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Are essential oils dangerous to pets?

golden dog sitting in a window

Essential oils are popular in many households. You might enjoy relaxing with some aromatherapy or maybe you’ve taken to integrating them into your skincare or household cleaning routine. But it’s worth noting that while essential oils can have many benefits for humans, they can also be harmful to your pets, with cats in particular being especially sensitive.

While essential oils may be fine for humans, we need to consider that our pets’ sense of smell is much stronger than ours so what smells pleasant to us may be far too overpowering for them and may even cause irritation. If you want to continue using essential oils, make sure your pet has a scent-free room they can escape to if it gets too much for them. If your pet suffers from a respiratory condition like asthma then you should reconsider using essential oils at all.

You should never apply undiluted essential oils to your pet’s skin. As well as potentially causing skin irritation, your pet is then at risk of ingesting the oil when it licks its fur. If ingestion occurs then they could be at risk of seizures, liver failure and even death. Although many pet care products contain essential oils, these will have been diluted to a safe level and should be used as per the instructions.

tabby cat lying on laminate

While all essential oils pose some level of risk, the most toxic oils for pets include tea tree, wintergreen, pine, cinnamon, eucalyptus and citrus oils. Look out for signs of lethargy, difficulty breathing, shaking, vomiting and excessive dribbling as these are all possible symptoms of essential oil poisoning.

If you wish to keep using essential oils for yourself but want your pet to stay safe, make sure your essential oils are stored securely away when you’re not using them. Think about where you are placing things like reed diffusers or plugins and make sure they are away from your pet and the room is well ventilated. If you use essential oils for cleaning, make sure they are properly diluted, as pets will rub up against furniture and other household items and essential oils may be transferred over to them. Lastly, make sure you clean your hands thoroughly after using essential oils so that you don’t transfer any to them when stroking or playing with them.

If you suspect your pet has come into contact with essential oils and shows any of the symptoms of poisoning, you should contact your vet immediately.