Essential oils have had a place in alternative medicine and therapies for centuries, and many people have chosen to also use them with their pets so that beloved animals can also reap the benefits that they offer. However, while essential oils may be completely naturally-occurring substances, this doesn’t automatically make them completely safe. In fact, many are toxic to animals and humans alike. 

As a caring and conscientious pet owner, it is your responsibility to keep your creature safe from harm. If you are planning on using essential oils in your home, regardless of whether you are going to apply them.  
 

What is an essential oil?


An essential oil is a natural compound that are extracted from a single plant species and have the odor of the plant from which they have been obtained. Not all plants produce essential oils, but in those that do, the oil can be extracted from various sections of the plant including the stem, roots, leaves and flowers or fruits. While the oils that are extracted aren’t particularly strong, they are then distilled to make them more potent. It is for this reason that only a few drops of essential oil are needed at a time. 

While essential oils are extracted for use by humans, they are also used therapeutically by the plants themselves since they help with wound healing, attracting or repelling birds and insects, hormonal effects and even infection control. 
 

Uses of essential oils 


We use essential oils in a wide variety of different ways, from making our homes smell delightful to helping improve our physical and emotional wellbeing. Many owners have also used essential oils with their pets to similar effect. Some of the most common uses of essential oils in animals include helping to manage their moods – such as calming them down or enabling them to manage anxiety, as well as acting as a repellent for certain pests including fleas and ticks. 

While essential oils have been used safely for centuries, it is important for pet owners to realize that there are in fact many different plants and flowers that are toxic to our animals. This toxicity doesn’t diminish because your pet isn’t coming contact with the plant itself – far from it. Instead, the highly concentrated nature of the essential oil can make it even more potent in its poisonous nature. This is particularly true when you consider that cats and dogs have a sense of smell that is much more acute than our own. What might be a pleasant scent to us could be overwhelming and even painful for them to experience. 
 

Essential oils that are harmful to cats


These include, but are not limited to:

  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen 
  • Ylang Ylang 
 

Essential oils that are harmful to dogs


These include, but are not limited to:

  • Anise
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Garlic
  • Juniper
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint 
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
  • Yarrow 
  • Ylang Ylang 

 

How do I know if my pet is experiencing a reaction to essential oils?


The symptoms of a reaction to essential oils are virtually identical to those seen in animals that have suffered poisoning. These include:
 

  • Breathing problems
  • Difficulty walking
  • Drooling 
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tremors
  • Pawing at the face/mouth
  • Rash that develops on his skin
  • Redness or burns on their lips, tongue, skin or gums
  • Vomiting 
  • Weakness / collapse

 

You may also be able to smell the essence of the essential oil on his coat, skin or breath. 
 

You know your pet better than anyone else, and if you suspect that something isn’t right with your pet, it is always worth speaking to your Glendale, AZ veterinarian who will be able to determine if he needs to be seen. 
 

If you are concerned about which essential oils are safe to use around your pet, we strongly recommend that you consult with our veterinarian before using any in your home. For further advice and support, please don’t hesitate to contact our animal medical center.