Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.
Animals often seem to have an innate knowledge about plants: which will help them, and which to avoid. And while it makes sense that the essential oils we know and love might be able to help our pets, that’s not always the case.
Essential oils can be extremely toxic to pets, either because the type of oil isn’t safe or the dilution wasn’t correct.
Since pets are generally much, much smaller than humans, they can’t tolerate even what we consider “low doses.” They also can’t tell you when they’re bothered by a smell, and since their olfactory receptors are significantly more sensitive than ours, diffusing oils can cause them significant discomfort.
For example, cats lack certain enzymes in their livers and can have trouble breaking down some oils, while dogs can aspirate oils into their lungs, which can also be dangerous. Cats, especially, can be extremely sensitive to essential oils, in part due to their small size.
The best thing to do is check with your vet before diffusing an essential oil.
Which Oils To Avoid Diffusing
Unsafe Oils for Dogs: Melaleuca or tea tree oil, Pennyroyal, Wintergreen, and Pine oils (source)
Unsafe Oils for Cats: Wintergreen, Sweet birch, Citrus, Pine oils, Ylang ylang, Peppermint, Cinnamon, Pennyroyal, Clove, Eucalyptus, Melaleuca or tea tree oil (source)
The ASPCA recommends never applying any oils topically or orally to your pet.
These essential oils are the main culprits for cats and dogs, but other oils can sometimes be a problem. Also, if you have pets like birds or reptiles, you may need to be concerned with different oils entirely.
Alternatives for Using Essential Oils with Pets
Though diffusing your favorite essential oils may be off the table, you can, however, try several therapeutic alternatives.
Safe, natural care for our furry (or not!) best friends is important, but make sure you find ways to do it safely; your pets will thank you!