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Cats, Cats and Dogs, Dogs, Healthcare

Are Essential Oils Safe for Pets?

The Paw Print

Essential Pet Blog

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Essential oil use has skyrocketed over the past decade and it’s easy to see why. The latest trend in home and health looks really good on paper: they’re all-natural, chemical-free, and are often touted for their various health benefits*. For families trying to make the switch from chemical-heavy products, essential oils are a no-brainer. But what about your furry family members? Are essential oils safe for pets?

Essential oils have been known to carry benefits both physically and psychologically, and we believe it’s possible that they can do the same for our pets. According to Dr. Richard Palmquist, DVM, essential oils can be used to calm anxiety, reduce inflammation, and battle toxins. As many pet parents are making the shift toward greener, chemical-free households, essential oils can provide the benefits they’re seeking without the long list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients and potential side effects that come with many traditional compounds and medications.

There are many types of essential oils available, each with its own intended use. Whether you’re looking for a plant-based option for cleaning and disinfecting or you could use a natural energy boost, there’s an essential oil to help. But when it comes to our pets, it’s important to remember that their systems handle these natural compounds differently than ours. What works for us may not affect them in the same way, or worse, could be hazardous.

Are Essential Oils Safe for Pets?

The answer to this question lands in a gray area. While some essential oils are safe for use around your pets, some are harmful and downright toxic. It’s important to remember that, although essential oils are typically derived from plants and therefore “natural,” they are concentrated versions of plant compounds. So, while your pet might encounter these plants in nature, they wouldn’t encounter these elements in the concentrated state that they exist in essential oils.

Because these elements are so concentrated, essential oils should never be given internally, and they may cause some irritation if applied to the skin. We can’t stress enough the importance of doing your research and contacting your veterinarian before using essential oils in your home.

That being said, there are some pet-safe essential oils that are definitely worth exploring.

Pet-Safe Essential Oils

Much like foods, different oils carry different risks and benefits for dogs and cats. Here are some oils to check out for your pet:

Essential Oils Safe for Dogs

  • Lavender: commonly used to reduce anxiety, stress, and insomnia. May help with allergies, carsickness, and burns.
  • Cardamom: often used as a diuretic. Believed to aid with heartburn and nausea.
  • Fennel: balances pituitary, thyroid, and pineal glands.
  • Helichrysum: helps repair nerves. Is also anti-bacterial and can reduce bleeding in accidents.
  • Frankincense: commonly used to ease anxiety.
  • Spearmint: helps balance metabolism and is often used for weight management. Also, it is believed to help dogs with colic, nausea, and diarrhea.
  • Carrot Seed: often used for its anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been used to help heal scars.
  • Cedarwood: flea-repellent and coat conditioning.
  • German Chamomile: commonly used as an anti-inflammatory.
  • Roman Chamomile: often used for stress and nervousness, and is believed to help ease muscle pain.
  • Geranium: can be used as tick-repellent.
  • Marjoram: commonly used as an insect repellent. Also known for its calming and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Niaouli: powerful anti-bacterial agent.
  • Orange: flea-repellent and deodorization.
  • Valerian: a powerful calming agent.

Essential Oils Safe for Cats

  • Cedarwood: often used as a calming agent, and also to kill adult fleas.
  • Rosemary: kills and repels fleas.
  • Clary sage: used for its calming properties.
  • Frankincense: antiseptic, disinfectant, and anti-inflammatory. Frankincense is also believed to help with digestive issues.
  • Lavender: although there is some contradicting information online regarding the use of lavender and felines, it is often used as a calming agent.

Remember, if you plan to use these, or any essential oils, for your pet (or even for yourself in your home), it’s vital that you know how to properly use each oil. Some oils are only intended to be diffused, others can be used topically, and many require dilution. Always contact your veterinarian before introducing a new essential oil to your pet.

If you would like to use essential oils for your pet but you aren’t sure where to start, we suggest finding a reputable brand that manufactures essential oil products specifically for pets. That way, you can be confident that what you are using is safe for your furry loved ones.

Essential Oils to Avoid

Essential Oils Harmful to Dogs

Oils to stay away from if you have a dog include but are not limited to:

  • Cinnamon
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea tree (melaleuca)
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang
  • Anise
  • Clove
  • Thyme
  • Juniper
  • Yarrow
  • Garlic

Essential Oils Harmful to Cats

Oils to avoid if you have a cat include but are not limited to:

  • Wintergreen
  • Sweet birch
  • Citrus (d-limonene)
  • Pine
  • Ylang ylang
  • Peppermint
  • Cinnamon
  • Pennyroyal
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea tree (melaleuca)
  • Thyme
  • Oregano

Symptoms of Essential Oil Poisoning in Pets

Signs to watch out for are fatigue, weakness, vomiting, difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, difficulty walking, muscle tremors, and redness or irritation around their mouth, gums, tongue, and skin.

If you suspect your pet has had a reaction to essential oils, contact your veterinarian immediately or an animal poison control center.

How to Safely Use Essential Oils Around Pets

Generally speaking, it is best to avoid applying essential oils directly to your pet, even if it isn’t toxic to them. If you’re using essential oils to replace chemical-heavy cleaners in your home, avoid storing them where your pet can reach them. Also, be cautious about which surfaces you apply the oils to, and avoid using them where your pet will come into contact with them.

It’s important to know that the chemicals in essential oils are quickly absorbed into your pet’s system (whether ingested or applied topically), and metabolized by the liver. Therefore, using essential oils could be problematic for puppies and young dogs, dogs with liver disease or history of seizures, or elderly dogs. Always look for expertly formulated products that incorporate dog-safe essential oils. We especially like the Calm Paws calming collars for dogs and cats. These collars use a premium blend of essential oils that are safe for pets and effective in stressful situations. Another popular use for essential oils is a calming aid. A safe, effective alternative is to use a calming aid such as Pet-EZE Calming Soft Chews or a calming collar.

Before bringing any essential oil into your home, you must do your research to ensure that it is safe for use around pets. Even if you don’t plan to use the oils directly on your pet (topically), dogs and cats can become very sick when the wrong kinds of essential oils are being diffused in their environment. Always check with your veterinarian before introducing essential oils into your home.

If you would like to harness the power of essential oils for your pet, but you aren’t sure how to do so safely, you’re in luck. There are many reputable companies out there who manufacture essential oil products specifically for pets. Using a pet-specific essential oil product takes all of the guesswork out of the process for you, while Fluffy and Fido reap the benefits.

*This article is not intended to diagnose or treat any health ailment. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.

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