There are many posts floating around social media lately about essential oils and diffusers causing illness in pets. Many people turn to essential oils for health remedies, aromatherapy, and as a fragrant ingredient in cleaning solutions, laundry, etc. Though essentials oils may have a pleasing and beneficial effect on humans, it can be harmful to our pets. Oil diffusers have recently become popular for in home use which has led to veterinarians seeing more toxicity cases in pets. Diffusers release small particles of the oil into the air. The particles can be inhaled or ingested when they land on the pet and are licked off.
Some oils are more harmful than others. The concentration of the oil is a factor in the severity of toxicity. Higher concentrated oils are more irritating and cause more severe reaction or symptoms. The route of exposure (example: skin contact, ingestion, diffuser) also influences the level of toxicity. Cats tend to be more vulnerable especially due to their grooming habits. Smaller animals such as birds, pocket pets, and rabbits are extremely sensitive.
Symptoms may include:
- Pawing at the mouth or face
- Redness or burns on their lips, tongue, skin or gums
- Coughing or Wheezing
- Ataxia- unsteady on feet, acting “drunk”
- Low body temp
- Slow heart rate
The course of treatment depends on the severity of the toxicity. In mild cases, a bath to remove the oils on the skin and coat may alleviate the symptoms. In severe cases, hospitalization with IV fluids and other supportive care may be required for many days. Your pet’s veterinarian may want to run blood work to check liver and kidney values.
- Be aware of which oils can be harmful to pets.
- Do not apply oils directly to your pet.
- Keeps oils and diffusers stored where your pet cannot reach them.
- Use diffusers in a designated space away from your pet.
- Avoid oils altogether in pets with a history of breathing issues, seizures, kidney or liver disease.
Common Oils to Avoid
- Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca)
- Oil of Wintergreen
- Oil of Sweet Birch
- Citrus Oil (d-limonene)
- Pine Oils
- Ylang Ylang
- Peppermint Oil
- Cinnamon Oil
- Pennyroyal Oil
- Clove Oil
- Eucalyptus Oil
If you believe your pet may have been exposed to toxic essential oils, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline. If oils have been ingested do not induce vomiting. With any poisoning, it is helpful to have the products packaging available to answer questions regarding ingredients and concentrations.