Are Essential Oils Safe for Pets? We Found Out.

Is the use of essential oils on or around our pets safe? This article explains the dangers.

Selection of essential oils, with herbs and flowers in the backgroundPhoto: Shutterstock/Madeleine Steinbach

Alternative medicine practitioners tout the benefits of essential oils to ease everything from anxiety to migraines to infections. However these concentrated oils have been under much scrutiny. Though there is some scientific evidence that certain fragrances and oils, such as lavender and eucalyptus, truly do have beneficial healing properties for humans—there are a few dangers as well.

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Are Essential Oils Safe For Pets?

It’s tempting to want to use what heals us to soothe our animal friends as well. But essential oil fans should proceed with caution.

First, always check with your veterinarian if you have any questions about your pet’s health. Another simple rule of thumb to keep in mind when you’re pondering adding a new substance to your own or to your pet’s environment: “Is this something that I or they would encounter in this form in nature?”

To fully consider essential oils effects on animals, I’ll break it down by species:

Essential Oils for Dogs

Dogs are susceptible to illness from ingesting substances that we humans like. Essential oils are no exception. Topical oils and other fragrances are absorbed through both the skin and the linings of the lungs, where they are transported into the blood stream. They are detoxified by our livers. If the liver is overwhelmed and cannot rid the body of toxins quickly enough, the result can be illness and even death. If you enjoy using essential oils on your body or in your home, take care that they are not accessible to your dog, who may lick or eat them.

Essential Oils for Cats

Cats are bright, curious, prone to explore their environment, and they like to sample their findings. Because cats spend much of their lounging-around time grooming, anything that comes into contact with their fur will most likely be ingested. That means, of course, if you have something on your own hands when you stroke your kitty, she will likely have contact with it. Essential oils that are high in phenol or monoterpene hydrocarbons can potentially put your cat at risk, as those compounds can cause dangerous buildup in their liver. Again, always consult your vet when in doubt.

Essential Oils for Birds

The third-most popular pet (excluding reptiles and fish) in the U.S is the bird. They are exquisitely sensitive to environmental toxins in aerosol form—PTFE (Teflon), heavily-scented candles, incense. If you apply essential oils to your skin it shouldn’t be harmful to your pet bird unless he walks over your skin or you pet him with the oils on your fingers. Like cats, birds groom their feathers and will ingest anything clinging to them.

No matter how careful we are, incidents with our beloveds may happen. If you are worried or need more information, visit Pet Poison Helpline or call their hotline 855-764-7661.

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Sue Evans
I am a mom, grandma, wife, nurse, gardener, writer, student, a steward of and a passenger on Planet Earth.