Essential Oils and Pets: Do Benefits Outweigh the Risk?
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
I’ve been asked what my thoughts are on the use of essential oils and diffusers for or around animals. Here goes…
Chemical vs. Natural
I’m all for a more natural, less chemical environment. A lavender-laced bathtub is my idea of heaven. Fennel and ginger are super powers in my war against cramps, and I love the smell of home right after I’ve cleaned with baking soda and freshly squeezed lemon juice. I admit, I also like the convenience and “now it’s clean” feeling I get when I bust out the bleach. Not for mopping though! These paw pads, not to mention the tongues licking them, are too precious for me to risk harsh cleaners on the floor.
I also have concerns about releasing something into the air my pet breathes, even something “natural”. During a google search about commonly used essential oils, I found this statement “every home should have an essential oil diffuser. They [diffusers] make a room smell heavenly without any harmful chemical ingredients”. This statement is irresponsible because natural ingredients can also be harmful…
If given the choice of natural versus chemical, we’d all choose natural, right? Problem is, natural” and “safe” are not the same. Poisonous plants are natural. And some plants that are perfectly safe in their plant form become poisonous when concentrated. Most essential oils on the market today are highly concentrated. Doesn’t mean they’re all toxic, but you do have to know which oils and how to use them to ensure safety to the animals sharing your space.
How Much of a Good Thing Is Too Much?
Let’s compare a drop of essential oil to a cup of herbal tea, for example…
one drop of peppermint oil equals approximately 26 cups of peppermint herbal tea. You probably wouldn’t drink that much tea, right? (Bright, 2016) There’s a good reason why your tea doesn’t contain that much peppermint! While beneficial in reasonable amounts, too much can cause respiratory problems in humans. For dogs, too much peppermint, whether inhaled, ingested or absorbed through their skin, can cause irritation, disorientation, vomiting and lethargy. Also, despite the ads, peppermint does not kill fleas. Safe doses probably won’t even repel fleas.
Kill Fleas? Please…
Pennyroyal and tea tree oils are also used to get rid of fleas. Unlike peppermint, both of these oils are toxic to fleas. Unfortunately, they are ALSO TOXIC TO PET'S kidneys and liver, building up in pet’s system overtime. Signs of toxicity include vomiting, depression, tremors, weakness and loss of coordination.
I’ve yet to learn of a home remedy that I would use for fleas. Having multiple animals and living in central Texas like I do, attacking all four phases of the flea lifecycle is a must for my dogs. Bravecto is recommended by my veterinarian and FDA approved, unlike essential oils that are unregulated, requiring no safety testing or FDA approval.
Absolutely Necessary, Extremely Important
Not only do pets have a different biology than humans, they also have super noses that work better (1000 times better) than human noses, so something that smells light and fresh to us could quickly overwhelm Fido. If you have an inside dog and you still want to diffuse, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Better yet, ASK YOUR VET.
You’ll find lots of articles for and against the practice. Here are the oils Fido should avoid sniffing (list is not all-inclusive): clove, garlic, juniper, rosemary, tea tree, thyme, wintergreen. (Carrozza, 2018) Although not on the list for dog-owners, peppermint and pennyroyal should probably also be avoided, given their potential side effects. Peppermint did make the list of essential oils cat-owners should avoid. (Kia Benson, 2018).
Pets are Indispensable, Not Oils!
Some essential oils are toxic; some build up in a pet’s system overtime, potentially leading to organ failure; and some just smell really bad to super snouts. www.dictionary.com defines essential as absolutely necessary; extremely important; indispensable. Here at Wynley Park, essential is what our fur-kids are, not oils!
So, no sniffs, ands or buts, there will be no oil diffusing going on here because our Wynley Park dogs are inDOGspensable! Make no bones about it.
IF you do decide to use a diffuser, research to be sure the oils are safe for your beloved pets. Here's a site to get you started: https://aromatherapy.press/10-essential-oils-that-are-safe-for-pets/
Bright, S. (2016, July 5). 7 Scary Essential Oil Dangers Not Enough People Know About. Retrieved from Natural Living Ideas: http://www.naturallivingideas.com/essential-oil-dangers/
Carrozza, A. (2018, January 12). Are Essential Oils Harmful to Cats and Dogs? Retrieved from Veterinarian's Money Digest: http://www.vmdtoday.com/news/are-essential-oils-harmful-to-cats-and-dogs
Kia Benson, D. (2018, January 12). Essential Oils and Cats. Retrieved from Pet Poison Helpline: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/blog/essential-oils-cats/