Is Lavender Oil Safe for Dogs?

Filed in Dog Health on March 18, 2022

Is Lavender Oil Safe for Dogs

Lavender oil is well-known for its many uses such as treating human anxiety and other ailments, but is lavender oil safe for dogs?

Many dog owners are interested in homeopathic remedies for their dog’s anxiety, allergies, and more, and essential oils are a common natural staple to reach for.

This article will explore the uses and benefits of lavender oil for dogs, as well as potential side effects so you can decide if it’s right for your dog.

Short answer: Yes, generally speaking, lavender oil is safe for dogs when used topically and precautions are taken to avoid ingesting the oil.

Some exceptions are the rare case where your dog is allergic to lavender oil, so you’ll want to test out a small amount first.

What is Lavender Oil?

Lavender oil is derived from the Lavender plant, also known as Lavandula angustifolia.

The oil is extracted from the flowers and stem, typically through steam distillation, which creates a highly concentrated oil. Lavender oil can be up to 50-70 times more potent than the plant itself.

Uses of Lavender Oil for Dogs

Just like for humans, lavender oil has been shown to be a versatile essential oil when applied topically on dogs.

While there have been limited research studies on the usage of lavender oil on dogs, the few studies that have been done have shown promising results for therapeutic uses.

For example, a 2005 study showed that when used in a shelter, the dogs spent more time resting and showed less vocalization.

The most common uses of lavender oil for dogs include:

  • Soothing itchy skin and skin irritation
  • Natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory
  • Repelling fleas, ticks, and mosquitos
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Relieving motion sickness
  • Helping your dog sleep

Is Lavender Oil Safe for Dogs?

lavender oil and dried lavender herb

When properly diluted with a carrier oil and applied topically, lavender oil is generally considered safe for dogs.

Lavender does contain linalool and linalyl acetate, however, which can be toxic to dogs in large amounts. Lavender oil is very concentrated, so your dog only has to ingest a small amount of lavender oil for it to be toxic.

It’s important to monitor your dog closely when using lavender oil, even properly diluted, for any signs of sickness. Read your dog’s reactions and consult with your vet if you notice any signs of a reaction.

Benefits of Lavender Oil for Dogs

When used correctly, lavender oil offers many great, versatile health benefits for your dog. These benefits include:

Repels Pests

Lavender oil acts as a natural repellant for insects and pests that may bother your dog.

Adding a few drops of diluted oil onto your dog’s coat, into their shampoo, or onto their collar can reduce their chances of being bitten by fleas, ticks, and mosquitos.

Naturally Calming

Just like in people, lavender oil helps to relax and reduce stress in your dog. One study from 2006 found that, when used on dogs with travel-induced anxiety, the lavender oil helped reduce excitement and kept the dogs calm.

In addition to the anxiety caused by traveling, lavender oil can also help relieve the effects of motion sickness, like excessive drooling, heavy breathing, and nausea.

Lavender oil can also help with:

  • General anxiety
  • Separation anxiety
  • Anxiety caused by loud noises
  • Creating a calm environment when your dog is wound up

Soothes Itchy and Irritated Skin

If your dog has skin allergies or inflammation, or itchy skin, lavender oil can offer relief. Lavender is a full-spectrum oil, which means it contains natural anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, antibacterial, anti-microbial, and pain-relieving properties.

Lavender oil also has natural anti-bacterial properties, making it useful for sunburns, bug bites, and small cuts that may be irritating your dog’s skin. It can even help soothe dry skin.

Reduces Joint Pain

The anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties can also help soothe the aches and pains that stem from arthritis and other joint issues.

Applying a small amount of diluted lavender oil to the affected area can reduce the inflammation in the joints, relieving pain and improving your dog’s mobility.

Smells Greatcute puppy sniffing lavender flower

Not only is lavender oil safe for dogs (when used topically), but it’s also a great way to refresh your dog’s smelly coat. It can be added to other carrier oils and soaps to use in natural shampoos to keep your dog smelling clean.

Side Effects of Lavender Oil

While lavender oil can be great at calming your dog and soothing their itchy skin, it can also be toxic when used the wrong way.

Lavender oil is very potent. A 15ml bottle of lavender essential oil can contain as much as 3 pounds of lavender flowers. Because of this, it can pose a few risks to your dog if not used safely.

Allergic Reaction

While rare, allergic reactions can happen, and you should always start with a very small amount of oil to test your dog’s reactivity. Signs that your dog is allergic to the lavender oil include:

  • Itchy, inflamed skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chronic skin and ear infections
  • Sneezing
  • Red eyes
  • Hair loss
  • Chewing on the affected areas
  • Obsessive licking

Lavender Poisoning

Lavender oil should never be ingested by your dog, especially not without being diluted first. Because of the linalool and linalyl acetate in lavender, ingesting can lead to lavender poisoning. If your pet has ingested lavender oil, call your vet right away.

Signs of lavender poisoning include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or inability to defecate
  • Lethargy
  • Refusing to eat
  • Tender abdomen
  • Fever
  • Staggering, shaking, or other neurological symptoms
  • Decreased respiratory rate, asthma, or aspiration pneumonia
  • Changes to your dog’s heart rate
  • Liver failure

Your Dog Dislikes the Smell

Dogs have a heightened sense of smell, and they can be easily irritated by odors, especially strong odors like essential oils.

Always dilute your oils with a carrier oil and allow your dog to smell it first before applying it to gauge their reaction. If your dog doesn’t like the smell of the oil, they will typically:

  • Turn away from the oil or avoid you
  • Pant
  • Whine
  • Rub their nose or face on the floor

Low-Quality Lavender Oil

Lavender is a popular essential oil and, because of that, it’s common for lavender oils found on store shelves to be synthetically altered in some way.

While lavender oil is safe for use on your dog, some of the additives to the oil may not be, so you need be careful with what oils you buy.

Always do your research and look for therapeutic or medical-grade essential oils for your dog.

Reputable sellers will offer a certificate of analysis with a Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) test, so you can confidently know the contents of the oil.

How to Give a Dog Lavender Oil

dry lavender twigs and lavender oil bottles

Before you use lavender oil on your dog, always talk with your vet. They will let you know the risks, how to properly dilute the oil, and may even help you find trustworthy lavender oil options that are right for your dog.

1. Dilute the Lavender Oil

Once you have your medical-grade lavender oil from a reputable seller, the first step is to dilute the oil for topical use. To dilute it, you have to mix it with a carrier or base oil such as:

  • Sesame oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Almond oil
  • Apricot kernel oil

A rough guideline to use is 3-6 drops of essential oil per 1 fluid ounce of carrier oil, but that can differ depending on your dog’s size, age, and health.

The smaller your dog, the more you will need to dilute the mixture. Consult with your vet on the right dilution level for your dog.

2. Let Your Dog Smell the Mixture

Once you’ve properly diluted the oil, let your dog smell it. Monitor your dog’s reaction to see if it’s safe to continue.

If your dog doesn’t have any adverse reactions to the smell, like whining or rubbing their nose, you can start with a small amount.

3. Apply the Lavender Oil

Your lavender oil application will depend on why you’re using the lavender oil.

If your dog has arthritis, skin irritation, or some kind of physical ailment, apply a very small amount to any itchy patch of skin, wound, or aching joint. Always start small to monitor your dog’s reaction and then increase the amount over time.

For calming effects, a drop or two on your dog’s collar can be effective, or even adding a drop or two on your dog’s favorite stuffed animal.

4. Store the Lavender Oil in a Safe Location

When you’re through with the lavender oil, always keep it in a medicine cabinet or out of reach from your dog to avoid accidental ingestion. Keep the carrier oils out of your dog’s reach as well.

So Is Lavender Oil Safe for Dogs?

Lavender oil, when used topically, can be a safe, natural method of soothing skin irritation, treating wounds, and reducing your dog’s anxiety, but it should also be used with caution.

You’ll want to take precautions to avoid your dog from ingesting the oil. Further, you should test out a small amount on your dog in the rare case that they’re allergic to it.

Always do your research and talk to your vet before making any changes to your dog’s routine, and always follow their guidance on proper dilution and application.

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