As essential oils become more popular, we’re receiving more questions about their safety for pets. Essential oils are used for everything from making the house smell better to repelling insects, and even improving sleep or moods. While essential oils and pets can coexist safely in the same home, there have been cases of pets poisoned by essential oils so some precautions need to be taken.
Essential oils can be absorbed via the skin, the mouth, or the respiratory system. Each of these routes poses its own risks.
When looking at the safety of essential oils in your home, these are the factors we recommend you consider:
- Concentration matters! It goes without saying that a 100% solution is far more potent than a 1% solution. Essential oils are available in every concentration possible, so it’s important to recognize that more concentrated products pose greater risks to pets.
- How is the product being used? Essential oils are commonly used in three ways:
- Direct application: Some sources recommend essential oils for flea prevention or treatment of skin conditions. While a few oils have demonstrated antimicrobial or insect repelling properties, due to the risk of intoxication, we do not recommend applying essential oils (especially very concentrated forms) directly to pets.
- Orally: Humans can safely take some essential oils, for example as a remedy for gastrointestinal distress, and, of course, we routinely ingest essential oils as part of whole plants. When it comes to concentrated oils or oil extracts, again, we don’t recommend ever administering them to pets. Since pets metabolize many things differently than humans, we just aren’t able to say that it will be safe for them to ingest any particular essential oil without consequence.
- Airborne: Essential oil diffusers are popular for spreading fragrances throughout a home. Diffusers can be passive (including reed diffusers, evaporative diffusers, and heat diffusers) or active (including nebulizers and ultrasonic diffusers). Since we don’t recommend using or administering oils directly to pets, this is where we’ll focus the rest of our attention.
Using Essential Oil Diffusers in a Pet-Friendly Household
From freshening up a home to spreading relaxation, essential oil and potpourri diffusers are quite popular. If you have furry friends running around here are some important tips and info:
- Airborne essential oils should not be used around pets that have compromised breathing. This could be chronic conditions like asthma or heart disease, or temporary problems like an upper respiratory infection or kennel cough.
- Make sure to use diffusers in areas that pets can’t reach. If spilled, even essential oils that are safe in an airborne form can become toxic if they fall onto the pet and are absorbed directly from the skin. Heat diffuser spills also pose a risk of burns.
- Cats are much more susceptible to essential oil toxicity than dogs. Since cats groom themselves routinely, they can ingest diffused oil droplets from their fur, compounding the effects. Cats also have a harder time metabolizing certain substances than dogs.
- Examples of oils that are known to be toxic to cats are: citrus oil, Ylang Ylang oil, peppermint oil, wintergreen, pennyroyal oil, eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, cinnamon oil, and oil of sweet birch.
- Avoid placing diffusers in areas where pets are confined or kenneled. Pets should always have the option to get away if the smell becomes too strong. Signs that the scent may be overwhelming your pet include coughing, sneezing, drooling, or squinting.
What Are the Signs of Essential Oil Toxicity
Many symptoms can be seen after an exposure to essential oils. The most common reported clinical signs are: depression, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, and irritation or ulcers in the mouth. Severe cases can present with seizures or liver damage.
What to Do If Your Pet Has Been Exposed to Essential Oils
Call us at 269-381-1570! Depending on the severity of exposure, we may recommend that you come in to have your pet examined or that you contact an animal poison control service. You can also consult directly with ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680.