Tag Archives: essential oils

Are essential oils really dangerous to pets?

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.

Holistic remedies using essential oils are a danger to your pets

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!