Essential oils seem to be all the rage recently. Many are advertised to have healing or even calming effects. However, essential oils have not been very well studied in our canine and feline companions and in some cases can have significant negative consequences.
Several studies have shown that direct application of essential oils to a dog or cat can be toxic! One must consider that dogs, and especially cats have a propensity to groom themselves. Consuming essential oils at high concentrations can lead to lethargy, gastrointestinal (tummy upset), or neurologic signs. If you think your pet is painful, massage therapy without using essential oils can be beneficial. If necessary, there are several effective medications that effectively help pets to manage anxiety or pain.
Similarly, feeding essential oils to dogs and cats is also not advised, as they can have similar toxic effects on dogs and cats. Some oils, like tea tree oil can have significant adverse effects like seizures, coma, or even death. If you suspect your pet is not well, consult with your veterinarian regarding therapeutic options that work with you and your pet’s lifestyle.
Many people use diffusers to dilute and mist essential oils into the air. While diluting down the essential oil, may not prove as toxic if your pet were to come into contact with the oils or consume the mist, some pets are particularly at risk for bad reactions from breathing in the diffused oils. Some pets, like those with allergies, asthma, or have had upper respiratory infections in the past may be particularly sensitive to diffused oils. Pocket pets and birds are also more sensitive to smells. There are some diffusers that are safe for animals, like Feliway pheromone diffusers. These have been proven to have a calming effect on anxious or stressed cats living by themselves, or in multiple cat households.
Essential oils are a relatively new product with unknown potential. With this potential also comes the risk for toxicity and negative side effects for our furry family members. If you apply essential oils, give them to your pets for consumption, or diffuse them, pay close attention to the signs your pet is giving you. If she is acting uncomfortable, has a change in breathing pattern, hiding/avoiding the area, or drooling, this could be a sign that your pet is having an adverse reaction.
Dr. Melissa Guard