It Only Makes Scents: Essential Oils for Healthy Dogs


There is so much to appreciate about these potent plant allies and the ways their pure oils can help humans and animals alike enjoy happier, healthier lives.

Dr. Laurel Davis, Asheville’s integrative veterinarian, offers “Stories from a Holistic Veterinarian”, the blog of a holistic vet and “animal interpreter.” With a clinic in downtown Asheville, NC. Dr. Laurel also offers animal health, lifestyle and vaccination advice for cats, dogs and their human friends across the country.
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It Only Makes Scents: Essential Oils for Healthy Dogs 

Asheville's holistic veterinarian
Essential oils are a wonderful alternative to heavily perfumed shampoos or deodorizing products that contain synthetic fragrance oils.


What do I love about essential oils? What a loaded question!

Before I answer that, let’s get clear: what are essential oils? Essential oils are the highly concentrated essence of the natural oils in plants.

There is so much to appreciate about these potent plant allies and the ways their pure oils can help humans and animals alike enjoy happier, healthier lives.

 I love the minimalist approach to many things, so I appreciate that, with essential oils, a little bit goes a long way. Often, when we’re using more conventional medications, we’re used to thinking more is better or is more effective. With holistic remedies like essential oils, as well as with many things in life, a little good stuff goes a long way.

However, if you sat me down and asked me to name the top four things I love about essential oils, this would be my list:

1. I love that these oils are derived organically from single plants, and that the veterinary (and human) medicine world is making a return to harvesting our medicines directly from Mother Earth.

2. I love the wide range of uses for essential oils and how these oils help me empower my clients with alternative treatments they can use at home. Essential oils are an essential (see what I did there?!) part of my integrative veterinary medicine toolbox.

3. I love that they smell great, just like Mother Nature intended!

If you read my blog about using essential oils for cats, you know that I am very conservative in my recommendations for using essential oils for cats. For dogs, it’s a different story! There are more safe options available for using essential oils to treat and soothe the loveable canines in our lives, and the right oils can be helpful in treating and preventing things like anxiety, skin irritations, and even pesky fleas and ticks.  

Being concentrated, essential oils are potent medicines, and it is very important to use them mindfully.

They are by no means a panacea to be used for every ailment under the sun, and they may not be right for your dog, depending on a number of factors. It does not serve you or your dog to go wild, using these oils for any and everything. In some cases, using essential oils too freely can cause adverse reactions for both dog and human! Instead, As Asheville’s integrative veterinarian I recommend using high-quality, naturally extracted essential oils discriminately and with the guidance of a licensed veterinarian. Here are some very basic, fundamental guidelines:

  • Since your dog ’s sense of smell is 50 times greater than yours, always remember to dilute, dilute, dilute!  If your dog is indicating that he or she is not enjoying the aroma, cease and desist!
  • Avoid using essential oils with excessive polyphenolic compounds such as cinnamon, oregano, clove, wintergreen, thyme and birch.
  • Use a carrier or base oil to dilute your oils. Good examples of carrier oils are sweet almond oil, sesame, jojoba, rose hip, avocado or apricot kernel oils.

Now that I’ve told you what I love about essential oils, here are some things YOU can love about using them for your dog:

Essential Oils can help your pup’s anxiety.

I cannot say enough good things about lavender. When it is properly used, this oil has powerful effects on the brain and creates a calming sensation. Diluted lavender oil causes significant decreases in blood pressure, heart rate, and skin temperature, which indicates a decrease of autonomic arousal, meaning it has calming effect for you and your pooch.

This DIY Calming Spray Recipe is from Dogs Naturally Magazine

  1. What you’ll need:
      300ml of water
      5-10 drops of lavender essential oil
      5-10 drops of Roman chamomile essential oil
      Spray bottle
    1. Mix ingredients together, pour into spray bottle and shake.
    2. Cover face and eyes of your dog with a cloth or hand.
    3. Spray a light mist over your dog before stressful times or when he or she needs help settling down.

Essential Oils can help repel fleas and ticks.

It’s true! There are some plants that naturally repel these creatures, and the essential oils from those plants can be great allies in the battle against these warm-season pests.

Some essential oils you can safely use on dogs for flea and tick prevention include lavender, lemon, citronella, sage, clary sage, bergamot, cedarwood, lemon, eucalyptus, lemongrass, geranium, sweet orange, and rosemary.

Some oils are not safe to use on or around your dog. It’s best to avoid exposing your dog to these: tea tree oil, clove oil, pine oil, peppermint oil or pennyroyal oil. Some consider these last two to be as a good flea treatments for your dog, yet both oils can be hazardous to your pup. They are best avoided.

If making your own essential oil blends isn’t your cup of tea, no worries. Sunvet Animal Wellness carries an amazing essential oil blend called Wondercide Flea & Tick Spray that comes ready to use and is easy to apply around your home and on your furry love-muffin.   

Essential oils can soothe and treat skin irritations.

If you only have one essential oil in your home, lavender is the one to have. Lavender is a full-spectrum oil. It’s antibacterial, antiseptic, antifungal, anti-anxiety, pretty much anti-everything (but not anti-healing, that’s for sure!). It also has antioxidant activity and helps to prevent or reverse oxidative stress. This quality makes it useful in soothing irritated skin.

When your furry friend is itchy, and you want to make him feel better, you can rub some diluted lavender oil on the spot he’s scratching.

Other oils that can help with skin irritations include niaouli, sweet marjoram, helichrysum, and chamomile.

Essential oils can make your love muffin smell good.

Essential oils are a wonderful alternative to heavily perfumed shampoos or deodorizing products that contain synthetic fragrance oils, the safety of which have not been fully researched. By properly using high-quality essential oils and products containing them, you can reap the therapeutic benefits AND have a great-smelling pup! Read more about the differences between essential oils and synthetic fragrance oils here. Sunvet Animal Wellness carries the 4-legger brand of USDA-certified organic dog shampoos that serve to heal and condition your dog’s skin and coat. Their ingredients are all certified to food standards, and they smell amazing! My staff loves the Lemongrass and Aloe scent, and the Oatmeal and Lavender shampoo will have your pooch smelling like a yummy oatmeal cookie in no time!


Now it’s your turn… what do YOU love about essential oils for dogs? Let us know in the comments below or over on our Facebook page.

Want to know more about essential oils for cats? Check out my post about it here.


Shine On,

Dr. Laurel 


Asheville's holistic veterinarian


Dr. Laurel Davis is Asheville’s integrative veterinarian, offering phone and Skype consultations for animal lovers everywhere. Call 828-254-2221 or order an Ask Dr. Laurel™ phone or Skype session or bring your dog or cat to her downtown Asheville, NC clinicRead more patient stories.

Get to know Dr. Laurel by reading her blog.

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