lavender plant

Lavender is a very popular essential oil that is touted for its ability to promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, and help treat a variety of ailments. It is used in many health and household products including soaps, shampoos, lotions, cleaners, candles, bubble baths, and more. If lavender has calming effects on people, does that mean it could also be used to calm dogs?

First and foremost, it’s important to note that though lavender is generally considered safe, it also contains compounds that are toxic to dogs if ingested, and you avoid letting them consume lavender plants, oils, or teas.  As for topical and aromatherapy use, the science is limited, but it’s possible lavender has some calming effects on dogs.

What Is Lavender?

Lavender is a fragrant flowering plant that is believed to be native to western Europe, northern Africa, and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean. It is part of the mint family and produces light purple to violet flowers off its shoots. It has a long history of medicinal and therapeutic use, dating back over 2,500 years ago.

Studies have supported the medicinal benefits of lavender when treating fungal infections, hair loss, wounds, and anxiety. While there are many other claims that lavender can treat things like depression, high blood pressure, menstrual pain, eczema, and many other ailments, the evidence does not yet fully support these claims and further research is needed.

In addition to being added to a wide variety of health, beauty, aromatherapy, and cleaning products, lavender has four primary forms when it comes to human use.

Lavender Plant

Many people will grow this delicately scented and pleasant-smelling perennial plant in their yards or gardens. Not only does it add beautiful color to the landscape, but it also gives the area a hint of lavender’s sweet scent.

Lavender Oil

Lavender essential oil is the most popular form, this is created when the nectar extracted from the lavender plant is used to create a highly concentrated, fragrant oil. The oil is then used for topical application, placed in diffusers, or used in a variety of ways for aromatherapy.

Lavender Tea

Lavender tea is used to help treat anxiety and promote relaxation and sleep.  helps ease anxiety and promotes sleep. Lavender tea can be purchased or made at home by steeping fresh lavender buds in boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes.

Lavender Supplements

Lavender is also found in capsule form in natural health stores. Capsules should never be given to any pets due to toxicity. For humans, it’s highly recommended to speak with your doctor before starting a new supplement and only use it as directed.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Lavender and Dogs

Now that you have a better understanding of what lavender truly is, what it is used for in the human world, and the different forms it comes in, we’ll talk about lavender’s effects on our canine companions and how it is considered toxic if ingested.

Lavender Toxicity in Dogs

Before anyone decides to use lavender as a natural calming treatment for their dog, they should understand the potential dangers of certain plants and plant extracts. What’s safe for humans isn’t always safe for pets and knowing what types of plants pose a risk to your pets can not only save you on veterinary visits but in some cases, it could be a difference between life and death.

Lavender is generally considered safe but it does contain two components called linalool, and linalyl acetate which are considered toxic to dogs, cats, and horses according to the ASPCA. The concentration of these compounds is rather low, but if ingested in large amounts or highly concentrated as you find in lavender essential oil, the toxic effects could certainly be presented.

Lavender should never be given orally, nor should your dog have access to any lavender oil in the home to prevent them from ingesting it. If your dog were to ingest heavy amounts of lavender, it’s best to contact your veterinarian for further guidance.

Symptoms of Lavender Toxicity

  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Using Lavender Oil Safely

Lavender oil and certain other essential oils must be used safely when treating your dog. It is highly recommended that you first speak to your veterinarian or a holistic veterinarian before you begin using any essential oil, as they can guide you on how to properly dilute essential oils and give recommendations on dosage and usage.

The veterinarian will also go over the essential oils that are potentially harmful to dogs and should be avoided altogether. Once you have been given the green light to use lavender oil either topically or as aromatherapy, follow your veterinarian’s guidance on how to properly dilute and use the oil.

When used topically, always start with very small amounts, as the compounds in any essential oil can be absorbed rapidly into the skin and could very well irritate the skin or even result in an allergic reaction. You also don’t want to risk it being placed in an area where it is easily licked off and ingested.

The Science Behind the Calming Effects of Lavender Oil on Dogs

When using lavender as a calming agent, it is most often used as aromatherapy. As we’ve mentioned, the research is very limited on the calming effects that lavender has on dogs. A study completed in 2006 involved 32 dogs with a history of travel-induced excitement.

Researchers wanted to test the efficacy of the odor of lavender in treating this travel-induced excitement. The results revealed the dogs in the study that were exposed to the lavender scent spent “significantly more time resting and sitting and less time moving and vocalizing” during the experiment.

The conclusion was that “aromatherapy in the form of diffused lavender odor may offer a practical alternative treatment for travel-induced excitement in this species.”  While this does show promise, this was a relatively small study, and more research would need to be done to have more conclusive evidence of this claim.

Final Thoughts

You must always exercise caution and speak to a veterinarian before using any essential oil on your dog or any other pet. Certain plants and the highly concentrated essential oils derived from them can be toxic at varying levels, depending on the plant.

Lavender is generally considered safe when properly diluted and used topically or as aromatherapy, but it does contain toxic compounds that could cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested in large amounts. Studies have shown promise in the calming effects of lavender when used as aromatherapy for dogs, but more research must be conducted for more conclusive evidence of this claim.

Featured Image Courtesy: Pixabay