Essential oils and pets: a new solution or dangerous combination?

Gale Rodgers said essential oils have helped calm her dog, Buster, when more traditional methods have failed. / Mary Green

You could call Gale Rodgers of Albany an essential oils convert.

"Yes, I really have converted just about everything I use — household cleaners to personal body care, makeup," she said.

Rodgers believes in these oils so much that she recently starting selling them for the company Young Living.

When she says she uses them for everything, she really means it.

"I might take cinnamon bark oil and put it in a cup of coffee or tea, or lavender, and I have a whole line of the herbs that I might make meatloaf or whatever with," she said.

But what's not new for Rodgers is owning pets. She currently has two dogs, Belle and Buster.

"They're shelter dogs," she said. "They were abused, and so they're not really friendly around a lot of people."

Buster in particular does not like thunderstorms.

"To the point where he'd get on the bed with us at night and you couldn't sleep because he's shaking," Rodgers said.

She said she tried traditional methods to help her dog, like anxiety pills and calming coats, but nothing really did the job. Then she researched essential oils and pets. Now she applies a drop or two of a pet oil blend to Buster's coat whenever it storms.

"Usually within 10, 15 minutes, he just calms right down," she said.

Rodgers said she's careful to only use pure oils, which can be a little pricier than ones off the shelves. She also recognizes these oils aren't a panacea, for humans or pets.

"Take control of your own life by doing the proper research and not just taking hearsay," she said. "Just like me. Don't just listen to me. Go look. Go research."

But for her and for Buster, thinking outside the box has paid off.

"I don't use it all the time, only when I need to, and I feel good that I know that I'm putting something healthy on them," Rodgers said.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, has also issued recommendations when it comes to using essential oils on or around animals.

The organization said cats are especially sensitive to some oils.

They don't recommend applying oils directly to pets because you might not know the concentration or quality of the product.

But if you do, they encourage getting oils approved by your veterinarian before you use it. Some oils, like tea tree oil, can be more harmful than others, according to the ASPCA.

Then make sure you keep an eye on your pets once you start using them, and keep any bottles or diffusers out of their reach.

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