Mānuka oil is a versatile, potent remedy that effectively addresses numerous skin conditions for humans and, remarkably, for canine companions alike.
In this article, discover the benefits of mānuka oil for dogs, its safety precautions, and proper uses.
Exploring Mānuka Oil
The unique properties of mānuka honey are well-known worldwide. However, mānuka oil is rapidly becoming recognised for even greater healing benefits to humans and animals alike.
What Is Mānuka Oil?
Mānuka oil is an essential oil extracted from the mānuka plant, scientifically known as Leptospermum scoparium. Historically, the Māori, the Aboriginals and early European settlers have used the mānuka plant as a topical aid for wounds, cuts, sores and skin diseases and as an inhalation for colds and fevers. Fast forward to today, interest in the medicinal properties of mānuka has grown over the last 30 years.
Harvesting Mānuka Oil
Until recently, the majority of New Zealand’s mānuka oil production relied on wild-harvesting mānuka plants. Local crews of harvesters equipped with brush cutters would collect fresh branches, allowing the mānuka trees to regenerate for subsequent harvesting, typically occurring every 6-12 months. However, the challenging terrain made wild harvesting highly dependent on weather conditions.
In the past decade, the East Cape region of New Zealand has seen the emergence of mānuka plantations that facilitate sustainable mechanical harvesting of mānuka leaves and small branches. This method allows for consistent, high-quality mānuka essential oil production on a commercial scale, catering to global customers.
Mānuka Oil Extraction
Mānuka essential oil undergoes a delicate harvesting process known as steam distillation. This method entails the passage of steam over the leaves and small twigs of the mānuka plant for a duration of five hours. During this steaming process, harvesters extract the molecules containing the oil which are then transformed into vapour. As the vapour cools, oil molecules go through a phase change, return to liquid, and rise to the top naturally. Once the upper layer of oil is collected, it is filtered, dried and rigorously analysed to determine its quality.
Distillation methods can vary, ranging from super-heated fast extraction to slower ambient pressure distillation performed at lower temperatures.
In essence, the extraction of mānuka oil is a sustainable process undertaken with utmost consideration for the environment. The leaves are pruned rather than completely removed, allowing the tree to continue its growth, and any leftover plant waste is returned to the soil. This eco-friendly approach not only minimizes waste but also contributes to the regeneration of mānuka trees. It mirrors the supportive nature of the mānuka tree itself, which often thrives as one of the first plants in areas affected by deforestation.
Each tonne of mānuka foliage yields 2-5 litres of high β-triketone mānuka oil.
Understanding Mānuka Oil’s Antibacterial Properties
What are Triketones?
Mānuka oil is rich in β-triketones, which are natural compounds with the ability to inhibit growth or effectively eliminate micro-organisms. These compounds are responsible for mānuka oil’s antibacterial and antifungal properties. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, making it an effective substance for addressing various dog health concerns.
Scientific research shows the antimicrobial potency of mānuka oil hinges primarily on the concentration of triketones present within the oil. And the triketone levels are influenced by the specific geographic origin of the oil.
New Zealand’s Northland region is renowned for mānuka oil, characterised by elevated levels of monoterpenes, specifically α-pinene and β-pinene. Conversely, the East Cape and Marlborough Sounds regions are recognised for mānuka oil with notably high concentrations of triketones. In contrast, various other regions across New Zealand yield mānuka oil with lower levels of monoterpenes and a more intricate mixture of sesquiterpenes.
Is Mānuka Oil Safe for Dogs?
Mānuka oil offers a range of potential benefits for dogs, underpinned by its remarkable properties.
Song, C-Y., Nam, E-H., Park, S-H., & Hwang, C-Y. (2013) conducted research suggesting that manuka oil exhibited strong antibacterial properties against all types of bacteria tested including strains of S. pseudintermedius obtained from dogs experiencing skin and ear infections.
These benefits can be summarised as follows:
- Skin Health: Dogs frequently contend with dermatological issues such as dryness, itchiness, and skin irritations. Thanks to its antibacterial properties, mānuka oil can help alleviate dog skin problems such as itching or redness caused by allergies, dry itchy skin, inflammation (such as otitis externa), hot spots and sores, parasites, and ear infections.
- Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Dogs often grapple with skin inflammation triggered by allergies, irritants, or environmental factors. Mānuka oil’s anti-inflammatory properties help reduce redness, swelling, and discomfort associated with mild skin inflammation.
- Wound Healing: When diluted appropriately, mānuka oil can be used to clean and disinfect wounds. Its natural healing properties may accelerate the recovery process. See the guide below for the correct dilution ratio.
- Stress Relief: Beyond topical use, the aromatic application of mānuka oil can be harnessed for aromatherapy, promoting relaxation and stress relief in dogs. With its calming scent, mānuka oil can create a soothing environment, aiding dogs in coping with anxiety or stress during thunderstorms, fireworks, visiting the veterinary clinic, and other taxing situations.
- Flea and Tick Repellent: Mānuka oil possesses natural insect-repelling qualities, rendering it advantageous in protecting canine companions from bothersome pests. While its potency may not rival certain commercial chemical repellents, mānuka oil can be employed as an additional layer of defence against fleas, ticks, and other insects as a more natural alternative.
How To Use Mānuka Oil on Dogs
When selecting the right essential oil to address specific canine skin disorders and ensure comfort, most dogs generally tolerate essential oils well. Additionally, it is safe to use approved essential oils through diffusion and provide prescribed dietary supplements. Here are the common ways in which mānuka oil can be used for dogs:
Do not use pure oil on pets topically or orally as animals can be sensitive to essential oils. To apply mānuka oil topically to a pet, diluting them with a suitable base oil is the initial step.
Dilution Guide: Use an eyedropper to dilute to a ratio of one drop of mānuka oil to approximately 1.5 tablespoons (equivalent to about 45 drops) of base oil for dogs. This ratio results in a dilution of roughly 0.25 percent.
Base or Carrier Oil: Base or carrier oils serve as non-irritating, thick substances utilised to dilute essential oils for safe topical application. Essential oils contain compounds that do not mix with water, and when applied undiluted, can potentially cause skin irritation, sensitization, redness, burning, or other adverse reactions in pets. Additionally, base oils may offer some medicinal properties in addition to their dilution role.
To use mānuka oil with a water-based vaporizer, add one to two drops of the essential oil into the vaporizer. It is advisable to diffuse intermittently, following a pattern of 10 minutes on, followed by 30 minutes off. Place the diffuser out of dog’s reach to prevent any accidental contact or ingestion. Furthermore, ensure to diffuse the oils away from pet’s usual resting area or in a separate room to minimise their exposure to concentrated aromatherapy.
Diluted mānuka oil can be diffused into the air effectively using a spray bottle or mister. Another method is to use a cotton ball soaked with the diluted mixture, which can be placed in front of an air conditioner or fan to disperse the aroma.
Ingesting mānuka oil for pets is possible, but must be approached with caution. Ensure that the mānuka oil is explicitly labeled as safe for ingestion, and preferably, that it has undergone thorough investigation for this purpose.
When administering mānuka oil to pets, consider the technique used. For example, adding the oil to a very watery substance may cause it to remain on the surface and potentially cause discomfort to the pet’s lips. A recommended approach involves thoroughly mixing mānuka oil into a fatty type of food or incorporating coconut oil to ensure even distribution of the oil throughout the food.
Using Mānuka Oil on Dogs: Safety Measures
1. Avoid applying mānuka oil on dog paws.
Unlike our feet, a pet’s paws have crevices where oils can accumulate, potentially leading to higher concentration levels of the oil. Dog paws are the only areas on their bodies that possess sweat glands. When additional moisture combines with mānuka oil and remains on the paw, it can potentially result in rashes.
When a dog licks or ingests the oil from its paws, it may pose a health concern, depending on the type of essential oil used.
Finally, refrain from using mānuka oil near the pet’s sensitive eye, nose, anal, and genital areas unless you have received specific guidance from veterinarian.
2. Being mindful of storage.
It is important to exercise caution when storing mānuka oil. Given that humans, including pets, can have different sensitivities to these oils, it is advisable to store them in a sealed container, away from direct heat and light. Keep aromatherapy products and essential oils out of the reach of both children and pets.
3. Debunking myths.
Nowadays, there has been a flurry of online discussions suggesting that all forms of aromatherapy diffusion can be detrimental to dog. To clarify, the use of low-quality or toxic essential oils can indeed pose risks to pets. However, not all diffused essential oils are inherently dangerous to them.
Another common misconception is that aromatherapy has no impact, whether positive or negative, on pets. In contrast, research indicates that mānuka oil can offer significant benefits for a range of medical conditions in canines.
4. Using mānuka oil on sick or pregnant dogs.
When dealing with sick or pregnant animals, it is advisable not to use mānuka oil unless specifically instructed by a veterinarian. Certain oils, such as basil, cinnamon, fennel, and thyme, have the potential to induce a miscarriage and should be avoided in these situations. Always seek professional veterinary guidance before applying mānuka oil or any essential oils in such cases.
Carrier Oils That Are Safe for Dogs
To create a blend of essential oils and carrier oils, the recommended guideline is to combine one teaspoon of carrier oil with three to five drops of essential oil. However, the overall daily usage for dogs should be determined by the canine’s size and weight.
When introducing dietary supplements, it is advisable to start with a conservative approach, offering no more than half a teaspoon for every ten pounds of the dog’s body weight daily. This gradual introduction is crucial for assessing their tolerance to the supplement and monitoring for any potential side effects, even in the case of larger dogs.
Benefits: Helps with dry, flaky skin and dull coat, aids in skin digestion and skin issues
Topical Application: Massage the oil into the skin or onto the coat.
Ingestion: When considering internal use, begin with a daily dosage of 1/4 teaspoon (which can be adjusted for larger dogs) and mix it into their meals. If diarrhea occurs, discontinue use. It is advisable to avoid administering the oil to obese dogs.
Benefits: Has antifungal, anti-viral, and antibacterial properties, alleviates dry spots, allergies, and wounds, NOT for internal use
Blend neem oil with the essential oil of choice, mix into shampoo (maintaining a ratio of 1 teaspoon oil to 2 tablespoons shampoo), or create a spray by diluting the oil at a 1:10 ratio with water. Be cautious and refrain from applying this mixture to open wounds.
Benefits: Has antifungal properties, moisturises skin, NOT for internal use
For topical application, administer by massaging the oil directly into the skin. It can also be blended with essential oils and incorporated into shampoos. Moreover, it serves as an excellent foundation for essential oil aromatherapy.
Benefits: Moisturises skin and coat, helps improve digestive system
Utilize it as a carrier oil for essential oils. Incorporate small amounts into meals to promote digestive health. If any adverse side effects such as vomiting or diarrhea occur, discontinue use.
Benefits: Can be ingested to alleviate dry skin, helps improve digestive system, NOT for topical use
Administer daily by adding to food, with a recommended dosage of 1/2 teaspoon for small dogs and 1.5 teaspoons for larger dogs. If side effects such as diarrhea or vomiting occur, cease use. Additionally, it can be employed as a carrier oil for other substances.
A Closer Look at the Label
When considering the use of mānuka oil on animals, it is crucial to bear in mind that not all oils share the same quality. The recommended approach is to utilize therapeutic-grade mānuka oil, mirroring the same standards applied as if one were using them for personal purposes.
It is worth noting that claims of certified product quality may not always be reliable, given that pet product manufacturers are not obligated to provide ingredient listings.
Numerous essential oils are distilled or marketed primarily for the perfume industry, often without a primary focus on therapeutic-grade quality. It is advisable to consult with a trusted and experienced medical practitioner for recommendations on where to purchase high-quality essential oils.
When purchasing mānuka oil, it is essential to consider the following factors:
- Latin Name + Common Name: The label should include both the Latin and common names of the essential oil.
- Information: Look for details such as extraction information, lot number, extraction date, and the country of origin on the product label.
- Ingredients: Ensure that the aromatherapy product of choice has a limited number of select ingredients and is labelled as “100% pure.” All ingredients should be listed, with precise amounts indicated, and labelled as biologically active.
- Packaging: Opt for oils that come in tamper-proof cobalt, amber, or violet glass bottles to prevent product degradation.
- Credibility: The supplier of choice should possess comprehensive knowledge about their products and be readily available to answer any consumer questions.
- Dependability: It is advisable to avoid products from multi-level marketing companies.
- Sustainability: Inspect whether or not the essential oils are derived from non-endangered plants, and ensure that both packaging and cultivation methods align with eco-friendly practices.
- Production Method: Investigate whether the plants used are organic, certified, ethically produced, or wildcrafted to ensure the highest quality.