Stories of pets harmed by essential oils are making the rounds on social media right now. Is it hype, or is it true? Here’s what I told a reader who wrote with that question.
Q: Someone told me that the essential oils I use in our home could be harmful to my pets. Do I need to be concerned, and what should I do if my pets come in contact with them?
A: Essential oils are everywhere, it seems, used to scent homes in the form of liquid potpourri and in homemade cleaning solutions and remedies. Pets can experience chemical burns or other toxic effects if they lick up spilled oils or if the oils are applied to their skin.
Among the essential oils that are toxic to pets are cinnamon, citrus, lemon, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree, thyme, wintergreen and ylang ylang. Never apply any concentrated essential oil to a pet’s skin.
Exposure to even a small amount can cause problems such as difficulty breathing or walking, drooling, lethargy, muscle tremors, pawing at the mouth or face, vomiting, or redness or burns at the affected area.
Any time your pet has a reaction to something applied to the skin, whether it’s an essential oil, a hormone cream or a spot treatment, immediate decontamination is important. If you can’t get your pet to a veterinarian right away, gently shampoo with a mild product and rinse frequently and thoroughly to get rid of the substance. If the substance is oily, you may need to use a shampoo or detergent that contains a degreaser, such as a mild dishwashing soap. Pets with long coats may need to be shaved for quick, effective removal of the substance from their fur.
Afterward, take your pet to the veterinarian to make sure he doesn’t have any ill effects from the substance. Pets whose skin is exposed to a large amount of a toxic substance may need sedation or anesthesia to have the product removed, followed by supportive care and pain medication.
Read more, including tips for helping your pet learn to love the vet, in this week’s Pet Connection.