The question of essential oils and pets comes around quite often for me.
It’s a question that I’m a tad uncomfortable with because I’m not trained in animal aromatherapy (yes, there is such a thing). I’m trained in aromatherapy for people and during my training, my instructor said that pet aromatherapy was not her area of expertise, so she chose not to teach it.
Answering this question is more complicated than a simple yes or no, but I’ll try to explain why essential oils and pets can be fine and why it can be dangerous.
I’ll stick with dogs and cats – if you have a pet iguana or hamster – sorry, I don’t even pretend to know the answer. (:
Aromatherapy and Dogs
Dogs have a cardiovascular, digestive and organ system much like ours. Chances are good if Fido has heart or liver problems, your vet will prescribe the same type of medication for him as your doctor does for you.
But veterinarians are trained in animal anatomy and physiology and understand the differences between dogs and humans in order to prescribe the correct dosages which may be very different from what you take.
While I have training in anatomy and physiology, I don’t know the subtle differences between us. So, when you ask me if you can use pure essential oils on Fido, I will ask how big is your dog?
You see, tiny dogs like Yorkies or Chihuahuas don’t have the body mass to handle pure essential oils (diffused or otherwise). Your Golden Retriever or Beagle might be okay because their body mass is so much larger, but proceed with caution!
Please don’t ever put essential oils directly on your dog’s skin. They could lick it off which means they’re getting a powerful dose that could kill them.
And that goes for diffusing as well.
A passive diffuser emits oils naturally, usually from a cotton wick which produces a milder aroma. Cold mist or ultrasonic diffusers basically force the oil particles into the air, producing a more concentrated aroma and potentially greater exposure to the oils for your pet.
What smells amazing to you may be overwhelming to your dog. It could get so overwhelming that Fido wheezes or sneezes.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center says that certain essential oils at safe dilutions may be helpful for issues like separation anxiety and flea control in some pets. But that doesn’t mean essential oils are safe for animals overall any more than for humans.
With that said, here are some essential oils that are toxic to your dog:
- Pennyroyal – this is so toxic (causing serious liver damage and vomiting) that I don’t believe you can get this anywhere on the market in oil form.
- Tea Tree can cause vomiting and liver issues especially if they get it on their skin.
- Citrus oils can severely inflame your dogs’ skin no matter how they come in contact with them.
- Cinnamon contains coumarin which is used in blood thinners and could cause bleeding.
- Wintergreen and Birch: These contain aspirin compounds and can cause vomiting and stomach ulcers.
- Peppermint can cause mucus membrane and skin irritation in dogs.
According the folks at Natural Dog Health Remedies, you can use some pure essential oils around dogs:
“Diffuse only gentle essential oils around dogs. Do not diffuse “hot”, spicy and strong oils (e.g. black pepper, ginger, clove, nutmeg, etc.) Do not diffuse oils for hours on end. It’s not good for both people and dogs. The best way is to diffuse oils for a period of around 30 minutes, and turn it off for at least 30 minutes.”
Aromatherapy And Cats
I’ve been told a number of times that cats are missing a liver enzyme therefore they cannot process essential oils, so don’t use them. But, when I was researching this topic, I ran across the Iowa Veterinary Wellness Center and this is what they say about cats and essential oils:
“A few common essential oils that are SAFE to use for your cat include Lavender, Copaiba, Helichrysum, and Frankincense.
If you diffuse oils in your home, it should not cause a problem for your cat, as oil used in a diffuser is highly diluted (versus direct topical application or dietary supplementation). However, you should never leave your cat confined to a space where oils are being diffused. Always make sure that the cat can leave the room to get away from the diffuser. If you have any questions or concerns about using an essential oil for your cat or diffusing in your home around your cat, please consult your veterinarian.”
Whenever I’m asked about using essential oils around cats, I always say don’t do it. Proceed with caution and always check with your vet first!
As much as I LOVE aromatherapy and know (based on facts) how helpful it is to enhance and balance your body, mind and spirit, they’re not necessarily right for your furbaby. Just like humans, not every essential oil is right for everyone.
As always, I work hard to be a resource for you and if I don’t know the answer to your questions, I’m happy to help you find the answers.