Like Oil and Water: Do Essential Oils and Pets Mix?

Cat and essential oil diffuser

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not classify essential oils as medicine, but they are perceived by many to have healing qualities. Indeed, they are hyped to “treat” all types of physical and mental afflictions in people, but the impact they have on pets is definitely not as positive.

Even if they are simply used as air fresheners, the combination of essential oils and pets may be problematic.

Yesterday and Tomorrow

Before the advent of western medicine, plant-based remedies were all we had. In fact, the use of essential oils was popularized by ancient Egyptians, but their origin could be much older. Although once important additions to diet, spiritual and physical healing, cosmetics, and air purifiers, essential oils are still enjoyed by the masses in soaps, perfumes, foods, and cleaning products.

What Are They?

Essential oils are concentrated, volatile chemical compounds derived from plant roots, stems, leaves, petals, bark, seeds or peels. They are the “essence” of the plant, and via distillation, essential oils carry signature smells, and evaporate without staining or leaving a residue.

Deep Breaths, Or Not

Aromatherapy is popular for reducing stress and other common ailments through the use of calming scents. 

Active diffusers and liquid potpourri products move the vapor of oils and water directly into the air, where our pets can accidentally breathe them in. Tiny droplets can also land on fur where they can either be directly absorbed into the skin, or licked off during grooming. Even just a drop or two can have adverse effects, such as:

  • Drooling
  • Squinting
  • Coughing 
  • Wheezing
  • Labored breathing
  • Increased panting

Pet Poisoning

Animals, especially cats, are at increased risk of essential oil toxicity. Gastrointestinal upset, depression of the central nervous system and damage to the liver can all occur when pets are exposed to essential oils. Always be on the lookout for:

  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Unsteady gait or wobbliness
  • Tremors
  • Lethargy
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures

Essential Oils and Pets

Because of the healthy effects purported by many people, essential oils have been purposefully used to treat various illnesses or conditions in pets. To safeguard your pet’s health, please follow these guidelines: 

  • Never apply essential oils directly to their skin.
  • Essential oils and pets should be given lots of space. If you use aromatherapy products, only do so in a room that your pet cannot access. Keep oils out of your pet’s reach.
  • Restrict your pet from licking your skin after you’ve used an active diffuser in a closed room. 
  • Before adding a natural element to your health care routine, please inform your veterinarian.

The bottom line is that the following essential oils and pets just don’t mix:

  • Tea tree
  • Eucalyptus
  • Wintergreen
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Clove
  • Cinnamon
  • Rosemary
  • Pennyroyal

If you have further questions or concerns about pet poisoning risks, essential oils and pets, and how you can best protect them, Berkeley Veterinary Center is always here for you.

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