Dogs can be very emotional and anxious, especially if their owners are too. But oxidative stress is real and, if left untreated, can alter a dog’s behavior and DNA. That’s why, one of the best alternatives to combat this affection is the use of essential oils for dog anxiety.
In this post, you’ll be reading more about:
- The way herbal essences can help a dog’s anxiety and stress. Plus, a couple of studies on the effects of some plant extracts on dogs.
- Some of the best calming essential oils for dogs to use whenever it needs some help.
- Aromatherapy blends for dogs and their anxiety and stress symptoms.
- The anxiety of separation in a dog and what aromatic oils could be of help.
- Plus, some safety precautions for a safe use of aromatic essences.
Essential Oils for Dog Anxiety, How to Use Them & Calming Recipes
Dog anxiety can be just as hard to cope with as it is for humans. We just don’t know it because dogs can’t express it in words. Their behavior however, changes when they feel anxious. Dog anxiety can be nuanced. It may be fear-related, separation-related or age-related.
Some of the symptoms of dog anxiety are:
- Destructive behavior and restlessness,
- Urinating and defecating inside the house,
Some dogs can also be very aggressive with people and other dogs. To be able to treat a dog’s anxiety even with essential oils, it’s important to know the cause or trigger.
Maybe it’s medical or one of the above-mentioned nuances. A veterinarian is the most qualified to help you find this cause and rule out medical conditions.
The best treatment though, remains prevention. You can learn some preventive strategies and training techniques. They can help you and your dog get past its anxiety and enjoy a better life.
The Merck Veterinary Manual stresses out the fact that some natural extracts can help reduce dog anxiety.
Some natural drugs on the market contain a few researched plant blends. They are Magnolia officinalis and Souroubea, but they also contain Lavandula angustifolia.
The Souroubea sympetala is a a liana (woody climbing plant). It grows in the tropical rainforests of Central America. Its main constituent is betulinic acid, which was found able to reduce anxiety in rats.
In Aromatherapy, we have a few essential oils that contain a fair amount of betulinic acid. White or Sweet Birch oil is very high in this substance. Rosemary essential oil also contains it. This is one of the reasons why essential oils for dog anxiety work.
However, sweet Birch is also high in methyl salicylate – an aspirin-like substance. It may create health complications for dogs with cardiovascular problems. Or for those that take blood thinners.
Anxiety, Stress and Herbal Extracts!
~ What Does Science Have to Say ~
Unfortunately, there aren’t many studies on Aromatherapy and dogs available. But there are a few, some on dogs and others on horses or rats. They help researchers (and the rest of us) make an idea on why and how they work.
Treating some forms of dog anxiety with essential oils is possible. I say some forms because not all causes can be improved or corrected with Aromatherapy. Like I said, it’s important to know the exact cause of your dog’s anxiety to find the best approach.
I should also mention the fact that dogs can process essential oil molecules. They can do it just like humans. Unlike cats for instance, that lack a liver enzyme. That makes them unable to properly process some organic compounds (mostly phenols).
Of course, they do have ways of eliminating the oil molecules. It just takes a very long time, which increases the risk of developing toxicosis. Toxicosis is the state of cells affected by poison or toxins.
When it comes to deciding what scents are calming to cats, things get a bit more complicated. If you have cats too, I suggest reading these articles for more details:
- Diffusing Essential Oils around Cats! Is it Safe or Not?
- (Safe Aromatherapy) Essential Oils for Cats, Precautions and Tips
- Is Olive Oil Safe for Cats? FAQ, Facts, Studies and Uses
A dog’s behavior can be influenced by factors like:
- Genetic constitution.
- Hormone imbalance.
- Anxiety status.
- Or neuromediators (dopamine & serotonin) imbalance.
As per one study, a diet rich in high-quality, extra beneficial nutrients can also improve a dog’s behavior. In rats, Pomegranate extract was able to treat anxiety and insomnia.
A mice study showed that Valerian root extract helped with sleep problems and nervous tension. In humans and mice, Rosemary has anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects.
Left untreated, dog anxiety and oxidative stress can act at a deep level. Oxidative stress contributes to the production of free radicals. They contribute to inflammation and in time, free radicals can also damage the DNA, among others.
In their experiment, researchers fed the participant dogs a nutraceutical diet. It contained lots of vitamins and trace minerals, as well as Omega-3 and 6. They also added Rosemary, Valerian and Pomegranate extracts, plus other antioxidants.
The conclusion of this trial was that the diet had lots of beneficial effects on the stressed dogs. Among others, the dogs were less anxious, aggressive or stressed.
- Essential oils for dog anxiety have antioxidant properties. This means they can help counter and diminish the effects of oxidative stress.
- They can also influence the nervous system. Thus, they stimulate the release of neuromediators like dopamine or serotonin. Some oils can relieve anxiety and stress, and decrease the heart rate and muscle tension.
- Aromatic oils have antibacterial and antiviral effects. As a consequence, they can also strengthen the immune system.
- Plus, they can protect from infections of the skin or gut, simply by purifying the air.
If you want to stop a dog from barking, you can do so with some essential oils. If the dog accepts the scent and likes it, it’ll quickly act on its mood and hyperactivity.
Of course, some training would make things even easier and faster. Now, let’s see what your Aromatherapy options are.
Calming Essential Oils for Dog Anxiety
Not all aromatic oils are safe for dogs, just as they’re not for humans either. As a general rule, what you wouldn’t use on yourself or your family, don’t use it on the dog either.
Some common-sense rules for safe use should also be taken into account. More on this after the following list of calming essential oils for dogs.
Any of these next oils can be used to create a dog kit that’ll help with many problems, including anxiety. It’s useful to have it around, including some ready-made blends, to use as soon as something happens.
- Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis)
- Sweet Birch (Betula pendula)
- Pomegranate CO2 extract (Punica granatum)
- Rosemary (officinalis/ linalool chemotype)
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
- Green Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
- Tangerine (Citrus tangerina)
- Pine (Pinus sylvestris or sibirica)
- Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
- Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
- Neroli (Citrus aurantium)
- Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
- Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata)
- Rose (Rosa damascena)
- Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum)
- Frankincense (Boswellia carterii/serata)
- Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides)
- Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
- Geranium or Rose Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
- Melissa (Melissa officinalis)
From now on, whenever you wonder what oil is good for dog anxiety, you can pick one from this list. Many of them are either scientifically proven or their effects are based on anecdotal knowledge. I would still ask the vet first, before trying any of these oils.
For your dog kit, choose any of these Aromatherapy oils for anxiety. If you have favorite brands like doTERRA or Young Living, you can choose the same oils from their product range.
They’re all produced from the same plants. The common extraction method is steam distillation.
One of the best and most popular calming oils for anxiety for humans and dogs alike, is Lavender. Many people have asked me whether they can use Lavender to calm their dogs.
Luckily, you can use Lavender essential oil for dog anxiety, sleep disorders and stress. In an experiment on stressed horses, Lavender oil was able to decrease their heart rate and calm them down.
What about toxicity? Is Lavender toxic to animals, you might wonder, and for good reason. Some oils can be toxic even to humans. Considering that dogs are even more sensitive and receptive to smells, even tiny amounts can harm them.
Lavender has not yet been found to be very toxic. It may pose more problems for cats though, but only high amounts. Of course, large amounts used on a long period of time, could cause some toxicity to any animal.
The liver and kidneys are especially at risk. One of the contraindications of Lavender is not to use it if one suffers from important heart problems.
Asthmatic dogs should also be kept away from Lavender, unless the vet recommends it. Used in excess, Lavender can add more stress and make the dog more anxious.
If you want to know how to apply Lavender oil to your dog, try not to use more than 2% concentration. Also, always dilute it for all topical applications. The dose can be increased too, but only if the vet says so.
Some essential oils should not be used to calm dogs. Generally, medicinal smelling ones are to be avoided. They are:
- Rosemary ct. Camphor,
- Blue Tansy,
Both Sweet Birch and Wintergreen are very high in methyl salicylate. It’s an aspirin-like substance and can be very dangerous. Seek the vet’s opinion first, before using any of these oils! Ylang Ylang also contains a small percentage of methyl salicylate.
Every essential oil for dog anxiety must be used carefully, with the vet’s approval. After a thorough medical examination, of course.
Also, some aromatic essences can stress a dog, especially if they’re too repulsive. If it develops an aversion toward an oil, you risk the dog not accepting any other fragrance. They have a superior olfactory memory.
How to Use Calming Essential Oils for Dogs
To avoid unpleasant experiences with essential oils, your dog must be slowly introduced to them. Choose a few that might suit your dog’s needs. Then introduce them to your dog, one by one, with at least 20 minutes in between.
Watch the dog’s reaction. If it licks the bottle or its muzzle, sniffs or shows any other sign of interest, then it’s a keeper. If it doesn’t like an essential oil, it’ll maybe whimper or get away from it fast.
It can start barking or show fear signs too. That should be enough to make you avoid using that oil in its presence.
There are several ways in which you can use essential oils to calm your dog’s anxiety:
- Topical application – Always dilute an EO with carrier (vegetable) oil before using it on the animal’s skin. Can you put essential oils on a dog? It can be done in very small amounts and well diluted. You should avoid spraying oils directly on the fur (or face!). The dog might start licking itself and ingesting oil molecules. Try small concentrations when you make an aromatic blend. Mix 2 – 5 drops per Oz carrier oil for topical use. This is for medium-sized to large dogs. Smaller dogs need less (1 drop per tbsp.) It’s best to ask a vet about a safe concentration to use for your dog. You can also apply small amounts along the spine, underneath the fur.
- Diffusion – a few drops in an essential oil diffuser. The room must be well ventilated, and the door kept open. The dog must be allowed to leave the room when it had enough or finds the scent too strong. Remember that a single drop can go a long way for your dog’s developed sense of smell.
- Sprays – add a few drops of an essential oil for dog anxiety in water or hydrosol. Even if they don’t mix, if you shake the blend well, the oil molecules will disperse into the air easily. Spray high above the place where the dog’s resting. You can also apply along the spine to avoid the dog licking it off.
I don’t recommend placing drops of essential oils on the dog’s collar or its bed. Aroma oils can linger for a very long time. This way, the air around your dog can be saturated and make it more anxious. Nausea or vomiting can also be a symptom of poisoning.
The ingestion of Aromatherapy remedies should not be done without medical advice. The vet should know whether it’s safe or not for your dog to consume essential oils for anxiety. You’ll find more safety precautions in the last part of the article.
Dog Aromatherapy Blends for Anxiety
Now that you have many of the basic notions on Aromatherapy for dog anxiety, it’s time to get to practice. Pick any of the following recipes to try with your dog before or during a stressful/anxious event.
Dog Anxiety and Fear Aroma Topical Blend
- Lavender essential oil: 2 drops
- Sweet Orange essential oil: 2 drops
- Sweet Almond oil: 1 Oz (30ml)
Shake well before each use and apply small amounts on the tips of the external ears. Use your fingers to spread the blend on your fingers before touching the ear tips.
The ear tips are a good place for oil application only for dogs with short or pointy ears. Avoid them if the dog has long ears; otherwise they can get oils into their eyes.
Avoid the eyes, inner ears, nose and mouth. You can also apply a small amount on the back of its neck, on the skin.
Anti-Dog Anxiety Diffuser Recipe
- Roman Chamomile essential oil: 15 drops
- Valerian essential oil: 8 drops
- Ylang Ylang essential oil: 5 drops
Mix all these essential oils in a glass bottle and use only a few drops per diffusion. The amount used depends on the space and how well the air can circulate. Read more about Aromatherapy diffusion here.
Dog Anxiety, Stress and Nervousness Room Spray Blend
- Lavender hydrosol: 2 Oz (60ml)
- Lavender/Rose/Rose Geranium essential oil: 3 – 4 drops
- Spray recipient
Hydrosols contain trace amounts of essential oils. They are byproducts of the oil steam distillation. Spray the room (high above) where the dog likes to stay more. Use before and during a potentially anxious moment. Someone’s visit, fireworks, strange noises, etc.
Feel free to make your own dog aromatherapy blends, using the essences your dog likes. As I said, liking an essence is the most important part of the therapy.
Essential Oils for Dog Separation Anxiety and Safety Words
Separation anxiety is an extreme behavior of a dog left home alone. This would normally not be a problem, since the owner doesn’t know how the dog was feeling in his absence. However, this type of anxiety comes with a destructive behavior too. After all, it is what gives the dog up, right?
Separation anxiety has roots in the early years of a dog’s life. If the owner keeps the puppy close all the time and is never left alone to entertain itself, it may develop hyper-attachment. This can be prevented with a bit of training and some self-control from the owner.
When left behind and alone in the house, the dog will start showing anxiety signs in as fast as 10 – 20 minutes. Barking, whimpering, restlessness and house soiling are just a few of the symptoms of separation anxiety.
An anxious dog is not necessarily a hyperactive dog. The latter can suffer from attention deficit, which shows even when everybody’s home. The dog is restless and has a rapid heart rate almost all the time.
Hyperactivity is a more serious health issue that only the vet can tell you how to manage. It may be possible to calm down a hyper dog with Aromatherapy. But some cases might need medical treatment also.
Talk to the vet, do some research and find the exact cause of your dog’s hyperactivity. In time, you’ll find ways and remedies to help the dog settle down for longer periods.
Some of the best essential oils for dog separation anxiety can be:
- Sweet Orange
- Ylang Ylang
Others may help too. But these essential oils have a higher success rate for separation anxiety. In humans and mice, they’ve been tested and found useful at decreasing the heart rate.
They also decreased the blood pressure and relieved some muscle tension. Some of them are really good antidepressant and anti-anxiety substances too. A few examples are Lavender, Rose and Ylang Ylang.
Also, keep in mind that the dog senses your emotional state too. You can also benefit from Aromatherapy oils for anxiety. When you are calm, your dog has better chances of being calm too.
Anxiety can be caused by many things. Some of the most common causes are:
- Fear (of guests, doctors, fireworks, cars, noises, other dogs, etc.)
- New house or the coming of a baby.
- Staying home alone.
- Lack of physical exercise and regular walking.
- Small spaces.
All these triggers can cause dog anxiety, but they can also be corrected. If left untreated/unattended to, they can lead to oxidative stress. Now, the oxidative stress is something else. It can change the physiology and behavior of a dog deep down into the DNA.
If the dog is aggressive, essential oils may or may not work. Find the root of its aggressive behavior and talk to the vet for a treatment. Also, don’t hesitate to talk to a specialized trainer for some useful training tips.
Safety Aromatherapy Precautions
Natural remedies are usually safe and have very few side effects. It can stay that way if you consider a few important things. Always remember that your dog’s sense of smell is much more developed than yours or a cat’s. For him, one drop of essential oil for dog anxiety may smell like 20 for you.
- Don’t force an essence on the dog. This way, it may come to hate all other oils and cause it more stress.
- Test every new essential oil on a small skin patch before widespread use. This should be done after the dog has “chosen” the oil first.
- Dilute them well before each topical application.
- Diffuse aromatic oils only in well-ventilated rooms and in small amounts. Small bursts of 10 – 15 minutes, every 2 hours or more would be ideal. The diffusion should be done occasionally, not daily! Long-term exposure may lead to toxicity. Take the dog to the vet annually for a routine examination. That should prevent oil buildup in the liver or other organs.
- Use 100% pure and unadulterated aromatic essences.
- Wipe excess oil with milk or carrier oil.
- Call or visit the vet whenever you feel like using essential oils for dog anxiety, aggression, wounds, etc.
Scientific research is scarce. Still, there are lots of clues and proof that Aromatherapy can work on animals too.
Knowing that, all that’s left is to choose a few essential oils for dog anxiety and make a simple dog care kit. These oils can be used alone or mixed in a blend and kept handy. If your dog shows signs if anxiousness, you can act immediately.
What do you think about Aromatherapy and dogs? Have you ever noticed differences or improvement in your dog around these essences?