How to use Essential oils safely with animals

Although great precaution should be exercised when using oils in animals, this is a wonderful and safe method to apply natures remedy by yourself to your own animals, often with remarkable results. Animals have an olfactory system (the mechanism of smelling) that are many times more powerful than that of humans. It is one of their strongest senses for both purposes of survival and self-medication. Consider wild animals with a vast range to move and forage, and when or how often you see them poisoned by plants, having allergies, or anxiety or common diseases our own pets struggle with every day. This is due to the fact that wild animals (including the canine, feline, equine, caprine and porcine family) can range and smell the properties in plants, grasses and leaves that could be helpful in maintaining or restoring health.

Essential oils are chemical substances that can be derived from plants directly (via cold pressing, steam distilling and other extraction methods) that contain healing substances like limonene, bioflavonoids, terpenes to name but a few. These substances enter the bloodstream within as little as 2 minutes, and some oils like Frankincense (Boswelia) even crosses the blood brain barrier.

The healing properties and effects of essential oils are vast, and still relatively unknown, although there is quite a substantial amount of science to prove the effectiveness in certain diseases. Due to the fact that animals know what they need, and we can use them as our guide of what to administer, a concept called Zoopharmacognosy, there is no reason for any pet owner to safely and happily explore the benefits of essential oils in their families including their furry kids!!

Zoopharmacognosy – Basically boils down to the animal “self-medicating itself” by choosing the oils it needs most.

Allow the animal to initially choose an essential oil:

  • Introduce Essential Oil with the CAP ON (Small animals)
  • CAUTION: Beware of some animals, they may grab the bottle – Horses are particularly known for this.
  • Look out for positive / negative responses (A positive response is where a dog or cat remains in close vicinity of the bottle or oil that is offered, either with their head turned towards or away from the bottle. Due to their sensitivity this happens as they regulate the amount of Essential oil molecules they can handle. An animal trying to get away from the bottle, or the room where the oils is, is a definite NO.)
  • Not sure? Diffuse a drop or two for a few minutes and observe the animal’s behaviour. I.e: Does the animal go out the room / does the animal move closer to the diffuser?

 There are 3 ways to use essential oils safely in animals, namely aromatically, topically and internally. Although one can choose which method one would like, you need to understand that at some point your animal will groom itself therefore ingesting the oil, thus even though oils are applied topically, or diffused or offered on cloths or bedding, animals needs to be closely supervised as to their reaction to the oils.

  1. When used aromatically the following methods can be applied:
  • Diffusion
  • Spray into the air with an atomizer / spray bottle
  • Direct inhalation
  • On Cloth, cotton ball or bedding
  • Hot Water/ Steam
  • Humidifier
  • Fan/ Air Filter
  1. When used topically the following methods can be applied:

Small animals dilute in either a Roller Bottle / Spray Bottle

  • Direct Application (spine)
  • Massage
  • Reflexology Points or Meridians
  • Ear tipping
  • Apply to area of Interest
  • In Shampoo
  • Cold/ Hot compress
  1. When used internally the following should be adhered to strictly:

NB!! Essential Oils MUST indicate that it can be used internally on the bottle label / product description sheet. Alternatively, it should be offered in discussion with your veterinarian or qualified aroma therapist about which oils are safe.

Max per dose at a time: 1-2 drops

  • Mix with wet food to dilute the oil.
  • In a capsule (1-2 drops, topped off with a carrier oil such as EVO)
  • A drop on the finger, wait for it to be almost dry and then rub in to the gums.
  • 1 drop essential oil per 2 cups of drinking water (Not recommended for cats or dogs)
  • Topical application will result in to internal intake. No need for specific internal intake.

Not all essential oils are made the same.  There can be a lot of fillers or contaminants added that may be toxic to your animal. For the following reasons I recommend DoTerra essential oils as it is CPTG (Certified pure therapeutic grade) and used in hospitals safely around the world:

  • Tested safe, 100% pure & effective
  • Offers therapeutic food grade essential oils which is used by medical professionals all over the world.
  • Contains no added fillers or harmful fragrances
  • Regulated and undergoes 3rd party testing to ensure purity, safety and efficiency

Dilution rates is very important in animals, especially small animals like dogs and cats:

  • Start out more diluted when introducing essential oils topically to your pet.
  • Carrier oils to use: FCO (Fractionated Coconut oil), Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Almond Oil, etc.
  • You can always increase the concentration if the desired effect is not reached, but it is difficult to remove an essential oil once it has already been absorbed.
  • Each animal is an individual and your pet may be more sensitive than others.
  • Also note that needs change, and don’t be alarmed if your animal was happy with a certain blend, and then change their preference over time to nothing, or another blend.

The following guidelines can be used safely:

  • Cats: 0.5% – 2%
  • Other small animals such as Rabbits, Rodents and Reptiles: 0.5% – 1%
  • Dogs: 0.5% for hot oils and for dogs under 9 kg, use up to 3% for gentle oils with larger dogs
  • Goats or Sheep: 2% – 10% for hot oils – gentle oils may be used undiluted
  • Horses: 5%-10% for hot oils with sensitive-skinned horses, otherwise undiluted

Some Essential Oils are contraindicated to certain conditions, medication or to some animal species itself.  Caution should be practiced with topical application of Phototoxic or Photosensitizing Essential Oils such as:  Bergamot, Cumin, Grapefruit, Kumquat, Lemon, Lime, Tangerine, Wild Orange.  It is important to read the labels before using proprietary blend as some proprietary blends may contain Essential Oils that may be contraindicated to your pet / animal

Asthma – Avoid: Marjoram, Rosemary, Camphor, Oregano, Yarrow

Uncertain (depends on the individual): Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Roman Chamomile, Lavender, Citrus Oil, Petitgrain, Clary (These oils are mostly safe to use if your pet chooses them, if not, don’t use them)

Seizures: Rosemary, Fennel, Hyssop, Wormwood, Sage, Camphor, Eucalyptus, Wintergreen

Pregnancy: Savin, Rue, Mugwort, Pennyroyal, Terragon, Thuja, Tansy, Sassafras, Arborvitae, Basil, Birch, Wintergreen, Cassia, Cinnamon, Rosemary, Thyme, Wormwood, Davana, Wormseed, Parsley Seed

Interaction with medications are generally unlikely, unless given internally. However, CAUTION must be practiced in the following instances.

Anticoagulants: Birch, Wintergreen, Basil, Anise, Cassia, Cinnamon, Clove, Fennel, Marjoram, Oregano, Patchouli, Thyme

MAOIs / SSRIs (Anti-anxiety/ depression medications): Basil, Cinnamon, Clove

Thyroid Medication (Hypothyroid – Decreases the effectiveness of the medication): Black Spruce, Fennel


  • Birch
  • Melaleuca (Tea Tree)
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Wintergreen


  • Birch,
  • Melaleuca (Tea Tree),
  • Wintergreen

The following oils can be safely used in most animal species:


Physical Support:

  • Wound Healing
  • Analgesic
  • Antioxidant
  • Ant-Bacterial
  • Anti-Inflammatory

Emotional Support:

When there are feelings of:

  • Intense emotional trauma or pain
  • Feelings of wounded or hopeless

Promotes feelings of:

  • Hope
  • Courage
  • Perseverance
  • Healing


Physical Support:

  • Wound Healing
  • Analgesic
  • Antioxidant
  • Antifungal
  • Antispasmodic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Sedative
  • Anti-Tumor

Emotional Support:

When there are feelings of:

  • Blocked | Unwilling to listen
  • Rejected
  • Tense
  • Insecure
  • Unloved
  • Fear

Promotes feelings of:

  • Calm
  • Expressive
  • Peace of mind
  • Open communication


Physical Support:

  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Analgesic
  • Anti-Cancer

Emotional Support:

When there are feelings of:

  • Abandoned
  • Analgesic
  • Anti-Inflammatory

Promotes feelings of:

  • Loved
  • Protected
  • Connected


Physical Support:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Wound Healing
  • Anti-Cancer
  • Antibacterial


Emotional Support:

When there are feelings of:

  • Abandoned
  • Rebellious
  • Guilty
  • Submissive
  • Overwhelm

Promotes feelings of:

  • Clarity
  • Purposeful
  • Forgiven


Physical Support:

  • Antibacterial
  • Insect Repellent
  • Anti-inflammatory


Emotional Support:

When there are feelings of:

  • Abandoned
  • Loss
  • Distrusting
  • Unforgiving
  • Grieving

Promotes feelings of:

  • Loved
  • Trusting
  • Forgiving
  • Gentle

 The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for veterinary care. The information and the products listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

Dr Marisa Slabber

  • Practising Veterinarian (BVSc)
  • Studied acupuncture at the Chi University in Florida, USA (CVA)
  • Completed her Masters In Science Research (MSc)
  • Most recently became a certified Veterinary Tui-Na Practitioner (CVTP)

Holisticare Rehab

Fourways, Sandton, GP

        071 370 6668

Don’t know where to get started or what oils to choose contact us to help you and support you in your journey


Tel 0652609665