Among aromatherapy enthusiasts, this is a very popular question: Do essential oils and pets mix? The short answer: used quite sparingly, essential oils can be beneficial to dogs and cats. However, with a strong sense of smell, differing anatomy, and typically a smaller size, a tiny amount goes a long way with pets, and excessive use can be harmful.

Whether you are utilizing essential oils for your own personal enjoyment, or to help your furry pet, there are some basic guidelines that must first be considered. This article will discuss safely using essential oils with and around your pets.

Are essential oils safe for pets?

Essential oils are very potent aromatic botanical extractions, thus should be utilized conservatively around pets. Used properly, essential oils maybe helpful to dogs and cats. Avoid use around fish, reptiles, birds, and small mammals.

There is a plethora of advice on the internet and social media including at home essential oil recipes for pets. It is important to differentiate expert advice from suggestions that could be unsafe. Pets can be harmed from the inappropriate use of essential oils. Discuss any questions you have about essential oils and your pet with your veterinarian.

To get started, below is a list of some basic guidelines. Then, there are additional considerations specific to dogs as well as guidelines just for cats.

General Recommendations for Safely Using Essential Oils in Homes with Cats or Dogs

  • Keep essential oils out of reach of children and pets.
  • Enjoy essential oil diffuser in a well ventilated and open area. Offer pets a retreat. Use for short 10- minute time periods once or twice a day.
  • Do not use diffusers near your pet’s favorite sleeping area.
  • Avoid use around pregnant or nursing pets, kittens, and puppies.
  • Avoid use around fish, reptiles, birds, and small mammals.
  • Do not apply essential oils topically or internally unless advised by a veterinarian trained in essential oils.
  • Discontinue use of essential oils if any symptoms or irritations occur.
  • For pets with medical conditions, discuss possible contraindications with your veterinarian before use.
  • For emergencies, contact your veterinarian or ASPCAA Animal Poison Control immediately at 888-426-4435 (1).

Essential Oils with Dogs

Dogs have a sense of smell about 1,000 times stronger than a person (2). Thus, it is important to avoid intense aromas around dogs. An aroma that may smell delightful to you could be overpowering to your dog. For aromatic use at home, dilute essential oils at least twice as much around dogs.

Further, certain essential oils may have too strong of a scent for your dog. While every pet is individual in their preference, powerful notes to avoid may include ylang ylang, lemongrass, anise, jasmine, cinnamon, and tea tree.

Here are some more guidelines for using essential oils around dogs.

  • Consult your veterinarian before topically applying essential oils on your dog. Avoid nose, mouth, eyes, ears, whiskers, genitals, anus, and paw pads. Essential oils must be heavily diluted before being applied. See the topical dilution chart below for general dilution guidelines.
  • If a dog has gotten essential oils onto their fur, do not let them lick their fur. Wash off essential oils using a carrier oil such as olive, canola, or coconut.
  • Ingestion of even a small amount of essential oils can be very unsafe and cause poisoning.
  • Never place essential oil in a dog’s muzzle.
  • Discontinue use if any irritation occurs and contact your veterinarian with any questions or concerns.
Topical Dilution Guidelines for Healthy Adult Dogs
20-pound dog 2 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
40-pound dog 4 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
60-pound dog 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
80-pound dog 8 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil
100-pound dog 10 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil

*Note: certain essential oils may require higher dilution or be inappropriate for certain dogs.

Essential Oils with Cats

Cats are limited in their toleration of essential oils because of their strong sense of smell and tiny size. Most importantly, cats lack the enzymes needed to break down essential oils and can thus suffer from a toxic reaction with excessive exposure (3).

Here are some additional essential oil guidelines specific to cats.

  • Do not apply essential oils topically to cats unless advised by a veterinarian with knowledge about safely using essential oils.
  • Do not apply essential oils onto your body or clothes and then try to hold your cat. The smell could cause irritation. Or, essential oils could get on your cat’s fur.
  • Cat’s lick their fur very frequently. Avoid getting essential oils on your cat’s fur.
  • Ingestion of essential oils can cause serious injury or death.
  • Never place essential oils in your cat’s litter.

Are diffusers safe around pets?

In homes with pets, diffuse sparingly. With essential oil use, a small amount goes a long way! This includes diluting more heavily and diffusing for much shorter time intervals.

Dilute more heavily

In a cool mist diffuser, try 2 drops of essential oil per 4 ounces of water. A general guideline is to dilute twice as much when diffusing in homes with pets.

Diffuse in shorter time intervals

Diffuse for 10-minute increments once or twice a day. Do not diffuse all day long!

Here are a few more guidelines for diffusing around pets.

  • Avoid diffusing near fish, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals.
  • With cats and dogs, make sure it is in an open and well-ventilated room. Your pet must also be able to exit the room if they need to get away from the smell.
  • Do not diffuse near your furry pet’s favorite sleeping spot.
  • Do not diffuse around pregnant, nursing, or very young furry pets.
  • Discontinue diffusing essential oils immediately if you notice any adverse reactions in your pet.
  • Keep diffusers and essential oils out of reach of pets and children.

Which essential oils should be avoided around pets?

Just like humans, furry pets are all unique individuals with their own preferences, and health conditions. An essential oil that may be appropriate for one animal, may not work for another. However, there are certain essential oils that should be avoided around pets. Here is a general list. Note that this list is not all inclusive, and your pet may have unique concerns.

Some Essential Oils to Avoid Around Pets

  • Anise
  • Birch
  • Cajeput
  • Camphor
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Hyssop
  • Lemongrass
  • Niaouli
  • Oregano
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Spearmint
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen

The Dangers of Essential Oils and Pets

Furry pets exposed to essential oils can experience excessive sneezing, breathing problems, skin irritations, allergic reactions, or worse. According to the ASPCA, symptoms of essential oil poisoning include unsteadiness on feet, depression, vomiting, and low body temperature (4). Contact your veterinarian immediately if you are concerned your pet is experiencing serious reactions.

In conclusion

We love our pets, and want them to be vibrant and happy. Plus, more and more people are seeing the therapeutic benefits to using essential oils. While these tiny bottles filled with aromatic delight can help improve the wellbeing of both people and our beloved animals, a small amount goes a long way, and too much can cause harm.

It is always best to seek expert advice from your veterinarian and a professionally trained aromatherapist before using aromatherapy techniques with pets. Ask the experts about using essential oils with your pets. Looking for the answers to your essential oil questions on the internet or social media can yield much unsafe advice.

References

  1. Animal Poison Control. (n.d.) Just Answer. Animal Poison Control. Retrieved on 12/23/19. Retrieved from: https://www.justanswer.com/sip/poisoning
  2. Animal Planet. (n.d.). Dog sense of smell. Retrieved on 12/23/19. Retrieved from: http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/how-is-a-dogs-sense-of-smell-so-incredible/
  3. Azzaro, K. (n.d.). Cats. Retrieved on 12/23/19. Retrieved from: https://www.animalaromatherapy.com/educate-empower/safety/cats/
  4. ASPCA. (1/17/2018). Is the latest trend harmful to your pets? What you need to know! Retrieved on 12/23/19. Retrieved from: https://www.aspca.org/news/latest-home-trend-harmful-your-pets-what-you-need-know
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