Some Essential Oils Can Cause Pets to Become Sick

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Essential oils aren’t just a hippy hobby or millennial fad. The global market should reach $13.94 billion by 2024, according to San Francisco-based Grand View Research, Inc.

In the United States, oils are used primarily for health, spa/relaxation, and household cleaning among consumers. People want a natural, safe way to stay healthy, rejuvenated and hygienic.

However, those who use essential oils should also consider their animal companions when using the product. Some oils can cause pets to become sick or die if used incorrectly.

Physician Joanne Wu, an integrative wellness coach, board certified in rehabilitation medicine and holistic medicine, specializes in wellness. She sees clients in Rochester and other locations. She also advises on use of essential oils.

She said that pets’ smaller size can require greater dilution of essential oils to keep them safe, such as a single drop in a teaspoon of “carrier oil” such as coconut or olive oil, for example. The amount of dilution necessary correlates with the weight of the pet.

“Don’t put oils directly on the skin for any mammal,” Wu said. “Avoid mucus membranes around the mouth and eyes. Like any product, it will sting, even though it’s natural.”

Pets should not drink water containing essential oils.

Cat livers don’t process oils in the same way as humans and dogs, so don’t use them with cats — internally or topically — unless under veterinary direction. Dogs should take them internally only with veterinary guidance.

Oils safe and useful for external use on dogs can include citronella, eucalyptus and geranium for repelling fleas. Don’t apply the oils directly. Instead, make a large batch and soak a leather or fabric collar in the solution. Allow the collar to dry and it’s ready for use.

“There’s not a lot of natural substances for ticks from an evidence-based standpoint,” Wu said. “We usually still recommend more chemicals at this point. Make sure you check them regularly on the body.”

That’s especially true after a hike through a forest or tall grass, where ticks like to await hosts.

Dogs and cats may also benefit from calming oils used in a diffuser, including sage and cedar. Lavender is OK for dogs, but not cats.

Avoid using “hot” oils, such as cinnamon bark, on pets, as they can ingest the oil while grooming.

Physician Sachiko Kaizuka, with Highland Family Medicine, advises against using diffusers near small pets like birds and animals in tanks because the concentration could be too high compared with a human and they can’t move away from the diffuser.

In any case, use diffusers for only brief periods and in a well-ventilated room. Never enclose any pet in a small area with a diffuser.

Promptly clean up any spilled essential oils, as pets may step in them and lick it off their feet. Secure essential oils away from curious pets. Treat any accidental exposure as a pet health emergency and call your veterinarian immediately.

Veterinarian’s Money Digest (www.vmdtoday.com) recently listed the following oils that pet owners should avoid in a non-exhaustive list:

For dogs:
Clove, garlic, juniper, rosemary, tea tree, thyme, wintergreen.

For cats:
Cassia, cinnamon, citrus, clove, eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, lavender, peppermint, spruce, tea tree, thyme.

Other oils may also make pets sick. Consult with a veterinarian to ask about any specific oils and do not use an oil if you feel uncertain.

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