Are Essential Oils Safe for Pets?

What are essential oils?

               Essential oils have boomed in popularity over the past few years. That is, for humans. Now, there is a growing interest in the potential benefits of essential oils for pets. Most any pet-owner has their fur baby’s best interest in mind when they start exploring essential oils for their health. However, there are serious risks associated with using essential oils for animal health.

               Essential oils are potent extracts from plants. Their aromas are powerful and therapeutic for many human ailments. They’re popular additions to beauty routines, cleaning, and relaxation.

               Some veterinarians are incorporating essential oils into their practices. There are some potential benefits of essential oils, particularly with dogs. This may be due to the fact that there has been more research on essential oils for dogs than for cats. You should keep in mind that just because an essential oil is considered safe for dogs doesn’t mean that it will be safe for cats or other pets.

While essential oils are beneficial to humans, they can be very harmful to pets. Even the mild inhalation of a diffused oil can be harmful for pets. It is important that pet-owners educate themselves about essential oil safety in order to protect their pets’ health.

Essential oils and pets: risks and benefits

               Because of their potency, essential oils are very healing when used for human health. However, the body chemistry of animals is different than ours. What is helpful for you may be toxic to your cat or dog. Animal bodies are often more sensitive than human bodies when it comes to what they ingest, inhale, etc.

               Some oils can actually be helpful for pets when used very gently, but you must do your research so that you don’t make your dear pet sick.

               To be on the safe side, you should call your veterinarian before using essential oils. You should do a safety-check before using them on yourself, in your home, and anywhere near your pet. Better yet, do a double or triple check on the safety of the oils you’re using. Being on the conservative side is always best when it comes to essential oils. This is even more important when using them near your furry family member.

               Some research does suggest that essential oils can be beneficial for dogs in particular. Some veterinarians do involve essential oils in their animal health treatments. They are sometimes used for treating anxiety, skin issues, and preventing flea and tick problems.

               Some experts recommend using essential oils to help dogs with anxiety, respiratory health, joint pain, digestive issues, weak immunity, and car sickness.

Still, this treatment is based on preliminary research. Hard scientific research and study is still lacking to prove essential oils’ safety for our animal friends.

               Natural does not mean safe. Essential oils pose risks to your pet in several ways. If you use them on yourself, it’s likely they’ll rub off on your pet’s fur. We all love to touch our pets, but if you’ve applied essential oils it could cause them skin irritation.

               If essential oils end up on your cat or dog’s skin or fur, they’ll likely want to lick it off. This is very dangerous. If essential oils are ingested, this could harm your pet’s liver as they metabolize it. This is especially dangerous for very young, elderly, and sick animals.

               Ingesting essential oils could cause severe digestive upset for your pet. If you see any signs of this, call your veterinarian promptly, and seek help from poison control.

               Essential oils are potent enough to cause harm to your pet even if they’re inhaled through diffusion. The best bet is to simply not diffuse oils at home if you have pets. If you have oils, keep them out of your curious critter’s reach.

Which oils are hazardous for dogs?

Oils derived from spices/herbs, citrus, and most pines are harmful to cats and dogs alike. These oils are more potent than most. If you’re asking, “can I use essential oils on my dog?” then you’ll need to keep their sense of smell in mind. A dog’s nose is very powerful. So, if that oil smells strong to you, it will be even more pungent for your dog. Keep this in mind if you use essential oils at home which are dog-friendly. If you’re wondering if diffusing essential oils is safe for dogs

Lavender is sometimes reported to be helpful for calming an anxious dog, but some react adversely to it. Always ask your veterinarian before using any oil near your dog, even if you think you’re helping. If you plan to use lavender for your dog, only do so if there are no cats in your home. Lavender is toxic for them.

Dogs should stay away from cinnamon, anise, clove, and thyme. All citrus oils are harmful, too. Pine, sweet birch, tea tree, wintergreen, and yarrow are all tree-like plants which are harmful to dogs. They should also be kept away from juniper, pennyroyal, and garlic.

Poisoning symptoms can vary according to the oil which caused it. Tea tree poisoning causes depression, rear leg paralysis, low temperature, and skin irritations. Skin irritation is also common with citrus and pine oils. You may see digestive upset from sweet birch, wintergreen, cinnamon, and pennyroyal.

Some sources report that peppermint is hazardous for dogs. Others claim it is beneficial for achy joints and respiratory issues. Before considering peppermint, consult your vet.

Many people question whether eucalyptus essential oil is safe for dogs. While some claim it is, the ASPCA classifies eucalyptus oil as toxic for dogs, cats, and other animals.

For flea and tick prevention, it is unclear whether essential oils are truly beneficial. Many cases of toxicity have been reported, but these are often connected to misuse of the product. Until further scientific research comes through, you should ask your vet which essential oils are good for fleas and ticks.

Which oils are toxic for cats?

Cats are very good at masking discomfort and pain. Many of the oils which are harmful to dogs are equally dangerous for cats, but here is a general list. In the spice/herb family, you’ll want to avoid: cinnamon, clove, peppermint, thyme, and oregano. Pine, wintergreen, sweet birch, eucalyptus and tea tree are all dangerous. You’ll also want to steer clear from lavender, ylang ylang, pennyroyal, and eucalyptus.

Of course, there are many more hundreds of essential oils which could be harmful to cats. There is still a lot of research to be done with pets and essential oils. Just because it isn’t listed here doesn’t mean it is safe.

               Find out which essential oils are safe for cats from your vet, first. Knowing whether essential oil diffusers are safe for cats is still in need of further research, as well. Research and self-education are good, but you should rely on your veterinarian for the best essential oil advice.

Are essential oils safe for birds?

               Birds are very delicate creatures. They’re very sensitive to their environment. Tea tree oil is harmful to most animals, including birds. It can be a serious poison for a small animal.

Birds groom themselves often, and so any residues of essential oils on their feathers from the air could be ingested.

 Some sources report that there are several non-toxic essential oils which can be diffused in homes with birds. Some are lavender, lemon, and geranium. These might even help your bird with anxiety, but you should consult your vet before use.

Signs your pet has been poisoned

Essential oils usually do more harm than good for your pets. Signs of poisoning from essential oils will be evident in their behavior. Look for any changes in behavior and other concerning signs. There are a few giveaways. You may smell essential oils on their skin, fur, or breath. They may vomit and it might smell a bit like the oils. A pet with poisoning may experience drooling, weakness and fatigue, twitching/tremors, trouble walking, stumbling, redness or irritation around or in the mouth. Watch to see if your pet is pawing at his/her mouth or face—particularly the mouth and eyes.

What to do if you suspect poisoning

You must immediately seek veterinary help for your pet the moment you suspect poisoning. Call your veterinarian, or the Pet Poison Hotline: (800) 213-6680. If your vet’s office is closed, have your pet immediately seen at an emergency clinic. The faster you act, the better the outcome. Even if you only suspect poisoning, don’t wait! Act as soon as you are suspicious of poisoning.

Essential oils and pet safety

To avoid poisoning your pet, always check with your vet before using oils even modestly on yourself, in your home, and near your pet. To be on the safe side, even oils that are considered safe should be used sparingly.

Further research is needed to determine whether diffusing essential oils is safe for dogs. Keep this in mind and be cautious. Knowing which essential oils are toxic for dogs and cats will help you to avoid any issues. Keep a running list on your refrigerator door for quick reference.

If your vet does approve or recommend using essential oils with your pet, make sure that the product you choose is properly sources. You will want to pay more for a high-quality oil. Cheap oils often have fillers, additive, and even synthetic materials added. These can also be toxic for your cat or dog.

Check the label. “Natural” doesn’t mean organic, pure, or safe. Look for therapeutic grade oils. Try to find one which has been produced via steam distillation.

Generally speaking, topical use of essential oils is inadvisable for pets, according to most veterinarians. If you’re using an oil which is considered safe for animals, be conservative with the amount you use.

You should not use essential oils with dogs who are pregnant or nursing. Do not use them near the eyes, nose, ears, or genital areas. Be vigilant when using essential oils which have been approved by your vet. The better you know your pet, the easier it will be to see warning signs of toxicity.

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