In the previous part, we learned the origins of essential oils and how you can test which oil is good for your dog. In this part, you’ll learn how essential oils work and ways to use them. So hang tight and learn what you can do yourself with this fantastic therapy!
How scents work
Your dog’s sense of smell is located in the part of the brain called the old brain. The old brain consists of the limbic system, which your dog uses for his emotions, and the reptile brain, which is useful for his instincts. Of course you know your dog has an amazing sense of smell, but did you know that when he smells something, he does this unconsciously? In other words, smelling goes automatically. The reason for this is that smelling is part of his instincts. A certain scent can tell your dog if it’s good or bad. But how does that work? When your dog smells something, the scent enters his olfactory organ. The molecules ascent and come into contact with the ethmoid in the nose. This is located under the brains. Then, nerves transfer this scent information to the brains. Impulses start going to the neocortex, which boot up the olfactory organ. Scent therefore has an immediate effect on how your dog feels and his emotions. You can compare it to when we smell freshly baked bread or coffee in the morning!
A dog has a diversity of odor cells, which makes it easy for him to distinguish many different scents. We, as humans, have less and not so much specialized odor cells. As a result, we don’t smell as good as our dogs! The experience of smelling is also very different for your dog than it is for us. His odor behavior consists of tasting, testing, getting information, gauging the energy and satisfying a need. That’s why “nose games”, such as hiding his favorite ball or cookies and let him search for it, is so mentally satisfying for your dog. A walk in a new place can have the same effect. Letting your dog “read the newspaper” is a must for a healthy dog. Make sure you not only keep your dog physically in a good shape, but also his mind!
How to recognize a good quality oil
Back to essential oils. If you’re going to use oils for your dog, you need to make sure you use a good quality oil. The quality is all-determining for how it’s going to work. All natural is not enough; it’s better to use organic oils. Examine how they’re made, because a good extraction of the oil from the plant has an impact on the quality. Best is if the ingredients are harvested in the plant’s country of origin. For instance, you want the lavender used for your lavender oil to come from France. Equally important is that there’s nothing added to the oil, such as preservatives or fillers, because you want the oil to be as pure as possible. The right harvesting time of the plant and a quick transportation of the plants after harvesting them before extracting the oils is also affecting the quality of the oil. The organic oils of Primavera or CHI are a good starting point.
The production of essential oils
There are a couple of ways for extracting oil. Every way has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but water vapor distillation is the most widely used method. As you already know by now, one plant does not contain much oil. Therefore, many plants are needed for making one small bottle of essential oil. For instance, for a quarter gallon of Lavender oil, 330 pounds of the plant is needed! You can imagine how strong one drop of oil is then.
These are the most used production processes for making essential oils:
- Distillation uses water vapor. The vapor detaches the oil from the plant. The oil floats on top of the water then and can be collected. The water can be used for therapeutic uses as well and is called hydrolate.
- Maceration means the plant is soaked in vegetable oil in order to extract its essential oil.
- Enfleurage means the oil is extracted with the help of purified animal fat. Don’t use an oil extracted with this method if you’re living a vegan lifestyle.
- Pressing of the peel can be used to extract oils from citrus fruits, for instance. You know the scent you smell when peeling a mandarin? That’s the essential oil!
- A solution can be made with hexane, which leaves concrete, but this process needs alcohol to remove residues.
How you can use essential oils safely
Before you use essential oils, you need to make sure you use them the right way. There are three ways to use oils for your dog.
Inhalation is the mildest method of using essential oils. You can use this if you want to address an emotional problem or if your dog has a respiratory problem. As we already know by now, scents have an immediate effect on how your dog feels. It also tackles the first defense of the body when inhaling it and works against viruses, bacteria and fungi in your dog’s respiratory system. You can put 5 to 7 drops of the oil in a layer of water on top of an oil burner or put the drops in a stone diffuser. The scent will linger for about a week in the last one before you have to renew it. This is a fairly safe way to use essential oils yourself, but make sure your dog can’t reach the oil.
You can also apply the oil to your dog’s skin with your fingers. You don’t use the oil the massage your dog because then it evaporates, but just dab it lightly on the skin. This works directly on the skin itself, the underlying organs, muscles, tendons and joints. However, essential oils are too strong to use in their pure form! Always mix a few drops in a fatty vegetable oil, such as jojoba oil, to prevent burns on the skin. Also make sure your dog doesn’t lick the oils from his skin. To make sure your dog reacts well to the oil, always test it first before using it. Essential oils are absorbed by the skin. Half an hour after applying an oil on your dog’s skin, the dog is allowed to swim already. Lavender and tea tree are an exception to the never-use-without-a-fatty-oil rule: you can use these pure on the skin. Use with care and remember the strength of essential oils; one or two drops are more than enough! If you’re not sure about what you’re doing, consult your natural healthcare practitioner.
The last method is one you can’t use on your own: intake. This needs to be prescribed by a professional; however, I like to explain to you what it does. By using essential oils in the body, the oil works on organs, the immune system and it has a huge and direct effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Because of its strength, never give your dog an essential oil without using an emulsifier such as dairy, honey or a vegetable oil to dissect one drop into many small drops. Never use essential oils internally before your dog is a year old.
Consult your natural healthcare practitioner if you think using essential oils this way can be useful for your dog. It’s a beautiful way to use oils for certain dogs, but you need to know what you’re doing.
Choosing a vegetable oil
If you want to use essential oils on your dog’s skin, you have to choose a vegetable oil in which to put the essential oil. Different vegetable oils have different qualities, so choose what fits your dog the most. Jojoba oil is what I use most. Jojoba on its own has healing properties. It works like a band aid and forms a layer of wax on the skin. It penetrates into your dog’s body deeply and works its magic where it’s needed. If you’re using essential oils for joints, muscles or tendons, use jojoba oil. Coconut oil can be used too, but it must be heated first and used immediately. For superficial uses, you can use almond oil or olive oil. Almond oil contains vitamin B and olive oil contains vitamin E, but both influence the functioning of the essential oil slightly. Sunflower oil has negative properties, so preferably don’t use it. Whatever vegetable oil you choose, make sure it’s organic and cold-pressed! See below this article for my top 5 of jojoba oils, so you know you can use these ones safely. Don’t hesitate to order them.
Now you know a lot of essential oils already! In the next part, we will focus on the different essential oils and how you can use them for your dog in every day life.
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These are my favorite vegetable oils I use when working with essential oils! You can buy them by clicking on the picture.