Diffuse with Precaution: Essential Oils and Pets

Did you know that some essential oils are dangerous to animals? That’s right, what’s calming to your senses could be poisoning your dog or cat. To keep your four-legged pals healthy, let’s talk about which essential oils are safe for pets and which are toxic.

First, what are essential oils?

Essential oils are compounds extracted from specific plants. They have a strong fragrance (or essence) of that plant. Different essential oils have varying claims, such as boosting energy, aiding digestion, relieving stress, helping with concentration, and so forth. Sadly, though most essential oils are beneficial to humans, many are harmful to animals. Whether you use a diffuser or place the oil directly on an animal, it may pose a serious threat to their health.

Why are some essential oils bad for pets?

Essential oils are powerful. Their molecules are highly reactive with the compounds in our bodies, as well as in pets’ bodies. If essential oils do not react with our bodies, they would have zero effects. However, this is the same reason many essential oils and animals do not mix. Certain oils are poisonous because their reactions interfere with a pet’s natural body chemistry. Unlike dogs and cats, human bodies are capable of processing certain substances. Thus, when using essential oils, it is important to distinguish which can make your pets sick.

Which essential oils are toxic to pets?

Essential oils that are harmful to dogs include, but are not limited to:

  • Anise
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus (d-limonene)
  • Clove
  • Garlic
  • Juniper
  • Tea tree (melaleuca)
  • Thyme
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Wintergreen
  • Yarrow
  • Ylang ylang

Essential oils that may endanger your cat’s well-being include, but are not limited to:

  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus (d-limonene)
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea tree (melaleuca)
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang

In 2012, a 40-year-old woman reported almost dying from ingesting peppermint oil. While small doses are harmful to both cats and dogs, high doses may be toxic to humans.

What are the symptoms of poisoning in pets?

Any changes in behavior following your pet’s exposure to essential oils may be a sign of poisoning. Here are some symptoms to look out for:

The smell of essential oil in their breath, fur, or skin

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Stumbling or difficulty walking
  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Muscle tremors
  • Redness or burns on their skin, lips, tongue, or gums

What should I do if my dog or cat shows these symptoms?

Essential oils and pets are a risky combination. Similar to poisoning in humans, the key to addressing poisoning in your pet is to act fast. As soon as you notice a change in their behavior, do not hesitate to seek medical treatment immediately. Call your local veterinarian or contact the Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213-6680.

If you can’t reach your veterinarian or their office is closed, bring your dog or cat to an animal emergency medical center. Avoid giving your pet treatments without a doctor’s approval.

Takeaway

If you are considering using essential oils in your home, speak with your veterinarian first. There are too many different ways in which essential oils and animals can interact without you realizing it.