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Are Essential Oils Toxic to Pets?

What You Need to Know If You're a Pet Owner Who Loves Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used for everything from improving exercise performance to reducing blood pressure and anxiety. They can exhilarate the senses into a calm and restful state. People also diffuse essential oils to improve indoor air quality, and they're a great alternative to using scented candles to create lovely smells around your home. While most people love using them around the house, are essential oils safe to use around your pets?

"It takes hundreds of pounds of plant material to make one bottle of essential oil. Take a moment to think about that and you'll understand just how powerful they can be," advised Jessica Brantley, founder of aromatherapy company Soulful Essence. She added that essential oils should be used in moderation, as a little goes a long way.

"It's a matter of concentration and dose," Dr. Robert Trimble, DVM and head of veterinary services at Fuzzy Pet Health, told POPSUGAR. "What pet owners need to remember when using essential oils is to limit dermal exposure and always dilute the oils, never using anything concentrated."

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Each individual essential oil comes with its own uses and potencies. While not all essential oils are toxic to pets, there are a few that should never come in contact with your furry friends.

Oil of Oregano

Oil of oregano has been used to treat everything from the cold and flu to acne to psoriasis. However, "oil of oregano is not safe for animals and can be fatal for cats," said Anna Pamula, certified aromatherapist and owner of Renu Day Spa.

Tea Tree Oil

While the chemicals in tea tree oil may kill bacteria and fungus, it is not safe to use around pets. "Tea tree oil, while a favorite of many veterinary naturopaths, tends to be a common culprit that causes problems for pet parents. Hundreds of pet parents have seen side effects after using 100 percent tea tree oil, ranging from increased salivation and drooling, depression, lethargy, hypothermia, dehydration, ataxia, and even tremoring," Dr. Trimble said.

Cinnamon Oil

Cinnamon essential oil is not to be confused with the spice that we add to our baked goods and teas. Cinnamon oil is a very potent form of the plant that contains particular compounds that are different from cinnamon in its dried spice form. It is an essential oil that we should "also be wary of," in addition to oil of thyme, according to Graham Leach, owner of Holistic Pet Help.

Which Essential Oil Is the Safest to Use Around Pets?

Both veterinarians and essential oil experts are in agreement that lavender essential oil is generally the safest to use around pets. It is used by pet owners to help relieve anxiety and creates a calming effect on pets. However, if you have a pet with respiratory disease or compromised lung function, Dr. Trimble cautioned pet owners to "check with your veterinarian before using aerosols or diffusers in these cases."

"Spearmint, peppermint, chamomile, cedarwood, [and] lemongrass" are also safe to use around pets, according to Leach.

Tips and Instructions For Pet Owners

Leach, Pamula, and Brantley also gave us other great tips and instructions for keeping essential oils safe from pets in our homes:

  • Secure essential oils in a cabinet that has a latch.
  • Ensure that the caps to your essential oils are firmly screwed on.
  • Elevate all sources of essential oils, such as diffusers, from the floor.
  • Store essential oils as you would medicine so the pet owner can be in control of distributing them.
  • If you clean with essential oils, be sure to avoid using them on surfaces where pets can ingest them (i.e. around food bowls and when mopping floors).

Dr. Trimble advised pet owners to never use anything "especially concentrated" and, of course, always check with your veterinarian. It is also extremely important to remember to dilute oils before using them, limit exposure to the skin, and consult with a professional to understand proper dosage to distribute for each type of essential oil.

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