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We love our essential oils but do our animal friends? Are they safe around our pets or should we use them or should we avoid them completely?
Whether you’re unwinding after a long day or in need of some rejuvenation and inspiration, adopting essential oils into your daily routine can promote wonders both physically and mentally. The use and popularity of these essential oils has grown well beyond aromatherapists, with many brands now adding them to skin/beauty products as well as household items. Their benefits are endless and few can deny their powerful effect on our daily lives.
Our favourite uses include lavender for sleep, citrus for when we’re in need of a boost of energy, or a peppermint blend for its refreshing qualities! One question, however, that has been gaining traction online, coinciding with our growing use of the beneficial oils, are the effects they might be having on our favourite furry friends.
Over the past few years, there have been some cases of animal illness linked to various essential oils, which is why we’ve put together a quick guide below detailing which oils are best to avoid around your beloved pets.
Oil Essentials - 101
An essential oil put simply is a significantly concentrated liquid containing aroma compounds from plants. They can be absorbed by inhalation, ingestion and contact with the skin. As they enter the body and bloodstream, they are distributed to tissues which can have a positive and powerful biological effect on specific areas. Almost all essential oils contain compounds that are highly potent and it is because of this very reason that small amounts/drops are generally always recommended. Misuse of essential oils can cause serious poisoning for both humans and, of course, our pets.
Why do Essential Oils Affect our Pets?
The short answer, like almost anything, the use of essential oils can have both pros and cons especially when ingested in high dosages. Some essential oils in particular may pose potentially harmful side effects to your pets as they metabolise and react to them differently than humans. In animals, essential oils are rapidly absorbed both orally and across the skin, and are then metabolised in the liver.
Pets vs Essential Oils:
Cats and dogs have enhanced and complex scent glands (a dog's sense of smell is some 40 times greater than humans), so essential oils can become overwhelming.
Generally, the livers of both cats and dogs (especially puppies and kittens) cannot metabolise some of the compounds in essential oils and therefore, they may be more susceptible to toxicity as they are not able to absorb and eliminate essential oils in the same way humans can.
Cats are particularly sensitive to a lot of toxins because they have fewer metabolising enzymes in their liver compared to dogs. Cats are also very sensitive to phenols and phenolic compounds, which can be found in some essential oils. The higher the concentration of the essential oil (i.e. 100%), the greater the risk to the cat. As our pets are generally much smaller than us, we need to ensure that we expose them considerably less than what is recommended for humans.
Oils to Reconsider
Below are a few specific oils that you may want to steer clear of, however, please note, pets may react differently to certain oils - this list is not all-inclusive. A veterinarian should always be consulted if using essential oils around your pets. Be sure to tell them all the products you’re using (on, or in, your pet’s living space) to ensure optimum health well-being of your furry friend.
Essential Oils to Avoid
“Hot oils” like cinnamon, eucalyptus, oregano, thyme, basil, tea tree, wintergreen, citronella, ylang-ylang and clove bud. These oils are phenol-rich which pets, cats especially, cannot digest. Peppermint oil is another no-no as it can cause liver damage if ingested in significant quantities.
Another group of oils that tend to fall under the red flag are citrus oils like orange, lemon, bergamot, neroli, lime, grapefruit and mandarin because they contain high concentrations of limonene which cats cannot digest. Finally, it is recommended to avoid oils such as pine, cypress, juniper berry, eucalyptus, rosemary, lemon myrtle and nutmeg as they contain high percentages of alpha-pinene compound.
Diffusing at Home with Pets
We love using a diffuser in the office and in our homes, however, it is important to note that diffusing essential oils has a completely different effect on animals than it does when using them in products topically. This doesn’t mean to immediately stop diffusing, it just means that you may have to undergo a bit of an investigation to see how your pet reacts to the various scents, often they move away or leave the room if the smell is not to their liking. If you do notice your pets disappear when you’re diffusing a certain oil or blend, it is recommended to lower the dose (never exceed the drop count) or cease using it for a period of time. Be sure to take note if your pet is having any respiratory irritation (e.g. watery nose, eyes, difficulty breathing) as some oils when diffused can be hazardous to cats. Once again, call a specialist/veterinarian for expert advice.
General Rules: Essential Oils & Pets
Ensure that there is sufficient ventilation in the room and that the diffuser (if using) cannot be reached by your pet.
Allow pets to have access to leave the area if need be.
Always heavily dilute and keep oils away from their face, nose and eyes.
Allow time for your pet to acclimatise to oils.
Always wash your hands after handling oils to prevent accidentally getting them into eyes/ ears.
Avoid using the same blend for extended periods of time.
In some cases, the essential oil itself may not be causing harm but instead, the added ingredients may be to blame for illnesses.
This is why it is vital to always use therapeutic grade oils from reputable companies and verify the quality of oils before using them.
Look out for the following reactions as they may be signs of an intolerance to the essential oil; squinting, excessive drooling, scratching, increased breathing rate and lethargy.
Every animal has its own unique healthcare requirements, so what might work for the pets of your friends could seriously compromise the health of your own cat or dog. Always use essential oils as directed and do not increase the dosage.
If you notice any strange behaviour from your pet or if a pet accidentally ingests essential oils, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Founded in 1988 by Natural Health Practitioner, Dr Bo Hendgen, Absolute Essential is a company built on sustainability principles to promote health and wellbeing for our global future. They source the world’s finest natural plant extracts for maximum therapeutic value in creating beautiful essential oils. They are a New Zealand owned and made brand.
Founded by husband and wife, Emma, a journalist, and Anthony, a Doctor, started making soap in their kitchen after they grew tired of seeing nasty sulfates, parabens, detergents, and artificial fragrances amongst other irritants in store-bought soap. A love that eventually outgrew their kitchen and found them opening their first shop at South Melbourne market in 2013, where their soaps still have a loyal customer base. Their products are handmade in Australia in Dandenong, Melbourne.
All ANSC's products are handmade in Australia, vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, sulphate free, detergent-free, and palm oil-free.
Black Chicken Remedies is the brainchild of Chey Birch. She began experimenting with aromatherapy in 1989 in Bondi, Australia. Chey was very conscious we absorb what we put on our skin. She wanted to find a way to reduce the chances of developing chronic health conditions, to assist the body in a natural way and harness the therapeutic power of natural oils to enhance wellbeing, physically and spiritually. Black Chicken Remedies benefits are not only absorbed through the skin but also through the olfactory system.
Cedar + Stone is a beautiful skin and body care brand that is 100% plant based and make some gorgeous products. Their use of ingredients is inspiring. Cedar + Stone focus on using earth's garden including plants, crystals, minerals, herbs and flowers to create a stunning range. We particularly love their perfumes and cleansing bars and are very proud to have them as part of the F&F family. Choose Cruelty-Free Accredited. Vegan.
Founded more than 20 years ago in Queensland, ECO. offer a complete range of essential oils to address wellbeing for face, body and mind. ECO. specialise in oil formulations for face, hair, body and wellbeing for all ages from newborn, to early teens, through to postmenopausal women. ECO. is a responsive, dynamic and vibrant brand focussed on natural and organic source ingredients, drawing from the benefits of active essential oils. ECO. is primarily targeted at women with an interest in active and energetic, healthy lifestyles who want their personal care products to respond to them in the same way.
Neal's Yard Remedies has brought a holistic approach to health and beauty to local people and their communities since its birth in 1981. They are committed to making products with high quality organic, natural and wild plant-based ingredients with a view to safety, efficacy and biodegradability. Made in Dorset, England NYR products are approved by animal welfare bodies including BUAV and PETA, and the ingredients are certified organic by leading bodies including the Soil Association.
Raww make beautiful make and skincare up that is natural and free of harsh ingredients so no parabens, no talc, no Bismuth Oxychloride, no nanoparticles, no SLES or SLS, no petrochemicals and absolutely no animal testing.
In fact, Raww focus on what they put into their make up which is superfood ingredients. In their nail polish, you'll find a Kale superfood infusion so your nails just got healthier!
Raww is COSMOS Certified Natural, Cruelty-Free Certified and made here in Australia (apart from the Kabuki brush).
Retreatment Botanics, by Olivia Newton-John, is an Australian skincare brand focussed on bringing the spa into your home. Their skincare and spa products are certified vegan, cruelty-free and palm oil-free. They are made with exceptional ingredients that really work. Retreatment Botanics is used at Gaia Retreat's Spa in Byron Bay. They feature one very special essential oil blend of Sandalwood, Patchouli, Ylang Ylang & Citrus called 'calm' that is the signature blend used at the Gaia Retreat & Spa in Byron Bay.