are essential oils safe for pets?

are essential oils safe for pets? | cat sniffing essential oil diffuser
Posted by fetch! blog editors on Mar 16 2020

Pet parents may be tempted to mask the smell of kitty litter, wet fur or other common pet odors with fragrant essential oils, but be warned: These popular deodorizers pose serious health risks to our pets!

While you may reduce the risk of a home fire by swapping the traditional candle out for a diffuser, the mood-enhancing oils bring their own dangers.

What are essential oils?

Extracted from plants via steaming or pressing, essential oils are the concentrated chemical compounds responsible for a plant’s distinct scent or flavor – its very “essence.” Although most commonly used for aromatherapy, essential oils can also be used for a variety of purposes, including cleaning supplies and holistic remedies.

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Are essential oils safe for dogs?

Dogs may display symptoms of toxicity if exposed to the following essential oils:*

  • Tea tree
  • Wintergreen
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Ylang ylang
  • Anise
  • Clove
  • Thyme
  • Juniper
  • Yarrow 

Similar to cats, dogs will experience toxicity symptoms if the essential oil is ingested or absorbed through their skin.

While shopping for your pet, you may notice topical products on the market that contain essential oils. This makes it important to check the ingredients and follow your veterinarian’s recommendation. The less your dog has access to essential oils in their environment, the better.

What essential oils are toxic to cats?

According to Texas A&M University’s Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the essential oils known to cause poisoning in cats include:*

  • Basil
  • Bergamot
  • Bitter almond
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Geranium
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Mint (including wintergreen, spearmint, and peppermint)
  • Myrrh
  • Pine
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • Sandalwood
  • Sassafras
  • Tarragon
  • Tea tree
  • Thyme
  • Wormwood
  • Ylang ylang

Cats lack an enzyme in the liver capable of breaking down the essential oil and eliminating their toxins, making toxicity likely.*

Curious and agile, cats climb on counters and furniture all too often. But if your cat knocks over a reed diffuser or walks through a scented mist, microdroplets could collect on their fur, which could then be absorbed through their skin or ingested during grooming.

Felines that suffer from other respiratory issues, like asthma, are at greater risk for worsening their conditions because these oils irritate the respiratory tract. However, all cats face the risk of pneumonia if oils are inhaled.**

What essential oils can be used around dogs and cats?

While essential oils have a natural origin, that’s not always a good indicator if something is safe. This makes it even more important to discuss essential oils used in your household with your trusted vet.

How to keep pets safe around essential oils:

  1. Speak first with your veterinarian before bringing oils home.
  2. Never administer essential oils to your pet topically or orally. 
  3. Avoid contact with your pet if you recently applied oils to your body.
  4. Tightly close and store oils far from your pet’s reach.

Common toxicity symptoms for pets:

Smaller and younger pets often experience more severe side effects. While it often depends on the oil your pet is exposed to, here is a list of common toxicity symptoms:

  • Drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue/Weakness
  • Difficulty walking or stumbling
  • Muscle tremors
  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Redness or burns on skin or gums
  • Vomiting

If you suspect your pet has come in contact with essential oils, this is an emergency so visit your veterinarian immediately. It will help if you bring the bottle with you so your vet has a better idea of what issues your pet may face. Your veterinarian may also advise you to call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855.764.7661 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435.

* Pet Poison Helpline

** According to Texas A&M University

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