Essential oils have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, but the recent popularity of aromatherapy and home oil diffusers has led to a rapidly growing trend that is potentially dangerous for pets.
Often advertised as a natural treatment option for a variety of pet conditions from anxiety and skin problems to flea and tick prevention, essential oils in their concentrated (100%) form can be a danger for pets, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
Dogs and cats who walk through a concentrated essential oil, have gotten some on their coats accidently, or have had their owner apply one may develop symptoms including:
- Shaking or tremors
- Low body temperature (in severe cases)
If a pet ingests a concentrated oil, symptoms—in addition to depression—may include:
- Loss of appetite
Natural doesn’t always mean safe if not used properly, according to ASPCA, and pets can react differently to various oils, which are derived from plants. Factors such as the concentration level and what an oil is mixed with affect a dog or cat’s reaction.
Because of the variability in concentration, formulation, and quality of essential oils, ASPCA says to avoid applying them directly to your pet altogether. You should also keep any oils stored away and out of paws’ reach to avoid possible contact or ingestion.
Using a diffuser—an easy way to dispense oils at home—is not likely to be a problem if used away from your pet in a secure space.
However, if your dog or cat has a history or breathing problems, using a diffuser may be an issue; pets have a much better sense of smell than we do and what seems like a light, pleasing scent to a person could be overwhelming for a pet. Anyone who has birds should avoid using a diffuser because of their highly sensitive respiratory tracts.
If you are considering using essential oils on or around a pet, be sure to consult a veterinarian licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Veterinary Medical Board. They can advise you on which oils are potentially dangerous, how to properly dilute one, and appropriate dosages. You can check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.