With powerful healing qualities that range from antibacterial to immune-supportive, oregano oil – when used properly — has a variety of uses that can be applied to your canine companion.
Many people turn to oregano oil to help with a range of ailments, from colds and flu to intestinal parasites. It’s also used topically as an insect repellent or for acne, warts and many other skin problems. Used judiciously, this oil can also be beneficial to canine health, but it’s important to understand the forms of this oil, what they can do, and how they should be utilized and administered when it comes to your dog. In this article, we talk with integrative veterinarian Dr. Jodie Gruenstern for her expertise and advice on using this oil for dogs.
Q: When people talk about this oil, they sometimes use two terms — “oil of oregano” or “oregano essential oil”. Are they one and the same or are there differences between them?
A: Oil of oregano refers to oregano essential oil that has been diluted in a fatty carrier oil, such as olive, grapeseed, sunflower or coconut oil. Diluting the essential oil can make it safer for ingestion, although oregano essential oil is sometimes used “neat” for topical purposes. Either form can be considered medicinal if the plants are grown and harvested properly, and the oil is distilled correctly.
Q. How are these oils made?
A. Oregano essential oil should be steam-distilled from the herb’s leaves and flowers. While chemical solvent extraction may pull more essential oil out of the plant, it can leave unwanted chemical residues in the final product. The oil is then diluted, as above, to create oil of oregano. Additionally, some traditional herbalists will blend the plant’s herbal parts into a fatty carrier oil and call the infusion oil of oregano.
Q. How is it used with dogs?
A. It has health-supporting properties; it’s antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive.
It is used in dogs both topically (“neat” — essential oil) and internally (diluted — oil of oregano). It is a very “hot” oil and can chemically burn tissue; because of this, it can be used topically to remove warty tissues. It can also irritate mucosal linings, yet oregano leaves are used in cooking all the time; indeed, there are oregano pet treats on the market that dogs have consumed for years with no detrimental effects. In fact, oregano supports good digestion and serves as a natural preservative in products.
Veterinarians sometimes apply this oil in combination with other oils, and with carrier oil dilution, to the external ear canal for a variety of purposes. Additionally, oregano essential oil can be diffused to support respiratory health. Cold ultrasonic diffusion is preferred.
Q. Can you provide some tips on finding a quality product?
A. Know the manufacturer, and ask the following questions:
- How long have they been in business?
- Do they have experience using the product on their own animals or patients?
- Are they involved in consumer education — or are they just middlemen?
- Does the company have expertise on herbs or oils in general, and their use in animals?
- Do they grow/produce their own ingredients, or are they at least able to visit their product sources?
- Does the manufacturer do gas chromatography analysis of the chemical constituents in their products, or any other quality control analysis? For example, oil of oregano should be shown to contain 60% to 75% carvacrol (the active compound in oregano).
- Have any studies been done and posted/published about the specific brand? Are there any non-manufacturer site testimonials about the brand’s safety and efficacy?
Q. What are some cautions and contraindications for using oregano oil in dogs?
A. If oregano essential oil is to be used “neat” on your dog’s skin, prevent him from ingesting it. If it’s to be used internally, dilute it in a fatty carrier oil or in food, and remember that one drop goes a long way!
Do not use essential oils “neat” inside the ear canal, and be very cautious even with dilution. The resonant frequency of an essential oil may cause pain if it comes in contact with the vibrational frequency of the tympanum (eardrum).
If an essential oil inflames a tissue (the signs are redness, itching or a burning sensation), quickly dilute it by applying a fatty carrier oil to the affected area.
When diffusing oregano essential oil, always allow your dog to leave the room if he wants to!
Q. How should it be administered and dosed?
A. Dogs can consume oregano essential oil diluted in a capsule and in foods. It can also be applied topically. The general dilution guideline is one part oregano essential oil to four parts fatty carrier oil, to make what’s termed oil of oregano.
For direct application, one drop to an affected area may be enough; even a toothpick tip repeatedly applied to a warty protuberance can be very effective and avoid damage to surrounding tissue.
Just keep in mind that one drop of oregano essential oil is so strong it can ruin a pot of spaghetti sauce! So remember — in supporting canine health, as in cooking, less is more!
Q. What are the advantages of this oil over conventional antibiotics – i.e. is it true that bacteria don’t become resistant to it?
A. Yes it is. Antibiotic-resistant pathogens and even their biofilms have been destroyed by this oil. These biofilms contribute to the development of the worst infections in both humans and animals, and conventional antibiotics have no impact on them.
As always, it’s a good idea to consult with an integrative or holistic veterinarian before using any essential oil, diluted or not, with your dog. Oregano oil is among the strongest and most effective oils; learning to use it correctly can benefit your dog in many ways!
Veterinarian Dr. Jodie Gruenstern graduated from UW-Madison in 1987. She is a veterinary acupuncturist and food therapist certified by the Chi Institute; vice president of the Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy Association; and a member of the AHVMA. Dr. Jodie owns the Animal Doctor Holistic Veterinary Complex, is a nationally renowned speaker, author, TV and radio personality, and authored the book Live with Your Pet in Mind (DrJodiesNaturalPets.com, AnimalDoctorHolistic.com, iPAWaid.com).