Essential Oils Around Pets:  Are They Safe to Use?

Essential Oils Around Pets:  Are They Safe to Use?

Before you assume that using essential oils around pets is safe, there are some things that you should know. 

In most cases, it is safe to diffuse essential oils or use room sprays created with essential oils when you have cats, dogs, birds, and other pets in your home. This assumes that you use high-quality oils and only diffuse or spray small amounts at a time. Most cases of animal or human essential oil poisoning occur after exposure to unusually high concentrations of an oil or when some oils are swallowed. Some oils may also burn or irritate the skin upon direct application.



Since some of the most common essential oils smell like foods and flowers, dogs and cats may treat them like food. If you keep your oils out of reach of pets at all times, there is a great chance that your pets will benefit from your use of the oils just as much as you and other members of your family.

Polyphenolic Compounds & Your Pets

Also known as phenols, these chemical compounds are found in some essential oils and may cause the following negative reactions in some animals, especially when the oil is ingested or the pet is exposed to large doses:

  • Hyperactivity/restlessness
  • Excessive, unexplained panting
  • Vomiting
  • Black or green bowel movements

In more severe cases, these compounds can cause irregular heartbeats, tremors, and shock. They may even put your pet into a coma and can burn the skin or body organs on direct contact. Cats and dogs are more likely to experience asthma, allergic reactions, and organ failure. Some essential oils with these compounds include cinnamon, wintergreen, tea tree, clove, and oregano.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should never diffuse these oils when your pets are present. It just means that you should learn the compounds contained in our favorite oils and then use them sparingly and with great caution.

All-Natural Pet Products vs. Using Pure Essential Oils Around Pets

It’s common for pet products to include essential oils for fragrance or skin benefits, but this doesn’t mean that it’s safe to apply those same oils directly to your pet’s skin or fur. Some pet owners assume that more is better and that they can enhance the benefits for their pets by just using the essential oils alone. There are multiple reasons that you don’t want to make this mistake:

  • Pet products heavily dilute the oils by mixing them with other ingredients. This dramatically lowers the risk of skin irritation or allergic reaction, which can put your pet’s life in danger if some oils are applied without at least a suitable carrier oil.
  • Oils are powerful substances, and most are easily absorbed by the skin and can reach vital organs. When animals are exposed to these oils in large doses or on a frequent basis, the risk of organ disorders, allergic reactions, and other side effects are dramatically raised. It’s best to stick with small amounts blended with other natural ingredients when using essential oils around pets.
  • Any amount of essential oil can irritate your dog’s skin. Oils are also easily absorbed into the skin and may interfere with functioning of vital organs. Always test new pet products on a small patch of fur or skin before applying to a large area. This includes products that you purchase at stores.

Treat essential oils just as you would any medication for a human or pet when using essential oils around pets. What works for someone else’s pet may not work for your own. The way an oil interacts with your body may be dramatically different from how the same oil interacts with your pet. Other medications and supplements that your pet uses may impact their response to essential oils, and medical conditions or age may play a part as well.

When you first introduce a new essential oil into your living environment, take it slow when using essential oils around pets. Diffuse just a drop or two for a short period of time, watching every member of your household for reactions. You may also want to talk to your vet first, especially if your pet has asthma or other health conditions.

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