Our pets are our family and we want what’s best for them. But if you love using your essential oils, you might start wondering if it’s safe for your dog, cat, horse, turtle, parrot, boa constrictor—whoever you share your home (and heart!) with. This blog is the first in a series where we will dive into more detail. We aim to provide you with the education and confidence you need to make the safest choices for your entire family.
So, are essential oils safe for pets?
There is no hard “yes” or “no” to answer this. There are so many factors to consider first. The species of your pet, the oils you are using, the amount of oil you use, and how you are using them all contribute to the final answer.
Lizards, snakes, and fish, OH MY!
First, it’s important to consider that there is a lack of scientific information and clinical studies about the health impact of many essential oils on most pets. This is especially true regarding reptilian and aquatic pets. Because of this, we currently discourage diffusion around these animals, as well as topical application. While we recognize that there are plenty of personal accounts of success on this front from bloggers galore, please consult with your veterinarian before attempting to use aromatherapy with your leopard gecko, corn snake, guppies, and everything in between.
Our feathered friends…
If you have a beautiful bird in the home, we also do not recommend diffusion near the bird or applying oils topically to birds. While credible information on birds and essential oils are scarce, we do know that birds are incredibly sensitive to household cleaners, such as air fresheners and scented candles. So sensitive in fact that these products have been known to cause serious health issues and even kill birds. This is primarily due to their sensitive respiratory system that can negatively respond to inhaled toxins. As with reptiles and fish, there is a terrifying amount of unsubstantiated information online that encourages these animals to have direct, sometimes undiluted, contact with essential oils. We encourage everyone to talk with a veterinarian before attempting aromatherapy on their birds.
For our friendly feline pets, essential oils can be a potentially toxic mix. Unsafe use can lead to respiratory distress and liver failure, whether inhaled or applied topically. This is because cats lack certain enzymes that provide the ability to properly metabolize all the different compounds in essential oils. And unlike the caged bird or terrarium-restricted reptiles, our cats generally have complete, unfettered roam of the home. They are often allowed to go wherever they please, or at least they sure think that.
But this is what makes them especially susceptible to the dangers of aromatherapy. They can knock over diffusers, rummage through our passive diffusion methods (think EOs on cotton balls, reed diffusers, and potpourri), and even try to get all cozy and cute on us right after we just slathered our skin with our favorite diluted essential oil lotion. This can expose them to undiluted oils (like if they knock over a full diffuser and step in the water/oil combination) or topical application (like when they do that adorable whole body rub all over our hands and face) if we have just applied oils topically to ourselves.
Don’t worry… good news is coming!
However, the upside is that there is currently an interest in both the aromatherapy and veterinary communities to make serious inquiries into the relationship cats have with essential oils. Our current stance at Plant Therapy is to discuss this topic with your veterinarian. We will discuss this further in another blog, don’t worry!
So, if you have lizards, fish, snakes, birds, or cats, you might feel super bummed out. Can you even use your essential oils at all?? Of course you can! There are plenty of ways to continue your aromatherapy journey AND provide a safe environment for your pets. For instance, diffusing in a well-ventilated room that is cut off from these pets is okay.
Better yet, if you have a two story home you can diffuse on the level your pets are not on. You can also still enjoy all your oils topically, just make sure that you do not handle your pets immediately afterward or wash your hands after application. In the shower or bath, feel free to use your favorite essential oils. And don’t forget about your handy aromatherapy inhaler!
Man’s best friend…
What about your partner-in-crime? Your best friend? Your fur baby? Dogs can benefit immensely from aromatherapy when it is done safely. However, it is incredibly important to keep in mind how very powerful a dog’s sense of smell is. We do not recommend using a nebulizing diffuser around dogs since its output is undiluted and they produce a very strong aroma.Dilution recommendations for dogs:
- 25 lbs or less: 0.25% – 0.5%
- 25 lbs to 50 lbs: 0.50% – 0.75%
- Dogs more than 50 lbs: 0.75% – 1%
Please begin with the lowest dilution recommendation and increase as necessary for specific concerns. We encourage you to introduce essential oils slowly to your dog and work on creating a positive association with the oils you want to use. We will go into more details about essential oils and dogs in our next blog about animals and aromatherapy.
Your riding buddy…
For those of you who are lucky enough to have an equestrian beauty roaming your pasture, rest assured that horses also can enjoy the benefits that proper use of essential oils can provide. From emotional issues, such as trauma, to physical ailments that could use a boost of immune support, aromatherapy can help. Horses, like dogs, also have a great sense of smell that can be easily overwhelmed by essential oils. For this reason, we recommend a dilution of 1% – 2% for horses. Introduce essential oils gradually and in a positive manner to help create a good association.
For questions regarding essential oils for horses, please contact our Customer Service Team at CS@planttherapy.com. Your inquiry will be directed to our Certified Aromatherapists who have undergone specialized animal aromatherapy training.
Learning lots from our animal series? We sure hope so! Make sure to head over to our Safe Essential Oils Recipe group on Facebook to share your experiences!
Information collected from the following sources:
Bell, K.L. (2002). Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals: A Comprehensive Guide to the Use of Essential Oils & Hydrosols with Animals. Findhorn Press.
Morag, N. (2011). Essential Oils for Animals: Your Complete Guide to Using Aromatherapy for Animal Health and Management. Off The Leash Press.
Morag, N. (2015). The Aromatic Dog: Essential Oils, Hydrosols, & Herbal Oils for Everyday Dog Care: a Practical Guide. Off The Leash Press.
Animal Aromatherapy Foundation Course with Kelly Azzaro
Practical Aromatherapy for Dogs Certification
Veterinary Medical Aromatherapy with Dr. Nancy Brandt