Sweet Smells? Essential Oils and Pets

Essential oils and pets don't always mix!Aromatherapy has been around for many years, but nowadays, essential oils are all the rage. Recently, people have been using essential oils in a number of home remedies. They’re touted for relieving everything from muscle aches to depression to allergies. This begs the question – is it safe to mix essential oils and pets? The team at Animal Medical Hospital set out to find answers!

The Basics of Essential Oils

Essential oils are plant compounds that have been meticulously extracted and distilled. These compounds can impart the properties of the plant. Many compare the process of distilling essential oils to that of making fine wine.

Essential oils are highly volatile, meaning they can have powerful effects on our bodies and minds. They enter the body through inhalation, ingestion, or through contact with the skin. They’re absorbed rapidly by the bloodstream and affect the internal organs. If used properly, they can have therapeutic effects.

Essential Oils and Pets

However, without the right knowledge and proper use, essential oils can actually be toxic to pets. The compounds they contain are biologically active and can cause numerous harmful side effects – even organ damage, if used improperly.

Every pet reacts differently to essential oils, and every oil is different based on its concentration, formulation, specific plant properties, and the quality of the brand used. It’s a good rule of thumb to seek the help of a veterinary professional before mixing essential oils and pets.

Cats are especially sensitive, as they lack a specific liver enzyme that prevents them from metabolizing certain oils effectively. Oils to avoid using with cats include:

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

With dogs, avoid the following:

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

A Growing Trend: Diffusers and Pets

Essential oil diffusers have become popular recently, so consider the following:

  • Passive diffusers – These diffusers absorb the oils and send them into the air. Examples include reed diffusers, liquid potpourri, and personal scent diffusers (such as a bracelet). Keep these away from pets and don’t place them in areas where your pet can reach.
  • Active diffusers – The newer motorized diffusers work by not only sending the scent into the air, but also the microdroplets of the volatile compounds. The microdroplets can collect on your pet’s coat and can be accidentally ingested during grooming. Be sure to use these diffusers only in rooms that you pet can’t access.

Essential Oils and Pet Safety

Remember, animals have a more acute sense of smell. What smells good to us may be irritating or even dangerous to them. Other safety tips to keep in mind include:

  • Store oils out of your pet’s reach.
  • Never use oils that are 100% concentrated on your pet’s skin; always dilute with a carrier oil.
  • If diffusing oils, give your pet a way to escape from the smell.
  • Don’t diffuse oils in your home if your pet suffers from asthma or a respiratory illness.
  • Birds have especially sensitive respiratory tracts; we don’t recommend using essential oils around them.
  • If your pet ever consumes essential oils, call us immediately!

While the use of essential oils is a growing trend, pet owners need to be careful and seek appropriate guidance before bringing essential oils into the home. Please don’t hesitate to call us with any questions or concerns.