Essential Oils: Application Techniques

There are many ways to use essential oils around your pets. Here is a quick overview of some common application techniques. These application techniques are regarded as external methods, but the all have the potential to become internal methods due to normal grooming behaviors of animals. Caution must be taken with animals and internal consumption of essential oils.


cat-2846987__340Water based ultrasonic diffusing is probably the most common type application technique used when you think of essential oils. Start with a small amount of oils in the diffuser (1-2 drops) and see how your pet reacts. Never close a pet into a room with a running diffuser, ensure they have the ability to leave the area if they have an aversion to the scent. It is recommended if you have a diffuser running in a room with a pet, that there is at least 5 feet from where the diffuser is placed to where the pet may be sitting or sleeping. Our pets have a much better since of smell than we do, so what we might think smells nice may be too much for them. Watch for signs of whether or not your pet is comfortable with the smell. Seeing a reaction of squinty eyes, sneezing and avoiding the area means you should back off on the amount of oil in the diffuser until your pet seems comfortable. If your pet doesn’t seem to react and continues on with their normal routine while the diffuser is running, it would seem that your pet does not mind the smell and it is okay to continue diffusing around them.

Risk of internal consumption: Diffusing can also be considered an internal method of application. As the oils are diffusing, us and our pets are inhaling the the oils diffused into the air, bringing them into our lungs. Also, pets actually will absorb diffused oils readily into their skin because they have a higher concentration of hair follicles when compared to humans.


This is a very simple way of applying and using essential oils around your pets. The oils will need to be very diluted for this technique. Start with mixing 10 drops of carrier oil (coconut, olive oil or almond oil for example) and 1 drop of essential oil to your hands and rub it in until only at thin layer and light scent remains. Then pet your pet to apply the oil all over or focused application on a targeted area. If you are using this technique often with your pet you could pre-mix a bottle of carrier oil with a 90% dilution of essential oil and then just use a drop or two each time you apply them to your pet. When using this technique be sure not to apply anything on the head, near the eyes, mouth, nose and ears.


Risk of internal consumption: Due to the natural grooming habits of animals, essential oils applied to the fur by this method are probably going to be licked at at some point. This is why dilution is so important. If you’re concerned about your pet licking off the oils, you can apply them at the base of the neck or between the should blades, as your pet will be less able to turn and lick that area.  Regardless of where the oils are applied, they will eventuality be absorbed into their skin because of their higher concentration of hair follicles.


Essential oils can be used when bathing your pet. One or two drops of oil can be added to your pet’s shampoo bottle to both dilute the oils and incorporate them into each bathing session. There are also many recipes out there if you would like to make your own shampoo using essential oils. If you plan on adding oils directly to the bath water for a soak application, ensure they are first mixed with soap or animal-safe Epsom salts before adding them to the water. Oils are not water soluble and therefore will not disperse in your pet’s bath water on their own. They will spread across the top of the water and will not dilute causing your pet’s body to come in contact with the oils at a too high concentration.


Risk of internal consumption: Whether you have used the oils mixed in the shampoo or as a soak, it is important that your pet is rinsed thoroughly after the bath. Because of your pet’s natural grooming habits they will want lick off any oils not rinsed out after the bath as they are drying.

Litter Boxes

This is a very easy method to use essential oils with your cat or other pet that uses a litter box. Simply mix a few drops of oils with a cup of baking soda and shake it up well. Sprinkle a light layer of the baking soda mixture to the litter box and mix it in. This will expose your pet to the oils each time they use the litter box. Always make sure you have an extra litter box without added essential oils available. If your pet does not like the scent of the oils and there is no extra box,  litter box avoidance and inappropriate urination problems could occur. If you notice your pet is not using the box with the oils, you may either have to use different oils or back off on the amount of baking soda mixture added to the box.

Risk of internal consumption: This technique has a very low risk of internal consumption. Again, due to grooming your pet may consume the oils internally if they are not mixed well into the litter and end up on the feet. Also, if the amount of oils mixed in is too much your pet may inhale too high of a concentration of them.


Glover, S. (2017, June 16). Homemade Dog Shampoo: 5 Natural Recipes. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from
Wismer, Tina. “Do Essential Oils Pose a Risk to Pets?” VetStreet, 26 May 2016,
Essential Oils Animal Desk Reference. Life Science Pub., 2017.


Please note, this content is for informational purposes only, it contains general guidelines, and is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice regarding your pet.