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Aromatherapy and Dog Farts

I know, I know... you are asking, “What in the world do aromatherapy and dog farts have to do with migraine?!”

Well, let me tell you my tale/tail... but before we get to that, a little of what prompted the share.

Essential oil use with pets

Many people use, or are interested in using, essential oils (EOs) and aromatherapy as part of their migraine toolkit and my hope is my experience offers the things to consider in finding YOUR answer to the question: “What about our pets and using essential oils?”

Well, it’s complicated (sort of, but not really)... so a quick summary followed by a more verbose response:

• A personal inhaler is a great way to utilize EOs without exposing any other person or critter to the EO.
• An email to your critter’s veterinarian office can likely provide you with a list of absolute no-go’s (if there are any) for your companion’s species.
• As with most things, there is no clear ‘this or that’ answer.

Windbag tales...

This is a polarizing topic in the aromatherapy discussions with one side of the spectrum being those who are concerned about even opening an EO bottle in the same room as a pet, to the other extreme of those formally trained in medicinal use, including topical and internal use for animals. (Internal use is sometimes called the “French Method” and is a truly medicinal method that requires *significant* training whether human or pet. Please do not take or give oils internally.)

Part of the discussion easily overlooked is the question, “Is the information about EOs used to treat the maladies of an animal or EOs being used to support a human in an environment that includes pets?”

Since I am a human (most days) managing migraine episodes, this is something I keep in mind when crossing paths with information about EOs and pets. A lot of the discussions and concerns are about using essential oils ON and FOR pets, not on the humans in their vicinity.

So that’s something to keep in mind: Is the information about using EOs to support a pet or support of a human who has a pet?

How I use essential oils around my pets

I have used EOs for about 30 years and always lived with pets; currently a very large 120lb German Shepherd rescue and 5 goldfish. We previously had a 90lb hound/shepherd mix and 65lb Rhodesian Ridgeback. Before that, I was the servant to many a cat. (I’m a six foot tall Amazonian-like woman and would look ridiculous with a small dog… although a cat on my shoulder is a good look.)

As with a lot of things, I found my answer to using EOs around pets is somewhere in the middle without a clear one-size-fits-all declaration. These are some considerations that helped guide my choices:

#1... Is there anything about EOs specific to my species of companion?
What’s fine for horses or dogs may not be cool with cats or birds. This is one time I would ask the vet instead of Dr. Google because there is information overload on this subject and it isn’t necessarily clear if it applies to using EOs on a pet or human *with a pet.* Shoot your vet an email and ask if they have a list of “absolutely must avoid” for your pet pal. Cats, birds, small dogs, gerbils, etc. all have different biological make-ups. Make sure YOU are comfortable with the source providing answers.

#2... Size of the critter?
My giant dog will likely survive eating a Hershey Kiss of chocolate, but a tiny teacup Chihuahua might become significantly ill. The cat would bat at it like a toy. This applies to any substance from EOs to medications to cheese.

#3... Is it diluted or full strength?
EOs are *highly* concentrated. For example it takes 30-50 roses to make ONE drop of rose otto essential oil, or about 1 pound of black peppercorns (around 4 cups) to make 5ml/100 drops of Black Pepper Essential oil (1/4 cup dry peppercorns = about 6 drops EO or about 2 tsp peppercorns = 1 drop EO). Can you imagine a bath filled with that many roses or rubbing in that much ground pepper? This is why diluting EOs is common practice, 1 drop is A LOT of concentrated plant material.

#4... How might they be exposed?
Is it in a personal inhaler? A topical lotion/balm/massage oil? Misting diffuser? Is it out of reach?

#5... Duration/intensity of exposure?
Will a diffuser run on max for hours in a small space w/out ventilation or might a passing breeze catch the faintest whiff from a bottle cap? Is it a topical product that has a strong and lasting aroma or is it quickly absorbed into your skin?

#6... Natural and synthetic scents and substances are all around us.
Shampoo, laundry soap, dish soap, candles, sanitizers, balms, lotions... as many a person managing migraine knows, scents (natural or synthetic) are in *everything* and *everywhere* and not a lot of concern is given to whether dryer sheets are fine with our pets. We wash our hair, use our lotions, perfume, deodorant, laundry, etc. and our critters are fine. Even the most natural, eco-friendly products (though likely better than the mass market heavily scented products) can impact each of us, and our pets, uniquely.

Okay, so that’s all well and good, but what about the dog farts? You read this far, so a reward, yay!

The tail of toots

There is this quirk that humans share with our fur family… we all respond differently to substances.

Bergamot EO is considered safe to use around pets and kids, but if I even have the tiniest amount in a lotion, let alone diffuse it, I get 120 pounds of continuous dog farts, and that is NOT an aroma anyone finds soothing. Our girl’s digestive system just goes off; she isn’t in any obvious distress or discomfort, she just gets a terrible case of STINKY toots. Our previous dogs had no issue with bergamot.

It took some time to figure out (almost a year after her rescue) because it is considered a really safe oil and in A LOT of pre-made blends and commercial products. Fortunately(?) I diffused it alone one time and daaaaaaamn, dog farts are not aromatherapy!

Humans are critters too, and just because something is gentle enough for a baby doesn’t mean every person will do well with it. Case in point, I break out in head-to-toe hives for days after a tiny dose of Tylenol, a substance safe enough for babies, and I’m built like a Viking.

All critters have quirks

Considerations and practices for using aromatherapy to support your migraine episodes and respect your animal companions:

The basics...
#1... Don’t put EOs on your animals.
#2... Don’t let them lick it off you.
If you use something topically, wash your hands before petting or handling your pet pal and/or make sure that it has absorbed into your skin. Just like we don’t let our pets lick the Vicks, Tiger Balm, Icy Hot, or Bengay after we apply it, we don’t decline using those remedies because of pets (those balms get a lot of their oomph from EOs, they are just listed with the scientific name)

#3... Give critters an option to leave the space.
If using a diffuser or a strongly aromatic topical, make sure that critters can make haste to an exit if they find it offensive. Remember a small caged critter like a hedgehog can’t exit like a cat or dog.

Our animal companions are very smart in knowing by instinct things that will help or harm them, and will get their fuzzy butts away from things they don’t like. Don’t chase them down to smell your lotion because Bob’s Blog said it is soothing; you can be disappointed in their disinterest, but respect it.

If you, or fur friend, don’t feel well with a new oil, open the windows, get some fresh air. Consider how, or if, you use it in the future (maybe it was too much… sometimes something that helps nausea can cause nausea if too much is used; sometimes it was a bad burrito and since you shared some with your pet you both got grumbly-gut and it wasn’t the EO)

#4... Consider a personal inhaler.
If you are concerned about exposing pets or people, try using the EOs in a personal inhaler that only you can sniff (this also works great at work, school, anywhere it is a no-go to be diffusing or applying scents).

The easiest method is a couple of drops on a cotton ball or tissue/handkerchief. You can store it in a plastic bag for later or “just in case” if going out.

There are personal inhalers designed for EOs that come in reusable or disposable forms to carry with you. It looks like a tube of lip balm and has a cotton wick inside to drop EOs on; think the old-school Vicks Vapor Rub inhaler.

Upcycle tiny empty EO bottles by washing them out with rubbing/isopropyl alcohol (it cuts through everything and is inexpensive) and let them dry completely (rubbing alcohol does this fast and no smell/residue when dry). Once clean and dry, add salt to about 1/3 to 1/2 full (any salt works, its purpose is to hold the liquid EO from spilling). Finally drop in whatever EO you like to the strength you like (remember you can always add, but can’t take out). Seal, shake, sniff. (Note: you are inhaling the aroma NOT snorting salt into your nose. The oil keeps the salt weighted enough that this is unlikely, but just so we are all on the same page... inhaling aroma, not snorting salt.)

In conclusion

So that was a lot to answer the question of whether it is safe to use EOs around pets and end with “…it depends.” There are many factors to consider, but having those considerations doesn’t eliminate using EOs, *it informs how you use them for the needs of you and yours.*

Personally, I have never had issues (beyond the dog farts) with any EO and the dogs, cats, and fish that were/are part of my family. My sister has small humans and just about every size and type of animal; she diffuses anything and everything constantly and has never had issues (other than my nephew’s cat eating my niece’s snake, but that’s not an EO issue).

I have always let my critter companions smell every EO by holding the cap about a foot away from them. Animal noses are powerful enough to get the full experience that way and it gives them the choice to move toward or away, and it is never forced. Our giant girl knows EO bottles, gets excited when she sees them, and loves the smelling game, but that’s what works for her, your fur family may be different.

Hope that helped! Happy sniffing, may your tail be always wagging!

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