Ah, the sweet, calming smell of lavender, or the energizing, fresh scent of lemon. Aromatherapy is a popular and widely used method of relaxation and rejuvenation for many of us. The benefits of aromatherapy use has been widely touted, and essential oil use in different applications, including on skin, has been gaining popularity as well.

What about essential oils and aromatherapy for our pets? Do the benefits we receive also apply to them? In this post, Union Lake Pet Services explores essential oil use in pets and gives some tips on how to safely use them.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated plant compounds that are distilled into liquid drops. Many essential oils are commonly used for people in such items as household cleaning products, food and drinks, herbal products, and personal care products like hand soap and shampoo. However common they are, these compounds are highly volatile and caution should be taken whenever using them, for ourselves and for our pets.

Essential Oil Use in Pets

It’s important to know and remember that animals have different body systems than we do, and they react differently to essential oil use. For starters, they have a much better sense of smell than humans, so even a tiny amount of essential oils may be irritating to them.

Birds have very sensitive respiratory tracts and aromatherapy is not recommended for them. Cats are missing some detoxifying liver enzymes (compared to dogs and people) that could make it difficult for them to metabolize essential oils applied on their skin. And, use of certain oils, such as cinnamon, oregano, pennyroyal, tea tree, citrus, and wintergreen, pine, and birch, have been shown to be toxic to both dogs and cats.

The bottom line: always exercise caution and consult with your veterinarian or a holistic veterinarian before using essential oils on or around your pet.

Safety Tips for Essential Oil Use in Pets

Keep essential oils and liquid potpourri away from your pet’s curious nose and paws. Even if you are using essential oils with your pet, you don’t want them getting into anything that they shouldn’t. Only a couple of small licks or smells can be toxic.

Signs of possible essential oil toxicity can include:

  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Muscle tremors

If you notice any of these signs, call your veterinarian immediately or go to your local emergency clinic. If you know your pet got essential oil on their coat or skin, wash them with a hand-safe liquid dishwashing detergent.

Other safety tips:

  • Never apply 100% essential oils to your pet’s skin, especially on broken skin
  • Never give essential oils orally to your pet
  • Remember than essential oils are highly volatile and can interact with other medications your pet is taking

A Word About “Natural” Products

You may have noticed that many natural pet care products contain some of the same ingredients as human aromatherapy products. This doesn’t mean that essential oil use in pets is safe.

In pet products, including many flea and tick shampoos, essential oils are typically used in very diluted amounts. Because they are diluted with other ingredients, they are safe for use in pets if following the label directions. Never assume more is better, and never give any essential oil by mouth to your pet.

Have more essential oil questions? Give our team a call.