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Be sure to check out The Essential Oil Animal Desk Reference Book
Dr. Shelton initially became interested in essential oils not for animals, but for her own children. They had specialized health needs that prevented use of traditional medications, as well as dyes and other additives. Melissa saw an announcement for a community education class for natural remedies for coughs and colds and other minor illnesses, so she decided to attend. As it turned out, the class was about using essential oils to cure ailments, and that’s how she became interested in the subject.
Dr. Shelton had already turned away from the use of chemical air fresheners at home and at her veterinary clinic. This was in part due to the bloodwork abnormalities she was seeing in pets exposed to a lot of air fresheners in their environment. When the air fresheners were removed, the bloodwork values returned to normal.
So she was excited about the possibilities for essential oils, because in addition to being safer than chemical air fresheners, they also smelled really nice!
Dr. Shelton began investigating whether she could use essential oils in her vet clinic safely, but to back up just a bit, she’d actually first been exposed to them years earlier – when she was able to cure her husband’s warts with an essential oil.
She and her husband had tried many different things to try to get rid of the warts. Eventually they tried clove oil, and it worked. And 10 years later, Melissa still has that same bottle of clove oil!
Coincidentally, I was also introduced to essential oils almost by accident.
As some of you know, I’m a wildlife rehabilitator. Twenty years ago, the woman I apprenticed under said,
“You know, if you have really stressed wild animals coming in, just put a few drops of very pure pharmaceutical grade lavender oil on a cotton ball, tape it outside of their cage, and you will see an overall calming effect.”
I have done this trick with lavender oil for years. It’s tremendously effective. But suddenly I had people gasping and saying, “Oh my gosh! There’s not a cat in the room when you’re doing that, right?”
Essential Oils for Pets - A Controversial Treatment
I started to get a little panicky thinking I might be causing harm with my use of lavender oil.
I asked Melissa if she’d received feedback from others in the veterinary community about the supposed dangers of using essential oils around animals.
Dr. Shelton’s experience has been similar to mine. She’s contacted regularly by others in our profession with questions like, “How dare you even recommend that you could do this [use essential oils] around cats?”
Melissa has been using essential oils in her practice for about three years now, but before that, she was cautious about even using a diffuser at home with her own cats (she has over a dozen at the moment!).
She would watch her kitties very carefully for reactions to the diffuser. And she ran tons of bloodwork to reassure herself they were healthy.
Then Dr. Shelton noticed that her Munchkin cat spent a lot of time at the diffuser, lying next to it. In fact, she actually delivered a litter of kittens right next to it. And it occurred to Melissa that her cat was certainly smarter than most humans when it came to how her body responded to the oils in the diffuser.
But Melissa continued to check blood and urine in her cats and monitor them closely. Over time she felt confident no abnormalities were developing and she began to relax with the idea of essential oils around cats.
Then it occurred to her the kitty probably didn’t lay next to the diffuser just because she liked it, and that there were certainly more compelling reasons driving her to be close to it.
The Quality of the Oils is Paramount
I asked Melissa whether she thinks the information about essential oils and animals comes from those who are simply misinformed, or is there an element of fear mongering involved.
She believes it’s a little of both. She’s done her own research on reports of toxicity from oils, hoping to learn why some people can successfully use them and others are so dead set against them.
And from her research, she has determined it comes down to an issue of the quality of the essential oils used – just as many things in veterinary medicine come down to quality. For example, pet food. When we see pets that have become ill thanks to a poor diet, we recommend the owner upgrade the diet as soon as possible. We don’t outlaw all pet food because there are low quality brands on the market – we just pick a better food.
Dr. Shelton says it became very obvious to her that there are just as many variations in the quality of essential oils as there are in brands of pet food. She has her own brand preferences based on the quality of the oils. As a holistic vet, when she finds a product that is safer or more effective, that’s the one she uses and recommends to clients.
When it comes to essential oils, what Dr. Shelton has found is a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon initially because it was a natural remedy. But the majority of those folks had no knowledge of essential oils, or how to distinguish a high quality grade from a lesser grade of oil. She has discovered even companies that are big warehouses for essential oils don’t understand about testing the quality of the oils, or how to evaluate an oil at all. They just warehouse them.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there was well. Dr. Shelton has spoken directly to people with cats that have been damaged by essential oils, so it does happen – just not as often as many people think.
Melissa has met or knows of thousands of people who use essential oils successfully, and only a few that have had major problems with them.
I asked her if in her experience, problems from use of essential oils were primarily a purity or potency problem, or a mishandling problem.
Dr. Shelton believes it’s a quality problem (for example, a five-dollar bottle of essential oil purchased from the local drug store is mostly likely a poor grade oil), and also a mishandling problem when the person gets the oil home. She can usually trace a problem with an essential oil back to it being a synthetic oil, a poor grade oil, or a situation of misuse by the consumer. For example in one instance, a bottle spilled and a cat wound up basically covered in essential oil.
How Dr. Shelton’s Passion for Essential Oils Developed
I wanted to know if Dr. Shelton’s passion for essential oils for animals developed gradually, or rather suddenly.
She says she was always drawn to them but initially thought she couldn’t be around them much because of her own sensitivities to odors and inhalants. In fact, she actually thought she was allergic to them.
Then she was exposed to very high quality oils, and she was instantly energized. She began devouring books on essential oils and became very passionate and a huge advocate.
Sometime after that, she had a patient at her vet clinic that had her stumped. She felt there was nothing more she could do for the animal – there was nowhere else to turn. Every veterinarian is faced at some point in their careers with such a patient.
But Dr. Shelton suddenly found herself with several of those patients almost simultaneously. The pets’ owners were telling her,“Look, I’m not giving up on this animal, so you better come up with something else.”
Cowboy the Cat and Essential Oils
One such patient is Cowboy the cat. Cowboy has upper motor neuron damage to his bladder and can’t urinate. Dr. Shelton hospitalized him over and over and over again, but his owner refused to give up. She’s willing to do anything to help Cowboy – surgery if there was any that would help, taking him wherever she needed to, to have his bladder drained safely on a regular basis, or whatever was required. She was willing to do anything.
Dr. Shelton kept gently suggesting it might be time to euthanize Cowboy, but his mom’s response was always, “No! No! No!” So Melissa eventually decided that if Cowboy was human, she would try certain essential oils, and his owner agreed.
So try they did. And while Dr. Shelton had every intention of weaning the cat off the essential oils after a period of time, Cowboy’s mom insistently continued with the remedy. Dr. Shelton was sure she was going to see bad news in his bloodwork from the ongoing use of essential oils, but his test results came back perfect. And she was more convinced than ever that “these things really work.”
She convinced Cowboy’s owner to back off the oils to every other day … and the cat had a relapse.
Melissa continues to follow Cowboy’s bloodwork. And for over two years now he’s been getting essential oil treatments twice a day, topically, using a mixture of several oils. His bloodwork is, in a word, spectacular. In fact, he’d just been in the day before our interview. Dr. Shelton re-checked his blood values and it seems Cowboy is actually regaining some neurologic function!
Cowboy is an amazing case, of course, and one of Melissa’s all-time favorites.
I wanted to know if Cowboy can urinate on his own now all time. Dr. Shelton says not completely. His bladder is still slightly enlarged, but it releases urine more easily than before. In fact, it releases when he sleeps, which indicates improvement in the neural tone.
And Cowboy can actually urinate in a small puddle instead of just dribbles these days. He’s also showing a small panniculus response when he’s petted, which is a bit of twitching of the hair and skin down his back – also a good sign. And he can twitch his tail ever so slightly.
When Melissa first started seeing Cowboy, he had to be hospitalized almost monthly to relieve the urinary blockage. His bladder would be the size of a cantaloupe. It was horrible for the cat – being catheterized and hospitalized until he was feeling better – then sending him home only to see him the next month to do it all over again.
Since he’s been on the essential oils, he’s gone over a year without a hospitalization. Read more about Cowboy here.
The Miracle of Dr. Shelton’s Very First Feline Essential Oils Patient
I told Melissa I assumed Cowboy’s mom just be ecstatic to see her pet get so much relief and improved quality of life from an inexpensive, non-invasive therapy. Dr. Shelton says the client has spent only a fraction of just one hospitalization on essential oil treatments.
I asked Melissa if there was a specific case earlier in her career as a vet that sparked her interest in sort of going against the grain of traditional treatments toward incorporating alternative remedies like essential oils in her practice.
She responded that actually it was her own cat who was her first essential oils patient. She was an outdoor ‘farm cat’ (the Sheltons do cat rescues). One day she came stumbling up the driveway with clear signs of a severe neurologic problem. Dr. Shelton actually prepared euthanasia solution because she assumed there was no hope for the poor cat.
Before she could use it, however, her husband suggested – since she’d wanted to try essential oils with cats – that she try them first before euthanizing the kitty.
So with literally nothing to lose, Melissa decided to try treating their farm cat with essential oils. She did what is called a “kitty raindrop.” Within two doses the cat was 100 percent back to normal.
It was such an amazing result – and also, remember, her first experience using essential oils on an animal – that Dr. Shelton wondered whether it was truly the oils that helped or whether the cat would have recovered on her own.
Essential Oils to Treat MRSA
I’ve become keenly interested in essential oils as one of the few effective treatments for MRSA, and other antibiotic resistant bacterial infections. I really believe one of our last resorts to successfully treat these horrible infections lies with essential oils.
Dr. Shelton agrees. She has MRSA patients who have responded to essential oils when nothing else worked.
The beauty of essential oils is plants change, and so every single distillation of essential oils is slightly different from its predecessor. This is a benefit we don’t receive from pharmaceutical drugs. Every batch of a medical drug must by law be identical to the batch that preceded it.
Plants, on the other hand, adapt and change with the tiniest variable in their environment, for example, a change in the water supply. So essential oils, created from ever-adapting plants, never reach a point where pathogens become resistant to them. They stay at least one step ahead – which makes them much smarter than anything we can create in a laboratory.
Dr. Shelton says she’s reached the point with essential oils where she thinks, “Boy, if somebody tries to take them away from me, I don’t know if I’d want to practice veterinary medicine anymore.”
She compares it to how we view the issue of nutrition in animal health. We are both huge proponents of the importance of nutrition in the lives of our patients and all animals. If we couldn’t modify a pet’s diet as part of our healing protocol, our jobs would become incredibly difficult.
Dr. Shelton sees them as a pair, diet and essential oils. She always starts with the diet. If she’s not able to convince a pet owner to make necessary dietary changes and she also meets resistance using even a small amount of essential oils, it gives her an empty feeling. She feels that strongly about the benefits of good nutrition and the use of essential oils in pet care.
Essential Oils – True Holistic Healing
One thing that adds to the amazing power of essential oils is they work at emotional and cognitive levels as well as at the physiologic level. Many pets have dramatic improvement in their response to stress and anxiety with the use of oils.
They affect animals down deep, at the cellular level, positively impacting neurochemistry and biochemistry. This, of course, makes for more balanced, happier patients who are also regaining physical health.
Melissa uses essential oils to help with behavior modification in pets as well. In fact she has a video you can watch at her website about Emmett, a parrot with a horrendous case of papillomatosis – a viral form of avian warts that can affect the entire GI tract. Emmett had growths in his mouth, down his throat, and all the way to the other end of him. The condition was so advanced it caused the bird to breathe so loudly he woke up his owner from several rooms away in the middle of the night.
Once again, euthanasia was on the table in order to end Emmett’s suffering. But Dr. Shelton remembered she’d gotten rid of her husband’s warts with essential oils, and wondered if they would work for poor Emmett.
With great trepidation, because birds are so exquisitely sensitive and fragile, Melissa began to treat Emmett with essential oils. And guess what? The papillomatosis greatly improved. But that’s not the end of the story.
As it turns out, Emmett had watched his previous owner die and then laid in the bottom of his cage for several days before anyone found him. Now, remember Dr. Shelton was primarily focused on the bird’s physical problem, the papillomatosis, and hadn’t given much thought to his emotional state.
Because the essential oils had worked so remarkably on Emmett’s disease, Melissa wanted to take some photos of him for an upcoming presentation. She used another blend of essential oils on Emmett that were intended strictly for photo op purposes … and the bird’s emotions changed. You can actually see it happen on the video posted at her website.
Emmett came out of his cage on his own for the first time in over two years. And Melissa was stunned to realize she’d been largely overlooking the emotional component in her use of essential oils on animals. Read more about Emmett here.
This is one of the most exciting things about essential oils to me – they promote healing on every level – spiritually, energetically. They are the essence of a holistic approach to healing – mind, body, spirit. As Melissa puts it, essential oils “connect all the dots.”
So Why All the Negativity?
I’ve been thrilled to watch Dr. Shelton expand her educational process in essential oils. She is helping to change the negative opinion many people have about them.
I’m not by nature much of a cynic, but I’ve often wondered who or what is really behind the bad reputation essential oils have acquired in the last 10 years.
Is the bad press coming from pharmaceutical companies that don’t want the public to learn just how beneficial, broad-reaching and inexpensive essential oil therapy can be? Are the forces behind the ‘negativity movement’ afraid pet owners will find out just how cheaply and successfully we can treat the minds, bodies and souls of companion animals?
Wherever the negativity has come from, I just want to say I’m a huge admirer of Dr. Shelton’s work in overcoming it. She’s out there helping pet owners and others challenge their fears of essential oils in a logically sound way so that they can open their minds to a totally natural, very effective form of healing for animals.
I just really appreciate everything Melissa is doing, and I want to thank her for spending some time with me today discussing her work and amazing success treating animals with essential oils.
For those of you interested in learning more about using essential oils to treat pets, please visit Dr. Melissa Shelton’s website. Or pick up her book, The Animal Desk Reference.
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