essential oil and and cat

Essential oils have earned their place among those that enjoy and benefit from aromatherapy. From easing nausea to decreasing anxiety, these natural, plant-derived products have been central in the lives of many generations, and now they are part of the natural cure-all trend.

While seemingly safe and advantageous for people, essential oils and pets may be a terrible combination.

The Fine Print

Essential oils are highly concentrated compounds derived from plant roots, stems, flowers, leaves and seeds. In addition to applying them as holistic treatments, essential oils can be used in various personal, household and cleaning products.

Natural but Not Safe

Essential oils offer numerous healing benefits to people, but can present risks to your pet if inhaled, ingested or absorbed into the skin. Just as there are many plants that are considered toxic, irritating, or known to trigger allergic reactions in some animals, essential oils and pets do not safely mix.

What to Look Out For

The combination of essential oils and pets can be particularly worrisome because there are so many possible ways pets can be exposed to them.

Essential oil diffusers, liquid potpourri products, room sprays, air fresheners and more can place pets at risk. Animals that have breathing problems, such as asthma, can exhibit labored breathing, excessive panting, or wheezing when exposed to essential oils.

Oils mixed with water molecules and diffused into the air can land on the fur or skin of household pets. They may not only cause irritation to the surface area but if licked and ingested, the following serious symptoms can occur:

  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Squinting
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Stumbling or disorientation
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Trouble getting comfortable

Incredibly Sensitive

Cats are more sensitive than dogs when it comes to essential oils because they lack a specific enzyme needed to protect the liver from noxious fumes. They may suffer gastrointestinal upset, depression of the central nervous system, and liver damage if overexposed to essential oils.

Additionally, other small animals, birds, and those with compromised immunity deserve an added layer of protection from various essential oils that include:

  • Peppermint or wintergreen
  • Pine
  • Tea tree
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Oregano
  • Eucalyptus
  • Pennyroyal
  • Cinnamon
  • Rosemary
  • Birch
  • Anise
  • Juniper
  • Yarrow
  • Thyme

Essential Oils and Pets

The bottom line with essential oils and pets is to simply keep them apart. If you must use them, be sure your pet is not in the same room. Keep all products out of their reach. If you use them topically, do not allow your pet to lick your skin. Know the signs of toxicity and seek help right away.

While there are commercial products available that are advertised at pet-safe or even pet-healthy, we encourage you to discuss your pet’s health with our veterinary team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital prior to making any changes.