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Essential oils and pets: Everything you need to know

Many people rely on the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy to treat a wide range of ailments and to enhance their mental, emotional and physical well-being. From stress to insomnia and chronic pain to anxiety, essential oils seem to be the answer to almost anything.

As the holistic benefits of essential oils are becoming increasingly well known, people are beginning to question what other uses essential oils may have and how else they could put aromatherapy to use around their house.

This has led many people to question how essential oils could be used with their pets. Here is everything you need to know about essential oils and pets.

Content/Quick links

  • Can you use essential oils if you have pets? 
  • Can essential oils be beneficial for pets?
  • Essential oils safe for dogs
  • Lavender oil: Calming and comforting
  • Lemongrass oil: The natural pest deterrent
  • Peppermint oil: Soothing, energizing and deterring all at once
  • Cedarwood oil: Relaxing and refreshing
  • Chamomile oil: Soothing and calming
  • What about essential oil flea sprays?
  • Essential oils safe for cats
  • Which essential oils are toxic to pets?
  • Essential oils toxic to dogs
  • Essential oils toxic to cats
  • How to use essential oils safely around pets
  • To sum up

Can you use essential oils if you have pets?

Photo by Chewy on Unsplash

If you are wondering whether you can use essential oils around pets, the general answer is yes – most essential oils can be used with pets, but it is important to be cautious. Depending on how you use essential oils, some of them could cause your pet discomfort or even be toxic.

 There are four factors to consider when determining if an essential oil is safe for your pet.

  • Type of oil - essential oils come from plants, and some of these plants are toxic to animals, while others are not.
  • Concentration - essential oils can be found in many household products such as soap, shampoo and medicinal products. However, these products normally contain between 1-20% of essential oils. Then there are 100% pure essential oils which are much more potent, but when used in a diffuser, are much less concentrated.
  • Different species have different sensitivities - all animals are different and react differently to essential oils. Cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters may be more sensitive due to their increased risk of oral exposure from self-grooming. And birds are more likely to suffer respiratory effects from diffusers due to their respiratory system. 
  • How it is used - there are many different ways to use essential oils. The most common ones are oral, dermal and inhalation.

So the answer to whether or not essential oils are safe for your pet depends on these factors. But according to ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), diffusing essential oils is generally safe for most pets (apart from birds), whereas oral and topical use of essential oils on pets should be avoided.

But there are still some essential oils that might be toxic to pets. So now that we know that diffusing essential oils is the best way to use essential oils in your home if you have pets, let’s look at some tips on how to use essential oils around pets.

Can essential oils be beneficial for pets?

When used carefully, aromatherapy can be beneficial for the entire family, including your pets. There are some oils which can help to calm and relax your pets while other oils can help to repel fleas and keep your pet healthy.

However, it’s important to be aware of which essential oils could be dangerous for your pet as well as to keep in mind some safety guidance when you’re using essential oils around your pets.

Essential oils safe for dogs

There are several essential oils that are safe for use with dogs, with certain oils offering many holistic benefits to your pet. For example, certain essential oils are calming to dogs, while others help keep the fleas at bay.

Here are some of the essential oils that can be used with dogs.

Lavender oil: Calming and comforting

Lavender is one of the most commonly used essential oils with dogs and also one of the safest. Lavender essential oil is thought to trigger a calming sensation in your dog’s brain, providing them with comfort when they need it the most.

Some veterinarians diffuse lavender essential oil during surgery to reassure anxious pets, helping them to feel safe. Lavender essential oil can also be used to help your dog with insomnia and to keep them calm on car journeys.

A 2009 study investigated the effects of lavender oil on beagles. The study found that the average heart rate of the dogs was lower when treated with lavender oil. This shows that lavender oil could have a calming effect on some dogs. However, more research is needed to prove this definitively.

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Lemongrass oil: The natural pest deterrent

With a refreshing citrus aroma, lemongrass essential oil smells pleasant to both humans and dogs alike. However, it has the opposite effect on pests such as fleas and ticks, repelling them from your pet.

You can use lemongrass essential oil in a diffuser to keep the pests away.

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Peppermint oil: Soothing, energizing and deterring all at once

Although peppermint has a strong aroma, it is also one of the safest essential oils to use with your dog. Diffusing the aroma can help energize an old, tired dog. And peppermint is another great natural flea deterrent. In fact, you’ll often find it in dog shampoos and flea repellents.

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Cedarwood oil: Relaxing and refreshing

Many people find that cedarwood essential oil has a relaxing effect on their dogs while supporting healthy skin. Adding a small amount of cedarwood oil to a diffuser can help to calm your dog and promote healthy sleep.

Cedarwood essential oil is also an effective pest repellent, keeping ticks, fleas and moths away from your pets and furniture. Try adding a drop of cedarwood essential oil to a clean spray bottle and top it up with water. Spritz it over your furniture and carpets to keep the pests away.

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Chamomile oil: Soothing and calming

As with humans, many dogs find the aroma of chamomile essential oil to be particularly relaxing. In fact, a 2004 study conducted at a rescue shelter investigated the effects of chamomile oil on dogs’ behavior. The study found that dogs exposed to the scent of chamomile essential oil were calmer and less vocal than when they weren’t exposed to chamomile oil.

This makes chamomile a useful essential oil for keeping your dog calm during noisy or chaotic events. Try adding a small amount of chamomile essential oil to a diffuser to soothe your dog and allow them to rest.

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What about essential oil flea sprays?

In stores, you can find essential oil-based sprays for dogs to repel fleas and ticks, and recipes for such DIY sprays are widely available on the web.

Although they seem like a more natural, environmentally-friendly alternative, most of these sprays have not been approved by governing bodies to be safe for dogs. In fact, many of them contain essential oils known to be toxic to dogs.

We are offering the soundest advice here for the safe use of essential oils around your pets. When in doubt, always check with your vet.

Essential oils safe for cats

Cats are more sensitive than dogs when it comes to essential oils because they self-groom. This means that cats are more likely to orally consume essential oils when they are diffused and spread into the air. So it’s important to take care when using essential oils around your feline friends.

Since cats also jump and climb, it’s important to ensure that any essential oils are kept out of reach of your feline as ingestion could be dangerous, even with the safest essential oils.

The only essential oil that appears to have been properly researched when it comes to cats is lavender oil.

A 2018 study investigated the effects of inhaling the aroma of lavender oil in hospitalized cats. One group was exposed to the scent of lavender oil while a control group was simply monitored. The study found that the group which inhaled lavender essential oil for thirty minutes was significantly calmer, showing less signs of stress. This shows the impact that lavender essential oil can have on the anxiety levels of cats.

Lavender essential oil can help to calm your cat during car journeys, help them to rest and recover after illness or injury, and help to ease anxiety. However, due to the sensitive nature of cats, you should use lavender oil with caution, observing them regularly for any adverse effects.

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Which essential oils are toxic to pets?

Although there are several essential oils that are safe to use around pets, and some that can even provide therapeutic benefits, there are also a few essential oils that can be toxic to your furry friends.

The main issue when it comes to essential oils is that there are very few studies done on the effects of essential oils on pets. So people often look at the plant which the essential oil is extracted from and use that to decide whether or not the essential oil might be poisonous. The ASPCA has a list of all plants toxic to dogs and cats.

So it's important to understand the difference between essential oils vs. the actual plant the essential oil is derived from. For example, the lavender plant or orange rinds may be toxic to dogs when consumed (and that’s also why you don’t see your dog trying to steal your oranges), but when diffused in a diffuser, they can be safely used since the oil is not being consumed.

Essential oils toxic to dogs

Although there are several essential oils which can be used safely around your dog, there are also many that should be avoided. These can incite allergies and skin sensitivities, as well as interfering with natural bodily processes.

 When it comes to essential oils and dogs, there are a few oils you should be particularly mindful of. Oils that are known to be toxic to dogs are:

  • 🐶   Tea Tree oil
  • 🐶   Eucalyptus oil
  • 🐶   Pennyroyal
  • 🐶   Wintergreen
  • 🐶   Pine oils

Many other essential oils may also be toxic to dogs. If you’re unsure, always talk to your vet for advice before deciding to use any essential oils.

Essential oils toxic to cats

The majority of essential oils are thought to be toxic to cats due to their high level of sensitivity. Therefore, you should always be careful when using essential oils around your feline friends.

Cats lack an enzyme known as glucuronyltransferase which breaks down phenols. This means that they are particularly sensitive to essential oils that contain polyphenolic compounds, as they interact with the liver detoxification process.

Essential oils that are known to be toxic to cats and that you want to avoid using around your cat are:

  • 🐱   Wintergreen
  • 🐱   Sweet birch
  • 🐱   Citrus oils
  • 🐱   Pine oil
  • 🐱   Ylang Ylang
  • 🐱   Peppermint
  • 🐱   Cinnamon 
  • 🐱   Pennyroyal
  • 🐱   Clove
  • 🐱   Eucalyptus
  • 🐱   Tea Tree

According to Pet Poison Helpline, most essential oils are toxic to cats, so if you’re using a diffuser in your home, here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • 😿   Drooling
  • 😿   Vomiting
  • 😿   Tremors
  • 😿   Wobbliness
  • 😿   Low body temperature
  • 😿   Respiratory distress

If your cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, stop using the essential oils immediately.

It’s always best to be safe when using essential oils around your cats. You should always talk to your vet for advice before using any oils.

How to use essential oils safely around pets

Dogs and cats alike are renowned for their incredible sense of smell. However, this means that extra caution needs to be taken when using essential oils around your pets. The most important thing to remember is to always check with your vet before using any essential oils around your pets.

Here are some tips on how to safely use essential oils in your home if you have pets:

  • ⚠️   Do not give or apply essential oils to pets
  • ⚠️   If your pet has any underlying health issues, and especially a respiratory
              issue, it might be best to avoid the use of essential oils in your household
  • ⚠️   Do not use diffuse essential oils if you have pet birds in your home
  • ⚠️   When diffusing essential oils, always leave a door open to make sure your
              pets can leave the area if the smell is getting too strong for them
  • ⚠️   Keep the diffuser out of reach of your pets
  • ⚠️   Don’t leave the diffuser going when you’re out of the house

The most important thing you can do when you’re diffusing essential oils is to make sure that you always leave an escape route for your pet. This could be an open window or door to allow your pet to leave the room and escape the scent if they feel uncomfortable.

When it comes to essential oils and cats, you need to be especially careful. Cats are particularly sensitive when it comes to essential oils, so diffuse them sparingly, keeping a watchful eye on your feline friend. If you notice that your cat is uncomfortable, stop using essential oils immediately.

Wash your hands carefully after handling essential oils to avoid accidental contact with your pet. If you think there’s a chance that your pet may have come into contact with an essential oil, it’s important to contact your vet as soon as possible for advice.

And remember that you should still use caution, even with safe essential oils. They should be kept out of reach of your pet when both storing and using your essential oils. You should also never allow your pet to consume any essential oil.

To sum up

Although essential oils can be beneficial for your pets, it’s also important to be mindful of the safety guidelines when it comes to essential oils and pets. Birds and cats can be especially sensitive to the potent aromas of essential oils, and appropriate care must be taken at all times. Diluting essential oils more than you normally would is a good tip to keep your pet safe.

If you’re unsure when it comes to using essential oils around your pets, always contact your vet for advice. It’s always best to be cautious in order to keep your pets as safe as possible. There may be other oils that your vet could use on your pet for more serious conditions, but it’s best to consult with them first and allow them to guide and monitor any treatments.

For more information about essential oils, or to speak to an aroma expert, email us at: support@volantaroma.com

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