Anxiety is an issue that every dog owner has dealt with at some point during their pet’s life. But what happens if it never goes away, and thunderstorms always send your dog running for cover? Or leaving your pet means hours of howling, destruction, or even accidents in the house? Creating a relaxing atmosphere through aromatherapy is a great first step in calming your dog’s nerves, but what scents are most beneficial? Let’s have a look at some commonly used aromatherapy oils, and also a few that are a little bit harder to find!
Vetiver, or Chrysopogon zizanioides, is a type of grass, native to India. Although it does share similarities to many different types of grasses, vetiver is closest to lemongrass. The essential oils cultivated from vetiver for aromatherapy uses are actually taken from the deep root of the plant- unlike most grass, the root system of the vetiver plant grows down into the ground, 2-4m in depth. The oil from the plant is a rich amber brown, and it’s scent has been described as deep, sweet, woody, smoky and earthy with a hint of balsam. It is a fairly strong scent that is useful to combat feelings of insecurity and fear, anxiety, and addressing aggressiveness.
Chamomile, or Camaemelum nobile, is a member of the Asteraceae family. Also known as Roman chamomile, German chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, wild chamomile, or scented mayweed, this common plant blooms with daisy-like flowers, and a sweet scent that some have likened to apples. Although native to Europe and Asia, chamomile has been successfully transplanted in North America. Chamomile has long been used as a natural sleep aid, and when ingested it helps to calm the digestive system. Using chamomile in an aromatherapy helps to relax both your pet’s mind and body, and studies have even shown relaxation in brain waves. Chamomile is one of the most common and wildly available herbal relaxant for both humans and canines alike.
Lavandula spica is a classification that includes 39 species that are a part of the mint family. Although it is native to the ‘old world’ (Europe, Asia, and Africa), various strains of lavender can be found growing world-wide. The species that we are most familiar with is Lavandula angustifolia, which is the Latin name for the strain that we call common lavender. Lavender oil is another frequently utilized essential oil for aromatherapy. The scent is commonly used in herbal aromatherapies to reduce stress, promote calmness and reduce anxiety, although it can also be used to reduce muscle pain and inflammation. Of all the essential oils, studies have shown that lavender is the most effective at reducing stress and relaxing brain waves.
4. Ylang Ylang
The tropical flowering ylang ylang tree, Cananga odorata is native to the Philippines. The essential oil of ylang ylang is derived from the flower itself, and the scent is described as floral and spicy, with hints of banana and neroli (a honey-like scent from the bitter orange tree). Ylang ylang is traditionally utilized in aromatherapy to reduce fear and anxiety, and is useful when dealing with stress and shock (could be very useful after a dog park scrap!). Keep in mind- if your pet inhales a large amount of ylang ylang, it could cause nausea. Because of this, it is most widely used in combination with other soothing scents.
Cedarwood oil is derived from cedar trees, most commonly the red cedar and juniper. The oil is extracted from the foliage of the tree, and occasionally the roots and wood. Cedarwood oil has long been used as a natural sedative, reliving stresses of both mind and body. Providing cedarwood oil in our pet’s environment encourages the release of serotonin, which is converted into melatonin in the brain (melatonin is responsible for regulating sleep/wake cycles). This can help to induce sleep, and a general relaxed feeling.
6. Clary Sage
Salvia sclarea is most commonly found in the northern Mediterranean, but can also be spotted growing in north Africa and central Asia. The essential oil made from Clary sage is imported world-wide, and the plant itself has been employed for centuries as a medicinal herb. The oil is extracted and distilled, and is used to relieve anxiety, relax the mind, ease fearfulness, and encourage sleep. Although this oil is a bit more obscure, and may be harder to find, your nervous pet would definitely benefit from it’s soothing scent!
7. Sweet Orange
Sweet orange oil is probably the least common essential oil when it comes to pet-specific aromatherapy. But not because of it’s effectiveness- it is a great option for reliving stress- but some pets are sensitive to citrus oils and do not enjoy the smell. However, if your dog does not show a distaste for the scent, orange oil could be a great addition to your routine! Sourced from the orange peel, the oil is extracted through a cold press process, rather than the usual steam distillation. Orange oil smells sweet and fresh- a great way to keep your pets calm and your home smelling fruity!