Essential Oils and Pet Safety. Advice for the furry loved ones.

Hey guys, and welcome back to another episode in the life of Man versus Oils. Today we will 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. 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. When we mix and use our manly essential oil blends, recipes and doing our mansperiments, there are risks for our pets. After all, we don’t want to put mans best friend, and his feline companion, at risk!

I research a lot for this post, and I found one scary thing. There are a lot of different opinions out there about what is safe or not, when it comes to essential oils and pets. It’s probably true about essential oils in general. 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. If I find it on more than one source as being dangerous, I have included it in the dangerous pile. Let’s have a look at what we need to keep in mind.

Dogs and essential oils

Essential Oils and Pet Safety - dogs

Ok, so if you have a dog, you should take care when using the following oils:

  • Tea tree
  • Cinnamon
  • Pennyroyal
  • Citrus – any type
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang
  • Anise
  • Clove
  • Thyme
  • Juniper
  • Yarrow
  • Garlic

Read more: 16 Benefits and Uses of Tea Tree Essential Oil

How can essential oils affect dogs?

Essential oils that are not good for dogs are often described as being toxic to them. Dogs generally absorb essential oils in the same manner as humans, being via the skin, inhalation or ingestion. Often it’s accidentally. Commonly, animals such as dogs are exposed to essential oils via their owners, using a diffuser for themselves. Pet owners also sometimes attempt to use oils on their pets 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
  • Drooling
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking or stumbling
  • Muscle tremors
  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Redness or burns on their lips, tongue, skin or gums
  • Vomiting

A simple sign is if the smell of essential oils is evident on the fur, skin, breath or vomit.

Cats and essential oils

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:

  • Cassia
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lemon
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Spruce
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme

Read more: 13 Benefits and Uses of Lavender Essential Oil

How can essential oils affect cats?


Essential Oils and Pet Safety - cats

As with dogs, essential oils most commonly affect cats when accidentally exposed to them via a diffuser. They are as well exposed when licking our skin. Also, the list is extended by some of the manly uses I have listed in my previous 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:

  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Ataxia (wobbliness)
  • Respiratory distress
  • Low heart rate
  • Low body temperature

The biggest problem for cats is that they are self grooming. If they are exposed to essential oils that land on their fur, they will lick it off when they clean themselves. It can increase their risk of reaction.

Birds and essential oils

Birds in general are extremely sensitive to toxins. So be very careful with essential oils 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.

Fish pets and essential oils

Essential Oils and Pet Safety - fish

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. In fact, homemade insect repellents and air fresheners, which are two things we use essential oils for, can be dangerous. 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 the toxic list in our diffuser and on our skin.  My wife often uses a lemon, peppermint and lavender essential oils. We did check with our vet, and full disclosure, he uses essential oils himself. 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 to 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 because animals can access them. Remember, cats jump on benches when you are not home, you think they don’t, but they do!
  • Put the cap back on your oils after using them.
  • 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.

Before leaving this post, let me know if 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.

Have fun!


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My name is Paul and I live on the east coast of Australia with my wife and six year old son. I also have 19 and 23 year old daughters. I am an ex government and bank worker who took a bit of a sea change and opened my own business by the beach with my amazing wife. If you can do it, try it. You will never look back. You want to know more about me, read my About Me page

9 thoughts on “Essential Oils and Pet Safety. Advice for the furry loved ones.”

  1. I had no idea that the Thyme essential oil was dangerous to dogs. In fact, some of the other oils on the list like tea tree also surprised me and I can’t believe that these oils cause all these symptoms listed. 

    On the other hand I have never actually thought about using essential oils on my dogs and I didn’t know it was a thing. 

    In fact after reading this post I won’t be taking any of my oils anywhere near my pets just to be safe. Thanks for the valuable information. 

    • HI Michel,

      Yeah, we don;t use the on our pets but watch out what we use around them.  We do use the diffuser on the litchen where the cats do go but never long or string enough to effect them.

      Thanks for you comments


  2. Wow, Paul. Holy ****. 🙂

    Such an amazing article. So incredibly insightful. And all provided for us essentially on a silver platter. I truly commend to you my friend, it must have taken an insane amount of effort and a few hundred sites to make it all sweet and nice of a wrap-up. And I absolutely love the fact that not only did you look at sites that favored one approach or the other but you also looked for disconfirming evidence.

    Again, man, amazing article. A great, great cheat-sheet to fall back on and check whenever not really sure. Bookmarked. <3

    Cheers, Paul, And have a Great One!


  3. I must admit, the article I found immensely insightful. 

    I really enjoyed the structure of the article as well. It’s way, way better than if you would have just listed the potentially harmful ones. This way we have that additional insight of what might be the signs that something is not okay for any of the fury or not so fury (fish) friends. 🙂

    I also enjoyed the fact that you didn’t overcomplicate things, you kept it simple and straight forward!

    Keep it up, Paul! Have a Wonderful Day!


  4. Wow, I never even thought that essential oils could affect my two dogs.  I do use essential oils.  Specifically tea tree and citrus.  I will be a lot more careful now as I do not wan them to have any of the symptoms you described.  I appreciate this great information.  I just realized this morning, after finding my good pair of glasses all chewed up by my one dog, that nothing is safe left to his level of reach.

    • Haha, yeah, pets can be worse than kids for getting into things.  We use those oils in our diffuser around our cats but are very careful to make sure they are diluted with other oils and abviously the water in the diffuser.

      Thanks for stopping by



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