Over the past few years, using essential oils has grown like wildfire. Despite being extremely popular, there is few and conflicting scientific evidence regarding the benefits to health. This is especially true when talking about how your pet’s health may be affected.
Numerous essential oils are outright poisonous to animals, including eucalyptus, tea tree, cinnamon, citrus, peppermint, pine, wintergreen, and ylang ylang. These are harmful whether they are licked up after a spill, applied to the skin, or used in diffusers.
Diffusers, which give off a pleasant perfume and may seem harmless, can actually be dangerous since they release minute oil droplets into the air using water vapour. If diffused oils are used in a small area and/or for an extended period of time, it is known that both humans and pets who inhale them can experience respiratory problems.
It’s vital to remember that compared to us, animals like cats and dogs are far more sensitive to smells. A scent that seems inconsequential to you may be overpowering and damaging to an animal.
Is it safe to use oil diffusers around dogs?
You might have recently noticed postings or articles on social media about essential oils, oil diffusers, and the risk they could cause to your dogs. For a very long time, essential oils have been a well-liked at-home treatment for a variety of illnesses, such as nasal congestion, anxiety, painful muscles, and skin disorders. There has been an increase in concern about how these oils may harm indoor animals as a result of the growing popularity of oil diffusers, a convenient way to introduce these oils into your house. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) therefore seeks to clarify this hot topic.
Are essential oils potentially harmful for your pets? And if so, what precautions should pet parents be taking?
As we frequently see, there is a little more to the response than a straightforward “yes” or “no.”
Essential oils can definitely pose a risk to pets when they are 100% concentrated. Health issues can arise in dogs and cats who have come into contact with oils, walked through them, had some on their coats, or had oils applied directly to them.
These signs include:
- shakiness when walking
- decreased body temperature (in severe cases)
If a pet consumes concentrated essential oils, you can also notice sadness, diarrhea, and vomiting in the animal.
Are some oils/scents more dangerous than others?
It’s possible that some oils are more dangerous than others. However, a number of things, like the product’s mix-ins and concentration level, have an impact on this. For instance, whereas another oil may require more or less, concentrated types of tea tree oil (also known as melaleuca oil) may harm your dogs with just seven or eight drops. It is preferable to absolutely avoid applying essential oils to your pet directly due to the wide range in concentration, formulation, and potential quality of these substances. To avoid possible ingestion, you should also keep any oils up and out of the reach of paws.
So, does that mean you should return your diffuser?
The APCC says no, not always. It shouldn’t be a problem to use an oil diffuser for a brief length of time in a safe location that neither your dog nor cat can access.
However, it might be advisable to completely avoid using one if your pet has a history of breathing issues. Remember that your pets’ sense of smell is far more acute than ours, so something that seems light to us could be overwhelming to them.
If you decide to maintain your diffuser, make sure it is placed in a location where your pet cannot knock it over and perhaps come into contact with the oils. Always err on the side of caution and “pet-proof your space” to prevent exposing your pets to harmful toxins.
It is advised to avoid using an essential oil diffuser in your home if you have birds, even though the same issues with essential oils apply to other pets including rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters. Because birds’ respiratory systems are so delicate, using a diffuser could cause them to have more severe issues.
Contact your veterinarian or the APCC at (888) 426-4435 right once if you suspect your pet has consumed or been exposed to a potentially hazardous substance. Download the APCC Mobile App or browse our comprehensive list of hazardous household goods to learn more about protecting your pets from toxins.
Are scents from essential oils safe for dogs?
Dogs have more than 300 million olfactory receptors, compared to only 6 million in humans, according to PBS. This indicates that they have a keen sense of smell. The final word? Dogs can detect essential oils, yes. Not all essential oils, nevertheless, are secure for your dog. Due to its relaxing effects, lavender is arguably the most well-liked (and one of the safest) essential oil. Another effective oil that promotes circulation and repels bothersome insects is peppermint oil.
How can you tell if your dog is perceiving the scent of the essential oils that are diffusing in the room? For first, their nose will probably begin to wriggle as they inhale the novel aroma and attempt to decipher what is happening. Be alert for any sneezing as this may be a sign that the essential oil is irritating them.
Which essential oils are suitable for diffuser use around animals?
The following essential oils are frequently reported to frequently cause skin irritation, respiratory issues, uncomfortable cooling effects, changes in attentiveness, weakness or exhaustion, stagger, vomit, and paralysis when used on or around pets, among other possible effects. This is not a complete list.
- Essential Oil of anise
- essential oil of basil
- Essential Oil of Birch
- Aromatic Calendula Oil
- Essential Oil of Cassia
- Aromatic Cinnamon Oil
- Aromatic Citronella Oil
- Essential Oil of Clove
- Essential Oil of Cypress
- Essential Oil of Eucalyptus
- Essential Oil of Garlic
- Aromatic Grapefruit Oil
- Essential Oil of Juniper
- Essential Oil of Lavender
- Essential Oil of Lemon
- Essential Oil of Lime
- Essential Oil of Myrtle
- Essential Oil of Nutmeg
- Essential Oil of Orange
- Essential oil of oregano
- Essential Oil of Peppermint
- Essential Oil of Pennyroyal
- Essential Oil of Pine
- Aromatic Rosemary Oil
- Mint Leaf Essential Oil
- Essential Oil of Spruce
- Essential Oil of Tansy
- Essential Tea Tree Oil
- Essential Oil of Thuja
- Essential Oil of Thyme
- Essential Oil of Wintergreen
- Essential Oil of Yarrow
- Essential Oil of Ylang Ylang
Can I vaporize lavender around my dog?
Essential oils are now widely available, unlike in the past when they could only be bought at specialist stores and natural food stores. Due in large part to their appealing scents and the advantages associated with them, the popularity of these natural plant-derived oils has soared in recent years. Not only do essential oils make our houses smell wonderful, but supporters say the calming aromas may also be able to boost our health and make us feel more focused.
But are our pets safe from these products? The use of essential oils to enhance pet health is still debatable. While some holistic veterinarians and practitioners of alternative medicine may advise using particular essential oils, the majority of veterinary specialists advise pet parents to avoid them. The advantages of essential oils for dogs are, at best, untested. Some essential oils have the potential to seriously jeopardize your pet’s health.
Unfortunately, because our pets frequently can’t metabolize things the way we do, products that are labeled “all natural” or “organic” are not necessarily suitable for dogs and cats. They find it challenging to get rid of some essential oils and other contaminants from their body as a result. If consumed, inhaled, or administered topically to pets, especially in forms that are very concentrated, they can be extremely harmful.
Pet owners should use caution while utilizing essential oils near their animals. Make sure you are aware of safe essential oil usage techniques and which essential oils should never be used. Pets other than dogs and cats are also susceptible to injury from essential oils, including rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, and other small animals. Particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of inhaled oils are birds.
How Essential Oils Affect Dogs and Cats
It’s crucial to understand the fundamentals of how essential oils function in order to keep your pet safe around them. The fatty aromatic chemicals known as essential oils are taken from numerous plants. These substances are extracted through distillation into a variety of concentrations, ranging from 100% pure essential oils to concentrations as low as 1-2%, which are then diluted with a non-aromatic carrier oil. The risk to pets increases as the oil’s concentration increases.
Due to their lipophilic nature, essential oils are easily absorbed through the skin and mucous membranes (including the lining of the mouth and nose), which then transport the oils into the bloodstream where the liver metabolizes and excretes the majority of them.
Essential oils can also be inhaled as fragrances, which can then travel through the nose to the olfactory nerves and the amygdala, where they cause a reaction in the brain’s emotional center. For instance, the aromas of peppermint and lavender might generate feelings of strength and enthusiasm respectively. Numerous individuals utilize essential oils for a variety of potential health advantages, such as regulating sleep, lowering anxiety, and relieving muscle aches and nasal congestion. Some essential oils may also serve as insect repellents in addition to aromatherapy, keeping mosquitoes and other bugs away.
Pure essential oils, air fresheners, room sprays, flavorings, herbal remedies, perfumes, aromatherapy jewelry, bath and personal products, home cleaning products (like Pine-Sol), candles, liquid potpourri, as well as passive or active diffusers are just a few of the many forms that essential oils can take.
Reed diffusers, warmers, and plug-in diffusers are examples of passive diffusers. Essential oil aromas from these diffusers might irritate dogs’ and cats’ respiratory systems. In contrast, active diffusers, such nebulizers or ultrasonic diffusers, release microdroplets of oil that stick to adjacent objects in addition to a scent. Using active diffusers can actually put your pet at risk for an even bigger danger when they consume the oil on their fur while being groomed, in addition to respiratory irritation.
Pet-safe Essential Oils
Most essential oils should be avoided by pet owners, however a handful can be used on animals safely. For instance, the safest essential oil for both dogs and cats is probably lavender (when used sparingly and in the right proportion). Other oils, nevertheless, which are healthy for dogs might not be suitable for cats due to species differences.
When using an oil, it must be properly diluted and applied. Since essential oils’ toxicity is dose-dependent, a product’s potential risk increases as it becomes more concentrated.
Your veterinarian can provide guidance on the proper carrier oils to use for your pet as well as dose and dilution recommendations for various oils (such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, almond oil, and grapeseed oil). For adequate dilution of pet-friendly oils, it is typically necessary to use at least 1 drop of pure essential oil to 50 drops of a pure carrier oil.
Remember that even safe essential oils can irritate the airways when breathed. Before using an essential oil product advertised for pets, such as shampoos, sprays, or relaxing treats, it is always a good idea to consult your veterinarian about its safety.
Additionally, just because an oil is safe for a dog or cat doesn’t mean it will automatically make them healthier. For instance, citrus oils, such as citronella and lemon, can potentially help lessen the severity of flea and tick infestations as well as the prevalence of mosquitoes when applied to repel pests. However, no scientific study has established that these essential oils are completely successful at avoiding mosquito bites or disease-carrying external parasites, particularly not at a level that is safe and non-toxic. As a result, essential oils should never take the place of year-round, monthly flea, tick, and heartworm prevention methods that have been approved by a veterinarian.
Dogs can safely use essential oils:
- works as an insect repellent Cedarwood oil
- Chamomile oil: induces a calming effect and aids in calming the digestive system
- Citrus oils, such as lemon oil and orange oil, serve as a deodorizer and a mosquito repellent.
- Oil of eucalyptus
- Flaxseed oil
- Frankincense oil is currently being studied as a treatment for canine and human bladder cancer.
- A member of the sunflower family called helichrysum oil may be able to treat bleeding issues.
- Dog parents may also want to think about the relaxing line of Adaptil canine appeasing pheromone products, such as collars, sprays, and diffusers. Lavender oil: has a calming effect.
- oil of lemongrass
- Some mint oils (peppermint, spearmint) can soothe gastrointestinal distress.
- rosé oil
Suitable Essential Oils for Cats:
- oil of chamomile
- jojoba oil
- Lemongrass oil
Keep These Essential Oils Away from Pets
It’s not a good idea to presume that an essential oil is safe for the pet parent is also safe for the pet when it comes to essential oils. Due to metabolic variations, the same oil that we can consume without experiencing any negative consequences might harm our pets’ respiratory, neurologic, and liver systems in addition to causing GI discomfort and chemical burns to their mouths or esophaguses. In extreme circumstances, death might occur.
Essential oils can have hazardous effects on animals, cats in particular. Cats are particularly susceptible to developing toxicity when oils cling to their skin or fur since they are such meticulous groomers. In such situations, oils concurrently pass the skin barrier, are ingested, and are inhaled into the body, quickly building up to toxic concentrations in the bloodstream. Pet parents should refrain from using oral, topical, and other inhalation oils around cats because felines are deficient in the enzymes that allow the liver to digest many essential oils and eliminate toxins.
Use of essential oils should also be avoided around dogs and cats with liver diseases, elderly pets, puppies and kittens, pregnant or nursing animals, and pets with respiratory diseases (including asthma and bronchitis). Additionally, keep dogs away from such oils in direct dermal contact if they have open wounds or sores because the broken skin may allow for quicker absorption.
The eyes, ears, nose, and genitalia of your pet should not be exposed to essential oils. Applying an essential oil to the ear canal in an effort to treat ear mites, for example, can harm your pet’s skin, nerves, and eardrums. Your veterinarian should handle the ear mite treatment! Furthermore, applying an essential oil topically, such as tea tree oil, to address dermatological disorders like hot spots or skin allergies frequently results in considerably more skin irritability. Any potential benefits are considerably outweighed by the risks.
The list that follows is not all-inclusive, but it does include some of the most popularly harmful essential oils. If unsure, speak with your veterinarian or look for dangerous and non-toxic plants on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) website.
Dogs shouldn’t use essential oils:
- Cannabis oil
- Hot oils (such as oregano, clove, and cinnamon oils): Due to its putative insect repellent effects, cinnamon oil is a component of certain over-the-counter “natural” flea and tick spot-on treatments and collars, however it can be poisonous to dogs and cats and offers only partial protection against external parasites.
- Oil of pennyroyal
- Pine resins
- Oil of sweet birch
- The majority of essential oil toxicity instances in dogs and cats are caused by tea tree oil, commonly known as melaleuca oil. Tea tree oil has some antibacterial characteristics, however dogs and cats should never be given it or have it rubbed to their skin or fur. If given directly to a dog or cat, tea tree oil can be extremely poisonous, even when diluted.
- herb oil
- oil of wintergreen
Unhealthy Essential Oils for Cats:
- herb oil
- Astringent almond oil
- Citrus oils, which include citronella, bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, and tangerine oils and include the chemical d-limonene: Citrus scents are often not liked by cats. While you might be tempted to use citrus oils like lemon or orange oils around areas where your cat is marking their territory with urine or jumping in inappropriate places, these products should be avoided because cats are toxic to the d-limonene component of citrus oils. Consider a secure and reliable substitute, like Feliway pheromone spray or diffuser, to help soothe your cat and prevent undesirable harmful behaviors.
- Garlic oil
- Oil of geranium
- warm oils (including cinnamon oil, clove oil, and oregano oil)
- oil of juniper
- Mint or menthol oils, such as those from eucalyptus, peppermint, spearmint, sweet birch, and wintergreen:
- *These two oils include methyl salicylates, which are poisonous to cats and are substances related to aspirin.
- Iris oil
- Spice oil
- Garlic oil
- Pine resins (these contain toxic phenols)
- rosmarinic oil
- Oil of sandalwood
- Oil of sassafras
- Turmeric oil
- Oil of tea tree (also known as melaleuca oil)
- Wisteria oil
- Oil of ylang ylang
How to Spot Signs of Essential Oil Poisoning in Pets
Pet owners should keep an eye out for these symptoms of essential oil intoxication in their animals. It is essential to seek immediate veterinary care as soon as any of these symptoms emerge in order to avoid permanent hepatic, pulmonary, or neurological damage.