Essential Oils and PetsAh, the sweet, calming smell of lavender. The energy burst that you can get from citrus. Aromatherapy has been used for centuries as a way for humans to relax and rejuvenate. More recently, essential oils have become popular as home remedies for common maladies. So, it begs the question, can essential oils be beneficial when it comes to our pets?

The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital went searching for answers, and we were fascinated with what we learned. Read on for more information about essential oils and pets.

Essential Oils Basics

What exactly are essential oils? Simply put, they are plant compounds that have been carefully extracted and distilled.

Essential oils are described as highly volatile, meaning they can powerfully affect our minds and bodies. They enter the body through contact with the skin, inhalation, or ingestion. They are absorbed by the bloodstream and affect the organs rapidly. Used properly, they can have therapeutic effects.

However, it’s important to understand that essential oils can also be toxic to our pets without proper knowledge of their use.

Essential Oils Can Be Toxic to Pets

Essential oils can be safe and useful to pets, and do have value in integrative veterinary medicine. However, there are some that have been shown to cause specific problems in pets. Cats in particular are sensitive, as they lack a liver enzyme (compared to dogs and humans) that prevents them from metabolizing certain oils effectively, causing liver toxicity.

Every pet reacts differently to oils, and remember that every oil is different depending on its specific plant properties, concentration, formulation and the quality of the brand of oil used.

Oils that should not be used on cats:

  • Cassia
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemon
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Spruce
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme

Oils that should not be used on dogs:

  • Clove
  • Garlic
  • Juniper
  • Rosemary
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen

Essential Oils and Diffusers

The new trend of diffusing essential oils has really taken off recently. There are a few things to keep in mind when considering using a diffuser around pets.

Passive diffusersPassive diffusers absorb the oil and send their scent into the air. These include reed diffusers, personal diffusers (such as a bracelet), heat diffusers, and some types of motorized diffusers. Make sure that you don’t allow pets near these, so they can’t knock them over and walk through, lick, or ingest essential oils.

Active diffusersThese are the newer model motorized diffusers and work by imparting scent into the air and the actual microdroplets of the oils as well. The microdroplets can collect on pets’ coats and be ingested through grooming, leading to toxicity. It’s best to use these diffusers away from pets, in an area that they cannot access.

Essential Oils and Pets

In addition to following the safety guidelines with diffusers, remember that pets have more sensitive senses of smell than we do, and what smells good to us may be irritating or even dangerous to them.

Other safety guidelines:

  • Keep oils stored out of pet’s reach
  • Never use 100% concentration oils on your pet’s skin; always dilute with a carrier oil
  • Diffuse in an area where pets can escape from smells
  • Birds have very sensitive respiratory tracts and aromatherapy around them is not recommended
  • If you have pets with asthma or other respiratory illness, don’t diffuse oils in your home
  • If you pet ingests oils, call your veterinarian and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline immediately

We hope this information about essential oils and pets has been helpful. Essential oil use is a growing trend, but needs to be judiciously thought out and appropriate guidance sought before they are used with pets. Call us with any questions. We’re here to help!