Essential oils and aromatherapy have been said to reduce anxiety, increase relaxation and energy in people, but do they do the same for our pets? Many of us have essential oil diffusers in our homes and love the smell, but how do they affect our pets?
What are essential oils?
Pure essential oils are natural aromatic compounds found in the flowers, stems, roots, seeds, and other parts of plants. They are powerfully fragrant. In addition to the scent, essential oils can provide plants with protection against disease and predators, and they have been found to have a role in plant pollination.
Many people utilize essential oils for aromatherapy. It is important to realize that these substances are in fact, volatile compounds, and can be toxic to pets at certain concentrations. Essential oils can be accidentally licked or consumed by pets, and animals react differently to essential oils than people. Essential oils vary in quality, from high grade to low grade, and there are some synthetic imitators out there that smell good but do not provide the same type of benefits as high grade pure essential oil.
When thinking about using essential oils on your pets, It is important to note that what is safe for use in humans is not necessarily to use around or on pets. Peer reviewed papers have looked at the use of essential oils in pets and as a result, there are a few rules to follow when thinking about using essential oils for dogs, cats, at other common pets.
Powerful Scents can be Aggravating
Dogs have a much better developed sense of smell than humans do and as such, aromatherapy may be overwhelming or even irritating to them. While cats have a less developed sense of smell than dogs, they still can smell better than us, so if you use aromatherapy, make sure your pets have a way to escape from the aroma. Essential oils should not be used in a diffuser around pet birds, as their respiratory tracts are very sensitive.
What about using Essential oils on my pet or in my pet?
An essential oil that is safe when applied in one way may not be safe when used in another way. Some oils are considered safe if inhaled, and yet may be irritating if applied to the skin in concentrations as low as 3-5%. Thyme, oregano, clove, and cinnamon bark essential oils are examples of this. Several of the citrus oils, such as bergamot, lemon, lime, orange, and angelica, can cause phototoxicity (severe burns or skin cancer) if there is exposure to natural sunlight or sun-bed radiation following skin applications, whereas this would not result from inhalation.
100% pure essential oils are very concentrated and should never be applied directly to animals or humans because the oils can be absorbed very quickly through into the bloodstream. Cats in particular are very sensitive to oils because they use a different system in their liver to detoxify. Avoid using oils such as wintergreen, them, birch, clove, oregano and cinnamon around cats. 100% tea tree oil should never be applied to cats, as it has been shown to cause liver failure.
I do not recommend allowing your pet to ingest any essential oils. Many liquid potpourri products and essential oils, including oil of cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree (melaleuca), wintergreen, and ylang ylang, are poisonous to pets, and the detergent used in the potpouri is corrosive. Both ingestion and skin exposure can be toxic. If you suspect that your pet has ingested potpourri or essential oils, call your veterinarian immediately.
Even though you may see essential oils on the label or pet care products, you need to know that these oils are present in diluted amounts that are considered safe to apply to your pet. Always follow label instructions on any products that contain an essential oil, and be aware that even though research is forthcoming, there is evidence that some oils can interact with medications that your pet may be on. Bottom line is always check with your veterinarian. Veterinarians are skilled in the diagnosis of disease in animals and should always be consulted -- especially in situations where symptoms are severe or persist. Always tell your veterinarian what natural products your pet is using and involve him or her in these decisions.