A common question we get asked from pet owners is are essential oils safe to use around their furry family members? Like a lot of information available on the internet, there is quite a bit of misinformation about oils and pets; and as Tisserand points out “there are some quite strong feelings and opinions have been expressed”. Working out what is good information or strong opinion isn’t easy to decipher.
In this article, we’ve done the work for you. We will unpack the topic a little, look at the guidance from experts in the field, and give you some basic guidelines to follow so you can safely use essential oils around your pets.
Firstly, it is important to remember that our pets are not little humans. Their body chemistry is different, so they require different considerations than humans big and small. Each pet, whether it be cat, dog, bird, or lizard, all are different, and will respond differently to the introduction of essential oils to your home.
Despite what you may have read or seen online, there is a field of study of pets and essential oils called “Zoopharmacognosmy”. It essential means animal remedies, and it shows how animals self-medicate in the wild. People have analysed this behaviour and applied it to domestic and captive animals with great success. So, rest assure that essential oils and pets can be done safely. Battaglia even goes as far as saying he is confident that using oils around pets is safe. It all comes down to “how” they are used and for how long.
Here are some general guidelines and considerations to consider when using oils around and, on your pets.
- When introducing essential oils, make sure to observe your pet’s response.
- Introduce them slowly and take notice of their response. Start with the gentle oils like Lavender, Rose, Sweet Orange, and Frankincense. Avoid oils strong smelling oils as they are overpowering and not considered safe for pets regardless of the brand.
- Keep an eye out for any reactions your pet may have. Look out for squinting, drooling, scratching, an increase in their breathing and any signs of lethargy as these are signs that your pet may not like the smell and is being negatively affected by them. (Roark, 2020)
- Immediately stop using the oils if you notice any changes in your pet.
- Only diffuse small amounts for limited periods of time. Follow general safety guidelines for using a diffuser that is 30 minutes on, 60 minutes off (if in an enclosed space).
- Allow your pets the freedom to leave the room if it wants.
- You can diffuse essential oils around cats safely, so long as there’s good ventilation
- Animals have their own unique health requirements, just like us humans, so what might work for your friends’ pets might not work for you. It could also compromise your pet’s health further.
- If you notice any strange behaviour from your pet or if a pet accidentally ingests essential oils, contact your veterinarian immediately.
- We do know that there are many commercially available natural pet care products made using essential oils. These products are made under strict conditions and guidelines, and safety data is considered when formulating them. If you want to use essential oils topically with your pets, this is not something for the DIY home user to attempt. It would be safer to use the commercially available products or seek the services of an aromatherapist trained in animal aromatherapy.
- Keep bottles locked away and out of reach. This will avoid any potential accidents of your pet ingesting the oils.
- Think about where you leave your diffuser. Keep it out of reach of your pets and the possibility of them knocking it over.
- Never force oils on your pets by placing them in food, you need to allow your pet to be able to walk away at all times (Ingraham, 2017)
- Ensure you use pure essential oils from a trusted supplier.
The list of oils to avoid for pets:
- Oils to Avoid with Cats
Oils to avoid topically for cats: Basil, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Tangerine, Birch, Cinnamon, Clove, Fennel, Tea Tree, Oregano, Peppermint, Thyme, Rosemary, Spearmint, and Wintergreen.
- Oils to Avoid with Dogs
Oils to avoid topically for dogs: Birch, Tea Tree, and Wintergreen. Use caution with oils such as Oregano, Cassia, Cinnamon, Clove, Rosemary, and Thyme (Roark, J. 2020).
Oils that are generally considered safe are:
Lavender, Helichrysum, Cedarwood, Myrrh, Sandalwood, Roman Chamomile, Geranium and Rose are considered safe, but take the lead from your pet. Let them guide you as to what smells they do and don’t like.
- You can safely diffuse oils around your pets if safety guidelines are followed.
- Monitor your pets’ reactions and remove them from the area if you notice a change.
- Follow diffusion guidelines of 30 minutes on, 60 minutes off, if the area is enclosed.
- Allow your pet to be able to leave the area.
- Do not apply essential oils directly to their skin from the bottle.
If you have any fears, doubts or concerns about essential oils and your pet, speak with a qualified practitioner who has animal aromatherapy training and or your veterinarian.
By Natalie Miller, Clinical Aromatherapist
Battaglia, S (2018). Using essential oils safely with cats, https://salvatorebattaglia.com.au/blog/15-using-essential-oils-safely-with-cats
Ingraham, C (2017). Help Your Dog Heal Itself, A-Z guide to using essential oils and herbs for hidden and common problems through the aromatic language of dogs, Ingraham Trading Limited, UK.
Lyth, G (2018). Cats and Essential Oil Safety,
Roark, Dr. J (2020). Essential Oils and Safety for Pets, https://go.essentialoilvet.com/safety
Tisserand, R (2011). Cats and Essential Oil Safety, https://roberttisserand.com/2011/06/cats-essential-oil-safety/