This article was originally published in 2012 and updated with current research.
Essential oil safety for pets has gotten the attention of consumers lately, especially with the growth of essential oil use in the past several years.
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant oils and powerful when they are pure, definitely substances that should be handled with care and respect.
If they have any fillers or additives in them (which has been an industry standard for over 100 years), these chemicals are sure to cause problems with some. The Truth in Labeling Act written in the 1970’s allowed manufacturers to exclude fragrance chemicals from being clearly labeled on products to protect trade secrets. The problem we’re discovering today is that many of those chemical fillers are harmful to people, pets and the planet. You can read more about one research document that linked many of these chemicals with thyroid, reproductive and metabolic dysfunctions to name a few.
It shouldn’t be surprising that these fragrance chemicals have been made their way into the essential oil industry (that’s why you’ll find one bottle of lavender for $3 and another for $23 – you often get what you pay for. Fragrance chemicals are far cheaper to produce than real plant oils that require farming, care in harvesting, distillation and packaging). Cheap, synthetic oils (like those plug-in and spray air fresheners) are certainly going to have a harmful effect on pets as will perfumes and colognes. The real question is are essential oils safe?
Are your essential oils pure? If so, what concentrations are you using them at?
Many reports of animal toxicity have shown the problem arose with gross misuse of a product:
- Diffusing at high concentrations.
- Applying oils without proper dilution.
- Feeding essential oils to animals directly.
- Using fragrance oils as therapeutic essential oils.
There are a few precautions pet owners should take,
- Use Pure, Therapeutic essential oils from a well-known supplier, purchasing from newer companies with caution. Everyone is jumping on the essential oil bandwagon, and there just isn’t enough real plant material to supply all the companies selling “pure” oils.
- In general, always dilute essential oils when using them around pets.
- Invest in a quality animal essential oil desk reference.
- Get support from an experienced aromatherapist or vet who has used essential oils for a while.
- It’s wise to diffuse essential oils at a lower concentration than you would for people, pets definitely have more acute senses.
- If you are looking at specific needs for your pets, it would be smart to consult with a vet who has worked with essential oils and pets. There are growing numbers who are using them in practices.
There is some misinformation flying around on the internet, especially about cats and essential oils. Dr. Melissa Sheldon, a long time veterinarian and author of the first Animal’s and Essential Oils Desk Reference stated the issue clearly:
“Can cats metabolize essential oils? Yes, they can. And no, they will not build up over time, although cats can have what we refer to as a different half-life for a chemical, or elimination time. In a study of plasma half-lives for sodium salicylate it was discovered that ponies, swine, goats, dogs, and cats had drastically different elimination times. Ponies had a 1.0 hour half-life, while the others displayed 5.9, 0.78, 8.6, and 37.6 hours respectively. A cat actually took almost 38 hours to eliminate the drug, while a dog took just under 9. Does this mean the cat is deficient? No, it means the cat is not a dog, and the cat is not a goat, and the cat is not a pony! And look at how fast a goat eliminated the drug – we do not call the other species deficient in the goats shadow – we just accept that there are species differences. And that my friend, is how drug doses are created.”
It has been found that it would be wise to avoid or decrease the regular use of some essential oils around felines, but we should also consider that research has found the main culprit in these natural essential oils to be d-limonene. This is the antioxidant found in many citrus essential oils. It is also created as a synthetic which is used in cat flea treatments where it is applied in concentrations of 10-15 times the normal application.
Oils to avoid using around cats:
Birch and Wintergreen
Citrus: Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Mandarin, Neroli, Orange, Tangerine
Cinnamon, Clove, Cassia, Mountain Savory, Oregano, Thyme
Would you like to try some essential oil products that are already safely formulated for man’s best friends?
Check out Young Living’s Animal Scents Line of products which are designed specifically for the delicate olfactory senses of pets. Young Living is the world leader in essential oil research and development of the most effective essential oil blends, and they grow, harvest, distill and package many of the oils they sell.
If you’re interested in receiving some experienced support in essential oil use for your pets, join the Pure Home and Body newsletter to receive essential oil education, tips and exclusive information for subscribers.
Would you like to save 24% off of retail prices on essential oils you purchase? Get started today! Along with your wholesale membership you’ll get direct support from us at Pure Home and Body where we can answer some of your specific questions about pets and oils
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