Do you love lavender oil? Lavender oil is a lovely essential oil that may offer health benefits for humans. But for dogs, lavender oil can be anything but helpful. In fact, we don’t recommend using essential oils at all directly on your dog. Here’s why: the oil is very potent and can cause skin reactions.
If you want the long version of why lavender essential oil isn’t safe in all situations for dogs, keep reading.
What Is Lavender Essential Oil?
All scented plants have one-of-a-kind volatile organic compounds VOC, giving them their unique scent and ability to ward off pests and diseases. It’s why fresh peppermint has a bite and poison ivy causes inflamed itchy skin.
Lavender essential oil is a highly-concentrated extract from the lavender plant. In fact, it’s one of the most popular essential oils on the market. People love the smell, and the oil has potential health benefits. But these potential health benefits don’t always translate to your dog.
The 3 Reasons Essential Oils Are Risky for Dogs
1. A Little Goes a Long Way
You only need to use a couple of drops with any essential oil. Because essential oils are so potent, it’s easy to overdo it and risk an accidental reaction. Essential oils need to be diluted to the proper strength before use and guidance should be sought on their safe use.
Lavender, specifically, is a reactive oil because of its natural potency. Rashes are the most common side effect, although you can also see allergic reactions.
2. Variability in Concentration
There isn’t just one company distributing lavender oil. Several companies all over the globe grow, harvest, distill, and package the product. There is no regulation of essential oils the same way as there is for medicines. For this reason, each bottle can vary in quality and contents.
3. Science-Backed Research Is Slim
Animals have different skin pH levels and skin thickness, so this is particularly important when handling anything that will go on your dog’s skin. What pet owners use on their skin often isn’t suitable for dogs.
Essential oils show potential in research, but this research is limited. The results teeter back and forth between “healthy” and “dangerous.” Plus, humans are the main subject in these studies, not animals. There are some small scale studies showing a calming effect on dogs 1.
Are All Essential Oils This Way?
Not exactly. Each plant has varying strengths of volatile organic compounds, so some essential oils are stronger than others. We already mentioned the production process affecting strength, but sometimes where the oil is extracted also plays a role. There are essential oils that are considered safe to use around dogs and others that are not.
Regardless of where they originate, essential oils are all highly concentrated and are harmful if used inappropriately on your dog. They should never ingest essential oils and anything used on their skin has the potential to be groomed off by them and therefore ingested.
Can I Diffuse Lavender Oil Around My Dog?
Most people who enjoy oils diffuse lavender oil to help their house smell fresh and clean. If this is you, don’t worry about tossing the diffuser quite yet. Because lavender oil is one of the safer (although not completely safe) essential oils to use around dogs, you should be fine as long as your dog has no breathing problems and the diffuser is in a location away from the dog with the door closed.
Keep in mind, dogs have stronger olfactory senses than humans, so what is mild to your nostrils might be too strong for your dog. With this in mind, it is still better to keep the house free from all essential oils if you can help it. If you do choose to use them then ensure there is good ventilation and your dog has the opportunity to leave the area if they are finding the scent troublesome.
What About Pet Shampoos?
Pet shampoos commonly include essential oils in their products. These products are (usually) diluted, but your dog can still react even from a small amount. Allergic reactions to lavender in shampoo are not common but should still be monitored for. Ensure you rinse off the shampoo well.
Lavender is a scent that many of us find relaxing. There is limited research into the risks and benefits of lavender oil with dogs and so caution is advised. While not the most dangerous essential oil to use around dogs, lavender oil should not be used directly on your pup.