What Does a Dog’s Nose Have To Do With Their Emotions?
A dog’s nose dominates his brain;
In fact the part of the brain dedicated to scent is forty times greater in a dog than in a human. As you have read in my series the Dog’s Nose Knows, the dog’s brain is literally built by and around the information it recieves from scents. The sense of scent or smell is very closely linked to emotions. What this means is that the dog’s emotional experience may be even greater than we have ever imagined.
Have you ever smelled something that evoked a memory for you? Have you ever wondered how this is possible?
When a dog (or human or any animal for that matter) inhales scent molecules, they stimulate chemical messages that bypass other areas of the brain and go straight to the limbic system and the amygdala – which is the brain’s emotional center. The amygdala then passes emotional information signals to other structures that collate memories. These are passed onto the cortex which causes emotionally appropriate hormones to be released into the body, which of course, also affect the mood. The limbic system is the seat of the emotional center and is partly responsible for our fight or flight response, our emotional reaction to something, our hormonal secretions, motivation, pain reflex and our mood fluctuations.
Because a dog’s dominant sense is the sense of smell and because so much of the brain is dedicated to processing scent, this is strong evidence that dogs could be even more driven by their emotions than we humans are.
I believe this is why aromatherapy works so well with dogs.
You see, each essential oil has therapeutic properties, in that when they are inhaled, they can be stimulating, calming, sedative, balancing, etc. When an essential oil molecule is taken in to the nose, it travels through the nasal passage to a receptor neuron that transports it up to the limbic brain, especially the hypothalamus.
Essential oils have vibrational frequencies so when the dog smells an essential oil that has a vibrationally calming effect on the body, the hypothalamus receives the input to relax and it then creates neuro-chemicals that are sent through the body to relax and calm. Likewise if an essential oil has a frequency known to stimulate the body, then the limbic system will conform by sending the message to energize and become more active. Through this manner of transport, we can understand how aromatherapy with therapeutic grade essential oils can increase immunity, balance hormonal secretions, dampen or enliven the energy level and create a relaxed and calm frequency
When used properly and a quality essential oil is used, aromatherapy can very helpful while working with animals to alleviate fears and negative behavior along with desensitizing techniques.
Which essential oils are the best to use with animals?
Quality is EVERYTHING!
The key to using essential oils with dogs (or cats or horses or birds, etc.) is to make sure you know your source because you’ll want to use only oils derived from plants that have been grown in a chemical free environment; no lab made pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers used on them or the soil they grow in.
IMPORTANT: Most of the essential oils on the market today have synthetics added to them as they’re basically made for the cosmetic and perfume industry. They are NOT SAFE FOR USE ON ANIMALS. However, there are some excellent therapeutic grade oils on the market that are pure, unadulterated oils that can be used internally, topically and inhaled as powerful immune system support. Click here for more information on how to find the best essential oils available for your pets.
Play Scent Games with your puppy or dog. Here is a wonderful DVD by Jane Killion – Scent Games
The information on this site is based on the traditional and historic use of naturopathy, essential oils and herbs as well as personal experience and is provided for general reference and educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or promote any direct or implied health claims. This information is and products are not intended to replace professional veterinary and/or medical advice.
This article is the sole property of Dr Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason and The Whole Dog. It cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the expressed written consent of the author.