Updated: Sep 18, 2021
Essential oils are very popular right now — for people and for pets. But did you know that some are dangerous to our fur babies? Most people aren't aware that our favorite holistic remedies might be actually toxic for our dog or cat.
So I’ve put together this list of essential oils that are toxic for your best four-legged friend. But first, let me explain what essential oils are and how they can affect your pet.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants. The oils capture the plant's scent and flavor, or "essence." Unique aromatic compounds give each essential oil its characteristic essence. Essential oils are obtained through distillation (via steam and/or water) or mechanical methods, such as cold pressing. Once the aromatic chemicals have been extracted, they are combined with a carrier oil to create a product that's ready for use.
Aromatherapy has become a trendy way to treat a wide range of conditions, including insomnia, anxiety and pain. Some essential oils, derived from plants and used in aromatherapy, also have antibacterial and anti fungal properties, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. While scientific evidence that shows essential oils help treat certain health conditions is lacking, aromatherapy has been used for nearly 6,000 years and is commonly used in spas and hospitals today, according to the hospital's website.
Unfortunately, while many essential oils are beneficial for humans, they’re often harmful to animals. People frequently use essential oils with diffusers, but even using an oil in a diffuser or a warmer can potentially make your animal sick!
What is the problem with essential oils and animals?
Pets as well as humans can experience chemical burns with the direct contact of essential oils onto the skin. If pets lick up spills of these oils, they can experience these burns and other toxic effects. Cats are especially sensitive to many essential oils. Even just a couple licks can be harmful.
Oil from diffusers are harmful because the diffuser uses water vapor to release tiny oil droplets into the air. Inhaling diffused oils can cause aspiration pneumonia if the diffuser is used in a small space or if it is used for a long period of time, in addition to other toxic effects.
If you are using a diffuser in your home, your best option is to use it in an area that your pet cannot access. If, however, you have a pet with breathing problems, using a diffuser anywhere in the house is a bad idea.
You may want to reconsider the use of an oil diffuser if your home has pet birds or cats. Birds have a sensitive respiratory tract and are negatively affected by inhaled toxins. Cats may accidentally knock the diffuser over, causing the oil to spill. If the oil gets onto the cat’s fur (which the cat could later ingest while grooming), or the cat licks the spill, harmful toxic effects can occur. Keep in mind that cats and dogs are much more sensitive to scents – a dog’s sense of smell is somewhere between 1,000 to 10,000 times better than ours! What we may think is a mild scent may be overpowering to a dog or cat. So even though the essential oil you're using is not toxic to a pet, it may be overwhelming for them.
If your pet gets oil on its skin or fur, wash it off as quickly as possible using hand dish soap. If you think your pet has consumed essential oils, or may be having a reaction from being exposed to essential oil vapors, take your pet to the veterinarian right away.
Keep all essential oils out of reach of curious pets at all times. Sweet-smelling liquids may tempt your pet, so never leave essential oils unattended. Never apply essential oils to your pet without consulting with your veterinarian first. Check with your veterinarian to see if the oil you are using in your diffuser could cause harmful effects in your pet.
Which essential oils are dangerous for pets?
Essential Oils Harmful to Cats
Tea tree (melaleuca)
For more info about essential oils and cats go to Simply Cat Care Are Essential Oils Safe For Cats? - Simply Cat Care
Essential Oils Harmful to Dogs
Tea tree (melaleuca)
Symptoms of Poisoning in Pets?
Redness or burns on the gums, lips, tongue, or skin
Pawing or scratching at the mouth or face
Lethargy or weakness
Low body temperature
If your pet has symptoms of essential oil poisoning, bring them to an emergency veterinarian right away. If you keep essential oils or any products containing essential oils in your home, you should keep a close eye on your pets. Also, be sure the number of your local emergency veterinarian is saved in your phone. You can also call ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435.