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Essential Oils and Pets: What You Need to Know

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If you’ve moved away from chemical-based products to more natural solutions, there are some important things you need to know about essential oils and pets.

a collage of cats, dogs birds, and a turtle with title text reading Essential Oils and Pets

In my effort to eliminate harmful chemicals from our home, I’ve started incorporating essential oils. Because I have both dogs and a cat in my home, I wanted to make sure that in my effort to have a healthier home I wasn’t inadvertently harming my pets.

I’m not a veterinarian, just a concerned pet owner. Below is what I’ve found in my search for information about essential oils and pets.

Essential Oils and Pets

Chances are you’ve discovered how wonderful essential oils can be. Not only can they be used for cleaning, but they also work wonderfully in health and beauty products.

If you’re a pet owner, you do need to be aware that essential oils can be dangerous for your pets. Not only can they cause respiratory problems, but, if ingested, some can also be toxic.

Let’s take a closer look at essential oils to avoid if you have pets.

Why Essential Oils Can Be Harmful to Pets

Let’s first discuss why some essential oils can be problematic. Cats and dogs have a stronger sense of smell than humans. This means that certain oils can be overwhelming when used in a diffuser.

Cats have the added problem of not being able to break down the oils, which can lead to liver toxicity.

Unfortunately, some oils are also not pure. This means that they may contain ingredients that could be harmful to pets.

If you have rodents, birds, or reptiles, you should be aware that all of these pets have very sensitive respiratory systems. Essential oils can be deadly to these pets.

cats, dogs birds, a snail and a turtle on a white background

Symptoms of Toxicity

If you’re already using essential oils and wonder if they are negatively affecting your pets, here are some things to look for. Signs of a reaction include:

  • Squinting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Scratching
  • Hives
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of coordination
  • Weakness
  • Tremors

Chances are, if your pet develops any of the above symptoms, you’ll already realize something is wrong. If they happen after you’ve recently diffused an essential oil or used a product containing essential oils in an area where your pet might have laid in it or licked it, the oils might be the cause.

If you suspect essential oils have affected your pet, contact the pet poison helpline (855-764-7661) or your veterinarian immediately.

Which Oils You Should Steer Clear Of

When it comes to cats and dogs, there are some essential oils to avoid completely. Tea tree oil (also known as melaleuca oil) is proven to have adverse effects on cats and dogs.

a cat and a dog sitting down on a white background

Per advice from the Pet Poison Helpline, avoid using the following essential oils around cats:

  • Wintergreen
  • Sweet Birch
  • Citrus
  • Pine
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Peppermint
  • Cinnamon
  • Pennyroyal
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea Tree

Also, according to the Pet Poison Helplineessential oils toxic to dogs include:

  • Tea tree
  • Pennyroyal
  • Wintergreen
  • Pine

Remember that each pet is different. What may be safe for a dog, may not be safe to use around hamsters.

In other words, be wary of lists that state you can use an oil around all pets. Make sure you check with your vet and also watch for symptoms of adverse reactions.

Which Essential Oils Are Safe Around Pets

Not all essential oils are harmful to pets. In fact, some oils are beneficial to our four-legged friends. Even though the oils I’m about to list are generally considered safe to use around your pets, follow the guidelines in the section further down to minimize any risks.

Essential oils safe for cats and dogs:

  • Cedarwood
  • Rosemary
  • Marjoram
  • Myrrh
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Clary Sage

How to Safely Use Essential Oils in a Home with Pets

If you’re going to be using essential oils around your pets, make sure you’re diluting them with a carrier oil. You also want to make sure your essential oils are stored properly so that your pets cannot ingest them.

Per the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), you should not apply essential oils directly to your pets.

If you use essential oils on your skin or in your beauty products, make sure your pets do not lick your skin.

You also want to limit your use of diffusers, especially if you have animals that have sensitive respiratory systems. Diffusers disperse the oils throughout the room and make them easier to inhale.

Personally, I love to use a diffuser for aromatherapy. I just make sure that my cat isn’t in the room with me when I’m running it. You can still diffuse citrus to perk you up while you pay bills or reply to emails, as long as your cat isn’t sleeping on the desk next to you.

If your cat is your constant companion, skip the diffuser. What may be beneficial to you can be toxic to your animals.

Lastly, if you plan to use essential oils in your cleaning products, make sure to avoid using them in areas where your pets may accidentally ingest the oils.

I still use essential oils in my homemade cleaners. I just don’t leave them out where the animals can get to them and I keep them away from areas I’ve cleaned until those areas have dried.

More Information about Essential Oils and Pets

Essential oils can be a great way to naturally treat everything from headaches to stress to depression. It’s important to be cautious about how you use them around your pets, but you don’t have to avoid them altogether.

Here are several great books that cover how to safely use essential oils with your pets.

4 thoughts on “Essential Oils and Pets: What You Need to Know”

  1. I can be safe with cleaners around the house. But what about laundry. I like to use some of the ouls that are toxic to cats to sterilize in the wash and freshen in the dryer. Thoughts for cats sitting on clothed laps and shoulders?

    • Since I’m not an expert with animals, I would just be guessing and I’d rather you have the correct answer. So, I think it’s probably best to check with your vet.

  2. What about essential oil blends that contain one or two harmful oils to pets in addition to other safe oils in a diffuser? My house is pretty spacious and the pets are usually in a different room when the diffuser is on.

    • It sounds like your pets wouldn’t be at much risk under your circumstances. I would just keep an eye on them to see if you notice any problems (e.g. drooling, panting, weakness, stumbling, pawing at the face, vomiting). And be careful to keep the oils away from where your pets might come in contact with them, even if the bottles are sealed.


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