Now that the weather has turned colder and we’re inside more, many of us are using our essential oil diffusers. If you have pets, it’s important to remember that some very common essential oils are toxic to them, especially when diffused. Many fall & winter essential oil blends contain cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, all of which are toxic to pets. Cold and respiratory blends also may (usually) contain toxic essential oils. We know they’re good for us, it’s easy to forget they affect pets much differently. Know what you’re diffusing around your pets!
I experienced this with my dog Mimi years ago. I tried a new stress blend and woke up in the middle of the night to find Mimi struggling to breathe. I took her out of the room and a few minutes later her breathing improved, but still wasn’t normal. I turned off the diffuser, opened the bedroom windows, closed the door & we slept on the couch that night. It was a long, scary night. She was back to normal by morning, but I still checked with the vet. I researched the blend and found it contained peppermint and wintergreen, both of which are toxic to dogs. Lesson learned. Don’t be me.
Our pet’s olfactory systems are much more sensitive than ours, so even a few drops of oil can have severe consequences. If you can smell an oil, your pet smells it 20X more, less is definitely more around pets. Diffused vapors carry essential oils through the air and are inhaled or land on your pet’s coat which, of course, your pet licks, especially cats. Watch for signs of toxicity. Symptoms include gagging, vomiting, drooling, difficulty breathing, itching, stumbling, tremors, and changes in behavior (depression, lack of appetite, etc.) Move your pet to fresh air and contact your vet or the ASPCA Poison Helpline (888-426-4435) ASAP.
It's possible for your pet to have a reaction to a “safe” oil. Health condition, age, the pet’s unique makeup can all be factors in their ability to handle essential oils. An easy way to tell how your pet will react to an oil is to open the bottle and hold it about a foot away from your pet. If they turn away or close their eyes, it’s best to not use the oil, even if it’s considered safe. Pets are a lot like us, sometimes they just don’t like a scent, so keep that in mind too. Don’t test all your oils at one time, reactions could overlap and make it hard to tell which ones they like and don’t like. Always make sure to keep your essential oils out of their reach.
Here is a list of essential oils to avoid around dogs & cats, especially in diffusers. It is not all inclusive, please do your research before using any essential oils around your pet. I've also created an infographic on this, please feel free to download for your own use or to share. You can download the file here.
· Tea Tree
· Citrus oils that contain linalool and d-limonene
· Ylang ylang
· Sweet Birch
Despite the generalizations that are made about the relative safeness of many essential oils mentioned in this article, it is important to keep in mind that every animal’s biological makeup is unique and products will interact differently from species to species; accordingly, the physical response will depend on the specific pet. Pet owners who are uncertain or reluctant to use a “safe” oil on or near their pets, should disregard the safe lists and follow their own instincts.