Don Quixote – a donkey case study

Don Quixote - the donkey

When I first started visiting Celestial Farms (a non-profit rescue farm) back in 2014, I fell in love with this dwarf donkey, Don Quixote. As far as the farm knows he was surrender by his owners. Unfortunately his hooves were severely overgrown showing that he was not well taken care of. He also shied away from attention and didn’t enjoy being touched.


overgrown hooves

One of the major challenges facing the farm was finding a farrier that was willing to work on trimming his hooves. He has become more friendly, but still does not like his legs touched at all. You are almost guaranteed to be dodging a kick if you try. After many tries a few farriers have finally started to trimming his hooves, but imagine how it feels when you cut a toe nail too short. After each trim Don Q was experiencing a pain similar to this. To help with this we added MSM (nutritional supplement) to his diet.


I created a blend to massage on his hooves that included the carrier oils; jojoba, tamanu oil and St. John’s wort. I also included the essential oils helichrysum (Helichrysum angustifolium), Roman chamomile (Chamaelum nobile) and ginger (Zingiber officinale). The carrier oils were used to help with moisturizing the hoof and help protect it from any infections. The essential oils were utilized for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.


Don Quixote leg shape

Don will always have issues, but we continue to work with a farrier to try and properly shape his hooves. The above blend is generally used for a week after a trimming to help reduce soreness. The other long term effect has been damage to the leg and shoulder area because of his stride being wrong. He will always walk with a limp, but he is much more friendly and always loves it when guests bring treats.


To learn more about animal aromatherapy book a workshop or consultation.

Lola – a horse case study


Case Study – Lola

I began my journey into animal aromatherapy because the one question that I was always asked during workshops was; can I use essential oils with my pet?

Through the journey of achieving my certification as an animal aromatherapist I was required to complete several case studies. I was already volunteering at Celestial Farms, so I asked the owner if I could work with the animals to complete my case studies. She was thrilled and so my work began. I didn’t expect to fall so in love with the wide variety of farm animals, but am so grateful that I have a wider understanding of all animals.

The first animal to present with a problem I could work with was Lola a female quarter horse. Now, I will admit that I have been horseback riding and have always had a love of horses, but from a distance. It was a blessing that the barn manager was supportive of my desire to help the animals. We were able to teach and learn a lot from each other. During our first few sessions, I learned the detailed structure of the hoof and all the things that can go wrong.  Lola was suffering with recurring infection of thrush. As perfectly defined by* it is: “A noxious rotting odor emanating from the underside of a hoof…”. For any animals that live in a moist climate this is common struggle.

The barn manager had been using Kopertox ( which is commonly used to treat thrush in horses. Unfortunately, the use of Kopertox created a whole new issue within Lola’s hoof as you can see in the picture, she developed a nasty sore. One of the ingredients in Kopertox is copper naphthenate, which is supposed to provide resistance to water, unfortunately it also burns skin.

horse hoof sore
Horse hoof sore

We immediately discontinued use of the Kopertox and cleaned out her hooves well. My instructor graciously shares a blend for a healing skin mist spray in her Facebook group Animal Aromatherapy (Safe Use) This spray includes colloidal silver, witch hazel, and herbal tinctures of calendula (Calendula officinalis, and yarrow (Achillea millefolium). We began using this blend on Lola’s sore and within a few short days saw extreme improvement.

After about a month Lola developed thrush again. Since she was not experiencing the sores that we had seen previously I created a blend utilizing aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) and lemongrass essential oil (Cymbopogon citratus) at a .5% dilution. Lemongrass has been shown to be a skin sensitizer (article on Lemongrass). After just 3 days of use her hooves were clear. We continued use for 5 days total to ensure the infection was clear.

To learn more about animal aromatherapy book a workshop or consultation.

Can I use essential oils with my cats?

One of the most hotly debated subjects in animal aromatherapy…cats. There are many out there that suggest it is perfectly safe. Then there are those that vehemently say, not safe at all.

Using essential oils can be a huge benefit for people. They can also be beneficial for animals, but no one is created equal. Every person and animal is going to react differently. But why are cats such a hot topic?

The reason those of us that follow safety guidelines say no is based on science. Cats lack the enzyme glucuronosyltransferase. Most mammals have this enzyme, which is responsible for processing and removing most drugs, toxins, and dietary substances. Since cats lack this enzyme they are more likely to suffer from toxic reactions to substances. Essential oils are a substance that needs to be processed and eliminated by the body.

Some signs of an adverse reaction would be; salivation, a change in breathing (panting or coughing), diarrhea, abnormal behavior, depression, weakness or vomiting.  These are only a few of the possible signs, knowing your pets’ behavior is key.

Holistic options for cats would include; dietary supplements with herbs, diluted hydrosols and flower essences. There are also trained practitioners in aromatherapy, acupuncture and massage that can provide safe services.

Don’t worry you can still use all your oils and keep your cats safe. Using a diffuser is probably out of the question if you have in indoor cat, but here are some great options:

Personal inhaler
Aromatherapy jewelry
Lotion or Body Butter (if the cat won’t lick)
Aromastone (small space where cat isn’t)

I feel that every person needs to make an informed decision. There are plenty of articles stating it is safe. Many of the articles are even written by veterinarians. Although there is no definitive proof now about the safety I tend to be cautious. I would prefer to keep my cats’ exposure to essential oils to a minimum. As more research is done we may discover cats have a different enzyme to help process toxins, but for now let’s keep our fur babies safe and healthy without essential oils.

Is aromatherapy safe for pets?

Baby goat at 2 days

Once I began teaching workshops regarding aromatherapy a common question kept coming up. Can I use this with my pets? My opinion is utilizing complimentary care is always a good idea for anyone whether it is human or animal, but I honestly wasn’t sure how safe it would be to use essential oils with our animal friends.

This question has put me on a quest to understand the benefits of complementary and alternative options for our animal friends. I will always advise you to seek veterinary care, but wanted to find out a better answer. I began studying animal aromatherapy with my amazing instructor Kelly Holland Azzaro and have discovered that there are many options available.

Animal aromatherapy truly encompasses more than just the use of essential oils. As I share in my article about the definition of aromatherapy.  It truly is the use of aromatic plants in a variety of forms.

I have been fortunate throughout my studies to work with a large variety of animals from small bunnies all the way up to large horses. Each animal brought me a deeper understanding of viewing a concern from all aspects, both internal and external. Since animals can not communicate it is important to spend some time really getting to know them.

Aromatherapy works on all levels of an animal including the physical, emotional, conditional and spiritual. Animals have a strong sense of smell, much stronger than humans so extra caution is required when using aromatherapy. They can’t tell us what they like or don’t like so being able to pay attention to the physical cues is important.

I have been fortunate to volunteer at Celestial Farms, a farm animal rescue, and have really been able to learn the personality and cues of all the animals. When I work with clients I offer them a list of things to watch for. Each animal is different and will respond to holistic care differently.

Ultimately, the answer is yes, aromatherapy does work for animals*. I would advise you to take it slowly, work with a qualified holistic veterinarian or animal aromatherapist whenever possible. Always remember that this is a complimentary health care option and less is best.

*Not advised for birds, cats, fish or reptiles.

Chickens & Essential Oils

Rooster exploring

Recently while I was doing some volunteer work with the farm animals a person asked my opinion about an article they had seen using oregano essential oil with chickens. I am choosing to not share the link to the article because I do not want people to think I promote the authors suggestions. Unfortunately the article didn’t state which type of Oregano they utilized I have to assume it was Oregano vulgare.

Oregano essential oil is generally high in carvacrol and thymol. These chemical constituents lend to the possible therapeutic uses with viral infections, bacterial infections and helping with congestion. The author references investigating essential oils in the prevention of Avian flu. I did an extensive search through PubMed, one search and couldn’t find any research on Avian flu and oregano oil. Due to the therapeutic benefits with viral and bacterial infections this oil may help with prevention, as long as it was used safely and highly diluted.

Mama chicken protecting her hatchlings
Protecting her babies

For human use the oil has a recommended maximum dermal use of 1.1% and several cautions against oral use (pg. 375 & 376 Tisserand & Young 2014). Knowing these precautions I would never suggest use of this oil with chickens, simply because they are small birds with completely different systems. The only way I would use it would be during cleaning of their coop after illness and when all the chickens are removed for a period of time.

To ensure the health of your flock rather than turning to essential oils consider using the actual plant. Adding a variety of herbs to a nesting box can help deter pests, add a healthy snack and create a fresher environment. The fresh herbs will also provide vitamins and minerals which are not available from an essential oil. If you do use fresh herbs these will have to be changed frequently to avoid mold developing, if you are in a humid area consider dried herbs.

Chicken with chicks
Exploring the new world