Holistic veterinarians often recommend flower essences for healing the emotions. The essences can be quite expensive, so you don’t want to buy more than you need. Holistic veterinarians usually use a single flower essence to treat specific types of emotional stress. The essence mimulus is good for soothing fears. “Vervain calms nervous energy, vine helps stop aggression, and rock rose helps with terror,” says Dr. Fulp. In some cases, several flower essences are combined into one remedy.

The essence called Bach Rescue Remedy contains the essences impatiens, star-of-Bethlehem, cherry plum, rock rose, and clematis. “Rescue Remedy is good for any kind of stress because it helps make pets more mellow,” she says.

Flower essences are harmless, and accidentally using the wrong one won’t cause problems, Dr. Fulp adds. They usually work quickly, and your pet should start feeling better within a few days. You can use adds. They usually work quickly, and your pet should start feeling better within a few days. You can use flower essences by themselves or in combination with other therapies. In most cases, however, it is best to keep things simple, she says. “Using three or less at a time will usually give the best results.”

The essences are very easy to administer. You can either squirt the proper amount in your pet’s water bowl, or you can put a few drops on the bridge of her nose or the pads of her paws, where they will quickly be absorbed into the body by licking.
Flower essences are very easy to use. “For cats, put a couple of drops in their water bowls so that they sip it all day long,” says Dr. Fulp. “For dogs, drip the essence directly into their mouths or put it on their noses to lick off. Veterinarians usually advise giving one to three drops a day until your pet is feeling better. When giving the drops directly, don’t let the dropper touch their skin or mouths. Otherwise, the bottle will become contaminated, she explains.

You can buy flower essences in most health food stores, and some pet supply catalogs are carrying them as well. They are usually sold near a chart or list that explains which essences are recommended for different conditions. As with most natural remedies, flower essences should be stored in glass bottles away from direct sun, microwaves, or heat.

Aromatherapy: The Power of Scents

Dogs and cats have phenomenal senses of smell; they can read odors the way people read Post-it Notes. But odors do more than communicate messages, as any cat worth his catnip knows. Holistic veterinarians have discovered that certain scents act like medicines, affecting the body on a biochemical level. But rather than being absorbed from the stomach, as with pills, the fragrant scents used in aromatherapy are absorbed by the mucous membranes in the nose. The chemicals of the aromas go straight to the brain, explains Dr. Fulp.

Holistic veterinarians have found, for example, that the scent of lavender oil causes temporary sedation and helps pets relax. Other aromas can lower blood pressure, slow the heartbeat, and ease feelings of anxiety.

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The oils used in aromatherapy are available in health food stores and some pet supply catalogs. The oils usually come from natural sources, although synthetic (and cheaper) versions are available. As with flower essences, you can buy single oils or oil blends. “I once treated a cat who was refusing to eat and was extremely ill with a respiratory infection,” says Dr. Fulp. “Within 10 minutes after giving him a powerful decongestant blend, he was up, walking around the cage, and demanding food.”

Holistic veterinarians have only recently begun working with aromatherapy and have just begun to document what these oils can and cannot do. Until more is known, says Dr. Fulp, it is essential to check with your veterinarian before using aromatherapy on your own—especially because some oils, like peppermint and pennyroyal, can be dangerous or even fatal when used on pets.
Once your veterinarian has recommended aromatherapy and given you the proper oils, here is how to put them to work.
Dilute the oil. The essential oils used in aromatherapy are much too strong to use straight from the bottle. “Dilute the oil half-and-half with a vegetable oil like peanut oil,” says Dr. Fulp. This will prevent burning if it touches the skin. Use essential oils only where your pet can’t lick them off—on his ears or the back of his neck. It may be safer to use a diffuser, which vaporizes the scent into the air.
Aim for the ears. When using aromatherapy, it is important to apply the drops where the scent will reach the nose and the oils will penetrate the skin. “Massage a drop or two on the inside of the ear tip where there is not much fur,” says Dr. Fulp. “That’s near the face so the pet breathes the scent, but he can’t reach it to lick it off.”

Use it briefly. Unlike drugs, which may be taken for days or weeks, aromatherapy usually works very quickly. “It’s almost always a short-term treatment,” says Dr. Fulp. “The effects usually wear off in four to six hours, but one treatment is usually enough,” she says. When your pet doesn’t get better right away, it is fine to use aromatherapy three times a day for one or two days. After that, you will need to call your vet, Dr. Fulp advises.