Which Essential Oils are Safe for Your Pet?
Essential oils are plant based oils that have numerous health benefits and are great for aromatherapy and massages. There are more than 90 of them - some popular ones are lavender, lemongrass, peppermint and sweet orange. See the entire list here along with the proclaimed health benefits! They are highly concentrated, volatile oils which are either steam distilled, extracted or expressed from flowers, leaves, roots, stems, wood, bark, needles or rinds of plant matter. For instance, it takes over 150 pounds of lavender flowers to make just 1 pound of essential oil. They are not really oils at all since they do not contain any fatty acids like vegetable oils do.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, The oil bears the name of the plant from which it is derived; for example, rose oil or peppermint oil. Such oils were called essential because they were thought to represent the very essence of odour and flavour. The FDA does not perform quality controls, grade, certify or regulate the essential oil industry, so be sure to read labels. Look for "organic" or scientific name on the labels since it's estimated that 20% of the essential oils on the market are adulterated to give you a lesser product at an equal or higher price.
Natural and safe aren’t the same though! There are a select few that are dangerous to household pets! Cats are especially sensitive over dogs, while they are all toxic to birds. Before we discuss which are toxic to pets, we must first understand that many essential oils should not be used undiluted, unless directed by your Vet. Certain oils can cause toxicity with symptoms ranging from drooling, vomiting, ataxia/wobbly, tremors and respiratory distress like wheezing, sneezing, panting, fast breathing, coughing, all the way to seizures and possibly coma or death, if left untreated! If you should see any of these symptoms in your cat or dog due to ingestion or absorption through their skin -- call your Veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately at (888) 426-4435.
Diffusers are very popular in our homes today and are generally safe to use, as the essential oils are diluted and may even provide excellent benefits for mood or congestion, to name a few. There are always exceptions though. Diffusers and those amber essential oil bottles should kept out of reach from pets. Although diffusers are used at a diluted concentration, the vapor dispersal does contain tiny micro-droplets of essential oil that can slowly accumulate on your pets fur, which can be accidentally ingested if/when they lick or groom themselves. While this is much completely different than a pet ingesting or coming into contact with undiluted essential oil, all pets can have different sensitivity levels. Better safe than sorry!
Phenols contained in essential oils are the culprit of the toxic health hazards. The phenols are absorbed very quickly through the skin and into the bloodstream. The liver has great difficulty in trying to metabolize these compounds and causes toxicity. Also keep in mind that phenols can also be found at lower concentrations in common household cleaners such as Pine-Sol and Lysol and may be disguised as benzoic acid, benzenol or carbolic acid. According to Pet Coach, phenols are absorbed rapidly from the GI tract. Liver and kidney damage occurs within 12-24 hours. Toxic levels of hexachlorophene cause damage to the nervous system. Birds, some reptiles, and cats are more sensitive to phenols than other species.
Essential oils are a magnificent gift from Mother Nature and can be beneficial in so many ways to humans and pets alike! Following a few simple guidelines can keep you and your pets safe and even improve quality of life! Always consult your Veterinarian before the use of any essential oil directly on your pet. Simply using your best judgment when using, storing or diffusing essential oils IS essential… we were all meant to enjoy!