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How to Safely, Successfully Treat Your Pet Using Essential Oils

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance -

  • Dr. Melissa Shelton is my friend and colleague, and she’s also my go-to resource on the medical use of essential oils for animals
  • Essential oils are truly holistic remedies in that they provide emotional and mental, as well as physical benefits
  • Dr. Shelton has great success using essential oils to treat animals that are supposedly highly sensitive to them, such as cats and birds
  • She has also created her own line of products to ensure everyone can reap the benefits of essential oils for animals in a very safe and effective manner

Today I’m talking with my long-time friend and fellow veterinarian, Dr. Melissa Shelton. I’ve interviewed Dr. Shelton in the past about her wonderful work with essential oils, and I thought it was time for an update. Dr. Shelton is a proactive, holistic veterinarian who developed a special interest in the medical use of essential oils for animals, also sometimes called veterinary aromatic medicine, about 10 years ago.

When she first began treating with essential oils, Dr. Shelton used them only for very difficult cases — animals who were out of options. After experiencing first-hand their incredible healing powers, she began using them routinely in her practice. These days, her veterinary practice is solely dedicated to the use of essential oils for all species of animals.

Essential Oils Designed Exclusively for Use With Animals

A few years ago, Dr. Shelton decided to create her own company to make essential oil blends specifically for animals. Her goal was to develop a source of high-quality oils with correct dosing so that more pet parents and veterinarians would be open to trying them and experiencing their benefits.

“Selecting essential oils for medical use with an animal is very different from selecting an essential oil to make your bathroom smell nice,” says Dr. Shelton.

“When I started teaching other veterinarians and pet parents how to use essential oils, I became increasingly concerned about the oils they might choose to use. For example, if they picked perfume-grade lavender oil, they could cause harm to an animal. Even the best instruction in how to use oils can’t overcome selecting the wrong oil.”

Now that she has her own line of oils she selects and tests herself, Dr. Shelton feels much more comfortable spreading the word about their benefits.

“We’re starting our sixth year of business,” she explains. “Selling products to the public is very different from working with patients in my practice and being able to follow their progress. I don’t always know what people are doing out there, so I’m a stickler for [ensuring] my products are safe. Fortunately, in six years, we haven’t had a single safety concern. That, to me, speaks volumes about the value of our essential oils.”

Safe to Use With Cats, Birds … Even Dart Frogs!

I’m a bird lover and avian veterinarian, and I’m acutely aware of just how sensitive birds are to everything in their environment. Dr. Shelton’s essential oils are so safe her canaries hang out with her in her blending laboratory!

“One of my very good friends has a huge aviary — lots of rescue birds and over 50 very large, expensive parrots,” she explains. “I began using essential oils with birds in her aviary, for example, treating parrots with intractable papilloma virus who were facing euthanasia. We used essential oils directly on parrots, finches and canaries. We diffused the oils into the air, but we also misted the birds in a solution of oils, with insanely great results.”

Most knowledgeable bird owners won’t even burn a candle in their home for fear of hurting their pets, so they’re naturally very hesitant to even consider essential oils. Cat parents also tend to get freaked out when you mention essential oils. When that happens, Dr. Shelton tells them, “You know, if I’m doing this with birds, you’re probably okay!”

Dr. Shelton has even used essential oils with dart frogs, which like all amphibians absorb everything through their skin. “It’s a great testimony to the safety of essential oils when you see firsthand how well a wide variety of species respond to them,” she says.

Click here to find out Dr. Becker's top tips against seasonal pet allergiesClick here to find out Dr. Becker's top tips against seasonal pet allergies

Essential Oils Are a Truly Holistic Treatment Approach

One of the things many people don’t realize about essential oils is they provide emotional and mental, as well as physical benefits. All illness is stress-inducing, and essential oils not only resolve the physical ailment, but also relieve the stress the patient is feeling.

“Say you have severe gastrointestinal inflammation,” explains Dr. Shelton. “You have a lot of diarrhea. It’s very stressful to you. Not only can the essential oils reduce inflammation — there’s a lot of research on their anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties — they can also calm you.”

In Dr. Shelton’s experience, essential oils treat multiple aspects of most disorders, so often it’s not necessary to know whether the problem is a bacterial infection or simple inflammation or a stress-induced condition. Oils have naturally occurring antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties, so they’re effective to treat a wide variety of root causes of illness.

And another incredible benefit is they have no negative side effects! Also, they smell lovely and there’s nothing distasteful about them, unlike some other natural therapies.

Special Blends for Specific Issues

Dr. Shelton has created many different essential oil blends, some of which are for specific issues, for example, chronic cystitis (bladder inflammation) in cats. When she uses oils with cats, Dr. Shelton goes with a three-pronged approach that includes diffusion, topical application and putting them in the litterbox.

For cats (and dogs), she’s created a blend called UroBoost for the urologic system, which is probably a good one to start with for kitties with cystitis. There’s KittyBoost, which is more of an all-purpose blend that can be used topically.

There’s also a blend called Litteroma, which is added to baking soda and sprinkled into unscented litter. When the cat uses the box, he’s exposed to the anti-inflammatory properties of the oils. And as with all her products, these blends aren’t limited to treating just a single issue like cystitis. They also support kitty’s emotions, immune system and all other aspects of his health.

There are also specific blends for thyroid imbalances. Let’s say a dog has an issue with her thyroid. Dr. Shelton makes a blend called ThyroBalance, which is a blend of thyroid-supporting essential oils that brings thyroid function into balance. There’s also AdrenoBalance for balancing the adrenal glands.

Another wonderful thing about Dr. Shelton’s products is they can be used with one pet and simultaneously benefit the other pets in the household. There’s no need to worry about exposing other animals to an essential oil blend being used to treat just one pet.

“We hear that concern a lot,” she says. “For example, we have a blend for diffusion for neurologic issues, and pet parents will say, ‘Well, one dog has seizures so I want to diffuse for her, but the other dogs are fine. Is it going to be a problem?’

I explain the diffusion will do no more than support the brain health of the other dogs. It’s sort of like saying ‘I can’t eat blueberries because I don’t have cancer.’ No, please go ahead and eat those blueberries! They’re really good for healthy people, too!”

How to Learn More About Essential Oils for Animals

If you want to learn more about Dr. Shelton’s incredible products, you can find her at animalEO Essential Oils. I asked Melissa to share the one thing she’d like to tell the world about essential oils.

“They’re awesome,” she quickly replied. “They really just are awesome. Every single day, I so enjoy working with them. I come to work, it makes me happy just to be able to fill bottles all day. My team and I always say it’s our happy space. It’s a little like the Lego [Movie] theme ‘Everything is Awesome.’ Essential oils are awesome!”

I think Dr. Shelton has done an awesome job sharing essential oils for animals with the world. She’s helping guide veterinarians and pet parents who are nervous about using them. She’s also helping to dispel myths and educate people on the right products to buy and the right way to use them.

I’m very happy Dr. Shelton’s animal-specific essential oil line is flourishing and helping so many different species worldwide. Many thanks to her for talking with us today!