Essential Oils and Your Pets
Author: F&F Date Posted:25 August 2018
We love our essential oils but do our animal friends? Are they safe, should we use them or should we avoid them completely?
Whether you’re unwinding after a long day or are 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 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
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 recommend 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.