Are all essential oils safe to use around animals? Are there any specific essential oils that are toxic to animals? And how should essential oils be used around animals? Dr Natalie discusses these question below.

Essential Oil Safety with Dogs, Cats & Pets

ARE ALL ESSENTIAL OILS SAFE TO USE FOR CATS AND DOGS?

Not all essential oils are safe to use in animals. When prescribing essential oils for our patients we base our selection on several criteria, including the oil type, quality, potency, purity and available application methods.

Some oils can cause harm, especially when incorrectly prescribed, administered by inappropriate routes, or if poor quality oils are used. Adverse events may include eye and airway irritation, epistaxis, inflammation of the gastrointestinal mucosa, photosensitivity, immediate or delayed allergic type reactions, nausea, and hypersalivation. Certain types of oils are more likely to cause certain types of reactions, for example the cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon oil can burn when applied neat, most citrus oils have the potential to cause photosensitivity, and care must always be taken when dosing orally with oils.

We use only certified therapeutic grade essential oils in our practice, carefully matched to the patient’s signalment, condition and health status, and encourage anyone wanting to use essential oils on their pets to seek veterinary advice first from a vet experienced in their application. Therapeutic grade oils are very potent and have immense power to heal, but depending on concentration, quality, selection and application method also have the potential to harm.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC ESSENTIAL OILS THAT ARE TOXIC TO CATS AND TO DOGS?

Melaleuca (commonly known as tea tee) has been reported as dangerous with the potential to kill cats and harm dogs. When examining the studies on this, however, it becomes evident that there were a few potential reasons for the outcomes seen. No quality control testing was conducted on the oils administered, and the pets in the studies received inappropriate doses of oil by poorly selected routes – one dog received an intravenous injection of oil, another had more than a tablespoon applied topically (1-2 drops diluted would have been more correct), and the three cats in a study demonstrating Melaleuca toxicity as causing death received between them 60ml of undiluted oil topically (again a maximum of 1-2 drops diluted would have been more appropriate!).

Pennyroyal oil is another oil that has been reported to be toxic, with the potential to cause death. Other examples could be given, but again there are often holes in the studies presented on adverse toxic events related to oils. We base much of our work on that of Dr Melissa Shelton DVM, who has been using essential oils in practice for many years and continues to perform numerous studies proving their efficacy and safety when used appropriately.

HOW SHOULD ESSENTIAL OILS BE USED AROUND ANIMALS?

Diffusion, topical and oral are the three main modes of administration for essential oils. Diffusion is typically the safest route to start with, allowing animals a choice to move away from the oil if they wish – be sure they have an escape route! Make sure the oil purchased is described as therapeutic-grade, not aromatherapy-grade, and stored correctly in a cool place with the lid tightly closed, to ensure oil quality. Start with just one drop in a cold-water ultrasonic diffuser and monitor your pet closely to gauge their response.

Skin Soothing Cream - 50g - Soothing Topical Relief for Itching and Irritated Skin - Banner

We also prescribe a range of topical products that incorporate oils, for example our specially formulated Skin Soothing cream which is perfect for soothing and settling irritated or itchy skin.  This product is available for purchase from our online store by clicking -> here <-

Home use, especially via topical and oral routes, requires a deeper knowledge and understanding of how to use essential oils in animals appropriately and is not recommended without being guided by a Veterinarian experienced with essential oil use. Lavender oil is generally safe and is a great one to have on hand, being useful in many different scenarios. For example, my own cat jumped on top of the fireplace and burned her paws one winter. I immediately applied pure lavender oil to her feet and by the following day all swelling and redness had resolved – her feet were fine!

Vet Aromatherapy Essential Oils

As pet guardians become experienced with using oils it offers them one of the best first aid kits for home use. That’s what is so exciting about essential oils, they are Nature’s pharmacy in a bottle. Always remember though how potent these oils can be, and the power of just one drop.

 

To learn more about using oils safely around your pets, please register your interest for our interactive workshops and webinars on home oil use by emailing hello@thenaturalvets.com.au