cause irritation even though there are no signs, dust the area with powdered dry green clay.
If a cat drools / froths at the mouth after inhaling an essential oil - there are two possible reasons why a cat would froth at the mouth after self-administering an essential oil. Firstly, when cats experience great pleasure they may froth at the mouth. Secondly, if the cat has taken something noxious. If the frothing or over-salivation is prolonged (20 minutes or more) contact your veterinary surgeon for advice.
If you are concerned that your dog has taken too much vegetable oil or infused oil - offer cinnamon leaf and grapefruit essential oil. Consult your vet.
If you are concerned that an ingested plant toxin or medicine has caused stomach pain - Begin by offering clay in the ratio of one third clay to two thirds water, also offer dry. It has been a very effective remedy for humans too.
Plant remedy safety
Interactions between plant extracts and conventional medications - research has come mainly from testing for human use, so it is uncertain how these results translate to animals. Animals can have very different enzymatic profiles. St John’s wort makes drugs less potent for humans, since it increases detoxification enzymes. However, if a person is taking antidepressants, St John’s wort may increase their sedative effect. It is possible that it also has the same effect on animals, so be cautious. Grapefruit (for humans) and possibly bergamot can potentise certain drugs and chemicals by binding with detoxification receptors preventing their breakdown, and excretion from the body. It is not know if the effect is the same for animals. As a general rule, consult your vet, and offer remedies 30-40 minutes after the conventional medication has taken effect.
Pregnancy - is an important consideration in drug distribution as the placental barrier is not very effective at keeping constituents out and so anything that enters the bloodstream of the mother usually enters the foetus as well. This is not to say that all constituents will harm the foetus, though some may have the potential to do so. Using the practice of self-selection the mother will select remedies that will provide the best outcome for her offspring.
If you are pregnant and offering the oils - use the guide that if you don’t like the aroma of a plant extract, then avoid being in contact with it and ask someone else to offer them.
Thin, emaciated and fast metabolisms - most plant secondary metabolites are lipophilic (fat soluble) and so will readily be absorbed by fatty adipose tissue. It would therefore be important to be more careful when applying essential oils to very thin, emaciated animals as well as those with a fast metabolism, since the level of plant compounds in the blood would become more concentrated. The rate of absorption is slowed down by fatty or muscle tissue.
Never force a plant extract on any animal, either by inhalation, topically or orally - it will offer no benefit; instead the animal will have to work to rid itself of any unwanted chemicals . This can make an animal suspicious of other aromas offered (especially cats).
Avoid the eyes - except with elderflower water, or cornflower water. Take extra care if working on the jaw / face, especially with pain remedies such as peppermint. If working with an eye infection, avoid direct contact with the eyes - See How to make up and apply remedies in the chart section.