I am often asked about Dog Aromatherapy as a treatment. I was first introduced to the idea when I was training in Paris. I hope to give a quick overview for everyone in this article.
During training, we covered several dog spa treatments in classes, such as mud therapy and creative colouring, but one of the most interesting to me was aromatherapy for companion animals.
The overall concept is the same as for human aromatherapy. Scents are used in different combinations to revitalise or calm a dog. It can help soothe respiratory conditions and ease skin irritations as well.
Aromatherapy is broadly administered in three different ways: by diffusion in the air, through massage, or by internal absorption.
I have used the Pet Esthé brand, which combines aromatherapy and massage. I found his system great for the beginner, as the oils are already mixed together.
As you become more and more used to the treatment you can buy your own oils and experiment and adjust your mixtures. The oils are easy to find in Craft or Health shops. It’s important to make sure that you are buying therapeutic grade oils – these are not the same as air freshener or fragrance oils. Fragrance oils can contain additives and are not a purely distilled as therapeutic oils. Dilution is essential and if you make your own mixtures you will need to read up on ratios for animals, as their scent sensitivity is much higher than humans.
In the Salon I have offered the following combinations to clients in the past:
• Sweet Orange and Sweet Marjoram (Energizing and invigorating)
• Eucalyptus, Juniper Berry, Geranium, and Ylang-ylang (Good for physically tired pets)
• Neroli, Petitgrain, Tangerine and Rosemary (Reduces anxiety)
• Lavender, Ylang-ylang and Rose (Used to distress and relax)
• Geranium, Rosewood and Patchouli (Calms the skin)
• Roman Chamomile, Lemon and Atlas Cedarwood (Helps with breathing)
I only use the treatments on one dog when the Salon is quiet. The dog has to be in good condition to be ready to be treated, so no matts allowed! It’s important also that both the dog and indeed myself are calm and stress free at the treatment time, so a bit of pre planning is good to avoid interruptions during the session.
I meet the owner beforehand, discuss the concept & we agree some different options of oil mixtures.
To prepare for the treatment I let the dog smell the mixture and watch for their reaction. I’m looking for a positive response, not a negative one so it’s almost like letting them select the treatment themselves!
Depending on the response I then get the mixture ready. I make a fresh crème mixture for each treatment using massage powder combined with sea water, the essential oil mix and a special lustre oil.
I’ll give the dog a quick brush out to prepare their coat, then a full wash is the final pre-treatment step.
I apply the crème to the dog & then massage it into the coat using the massage techniques I learned in training. I’ll continue for ten to fifteen minutes, massaging the mixture evenly, watching the dog all the time for cues to see which massage is most effective. When the massage is over I rinse and fluff dry the dog. Their coat is very soft and shiny after the treatment & the dog’s skin is soft and supple. The aromatherapy scent remains for a few days afterwards.
I find it therapeutic myself and the dogs have always responded positively to the treatment. Owners love the pampering spa concept & I have really seen it effectively calm a dog down or put a spring back in their step.
Aside from the aromatherapy massage treatment, I also often use an ultrasonic diffuser in the Grooming Salon. It’s lovely and relaxing and covers some of the worst daily smells! It also triggers clients to ask about the different fragrances, helping me to then discuss the topic of dog aromatherapy.