Are Essential Oils Harmful to Dogs and Cats?

Are Essential Oils Harmful to Dogs and Cats?

Essential oils are a favored item in many households today. Studies show that the regular use of essential oils can assist with hormone regulation, improve disease-fighting capability, and enhance cognitive function.  But what, if any, effect do essential oils have on our pets? Are essential oils safe for our favorite furry companions?

Essential oils have been used to treat medical conditions since ancient times. With today’s trend towards holistic healing, essential oils are experiencing an increase in widespread usage. More than ever before, essential oils are being incorporated into products for home use including cleaners, cosmetics, and even herbal supplements designed to aid with a variety of different nuisance ailments.

With such a recent increase in the popularity of essential oils, should we be concerned about the effects on our pets?

The Truth About Essential Oils and Our Pets

As with all items designed for safe use by human beings, we must take into consideration the potential effects these items might have on our pets.  Essential oils have the potential to be positive for our pets, but they can also cause harm. The onus is on the owner to thoroughly research the facts to make an informed and wise choice for the pets in their care.

Here are some things to ponder when considering essential oil usage in your home and around your pets:

Certain Essential Oils Can Be Safely Used to Treat Common Pet Ailments.

Many people are unaware that certain essential oils provide excellent health benefits for your pet and can even act as a preventative in some cases.

Lavender is an essential oil that is well-respected for its ability to reduce anxiety in pets who suffer from nervousness.  Peppermint is another essential oil that has been proven to be effective in improving blood flow and repelling pesky visitors such as fleas and ticks. However, while these essential oils are considered safe for dogs, they can be problematic for cats. 

Some Veterinarians Make Use of Essential Oils in Their Practices

Though many pet owners would be oblivious to this fact, a lot of veterinarians make use of essential oils in various areas of their practice. Since lavender has the potential to reduce anxiety in pets, some veterinary staff opt to diffuse this oil into their waiting rooms to help alleviate nervousness prior to a visit to the doctor.

Other oils or oil blends can be useful for pain relief and management as well as an aid in reducing unpleasant smells.

The Type and Strength of the Oils You Use Is Important

Experts recommend using the purest version of essential oils but diluting them sufficiently for pet use.  Since dogs and cats possess far more potent olfactory senses than our own, they are far more sensitive to overpowering fragrances.

Once you have properly diluted your essential oil of choice with a proper “carrier” oil, the dosage for your pet must be considered.  Smaller dogs will require far less of your essential oil blend than a larger dog would to receive the same benefits.

Age is also a factor.  Puppies and dogs of advanced age should receive far lower dosages than adult dogs.

If you opt to diffuse oils instead of treating topically, it is critical to employ a water-based product along with the essential oil to ensure a proper ration of steam to oil blend released into the air.

There Are Safety Precautions You Should Observe

There are a few basic guidelines that must always be considered when using essential oils with your pets. First, there are areas of the body which must always be avoided when using essential oils topically.  Your pet’s eyes, ears, nose, and genital regions are never suitable areas for essential oil treatments. The membranes and skin in these sensitive areas are far too delicate and may become irritated or infected from essential oil use.

Animals that may be pregnant or who are currently feeding young are also not proper candidates for essential oils.

As with all medications, holistic or otherwise, any essential oil treatment should be abandoned at the first sign of any ill effects.

Essential oils are for use topically or to be diffused into your home environment.  They should never be ingested.

Essential Oils That Are Safe Around Pets and Oils to Avoid

It must be noted that essential oil use is different for cats than for dogs. Most dogs are far more responsive to this type of treatment, and toxicity is a greater possibility for cats.  If you are considering using essential oils in your cat’s medical care, it is best to consult your veterinarian prior to beginning any regimen. Some essential oils cannot be properly processed by your cat’s body and can lead to rapid poisoning of the liver.

There are some essential oils that are considered to be excellent choices for use with dogs.  Cardamom, chamomile, spearmint, and thyme when administered in proper dosages and diluted according to your veterinarian’s specifications can be helpful in treating certain conditions your dog might be experiencing.

While essential oil use can be beneficial to our dogs, not all essential oils receive carte blanche for use with our pets, and oils that are safe for dog use may not be healthful for your cat.  Some oils should be avoided entirely  to ensure one hundred percent safety.

Oils Best Avoided by Dogs Are:

  1. Clove
  2. Juniper
  3. Garlic
  4. Tea Tree
  5. Rosemary
  6. Wintergreen

Oils Best Avoided by Cats Are:

  1. Cinnamon
  2. Citrus
  3. Cassia
  4. Eucalyptus
  5. Clove
  6. Lemon
  7. Peppermint
  8. Lavender
  9. Spruce
  • Thyme
  • Tea Tree

Cats Get Special Consideration

Cats always feel they are in a class all their own, and when it comes to essential oils, they are indeed. Cats lack the proper enzyme for their livers to efficiently process most essential oils. Because of this, oils must always be diluted or properly diffused for cat use, and many oils must be avoided completely.  Using pure oils on your cat can lead to rapid toxicity and even death.

All oils must be stored out of reach of curious pets for the utmost in safety precautions.

Are essential oils safe for our dogs and cats? With special precautions put in place and wise counsel from your dog or cat’s veterinarian prior to any oil selections or applications, essential oils can actually benefit your pets.  Always remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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