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Sniffing out Aromatherapy for Dogs

Aromatherapyis aform of alternative medicine that uses essential oils to alter mood, cognitive function, or health.And like so many other forms of alternative healing -...

Julia Szabo  |  Sep 22nd 2010


Aromatherapyis aform of alternative medicine that uses essential oils to alter mood, cognitive function, or health.And like so many other forms of alternative healing – includinghomeopathy and chiropractic – it’s now beingusedto enhancethephsyical and mentalwell-being of dogs.

Vicki Rae Thorne of Chicago’s Earth Heart Inc. has been a master herbalist and certified aromatherapist for 20 years. Although she doesn’t currently live with a dog, Thorne developed a remedy called Canine Calm, which sheformulatedat the request of a kennel owner.

“She took a class I was offering, Intro to Aromatherapy, and she talked to me about the dogs in her kennel,” Thorne recalls. “Some of the dogs were depressedor anxious,others were fearful, but all of them missed their families. So she was wondering if I could design something for her kennel that would help the dogs with separation anxiety, fear, and depression.These are some pretty big issues that dogs can face when taken to a kennel. They bark and pace and whine, especially when new dogs are brought in, or about15-20 minutes before feeding time.”

Thorne had never designed a fragrant remedy for animals before. “I’m an aromatherapy expert, not necessarily a dog expert,” she explains. “So in making the remedy for this kennel, I just put together sound principles of aromatherapy and researched essential oils that were appropriate for use with dogs.”

The result of her efforts is Canine Calm’s wonderfully fragrant blend of tangerine, bergamot, lavender, geranium, and ylangylang, and marjoram.

This stuff smells wonderful, but it also calms canines impressively well. “It started working from day one,” Thorne reports. “The kennel owner called me the first night to say it was unbelievable – the dogs hadn’t barked all day. She took a drop of the essential oil blend and put it on a cotton ball that she put outside each individual kennel; this way, the dogs could inhale it, and it would also diffuse through the air. When she ran out of her supply, she called me to say the dogs were starting to get anxious again.”

“My goal is to create effective remedies that smell good,” Thorne adds. And they do – good enough to double as a delightful room perfume. “I have women customers who use it as a personal fragrance too,” Thorne adds.

Travel Calm is the road-ready version of Canine Calm, with ginger added for its tummy-settling properties. Guard Well, meanwhile, helps dogs stay strong during cold and flu season, with its blend of Niaouli, Ravensare, and Frankincense.

All this may sound like quite the newfangled medicinal modality, but aromatherapy has a long history – and it’s been applied successfully to animals since the beginning.

As it happens, “The research done in the early 1900s on essential oil use actually used dogs and horses because they have a similar physiology to humans,” Thorne explains. “In France and Germany, they did their clinical studies on dogs and horses first, then decided tostart essential oiltesting on humans, and found there was tremendousopportunity for healing with these oils.”

Clients of the kennel where Thorne first tested her creation wanted to use the product at home, so she developed a convenient spray form. “It’s very simple to use,” Thorne says. “For a small dog, sometimes it only takes one small mist; for larger dogs, it can be 4 to 6 mists.”

But there are a few other fun ways to apply this miraculous mist. “My favorite application is to spray your hands and applyit toyour dog by rubbing hisears or abdomen; this way, it becomes a massage too,” Thorne says. “You can also spray it on a bandanna that you tie around your dog’s neck, or on his bedding, or on a favorite toy. You can mist it around your home, in your car, or in your dog’s travel crate. Or spray yourself, then hold your dog.”

With this last aromatherapy application, you and your dog both get to enjoy a wonderfully fragranthug – and what could be more uplifting orhealing than that?