Essential Oils and your pets: Are they safe for your cat or dog?
We’ve recently received multiple questions regarding the safety of essential oils around household pets. Some quick research shows that there is plenty of misinformation circling the web on the subject, so we thought we should take a moment to address the subject:
Are Essential Oils safe for your cat or dog? The simple answer is… Yes… and No. With a few exceptions, when oils are used in a manner safe for humans, they’re safe for your cat or dog as well.
I’m sure you’ve read some horror stories online of how someone’s pet was made horribly sick or even killed by exposure to essential oils. We’ve heard them all as well. The vast majority of these cases have one thing in common: The oils were used in an unsafe manner, which would have likely caused illness to humans as well. For example: one confirmed case of the death of a cat involved an owner shaving the cat, then applying 20ml (2/3 oz) of undiluted tea tree oil directly to the cat’s skin in an attempt to rid it of fleas and treat it’s bites. Tea Tree is a powerful oil and should never applied to the skin undiluted (to humans or animals), and certainly never in such large amounts. A few drops is usually sufficient.
Most cases of pet illnesses involve the use of tea tree oil, with a few documented cases involving wintergreen, pine, peppermint, eucalyptus, nutmeg, or cinnamon. Again, most of these cases involve practices which would be dangerous for humans as well, including internal use (ingestion), undiluted skin application, or diffusing in concentrated amounts and/or in a non-ventilated area. These practices can lead to injury or even death to your pet.
Another question which is not commonly answered in most animal injury cases involves the brand of the oils used. We’ve encountered countless cases of people becoming sick after diffusing synthetic or adulterated oils from untrusted brands, which include chemicals designed to reproduce the fragrance of a real essential oil but are highly toxic. The vast majority of “cheap” oils sold in box stores or online are in part or in whole synthetic fragrance oils, despite their labels claiming such nonsense as “therapeutic grade” or “100% pure”. Unfortunately, Essential oils are completely unregulated in North America; therefore, there are more snake oil dealers than legitimate essential oil companies.
Cats may be at a higher risk of toxicity than dogs, as they lack many of the liver enzymes responsible for metabolizing several oil constituents, which theoretically increases the danger of toxicity. However, according to Robert Tisserand (the foremost expert on essential oil safety), while cats are “susceptible to toxicity from nutmeg oil and tea tree oil, a small amount of any essential oil, and a moderate amount of most, will not harm your cat”. Tiisserand also states: “You can diffuse essential oils around cats safely, so long as there’s good ventilation, you only diffuse small amounts for limited periods of time, and your cat has the freedom to leave the room if it wants”.
Based upon our research and knowledge of essential oils, as well as the advice of the most knowledgeable experts in the field, we offer the following guidelines for essential oil usage, which apply to humans as well as cats and dogs:
- Never ingest any essential oil except under the advice of a qualified medical practitioner. Pure essential oils are so concentrated that even a few drops taken internally can cause a variety of medical problems. Contraindications may exist with those who suffer from certain medical conditions.
- Never apply essential oils directly to the skin without first properly diluting it in a carrier oil (not water). Many essential oils can cause severe skin irritation or other, more severe medical conditions, if applied undiluted, especially in large quantities.
- Never apply essential oils, even if diluted, into the inner ears of eyes.
- Never diffuse essential oils consistently. Oils should be diffused intermittently, IE: 30-60 minutes on, then 30-60 off, and always in a well-ventilated room. Nebulizing diffusers should be used less frequently, as the oil diffused is more highly concentrated.
- Keep your oils in a safe place: Out of reach of children and pets.
In closing, essential oils can be a blessing to the health and welfare of any home but must always be used safely around your family and animals.
For the highest quality essential oils on the market at the most reasonable prices, visit: www.byfaithoils.org
For proper dilution and other essential oil safety guidelines, we recommend the Tisserand Institute:
*The information above was written concerning essential oil safety pertaining to cats and dogs. Other household pets have differing medical considerations.
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