Essential Oils: Are They Toxic to our Pets?

Essential oils are being used more commonly to treat ailments in people and pets; however, many of these can pose a danger to our pets. Different types, concentrations, and species of animal all play a part in toxicity development.

There are several essential oils that are toxic to dogs, cats, birds, and other pets. Cats are much more
sensitive to essential oils than dogs. Their liver metabolism is different and makes the more susceptible as they can’t metabolize them from their body effectively. Birds are even more sensitive as they have an extensive and complicated respiratory system. Poisoning has even occurred in children that have ingested the oils as well.

Here is a list of common potentially dangerous essential oils to pets:

  •  eucalyptus
  •  cinnamon
  •  citrus (lemon, orange)
  •  pennyroyal
  • peppermint
  • pine
  •  sweet birch
  •  tea tree (melaleuca)
  • wintergreen
  • ylang ylang

Symptoms that may indicate that your pet has been poisoned:

  •  Fragrance or scent on hair coat, skin, or breath or in vomit
  •  Difficulty breathing
  •  Difficulty walking or uncoordinated gait
  •  Drooling
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Redness or burns on the lips, gums, tongue, or skin
  • Vomiting

Some types of oils are more toxic than others, so recovery may depend on the specific oils ingested. Rapid diagnosis and treatment are imperative. If you believe that your pet has ingested or come in contact with essential oils or liquid potpourri, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) immediately.

The primary route of poisoning is by ingestion but it may also occur by excessive or inappropriate application to the skin. Some animals like to lick the sweet smelling liquid or may get it on their paws or fur and clean themselves.

Typically, a properly used diffuser with low concentrations of oils should not pose a risk; however each animal can have individual sensitivities. They shouldn’t be used around birds. Some diffusers make a good sized mist (like a humidifier) when working. The concern with using this kind of diffuser, particularly in a small poorly ventilated room, is that the “mist” can settle on the fur which is then groomed off.

Owners using diffusers should move their pets to another room while doing so and avoid using the device for extended periods of time in order to minimize the risk that oil droplets could get onto the fur.

Oils can also be absorbed through the skin. They can lead to burns, irritations, and even sores in the mouth if groomed off.

Owners should also be aware if they are applying essential oils directly to their own skin and then handling their pets. This can rub off on their pets’ fur or the pet may groom their owner and ingest the oil.

Birds are extremely sensitive to inhaled substances compared to mammals. Diffusers should not be
used around birds.

Tips for using essential oils:

  • Use essential oil products ONLY for their intended purpose.
  • Use only the amount stated on the label/guide.
  • If you have bottles of essential oils at home, keep them locked up, out of sight and reach of children and pets at all times.
  • Consult your veterinarian before applying or using any essential oil around your pet.
  • Before using products containing essential oils on pets, make sure that they are labeled for use with that specific species and purpose.
  • Don’t use products labeled for dogs on cats.

2 thoughts on “Essential Oils: Are They Toxic to our Pets?

  1. Maria Ragsdale says:

    I have a new hair product for the scalp to stop my hair loss. I have a number of rescue birds I will list the oils. Would only be on my scalp and maybe wear a shower cap at first until smell fades
    Nettle, rosemary, sage,peperminu,thyme,alfalfa, pure virgin olive oil, pure coconut oil, chlorophyll from nettle and spinach,pure mineral jelly,

    • Amy Walton says:

      Birds are the most sensitive to essential oils more than any other pet. I would play it safe rather than risk them becoming sick. They are the most sensitive out of all of the animal species and even inhaling small amounts can make the sick or result in death. If this product is rinsed out and water based, there would be less risk involved but I would not let your birds come in contact with your hair to be safe.

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