Essential Oils and Pet Safety
Hey guys, and welcome back to another episode in the life of Man versus Oils. Today will probably be a shorter one as we discuss all things in regards to essential oils and pet safety. As usual, this post came about after a discussion with my wife in regards to one of my mansperiments that I am currently undertaking to do with snails and fruit flies in the herb garden. I was testing the use of lemon essential oil to keep the snails away (which by the way does NOT work – but that is for a later post) when she asked me if I had made sure the cats were not outside whilst I did it… I did know that some oils were unsafe for pets as I had written about it in a previous post but – in typical fashion – I really hadn’t given it much thought…
So I thought I had better do some research. After all, we want to make sure that when we are mixing and using our manly essential oil blends, recipes and doing our mansperiments that we are not putting mans best friend – and his feline companion – at risk!
Now, I will start this post by saying that I have undertaken a lot of research for this one and the one scary thing that I have found (which I guess is probably true when discussing essential oils in general) is that there are a lot of different opinions out there about what is safe and what is not when it comes to essential oils and pets. Some oils, such as Thyme, are listed in some sites as dangerous for dogs then on others as being awesome for their fur… So I have taken a conservative approach and if I find it on more than one source as being dangerous, I have included it in the dangerous pile. We will talk about things to check and look for later so in the meantime let’s have a look at what we need to keep in mind.
Ok, so if you have a dog, you should take care when using the following oils:
- Tea tree
- Citrus – any type
- Sweet birch
- Ylang ylang
How can essential oils affect dogs?
Essential oils that are not good for dogs are often described as being toxic to them. Essential oils are generally absorbed by dogs in the same manner as humans – being via the skin, inhalation or ingestion – often accidentally. Commonly, animals such as dogs are exposed to essential oils via their owners using a diffuser for themselves or attempting to use oils on them for the same reasons as themselves such as insect bites, skin irritations or hair loss. Should a dog be adversely effected by essential oils then they might suffer from:
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty walking or stumbling
- Muscle tremors
- Pawing at the mouth or face
- Redness or burns on their lips, tongue, skin or gums
A simple sign is if the smell of essential oils is evident on the fur, skin, breath or vomit.
Cats and dogs are not the same, obviously, so there are some oils not listed as dangerous to dogs that can adversely affect a cat. Essential oils considered toxic to cats include:
- Tea Tree
How can essential oils affect cats?
As with dogs, cats are most commonly effected by essential oils when accidentally exposed to them via a diffuser, when locking our skin or other uses – such as some of the manly uses I have listed in my posts like putting peppermint on cotton balls to keep rodents at bay. The interesting point here is that this list contains many of the oils that I discuss constantly within my posts, such as Lavender (finally! something it is not good for), Lemon and Peppermint. Fortunately, the minuscule amounts that they are exposed to via a diffuser or on our own skin is generally not enough to affect them, however, should a cat be adversely effected by essential oils then they might suffer from:
- Ataxia (wobbliness)
- Respiratory distress
- Low heart rate
- Low body temperature
The biggest problem for cats is that they are self grooming meaning that if they are exposed to essential oils that land on their fur, they will lick it off when they clean themselves which can increase their risk of reaction.
Birds in general are extremely sensitive to toxins, which in their world includes essential oils so be very careful with them around your feathered friend. In this case, there is no list of oils to avoid, just be careful with them all.
How can essential oils affect birds?
Birds are funny things in that they do not tend to show too many signs of illness like cats and dogs. If you are worried about exposure to your beaked loved one, you may want to look for the following:
- Low or no appetite
- Loss of feathers
- Irritability- biting (are they ever any different?)
- Squinting – as opposed to sleeping.
If possible, place your diffuser in a different room to the bird and you should be ok.
I have added fish to this post as I used to have a big fish tank and always had to be careful with any airborne toxin (again, for some animals essential oils are considered toxins) such as insect repellents and air fresheners – which are two things we use essential oils for. As with birds, there is no list if oils to avoid if you have a fish tank – just be careful with them all.
How can essential oils affect fish?
Ummm, in my experience, when a fish has been exposed to a toxin, they simply float to the top of the tank for a nice long sleep. They may get spots, or a burst vessel in their eye that makes it pop out but in general, it is just curtains for our piscatorial little friends.
As with birds, place your diffuser in a different room where possible.
How can I use oils with pets?
Look, whilst there is some research into using oils with pets, I am not confident at all in discussing the use of them with any animal based companion. I will tell you however what we do with a strong caveat that you should always check with your vet if you are unsure.
We have two cats and do use a few of the oils listed in their toxic list in our diffuser and on our skin, namely lemon, peppermint and lavender. We did check with our vet (full disclosure – he uses essential oils himself) and he advised that as long as we are using a water diffuser and not leaving it on all day and night, then there is not enough of the oils released into the air affect them. We have not had any problems ourselves, but again, please do your own checks.
What can I do to be safe?
Here is a list of things you can do to ensure that you are using your oils safely around your pets.
- Do not leave oils anywhere where they can be accessed by your animals – remember, cats jump on benches when you are not home – you think they don’t, but they do!
- Do not leave lids off your oils after you have used them and before you put them away.
- Do not let animals lick your skin if you have used them on yourself.
- Do not use cheap or perfume oils from the “two dollar shop” or eBay. These ‘oils’ contain synthetic aromas and other chemicals which will increase the level of risk to your pets. Always use 100% pure essential oils.
What do I do if my pet is exposed?
Call, or go to the Veterinarian immediately. Animals can go ‘downhill’ very quickly so do not mess around!
If your vet is unavailable – call the Animal Poison Control Centre (such as the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center) in your location.
So there you go, that was probably a really long way of just saying that in general, essential oils are ok around pets but you need to be very careful. Do not put them on their skin or in the air without ensuring their safety and do not ever let them swallow them. Do that and you, your pets and your oils should be able to live in perfect harmony.
Have you had any experience with essential oils and pets? If so, please comment below and I will be certain to add it to this post or do any research that you may be interested in.
And as usual, until next time.
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