Holistic remedies using essential oils are a danger to your pets - Dr. Marty Becker

Holistic remedies using essential oils are a danger to your pets

Friday, Jan 29th, 2016 | By Dr. Marty Becker

The red cat smells a bouquet of cherry flowers. Cozy spring morning at home. Cute background with place for text.

Do you use essential oils? They can be damaging or outright deadly if they’re used around pets. Even inhaling essential oils can cause your pet to become seriously ill! Here’s how I responded to a reader’s question about essential oils:

Q: I’ve been using an essential oil diffuser in my home, and I’m wondering if the oils are safe for use around my pets. Can inhaling the scents harm them? What about topical use?

A: Essential oils are extracted from plants, usually by distilling flowers, leaves, wood, bark, roots, seeds or peel. Some people use them medicinally, by inhaling them or applying them to the skin.

Pet owners who are interested in holistic remedies sometimes use essential oils to fight flea infestations or soothe hot spots or other skin conditions. It’s important to use these oils cautiously around pets, however. They are powerful and can be toxic or even fatal if misused. Cats are especially at risk because their livers aren’t able to metabolize certain drugs and toxins, including essential oils such as melaleuca (tea tree oil), pennyroyal, D-limonene and linalool.

According to my colleague Sharon Gwaltney-Brant, DVM, a toxicology specialist who spoke on this subject at a veterinary conference, the most common signs seen in pets who have essential oils applied to the skin are loss of coordination, muscle weakness, depression and behavior changes. Small dogs have become temporarily paralyzed when owners applied melaleuca oil down the spine as a topical flea treatment. Cats improperly exposed to the oils can develop liver failure. Pets who lick or ingest the oils may vomit or have diarrhea or suffer mouth burns. Inhaling the oils can not only irritate your pet’s sensitive nose, but can also cause aspiration pneumonia. Pet birds have an extremely delicate respiratory tract, and you should never use scent diffusers or scented candles in their presence.

In essence, it’s important to be careful when using these products. Never let pets lick them off your skin, and always check with your veterinarian before using essential oils on or around your pets.

All this and more in my weekly Pet Connection newspaper feature!