main logo


Safe Essential Oils For Pets: What’s Good and What’s Not

In early 2018, a woman treating her cold with eucalyptus essential oils accidentally poisoned the family cat after writing a Facebook post went viral. Despite the fact that essential oils may improve the odor of your home, there is little evidence to indicate that they are beneficial to one’s health. Active diffusers—including our top picks—are not safe to use around dogs and cats: Some essential oils are poisonous to dogs and cats, although none have been proved to be effective in treating animals. So, do safe essential oils for pets exist?

There is less reliable data on the advantages of essential oils in pets than there is for humans. The few studies that do exist are largely sponsored by firms that manufacture herbal-infused pet products (2002, 2013, and 2016).

Does Safe Essential Oils For Pets Exist?

Essential oils should be avoided if you have pets since they are poisonous to dogs, cats, and birds.

To avoid poisoning your pet, you should not put pure essential oils on the skin or feed them orally. Pure essential oils can be harmful (particularly tea tree oil), and there isn’t enough evidence that they work.

If you have an active diffuser, such as a nebulizer, be sure the oil you’re using is okay for your pet (more on this below). Before allowing your pet back in, air out the room to ensure that even safe oils aren’t irritating. Passive diffusers are typically safer than active ones since, as long as your pet doesn’t knock them over or break into them, they’re less likely to get harmed. The greater dilute the oil is, however, generally the safer it is; nevertheless, always check with your veterinarian first.

While tea tree is not the only essential oil that can be dangerous, the Pet Poison Helpline has recommendations for particular oils that should be avoided at all costs even with passive diffusers. The following essential oils are poisonous to cats:

  • Cinnamon oil
  • Citrus oil
  • Clove oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Oil of sweet birch
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pine oils
  • Tea tree oil
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang

For dogs, toxic essential oils include:

  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Pine oils
  • Tea tree oil
  • Wintergreen

If you’re not sure what oil to use, the toxic and non-toxic plant list from the APCC is a good place to start.

What’s The Danger To Look Out For?

The greatest hazard that essential oils pose to dogs is from households who utilize concentrated oils to cure their pet’s skin problems or prevent fleas.

The ASPCA blames essential oils as one of the most frequent toxic causes of cat tremors. There are also problems with how essential oils are labeled, with some products containing a large number of low-concentration oils that when combined make for a high-concentration and hazardous overall solution. It’s also possible that the claim isn’t made clearly enough, or that it wasn’t explained that one species of animal may be safe while another can’t. It’s also conceivable that the percentages of the oils in a blend aren’t specified clearly enough, making it impossible to know if it’s safe.

Given these concerns as well as the lack of evidence supporting essential oils’ efficacy in treating animals, we believe you should not use any amount of oil on your pet’s oral or topical system unless advised to do so by a veterinarian.

According to the ASPCA, one of the most prevalent toxic causes of cat tremors is essential oils.

Tea tree oil, which is sometimes used to treat hot spots or skin allergies in animals, is the most frequent essential oil poisoning cause of the viral Facebook post’s eucalyptus oil.

According to a 2014 case series published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 10 years of data from the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center revealed that high-concentration tea tree oil is harmful for cats and dogs. Only as few as seven or eight droplets may be enough to induce problems, according to the ASPCA.

Even if the essential oil you’re using isn’t harmful to your pet, experts advise against using it topically or orally.

“I wouldn’t put a pure concentration oil on my pet,” says Charlotte Flint, a senior veterinarian consultant with the Pet Poison Helpline’s clinical toxicology department. Mrs. Kingman also acknowledged that some pet products, such as hotspot wipes and flea shampoos, contain oils and are thus safer to use on animals than pure oils. These oils have oil concentrations in the single digits, which makes them safer to use on pets than pure oils; nevertheless, because there is no evidence for their effectiveness.

You shouldn’t treat your pet orally or topically with any concentration of oil unless advised to do so by a vet.

Dr. Flint’s veterinarian, Dr. Brennan Love of Moline, Illinois-based The Pet Emergency Center, added that he does not believe lavender oil is a toxic concern for cats. Lavender oil is a popular calming agent; both Drs. Evans and Flint said it was less of an issue than previously thought. Although there is some evidence to suggest that lavender oil may be beneficial, it has no apparent negative effects. However, if you’re attempting to soothe a nervous pet, you should probably use a pheromone-based calming solution, which has been shown to work.

It was the cat’s exposure to oils from an essential oil diffuser that caused the viral Facebook post issue, not direct application of oils. Diffused oil from an active diffuser can settle on a pet’s fur and be absorbed through the skin or ingested when they lick themselves clean, which is a worry with cats because they are meticulous cleaners. If your pet knocks over a diffuser, the oils can spill and come into contact with your pet; even inhaling a vaporized oil may be harmful to your pet if it has respiratory problems or is pregnant. If you have a bird, don’t use diffusers, according to the experts; birds have extremely sensitive lungs.

Passive diffusers, such as reed diffusers, plug-ins, and candle burners or warmers, are safer to use around pets than active diffusers since microdroplets of oil aren’t dispersed into the air.

Oil diffusers, including nebulizers and ultrasonic systems, should be utilized at a distance from pets to avoid the microdroplets coming into contact with your pet’s fur, skin, or lungs. Even if the specific oil in the active diffuser is safe for dogs, breathing it in will irritate their lungs.

The liquid inside a diffuser could be dangerous if your pet knocks it over and consumes it, so keep the diffusers away from where your dog can get to them.

Flint also suggests keeping all essential oil items out of reach of curious pets, utilizing oil diffusers only for short periods of time and in a secluded area, and airing out a space before reentering with your pet.

Active oil diffusers, including nebulizers and ultrasonics, should be used away from pets so the microdroplets don’t come in contact with your pet’s fur, skin, or lungs.

Don’t get alarmed if a healthy cat or dog gets a whiff of diffused oils. “I’m not worried about whether or not a healthy animal will be exposed to a diffuser for a short period of time,” said Evans.

Side Effects If Your Pet Was Exposed

If you’re concerned that your pet has been exposed, keep an eye on them for symptoms and if they start to have a negative reaction, visit the doctor.

Common signs of essential-oil poisoning include a watery nose or eyes, redness of the lips, gums or skin, drooling, difficulty breathing, panting, coughing, wheezing, vomiting, lethargy, tremors, wobbliness, low heart rate, low body temperature, and liver failure.

If a pet’s exposed to essential oils and showing symptoms, here’s what to do before heading to the emergency vet:

  • If they breathed in the product, immediately take them into fresh air.
  • If the product got on their skin or fur, wash it off with dishwashing liquid.
  • If they ingested it, don’t induce vomiting or give them activated charcoal. This puts them at risk since essential oils may accumulate in the lungs and airway, causing lung irritation or airway obstruction.
  • Put the product and packaging in a sealed bag and take it with you to the clinic.
  • You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 (there’s a $65 consultation fee), or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 (it charges a fee of $59 per incident) for 24/7 emergency assistance.

Always do your research, and be cautious when it comes to essential oils or diffusers, no matter what kind you use. “The dose makes the poison,” Flint remarked, noting that no two animals will react in the same way. “It’s just crucial to understand that ‘natural’ doesn’t always imply ‘safe.'”

Final Thoughts – Safe Essential Oils For Pets

Overall, safe essential oils for pets isn’t the longest list. It’s best to try and avoid it all together in your home or take safe cautions of enjoying them in a responsible way. 

If you have any questions, please reach out to your local veterinarian for more information.