Animal Aromatherapy: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) With Paula Warner

Animal Aromatherapy: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) With Paula Warner

By ACHS Diploma in Aromatherapy Graduate Paula Warner

After finishing my Diploma in Aromatherapy through ACHS, I wanted to broaden my knowledge base to include working with aromatherapy and Bach Flower Essences through Ashi Aromatics. I want to share with you some questions that always seem to come up in my practice, Paws & Hooves Holistic Practice, as an Animal Aromatherapy Practitioner.  The following FAQ is not all conclusive, but it may give you some answers you have about working with animals in aromatherapy.

Animal Aromatherapy: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the basic safety practices I need to know before using essential oils with Animals (Holland Azzaro, 2020)?

Animal aromatherapy does not replace veterinary medicine. Instead, it provides a holistic layer of support. Using essential oils with birds, reptiles, and newborn animals is not recommended. Regarding cats, avoid oils that are high in limonene. This constituent is toxic to cats. A 2002 study was performed on a cat after having a limonene-based shampooing. The cat is experiencing aggressive behavior, skin lesions, lethargy, lack of appetite, and vocalizing. The cat continued to deteriorate due to the shampoo’s toxicity (Lee, Budgin, & Mauldin, 2002). In some cases, hydrosols are an excellent alternative.

Hydrosols can be used alone or with essential oil blends. They are good for skin care, hoof and paw soaks, insect repellents, overheated or overexertion from exercise, travel, or sun exposure. Also they are used with younger animals, the elderly, and hypersensitive clients.

Essential oils should not be applied directly to the nose, mouth/whiskers, ears, eyes, or genital area. Always dilute oils with a carrier oil when applied to the skin, especially the paws (only for abscesses, chapped paws, bruises, or minor wounds). Paws are a vital part of their sense of smell. The paws leave a scent or trail, and animals use that scent to track and identify other animals. If you need to diffuse, diffuse in short spurts (5-10 minutes), and remember that internal application is not recommended for animals unless directed by a qualified animal aromatherapist. Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil has been recently in the limelight regarding the oil’s toxicity. The following are possible reactions to Tea Tree (Holland-, 2020):

  • Depressed, lethargic, breathing, and respiratory difficulties
  • Drying, whining, panting, salivating, drooling, rubbing face/body
  • Skin irritation: rash, welts, itching, scratching
  • Inability to walk (stumbling, stupor type reaction)
  • Muscle weakness, body tremors, paralysis
  • Low body temperature
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Loss of consciousness, seizures


A research study conducted over a 10-year timeframe (2002-2012) assessed the toxicity of Tea Tree Oil in animals. The results showed increased drooling, signs of central nervous system depression or lethargy, loss of motor function, and tremors with a 100% application of Tea Tree Oil (Kahn, McLean and Slater 2014). This study on humans showed the toxic effects, suggesting that dogs may also receive similar results.

horse in flower field animal aromatherapy

How much essential oil can I use with animals?

It is always good to work with a qualified aromatherapist who understands the oils and is familiar with the animal’s health history. Dilution ratio is essential when working with dogs and other animals, and it varies based on the application method. The following chart is only a guide for essential oils that are safe and is determined by client health history.

Cats 0.5%-2%
Rabbits 0.5-1% (Not recommended for birds, reptiles, newborn animals)
Dogs 0.5% (under 20 lbs); Up to 3% (larger dogs)
Horses 5%-10%
Goats or Sheep 2%-10%

Is there anything I should not diffuse around my older dog?

What you want to learn is how the essential oil is going to affect the animal. Some oils would be contraindicated depending on their health whether they are human or animal. For example, Birch and Wintergreen essential oils contain methyl salicylate (compounds found in analgesics such as aspirin) and requires extra caution (Baxter, Hartwell, & Reck, 1938).

dog in flower field animal aromatherapy

How do I know what essential oil my dog will like?

Dogs have a sharp and robust sense of smell. What I do is use perfume blotters and put a drop of oil on the tip. I do this for every oil. I let the dog smell it to determine if the dog likes it or not. Do not place blotter less than six inches from the nose. Your dog will let you know if it does not like the scent (ignore it, sneeze, shake its head, or want to sniff more). Monitor any adverse change in behavior and discontinue use if there are. Keep in mind that the medicinal actions of the oil will affect the dog also.

In conclusion, I realize that you may have many more questions. Working with animals can be rewarding but challenging. Think about it. We don’t speak the same language, many are rescues having a past history that is unknown, and carry emotional baggage. They express these emotions through behaviors that can be misinterpreted as aggressive and dangerous. Many just want help. Knowledge is powerful. Assumptions are risky. Always err on the side of caution and learn as much as possible before using aromatherapy on animals.

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About the Author

Paula Warner is a recent Honors graduate from the American College of Healthcare Sciences as a Master Aromatherapist.  She continued her education in animal aromatherapy through Ashi Aromatics and graduated as an Animal Aromatherapy Practitioner.

Paula is affiliated with the Alliance of International Aromatherapists and is a member of the AIA Education Committee and published an article and a case study for the AIA Spring Journal Issue in Animal Aromatherapy. She was recently awarded the NAHA Level 3 Certified Clinical Aromatherapist status. In her business, Paws & Hooves Holistic Practice, she will provide aromatherapy, botanical, and flower essence support.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.


Holland-Azzaro, K. (2020). Animal Aromatherapy.  Ashi Therapy Ashi Aromatics Inc. https://www.animalaro

Baxter, E. H., Hartwell, R. M., & Reck, L. E. (1938). METHYL SALICYLATE POISONING. JAMA, 111(27), 2476-2477.

Ka, P., Sb, H., Jp, S., & Vr, B. (1988). An evaluation of the acute toxicity of an insecticidal spray containing linalool, d-limonene, and piperonyl butoxide applied topically to domestic cats. Veterinary and Human Toxicology, 30(3), 206-210.

Kahn, S. A., McLean, M. K., & Slater, M. R. (2014). Concentrated tea tree oil toxicosis in dogs and cats: 443 cases (2002–2012). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 244(1), 95-99. doi:10.2460/

Lee, J. A., Budgin, J. B., & Mauldin, E. A. (2002). Acute necrotizing dermatitis and septicemia after application of a d-limonene-based insecticidal shampoo in a cat. Javma-journal of The American Veterinary Medical Association, 221(2), 258-262.

Powers, K. A., Hooser, S. B., Sundberg, J. P., & Beasley, V. R. (1988). An evaluation of the acute toxicity of an insecticidal spray containing linalool, d-limonene, and piperonyl butoxide applied topically to domestic cats. Veterinary and Human Toxicology, 30(3), 206-210.

Thaler, K. J., Kaminski, A., Chapman, A., Langley, T., & Gartlehner, G. (2009). Bach Flower Remedies for psychological problems and pain: a systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 9(1), 16-16.

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