Help Your Pup Live the Best Life Possible with Aromatherapy

Aug 25, 2022

August 26, 2022 is National Dog Day in the United States! What better day to celebrate our cherished animal companions? For many of us, our dogs are more than just pets; they’re members of our family. We go on walks and share adventures, snuggles, sometimes tears, and — if you’re like me — dinner.

We’re so connected, in fact, that it breaks our heart so see them struggle. Perhaps it’s the constant scratching caused by bothersome allergies, the pacing and panting caused by a thunderstorm, or the eventual slowing down from arthritis as they age.

Whatever the reason, more than ever, pet parents are turning to holistic solutions to help their fur baby enjoy the best life possible… including aromatherapy.

Essential oils are by far the easiest and quickest way to calm an anxious dog. With a dog’s fine-tuned and highly sensitive olfactory system, when dogs sniff essential oils, help is on its way quickly.

When I met Petey, a 12-year-old Saint Bernard, he was such a nervous wreck that he wouldn’t even go outside to go potty. Nanette, his “mom,” was at her wits’ end. Petey had lived his entire life with general anxiety and extreme noise phobias.

Petey was having a difficult summer. Major street repairs were underway in their neighbourhood, and the noise from all the construction equipment — jackhammers, dump trucks, etc. — surrounded him 8–12 hours a day.

Thunderstorms at night made matters worse. Petey, like a barometer, sensed their approach. He had sedatives to help him during fireworks and thunderstorms, or anytime his anxiety got the best of him. Unfortunately, the medications took 45 minutes to kick in, and usually the thunderstorms passed before the meds took effect. Petey needed something to take effect immediately.

When thunderstorms hit, Nanette put a small amount of a customized diluted essential oil blend on her hands so Petey could smell it while she continued to pet him. His blend took the edge off and calmed his pacing. Though he was still panting, he was able to sit with Nannette until the storms rolled through.

Petey was helped so much by essential oils that he ended up with several custom blends. General calming blends and stronger sedative blends helped his anxiety, while other blends eased his achy, arthritic joints. Nanette liked having a variety of blends, and especially liked the fact that they also helped her relax.

Aromatherapy comforts and supports dogs with PTSD.

Unfortunately, many adopted rescue dogs are traumatized before reaching their forever home, and few dogs are subjected to more hardship than commercial breeding dogs, which are bred in facilities that are also known as puppy mills. “Breeder moms” spend their life within a wire cage that is barely large enough to move around in.

These dogs have never been on grass, inside a house, never played with toys, or done the things that our dogs do every day. Their only human contact comes from being moved out of their kennel for breeding. When they no longer produce enough puppies, they are “released” from duty, hopefully to a rescue organization.

Halo, a beautiful golden retriever, was a breeding mom who was 7 years old when she was adopted by Shelly and Steve. Halo’s new family worked with her for a year to bring her out of her shell, but then her progress seemed to stall.

During our visit, I offered Halo several essential oils. I observed Halo’s body language for feedback, but as is typical with breeder moms, Halo went into “freeze,” a trauma response in which an animal or human involuntarily becomes immobile or frozen in place, and didn’t provide much feedback. But then she showed interest in the aroma of angelica root (Taxandria fragrans) essential oil, and soon her eyes softened.

After 90 minutes of attention focused on her — a very long time for Halo — she stood up. We were all expecting her to return to her safe and cozy corner. But she didn’t. She laid down next to Shelly… a significant step for this shy, timid girl.

Then Halo did something she’d never done before… she licked Shelly! Shelly’s eyes were filled with tears. A breakthrough!

That happened on a Saturday morning. I received an email the following Monday. Halo had surprised them once more…

“We had a very delightful weekend with Halo. She surprised us again by coming down off the deck to lay down near our circle of friends in the backyard. She even allowed one of my girlfriends to sit next to her and touch her — with eye contact and a little yawn!”

“We spend a lot of time in our backyard, and Halo has always just stayed up on the deck by the door and waited for us to let her back into the house. Since the visit, Halo will join us in the backyard without prodding…“

Aromatherapy quickly relieves pain for our furry friends.

Personally, I’m very grateful for aromatherapy. Jake, my 14-year-old Catahoula mix, is in his final season of life; arthritis and muscle weakness have stolen his independence. We help him climb stairs and stand up from lying down. His pacing, panting, and pain-related anxiety often keep us both awake at night.

Through self-selection, Jake has shown me which essential oils he prefers. Even at 2:00 a.m., a direct inhale of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and copaiba (Copaifera officinalis) slows his breathing and settles his pacing, and soon he and I are back asleep.

Over the years, I’ve helped hundreds of dogs with various conditions and situations discover the power of aromatherapy.

Here are a few more examples of how aromatherapy helps our furry friends…

  • Nala was found abandoned at a dump when she was only 3 weeks old. She wasn’t able to walk, was extremely malnourished, and had mange. After several weeks of good nutrition, essential oils relieved her red, itchy skin, helped her scabbing skin heal, and finally supported new hair growth. She now has a beautiful coat, and no one would guess she was ever a mangy mutt.
  • Ella, a 5-year-old sheltie, disliked car rides, and she had a cross-country road trip coming up. Her panting, pacing, and drooling made travel unbearable for everyone. Ella did, however, enjoy lying under pine trees in her backyard. A blend of familiar conifers calmed her anxieties, allowing her to travel peacefully like a champ.
  • Speaking of car rides… transporting a dozen rescue dogs over hundreds of miles can be a stinky job, especially when dogs get carsick. Gentle diffusion of peppermint throughout the van has prevented many pups from vomiting — and made the drive more pleasant for many drivers.
  • When Izzy, a 4-year-old German shepherd, was adopted, she needed a tremendous amount of support and care. Anxious and reactive to dogs, deaf from chronic ear infections, hips damaged from physical abuse… the list goes on. Now in her forever home, her owner Julie used essential oils to relieve pain during Izzy’s recovery from hip recovery as well as to massage Izzy’s torn ACL, quiet her anxieties, and improve her immune system. She had a wonderful life with Julie for the next 10 years.
  • Little Yorkie mix Beatrice came down with kennel cough shortly after adoption. Gently diffusing essential oils helped her recover quickly, while also keeping her 4 larger dog siblings from catching it.
  • When the big dogs decided they’d had enough of the little pup, 12-week-old Jethro got a puncture under his eye during a scuffle. It healed within 48 hours using tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) hydrosols. Hydrosols, aromatic waters resulting from the distillation of plant material, are much gentler than essential oils, and are safe and effective for most animals.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve helped hundreds of dogs in various situations and with a variety of conditions. Aromatherapy, combined with a dog's natural instincts and heightened sense of smell, offers a gentle yet highly effective way to help our furry friends.

Many pet parents are hesitant to even diffuse essential oils in their home, concerned they’ll hurt their beloved fur babies, especially cats. If you're frustrated and confused by all the conflicting advice about animals and essential oils, you are not alone.

Get our free aromatherapy diffusing guide for pets! 

If you love diffusing essential oils and want to explore a holistic approach to your animal’s health but you’re concerned about doing it safely, then The Pet-Friendly Diffuser Guide is for you. It gives you:

  • diffusing guidelines so you diffuse appropriately with your pets
  • safety tips to keep your pets safe and healthy
  • 3 pet-friendly diffuser blends to use safely with dogs and cats

Article by: Amy Williams DeLong, CA

Amy is a Certified Animal Aromatherapist, Intuitive Healer, Tellington TTouch® practitioner, and Animal Communicator. She is a holistic pet care practitioner, helping pet parents find holistic solutions to health and behaviour so their fur baby can live the best life possible. She teaches pet parents to confidently use aromatherapy so they know what essential oils to use, how to use them, and, most importantly, how to keep their pet safe. When not playing with essential oils, Amy helps rescue dogs with anxiety and PTSD find a sense of calm and feel safe, while living in our unpredictable world. Essence of Thyme is looking forward to Amy joining our expert faculty as our Animal Aromatherapy instructor. Visit her website >

About Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies

Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies offers 300- and 630-hour professional aromatherapy certification programs that help you grow a successful, fulfilling career by specializing and creating your market niche. Professional Level Certification prepares graduates to become aromatherapy consultants, launch product lines or retail businesses, or provide services as an adjunct to existing holistic health specializations. Master Level Certification and electives are ideal for certified aromatherapists seeking higher education or a path to clinical aromatherapy practice.

All Essence of Thyme programs focus on aromatherapy product development and advanced formulation, evidence-based research, spa and business management, international industry regulatory guidelines, and sustainability and conservation of essential oil and carrier oil-bearing plants.

Our comprehensive, evidence-based programs meet or exceed the criteria set forth by 5 international professional aromatherapy associations. Learn more about our aromatherapy certification programs.


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