travelling with pets

Harnessing the power of essential oils to calm your dog during car journeys

recent study by researchers at the University of Lincoln has found that dogs commonly experience excitement (56%), anxiety (48%), and nausea (44%) when travelling in a car.

The situation is worse in fuel-powered cars than in electric vehicles, with the study showing that dogs’ heart rates reduced significantly when they were travelling in EVs compared to traditional vehicles. Of course, EVs don’t totally eliminate car anxiety and sickness, so many owners use treats and toy blankets, as well as practice drives, to make the experience a little easier on their pooches. Around 36% of owners, meanwhile, play relaxing music in the hopes that this will calm Fido down. If you are into natural remedies for your pet, then you may already be using essential oils for a myriad of ailments. Here’s how you can harness their effectiveness to reduce stress and induce a calmer state in your pooch when you’re at the wheel.

What Are essential oils?

Therapeutic-grade essential oils differ from most commercial oils in that they are purer than merely cosmetic products. They are classified as “secondary metabolites” of plants and are obtained via mechanical process of distillation. Modern therapeutic-grade oils hail from a host of different plant parts, including the leaves, roots, bark, wood, and fruits. Each oil has different properties, with some having antimicrobial activity—in fact ,one of the most common uses for essential oils on pets is for the treatment of bacterial and fungal infections. Essential oils can also be used to quell altered states and battle anxiety.

Which oils can calm your pet down?

Top choices for calming your dog down before a car ride include essential oils such as rose, lavender, and chamomile. In one study published in the journal, Applied Animal Behavior Science, dogs were exposed to five types of olfactory stimulation: rosemary, chamomile, lavender, peppermint, and a control stimulation. The results showed that dogs spent more time relaxing and less time moving when they were exposed to lavender and chamomile than to the other stimuli. These oils also caused less barking than other aromas. Meanwhile, rosemary and peppermint seemed to have a stimulatory effect, as dogs exposed to them engaged in more standing, moving, and vocalising behaviors. Other studies have shown that essential oils such as rose geranium had similar effects.

Timing is everything

If you will be travelling with your pet or simply taking your pet for a drive, make sure to apply essential oils beforehand. Distractions lead to road accidents, so pulling your essential oil bottles out and trying to calm your dog down “in the moment” won’t do the trick. When you’re driving, your eyes should be on the road, so you can spot any obstacles, brake when you need to, and watch your speed. Your pooch should be buckled up and already in a calm state when they enter the car. Essential oils can have a pretty fast effect, weaving their magic as quickly as two minutes after application. In order to work, they need to pass through your pooch’s bloodstream and travel to their nervous system. A good general rule is to apply your oils a minimum of three minutes (but preferably 10 to 30 minutes) before you leave.

Applying oils safely

Before applying any essential oil, run your proposed list of oils by your vet. Some essential oils are toxic to dogs (including eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, and ylang ylang) so don’t assume they are safe because they work well for you. Even if a study proclaims a specific oil to be effective, always obtain medical approval first. Secondly, you will need to dilute your oils before applying them on your dog. For small dogs, use a carrier oil at a ratio of 9:1 carrier oil to essential oil. For medium-sized dogs, take the ratio down to 4:1 and for large dogs, use a 3:1 ratio. Apply the solution to the back of your dog, with your hands, rubbing your hands together until they are no longer shiny prior to application. Avoid applying to paw pads, wince dogs sweet through these. Once again, ask your vet’s advice for the best place and method to apply these oils.

Essential oils are a natural remedy that you can try to reduce your pet’s anxiety prior to car travel. Studies have shown that they effectively reduce stress and promote calm behaviors. See your vet first with a shortlist of oils, and ask their advice regarding safe doses and methods to apply the oils to your precious pooch.