Most of us have heard about the use of essential oils as a means to relieve our own stress. And, as dog owners, it’s natural to want to know if essential oils are used to calm our dogs.

Essential oils can be good for calming dogs when used properly. The best essential oils for dogs include:

  • Lavender
  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile (Roman)
  • Rose Otto
  • Sandalwood
  • Vetiver
  • Spikenard
  • Cedarwood
  • Valerian
  • Frankincense
  • Myrrh
  • Clary Sage

It’s important to note that these essential oils only may work if used correctly – and if your dog doesn’t mind the scent, you’re using. Read on to learn more about using aromatherapy, including which oils can help your dogs and which oils should be avoided.

How to Choose an Essential Oil to Calm Your Dog

Ever smell something that everyone else seems to love, but you don’t? The same could be true for your dog. Consider this: your dog is more sensitive to smell than you are. Dogs have up to 500 times more smell receptors than humans do, as noted in this article.

Now consider that essential oils are highly concentrated. If your dog doesn’t like the smell of something, the concentrated version can be overwhelming. What was intended to calm your dog’s nerves could potentially put them in distress. So, how do you know which scent to choose?

Let Your Dog Help Choose the Scent

Colorado aromatherapist Frances Fitzgerald Cleveland suggests that the dog be included in the choice of oil. She advises that the dog be allowed to smell the caps of several oils before making a decision. You’ll know when your dog likes a smell – if they go back in for another whiff and seem curious.

While testing scents, it is recommended to maintain an escape route for your dog (and the same is true when actually using the essential oils for aromatherapy). Simply leave the door open so that the dog doesn’t feel trapped and may come and go at will.

If your dog is giving you hints that they don’t like a particular scent, it’s probably not going to help when it comes time to calm them down.

Can I Afford The Smell My Dog Likes?

Before you set out to find the right essential oil for your dog, you probably want to have an idea of how much aromatherapy will set you back. So, here’s an idea of what each essential oil will cost you online. You can always shop around, but here are some estimates: .  

Essential Oil Approximate Price per Unit Price per Ounce
Rose Otto $49.99 $1,666.33
Sandalwood $49.95 $312.19
Roman Chamomile $21.95 $243.89
Spikenard $42.98 $130.24
Vetiver $19.95 $124.69
Myrrh $15.95 $99.69
Valerian $19.99 $59.12
Bergamot $9.95 $30.15
Sweet Marjoram $11.95 $36.21
Clary Sage $10.95 $33.18
Lavender $9.95 $30.15
Frankincense $9.95 $30.15
Cedarwood $9.95 $30.15

Why Are Essential Oils So Expensive?

Remember, essential oils are super-concentrated.

In short, the high price is based on the sheer amount of plant material required to make a small amount of essential oil. Growing conditions and accessibility of that material can also contribute to the cost. Fortunately, it is also that high concentration of material that allows us to use just a small amount to gain any potential benefits.

Should You Use Essential Oils Topically on a Dog?

This is where the internet gives some widely conflicting information. Some sites suggest that the topical application of diluted essential oils is fine, while others caution against using the oils topically. Here is why there is reason to be cautious:

  • Essential oils are quickly absorbed into the body. Anna Burke writes for the American Kennel Club, “The chemicals in essential oils are rapidly absorbed into the system, whether received orally or through the skin, and metabolized by the liver.”
  • Not all essential oils are alike. Kimberly Gauthier indicates in her blog, Keep The Tail Waggin that she will apply some oils topically but not others. She does state, however, that water diffusion is her preferred method of use for each of the oils she recommends.

The consistent advice given by these sites: consult a veterinarian before introducing an essential oil to your dog. When it comes to the health and well-being of your canine companion, err on the side of caution.

Options for Using Essential Oils on Your Dog

As stated previously, these oils can be overwhelming for your dogs. Putting the scent directly on the dog allows it no means of escape.

  • Put it on a bandana. One option is to put your essential oils on a bandana placed around your dog’s neck. This can be removed if the dog reacts poorly.
  • Use water diffusion. But even when using a diffuser, take care that your dog can’t reach it. If your dog knocks over the diffuser, they can ingest the oil that spills.

If you believe your dog has ingested essential oils, contact your veterinarian or poison control immediately.

Best Essential Oils for Aggressive Dog Behavior

You can try any combination of the following oils, assuming your dog approves:

  • Roman Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Bergamot
  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Cedarwood
  • Clary Sage

Fanna Easter with dogtrainingnation.com and Maria with howtotrainthedog.com both recommend incorporating aromatherapy into your dog’s daily routine until you notice an improvement in the dog’s behavior.

That being said, aromatherapy can help, but it should not be used as a cure-all. If your dog is acting uncharacteristically aggressive: take them to the vet.

Physical pain could be the underlying cause of your dog’s behavior.  Other factors that may contribute to a dog’s aggression may be a need for more physical activity, lack of proper training, and their diet.

Best Essential Oils For Barking Dogs

Can essential oils be used to stop a dog from barking? In some situations, it may help.

The question you need to ask yourself is: why is my dog barking? Barking is only one of a dog’s forms of vocal communication and they use it for a variety of reasons.

If your dog is barking due to stress and anxiety, you might alleviate some of your dog’s stress by diffusing some of the previously mentioned essential oils. If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, the treatment is likely to be more involved.

On the subject of separation anxiety and compulsive barking,WebMD indicates that they are difficult conditions to treat and require the help of a specialist, such as a “veterinary behaviorist or a certified applied animal behaviorist.

As with aggression, aromatherapy with essential oils may help relieve some of your dog’s stress, but it’s only one part of treating the underlying cause of the behavior. If your dog is barking for attention or as a form of greeting, this behavior can be modified through appropriate training.

Diffused Essential Oils That Aren’t Safe for Dogs

Having discussed the calming benefits of certain essential oils for dogs, there are essential oils that should never be used around dogs.

Essential Oil Known Side Effects of Overdosage in Dogs
Cinnamon Vomiting Diarrhea Altered heart rate Low blood sugar
Tea Tree Depression Vomiting Wobbly gait Paralysis of back legs Skin irritation
Camphor Skin irritation Nausea Vomiting Diarrhea Depression Rare: seizure, respiratory distress, death
Garlic Nausea Vomiting Diarrhea Excessive drooling Lethargy Quickened breathing Weakness or collapse
Pennyroyal Vomiting Diarrhea Lethargy Severe: liver failure
Clove Vomiting Diarrhea Nausea Liver issues
Wintergreen Vomiting Digestive upset Ulcer Renal failure
Contains methyl salicylates/aspirin. This can be highly toxic to dogs.
Thyme Irritates skin and mucous membranes

Conclusion

If you’d like to introduce essential oils to your dog’s daily routine, consult with your veterinarian first. After that, find out which scents your dog is ok with. Always dilute your essential oils and leave an escape route in case your dog gets overwhelmed by the smell.