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Essential Oil and Pets: Is That Oil Safe?


As aromatherapy becomes more mainstream and more people are looking for chemical free options, we see an increase in use with pets. In this post I am going to provide you with some guidelines on using essential oils with your furry loved ones! 

If you use an oil and feel an uncomfortable sensation, you can tell someone. Unfortunately, our beloved pets have no voice. I know you don't want to deliberately hurt your pet, but there is a lot of bad information out there and it's hard to sort through it all. So, let's set the pet record straight, shall we?

Not all oils are created equal and many are toxic to animals. I want to first start out by alerting you to what toxicity looks like in animals. You may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
  • Salivating/excess drooling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dermal or mucous membrane irritation/inflammation or even burns if the essential oils were used improperly via topical application or  internal use.
  • Confusion/Disorientation
  • Lack of coordination, stumbling, temporary paralysis
Now, on to the use of aromatherapy with pets...
CATS: Avoid use of essential oils with and around cats (due to their highly  sensitive metabolic systems, cats and essential oils do not mix). Cats lack the enzymes necessary to break down the individual components contained in essential oils. Specifically, they lack an important liver detoxification enzyme known as glucuronosyltransferase.
As a result, cats can suffer from a toxic reaction to the essential oil exposure and application. If you think there is an exposure issue, have your vet run a blood panel and look for elevated liver enzymes.
BIRDS & SMALL RODENTS: Simillar cautions should be taken with birds and small rodents (including fowl, hamsters, rats, mice, bunnies, etc). Use caution and avoid diffusing while these pets are in the room. They are small and have sensitive metabolic systems. Toxicity is much faster in smaller animals.
DOGS: Essential oils that are usually safe to diffuse around adult dogs (and based on their individual health history/allergies/contraindications, etc.) are from the following groups:
  • Citrus: grapefruit, lemon, lime, sweet orange, tangerine.
  • Floral: chamomile (German/Roman), clary sage, geranium, jasmine, lavender (L.angustifolia), neroli, patchouli, rose, ylang-ylang.
  • Others: Cypress, Frankincense*, Palmarosa and Petitgrain are also considered safe to diffuse when safety precautions are followed.
*There have been some individual personal reports of frankincense EO possibly contributing to lowering blood sugar levels. Please use caution with individuals that have diabetes or blood sugar or metabolic imbalances.
LARGE ANIMALS: Large animals like horses, donkeys, alpacas, sheep, goats, etc. generally do well with aromatherapy. The same precautions should be taken with them as with dogs.

CAUTION: The following list of oils should be avoided with ALL animals. Some are more common than others and this list is not exhaustive. Ajowan, Bitter Almond, Boldo, Buchu, Calmaus, Camphor, Cassia, Cinnamon Bark, Citronella, Celery Seed, Clove, Costus, Elecampane, Garlic, Horseradish, Mustard, Oregano, Parsley seed, Pennyroyal, Rue, Sassafras, Savin, Savory (summer and  winter),Tansy, Thuja, Wintergreen, Wormseed and Wormwood.

What's the best way to use essential oils with my pet?
Essential oils can be used in two ways with pets: inhalation and topical. An electric diffuser or a personal diffuser are both great ways to expose your pet to aromatherapy.
  • When diffusing oils, do so in a well-ventilated room and avoid confined spaces or where there is excess heat or moisture.
  • Be sure your pet has access to leave the area where you are diffusing.
  • Avoid constant diffusion or using too many oils. 10-15 minutes every couple hours is enough for an animal.
  • Do not use diffusers on or in your pet's crate or sleeping area.
  • Avoid diffusing around fish tanks and reptile tanks as well as bird cages.
For any topical issues like cuts/scrapes, massage, energy therapies, bathing, and compresses, you can use oils topically. Always dilute your oils in a fat based carrier oil prior to topical use to avoid any adverse reactions.
  • Avoid applying oils directly to your pets nose, whiskers, eyes, ears, or other sensitive areas like the genitals.
  • Always dilute your oils if applying oils topically, particularly if applying them to the paws. *Only use oils on the paw pads if there is a specific issue such as an abscess or minor wound like a bruise or chapping.
Oils are not the only tool available in the aromatherapy toolbox. Hydrosols and flower essences are extremely gentle and can be just as beneficial and therapeutic for your pet.
Remember, your pet can benefit from aromatherapy when done safely and responsibly. Less is best and this especially true with animals. They are entrusting is to use essential oils safely and wisely.
Which oils should I use?
  • Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis): anxiety, fear, trembling, disturbed sleep
  • Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens): anxiety, fear, hormonal support, PTSD
  • Ginger (Zingiber x officinal e ): nausea/motion sickness, increase confidence
  • Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum): anxiety, trauma/abuse, PTSD
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): anxiety, fear, trembling, hyperactive (mind/body), trauma (physical/emotional), disturbed sleep, jumpy/spooky, hypersensitive to touch/sound
  • Melissa (Melissa officinalis): anxiety, panic attacks, increase confidence
  • Neroli(Citrus x aurantium var. amara (flos)): anxiety, panic attacks, separation anxiety, body trembling, sensitive to touch/sounds, PTSD
  • Sweet orange(Citrus sinensis): increase confidence, nausea/motion sickness, jumpy/spooky
  • Patchouli(Pogostemon cablin): grounding, hyperactive, sensitive to touch,trauma/abuse
  • Rose(Rosa x damascena Mill.): emotional wounds, trauma/abuse, lack of vitality and joy, sadness, fear-aggression, PTSD
  • Tangerine(Citrus reticulata Blanco var. tangerine): increase confidence/focus, hyperactive energy, repetitive negative behavior, separation anxiety
  • Vanilla CO2 extracted(Vanilla planifolia): anxiety, increase confidence, training aid, repetitive negative behavior, separation anxiety
  • Vetiver(Vetiveria zizanoides): grounding, hormonal support, mood swings, body trembling, PTSD, hyperactive energy, jumpy/spooky
  • Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata): anxiety, body trembling,hyper-sensitive to touch, past trauma/abuse, spooky/jumpy, increase confidence (especially in males), fear-aggression
There is a wonderful group on Facebook called Animal Aromatherapy {join here} that is an excellent and trusted resource. If you want to learn about aromatherapy and animals in more detail, I recommend the course studies at Ashi Therapy. The information provided in this post is courtesy of their Registered Aromatherapist, Kelly Holland Azzaro.

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