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Essential oils can be a wonderful alternative to traditional treatments for anxiety, insomnia, inflammation, allergies, pain and many other conditions – not only for people but our pets too. However, it can be unsafe to use certain oils, concentrations and application methods because animals, particularly cats, tend to be more sensitive to the concentrated chemical compounds they contain (yes, even natural products contain “chemicals”).
Here are a few things you should know before using a new essential oil treatment in your home:
Which Essential Oils Are Harmful To Pets?
Essential oils are derived from plants. Just one ounce of oil is extracted from pounds and pounds of plant matter, so the chemical compounds in the plants are extremely concentrated.
Some harmful effects are immediate, while others can occur with long-term exposure. There are few research studies showing the effects of essential oils on pets, so it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Worst-case scenario, oils can cause liver failure, neurological symptoms like seizures and tremors, paralysis, and death. That’s why it’s so important to make educated choices for your pets.
Generally speaking, essential oils that naturally contain phenols are the ones that are most dangerous to animals. They tend to sting your skin, eyes, and nose when you’re overexposed to them.
Some of the most popular, yet most harmful essential oils include:
- Tea Tree
- These are just a few of many. Always do your research!
Some essential oil based pet products contain these ingredients at very low concentrations. They can be used to repel fleas and relieve inflammation, but only when used topically, and never at full strength. When using one of these products, always read the application guidelines, and never use more than the recommended amount of your pet’s weight.
Which Essential Oils Are Safe For Pets?
Lavender oil is one of the most popular oils, and it’s one of the safest to use around your dog. It has a noticeable calming effect on dogs with separation anxiety and travel anxiety. You can dilute it so it’s nearly undetectable and apply it to a collar, blanket or neckerchief, or put a few drops on a cotton pad near their crate.
Cats are extremely sensitive to essential oils, so it’s best to completely avoid using essential oils on or around them without the guidance of a holistic veterinarian.
Safety Tips For Diffusing Essential Oils Around Pets
Both dogs and cats have an acute sense of smell that is thousands of times more powerful than a human’s. So, your pet will be able to detect the scents at much smaller concentrations. When using a diffuser, make sure you leave the door open so your pet can choose to walk away if they are feeling overwhelmed by the scent. Make sure the diffuser is far away from their bedding.
Diffusing essential oils at too high a concentration, or for extended periods of time, can also be irritating to humans. Typically, it is recommended that you diffuse for 20-30 minutes at a time, with two hours between sessions. You may want to diffuse for even less time when your pets are nearby.
Safe Practices For Use With All Oils
Always research each oil before bringing it into your home. Only purchase a blend if every ingredient is listed on the bottle so you can research each one. Look at multiple sources, don’t believe everything you read, and seek trustworthy articles written by holistic veterinarians and essential oil therapists.
Regardless of which essential oils you use and how you use them, you should always wash your hands afterward.
Always close the bottles tightly after use. Clean up any spills immediately. Keep bottles in a container with a lid or a cabinet that you are certain your pet is not able to access.
Monitor your pets when you are using a new type of oil. Even oils known to be safe can cause allergic reactions or sensitivities in some individuals.
You can ask a holistic veterinarian if you have any questions about using essential oils around your animals. Holistic vets are more likely to have an extensive working knowledge of how the oils can be used safely.
Should You Be Afraid Of Essential Oils?
Essential oils do have incredible healing purposes for pets when used properly. It’s worth paying a little extra to get ready-to-use products specially formulated for pets or to work with a holistic veterinarian to ensure that you are not putting your pets at risk for side effects that can be easily avoided.
Even natural pet products can have adverse effects. Research, research, research! Check for reviews and reports of side effects before making a purchase.
Natural medicines typically have fewer side effects than traditional medications, and they can be used alongside or instead of conventional treatments. If your pet suffers from allergies, arthritis, chronic pain, or anxiety, there’s a chance that they could benefit from a natural remedy. Use the VetFinder from the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA) to find a natural vet near you.
Share your thoughts and experience on using essential oils in the comments!