Why Use Essential Oils for Animals?
You can use essential oils (also known as aromatherapy) for horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs… in fact essential oils and other aromatic extracts, such as hydrosols, can be used for the health of any animal. These aromatic extracts are an effective and gentle answer to many of today’s common health and behaviour problems, often bringing relief where conventional medicine holds no answer. Chronic skin conditions, allergies, arthritis, sarcoids, Cushing’s Syndrome, chronic stress and behaviour problems are just a few of the conditions that have responded well to treatment with oils.
What are Essential oils & Hydrosols?
Essential oils and hydrosols are the product of steam distillation of aromatic plants; the essential oils are potent and penetrative while the hydrosol, the water part of the distillation, gentle and soothing. These aromatic extracts have been used as an aid to health for centuries. The actions and properties of many essential oils have been scientifically catalogued in the last century and many of them of today’s synthetic medicines are based on natural chemicals found in essential oils.
Zoopharmacognosy, or an animal’s ability to self-select medicine
If our domestic animals were roaming free they would have access to a variety of healing herbs, which they would eat as needed using their sense of smell/taste to differentiate between plants. This instinctive ability is known as zoopharmacognosy and we use it when offering essential oils to animals. It seems natural that herbivorous horses can choose essential oils, but carnivores such a the dog self-medicate on plants as well, for instance when they eat grass and then throw up.
To replicate the effect of animal self-medication, a trained animal aromatherapist first takes a detailed case history. It is important to understand all the emotional and physical factors that might have contributed to the animals present condition. Then the therapist will offer a selection of appropriate essential oils for the animal to choose between. The essential oils are not blended but diluted in a base of vegetable oil and offered individually to the animal.
How do animals choose essential oils?
Horses respond to essential oils, as do dogs, cats, cows, monkeys, chickens… no matter what the species animals have similar reactions: inhale, lick or turn away. Often, if an animals wants it applied topically they will even indicate with their heads exactly where to put the oil. The essential oils are then offered to the animal by the owner once or twice a day until the animal shows no further interest, usually within three to ten days. Sometimes an animal will show great interest for one session then show no further interest, or alternatively be rather blase the first time with interest increasing as the treatment progresses. If the animal shows no interest in the oil then it is offered again after a day or two, if there is still no interest it is not applied. The only time there has been any adverse effects using the oils is when they are applied without offering them first.
Increasing trust between human and animal
One great benefit of this gentle system is how it increases the bond of trust between person and animal, this is particularly useful where there has been past abuse or trauma. By allowing the animal to participate freely in its own healing process we return a measure of autonomy to creatures that are used to having everything done to them rather than with them…. And in their inimitable fashion animals repay us for this small kindness with their hearts.