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While essential oils come in a variety of forms, they have also become staples in many American households. Some can pose serious harm to pets. For example, eucalyptus is great for koalas, but is eucalyptus safe for dogs or cats? No, not so much. Many essential oils are toxic to common pets like dogs, cats, birds, or guinea pigs. If someone frequently uses essential oils, either topically or with a diffuser, it’s crucial to limit pets' exposure.
Essential oils are concentrated plant liquids. In recent years, they’ve become widely available at grocery stores as they’ve skyrocketed in popularity as part of human self-care and aromatherapy routines, or as additives in cleaning products. While these products are natural, that doesn’t automatically make them safe for our pets.
If essential oils are used in a home that also has pets, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that there are oils that are safe to use around pets. Generally speaking, applying oils topically should be reserved for humans. Oils like lavender, chamomile, frankincense, and ginger are all safe to diffuse. The scents could still be overpowering to a pets’ olfactory sense, especially for those with a history of respiratory issues. Remember, pets’ senses of smell are much more acute than our own, so what may seem like a drop of oil to a human may amount to an ocean for them. Always be sure to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil and consult a veterinarian before use. Also, individual pets may have additional allergies to essential oils or ingredients beyond what is safe for a species.
Onto the bad news. Many essential oils, such as eucalyptus, tea tree, cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, wintergreen, lily, and ylang-ylang are toxic to pets - birds and cats especially. Because some of these oils are among the most common, some pets may already be experiencing what is known as essential oil poisoning or allergic reactions.
Essential oil poisoning most often occurs when essential oils have been ingested or absorbed via the pet’s skin, whether by accident or applied topically by the owner. Symptoms of essential oil poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, wobbliness, drooling, depression, lethargy, weakness, tremors, and abnormal behavior. Some research suggests the pet’s size and weight play a significant role in their ability to recover from essential oil poisoning, similar to chocolate poisoning. As a result, smaller pets, like birds and cats, are more adversely affected.
If a pet parent smells essential oils on their pet’s skin or breath, contact a veterinarian immediately. If a pet has noticeable skin issues, difficulty breathing, is acting strange or lethargic in an area with essential oils remove the oils to see if the symptoms abate before continuing use.
Fuzzy - The Pet Parent Company wants animal owners to be equipped with all of the tools and resources to keep their pets happy and healthy. Knowledge is power, but so is access. Have any questions about pet safety or health? Fuzzy offers 24/7 Live Vet Chat to make essential pet questions and parenting easier. Keep an eye on the use of essential oils in the home or around animals to avoid any allergic reactions or accidental poisonings.