February 19, 2020
As the old saying goes, “Dogs are man’s best friend”, but let’s face it—whether you have a dog, cat, bird, fish or any other animal for a pet, odds are you consider it part of your family. As a pet owner, you want the best for your furry friend. For some people, “the best thing” might include seeking natural products to help keep your pet healthy, and with aromatherapy on the rise, more and more people are looking to essential oils as one of those natural alternatives.
However, if you start searching for information about using essential oils on pets, you are going to find a variety of claims ranging from “never use essential oils on animals” to “go for it- oils are safe for pets”. With such conflicting advice, it can be difficult to decipher what is actually true and what is safe for your pet.
To help make things a little clearer, and to help you do what’s best for your pet, we’ve compiled information from sources we trust to answer some of your most common questions about using essential oils with pets.
Frankly, the real answer to this question is: we don’t know. This is simply because there is a lack of information specifically about whether or not using essential oils on pets is safe. Very few studies have been done on this topic, and as a result, we have very little information about it. A main reason for this is that studies about whether essential oils are safe on pets would, obviously, have to involve animals, and we, along with many others, are against animal testing.
With that being said, you will still find a range of answers for this question. Some people will say that essential oils are safe based on the current fact that there has not been an increase in animal hospitalizations as a result of using essential oils. On the other hand, people state that, even with the limited studies, we have seen cases where animals who are directly exposed to essential oils experienced severe side effects or even death. Thus, we should avoid using essential oils on animals.
So, what’s the answer? Scientifically, there is not enough evidence to support either side. As a result, we simply cannot advise on how you should or should not use essential oils on your pets. Should there be more studies and information available regarding whether essential oils are safe for pets, we may be able to change our answer in the future. But for the time being, there is, unfortunately, not enough evidence to give an honest answer either way.
Because there is insufficient research on this topic, using essential oils on your pet is a personal choice. However, if you do choose to use essential oils to care for your furry companions, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Animals metabolize and react differently to essential oils than humans do, and some plants are toxic to animals. We’ve listed below some of the essential oils that are toxic to animals. These lists are not comprehensive and are based mostly on testimonies of others and the principle ideas of how the chemicals are expected to cross-react with different animal species. Be sure to consult with an aromatherapist or veterinarian before using any essential oils on your pet, or if you are concerned about whether a specific oil is safe to use.
Many people recommend that you do not use any essential oils on fish, reptiles, birds, and rodents or small mammals.
If you have cats roaming around your home and you wish to use essential oils, it is important to note that cats are generally more susceptible to certain oil toxicities than dogs or other animals. Because cats are so small, they can experience the effects of poisoning from smaller volumes of essential oil. Plus, a cat’s tendency to clean themselves may lead to oral contact when oils are applied topically.
Also, a cat’s liver does not undergo the common process of glucuronidation, which helps metabolize various compounds. Because a cat’s liver does not undergo this process, chemicals can accumulate and become toxic metabolites. This is particularly true for compounds such as phenol, which is in many essential oils. As a result, cats can experience liver failure, seizures, and other serious illnesses as a result of essential oil poisoning.
Because of cats’ heightened sensitivity to essential oils, many people recommend avoiding using essential oils on or around cats altogether. However, should you choose to use essential oils on your cat, consult an aromatherapy specialist and your veterinarian first.
Should you choose to use essential oils around or on your pet, it is important to watch for any signs of an allergic or negative reaction. Some common symptoms to watch out for include:
If your pet experiences any of these or other severe reactions, remove the essential oil immediately with soap and water. You may want to rinse and repeat a few times to make sure the oil is completely removed. In severe cases, seek immediate veterinarian treatment.
Although essential oils can be a natural alternative to some medications or treatments, that does not always mean that they are safe, especially for animals. Since there is a lack of evidence supporting the use of essential oils on pets, we recommend taking great caution should you choose to do so. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian before using essential oils on or around your pet. If you are hesitant to use oils, talk to your vet about other natural alternatives that you could use. Whatever you decide, be sure to always keep your pet’s best interest at heart. After all, pets are the only thing on earth that will love you more than they love themselves!
For more information about using essential oils on pets, check out these reliable sources:
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/cats-and-essential-oils
Dogs Naturally: https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/essential-oils-for-dogs/
Holistic Animal Association: http://www.holisticanimalassociation.com/Animal%20Aromatherapy%20Safety%20NAHA.pdf
Oily Vet: http://www.oilyvet.com/