Aromatherapy and Your Dogs

September 23, 2012

A Bit of History on Aromatherapy

Human beings are drawn to good smells…gingerbread cookies baking in the over, an orange as you first break the skin or freshly mowed grass. Can you smell each of those right now? I know I want a gingerbread cookie NOW!

Why Dogs Eat Horse Poo!

In centuries past, when we all lived a more natural life, we ingested herbs and botanicals naturally in our everyday meals. Dogs grazed on the herbs they instinctively knew were best for what they needed. We have all seen dogs nibble grass when they had a bit of an upset tummy, same principle. They will even search out specific types of grass to achieve certain results. Rough grasses with rough edges lump together in the intestine to scrape worms out, sweet grasses ease bitter tummies, while bitter grasses cleanse the stomach when “urped”. Eating dirt and manure are also ways of self-medicating. Wild animals will travel miles to specific clay deposits to cleanse their systems. Side note: Some women have been known to crave clay when pregnant, even in industrialized places. The manure of herbivores (such as horses or cows) is full of enzymes and partially digested protein, which can be beneficial for a meat eater’s (your dog) digestive system. That said, I still do not let my dogs eat my yak’s poo…that is just wrong!

Our lives are much more domesticated now and we must search out the various substances our bodies need and crave. Since our dogs cannot tell us (yet) that they are feeling a bit anxious and could use some calming lavender, it is our job to be aware of their needs and help them as best we can. By using aromatherapy oils, we can share the benefits of many herbs, botanicals and more without having to cook a batch of lavender or grow herbs on our windowsills. I wish I had the patience for that lifestyle, but I am a “order it on Amazon and pay for next day shipping” kinda gal!

The history geek in me found the following tidbits of info on how aromatherapy came into usage. Ancient Egyptians were probably the first to use essential oils. They created distillation techniques and used essential oils for medical, spiritual, and practical usages (embalming, etc.). Ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese and native cultures all utilized aromatherapy distillation processes in their medical explorations.

Many have heard the story of the thieves who soaked themselves in a variety of protective antibacterial oils and stoles from the homes of those who had died of the Black Death or Plague.  When they were captured, they were given the option of telling the secret of the oils and being out to death quickly or not telling and being put to death…very slowly.

A French chemist and perfumer named Rene Maurice Gattefosse discovered lavender oil’s ability to assist in the healing of burns after immersing his burned hand into a vat of lavender oil. During World War II, another aromatherapy oil pioneer, Jean Valet, used oils to treat wounded soldiers. To this day, scientists have continued their research into the usage of nature’s bounty as essential oils. Of course, people have shared the benefits of aromatherapy oils with their companion animals, with great success.  Recently, at the University of South Dakota, a student received her doctoral degree for pioneering work in ethnobotany, which examined veterinary essential oil use.

Oils have been shown to reduce anxiety and inflammation, fight infections by inhibiting bacteria, fungi and viruses from growing and soothe muscular aches and pains. Aromatherapy oils are also used to affect emotional changes, lessen stress, activate memory and much more…in people and their pets. Aromatherapy oils are powerful and must be used with caution. Dogs especially, have such heightened senses of smell, we must use discretion when using oils with them. On a side note, I have seen dog collar attachments that emit aromatherapy oils, but I do not recommend them. I feel our dogs need to be able to move away from the oils when they have had enough. One whiff may be enough for them! Imagine sitting next to someone with overpowering perfume on a packed flight and not being able to move! Oy! A little bit can go a long way for our dogs.

Oil Essentials

Plants cannot move and escape predators or disease, so they produce compounds that neutralize or repel pests and pathogens. Yeah, plants get stinky or prickly to repel threats! By using the natural defenses that plants have we can create healing substances for our (and our dogs) health and well-bring.

Essential oils are absorbed by inhalation, ingestion and contact with the skin. They enter the body and the blood stream and are distributed to various tissues very quickly. With a good working knowledge of what oils work for what you can start the support and healing process quickly with aromatherapy oils. Side note: Aromatherapy oils and essential oils are essentially the same (bad word play). Aromatherapy has almost gotten a bad rap with the overuse of aromatherapy verbiage in advertising. Everything seems to be lavender this or that…I can almost guarantee that there is little or no REAL lavender in any of those products. We are talking about therapeutic grade oils, that are of a very high quality NOT the scent-only oils you find in most consumer products such as room fresheners, etc.

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