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What About Essential Oils For Pets? – Are They Safe Or Not?

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Last Updated on November 12, 2020 by Lynn

We all love our pets, whether they be dogs, cats, birds, horses, or anything in between.  We want them to be fit, healthy and happy.  What about essential oils for pets?  Could essential oils be safe and beneficial for pets, as they are for people?  After all, our animal “children” suffer from health issues just like we do.  Is this an alternative for them as well?  If you own pets, and use essential oils, or you own pets and are considering the use of essential oils, there are some things you need to know.horse with a dog

Essential Oil Precautions With Pets

We know that essential oils can affect different people in different ways. Well, the same is true for our animal children.  Actually, our pets are a lot more sensitive to essential oils than we are.  Dogs and cats have an increased sense of smell.  According to Researchgate.net, a dog has more than 220 million olfactory receptors in it’s nose, but humans have only 5 million.  That is 1000 times more sensitive than humans.  Cats have twice as many receptors as humans do, according to Wikipedia.  They also have a scent organ in the roof of their mouths.

Because pets have a greater sense of smell than humans, and their body systems are so different, it is important to be aware of how some essential oils can affect animals.  Depending on the oils, they can cause skin irritations, allergies, organ damage, and others.  Some essential oils are toxic to animals even at low dosages, so it’s important to know what they are.  Before using essential oils on or around pets, it is very important to talk to your veterinarian about it.  You would not want to have anything happen to that “child” of yours.  Always be on the safe side.

What Oils To Use For Pets

What about essential oils for pets?  First of all, remember, because each animal and animal species is different, the reaction to oils are going to be different. Take for example, cats are missing an enzyme in their liver that keeps them from metabolizing certain oils, which are very toxic for them.  Cats are very sensitive to oils that are high in phenols or ketones and also oils that contain d-limonene.

dog with a cat

Since cats and dogs are the most common pets, let’s break it down for these, so you know what oils not to use for each of them.

For all animals, especially cats:

  • Do not use oils with phenols, including, oregano, wintergreen, clove, thyme, rosemary, and tea tree.

For Cats, Do Not Use:

  • All citrus oils, such as grapefruit, lime, lemon, orange, tangerine, bergamot.  These, along with a few others, all contain d-limonene which is very toxic to cats.
  • Other oils toxic to cats include; basil, cinnamon, nutmeg, peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, birch, ylang ylang

For Dogs, Do Not Use:

  • Other oils toxic to dogs; pine oils, garlic, juniper

When purchasing essential oils for your pets, they should always be high-quality, 100% pure.  Low quality oils contain chemicals and/or pesticides that can also be toxic to pets, even if the oil, itself, is not.  This reputable company has essential oil blends specifically for dogs and horses.

Use of Essential Oils With Pets

For topical use, the first thing you need to do is have your pet get used to the scent of the oil.  You can do this in several ways:

  • wear the oil as you’re playing with them or holding them so your “child” gets used to the aroma.
  • diffuse the oil in “their” room, ensuring the animal has an escape route, so it can leave if it is bothered by the scent
  • Put some essential oil on your hands so your pet can check out the aroma as it wants to.

Make sure you notice how your pet reacts to the aroma of the oil.  If they run away, you know they are not liking the oil you’re using.  You can continue to test the oils in this way until you find one or some that they will tolerate.  And remember, each animal, and animal species is different.

The most important thing to remember when using essential oils topically with pets, is to always dilute with a carrier oil, because animals are so sensitive.  The dilution rate would be something like this:

For smaller animals (cats, small dogs):  4:1 ratio of carrier to essential oil

For medium sized animals (large dogs):  3:1 ratio of carrier to essential oil

For large animals (horses, cows):  1:1 ratio of carrier to essential oil

For internal use, consult with your veterinarian before giving your pets essential oils internally.  Remember, when you treat them topically, they will consume some of the oil while grooming themselves.  That is why it’s so important to have the essential oil heavily diluted.

Some adverse reactions animals can have to essential oils include:  lethargy,  excessive drooling, difficulty breathing, tremors, coughing, wheezing, and vomiting.

There is a good reference book written by Melissa Shelton, a holistic veterinarian, in regards to using essential oils with animals.  She is considered a leading expert when it comes to essential oils and animals.  It has a 4.5 rating and is loaded with information, including safety information and recipes. It is called Animal Desk Reference by Melissa Shelton.

Benefits of Essential Oils For Pets

There are many benefits for pets with essential oils.  Here is a list of some oils and what they can do:wild peppermint plant

  • Lavender, chamomile and clary sage oils have a calming effect for nervousness and anxiety.
  • Myrhh is good for skin and coat health
  • Peppermint for inflammatory issues, like arthritis.
  • Cedarwood is a good flea repellent
  • Helichrysum is good for pain relief and skin issues
  • Frankincense can be used for inflammation and digestive problems

These are just a few of the many oils that can be used on pets. A good way to introduce oils to indoor pets is by using an ultrasonic diffuser.  I don’t have indoor pets, but this may work really well.  Do some tests when using the diffuser.  You don’t want the scent to be to overwhelming, So start with 1-3 drops in the diffuser. You would want to use it for just an hour or two at a time, preferably in 15 minute intervals.   Make sure there is an escape route for the pet if it can’t deal with the oil and wants to leave.

Keep a close watch on your pet and keep track of any abnormal behavior for your pet.  If he runs out of the room, you know it’s not an oil you should use with your pet.  By his actions, you should be able to tell whether the oil is good for him.

As I researched for this article, I realized there were conflicting opinions on which oils cats should not use.  Lavender and peppermint are questionable.  I came across an article, though, by Robert Tisserend, who is recognized as a leader and world expert in the aromatherapy industry.  He states that, “a small amount of any essential oil, and a moderate amount of most, will not harm your cat.”

The key is not to overdo it.  If you use high amounts of essential oil, it can be toxic. “Sensibly used, most essential oils are safe to use in pet grooming products, or for low-level, intermittent diffusion.”  It’s best to start with 1 or 2 drops and not for a long period of time.

If you want to read more, go HERE.  There is a lot of good information for pet lovers.  Also, HERE is a chart of approved oils for dogs and horses.

My Final Thoughts

What about essential oils for pets? You can see that there are health benefits when using essential oils for pets, but always be cautious. Talk to your vet and do research.  Never use undiluted essential oils on your pet.  If you use essential oils properly, they have benefits for your pet that can be very effective.  As always, if you found this article of interest please leave me a comment.  If you use essential oils already for your pet, I’d like to know.

As always, thanks for reading!


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10 thoughts on “What About Essential Oils For Pets? – Are They Safe Or Not?

  1. Great information! We have struggled with some of these very questions with our dogs. Our Great Dane has dry skin and our hunting dog mix has continuous itching problems which we continue to battle. The vet seems perplexed, but we will be trying some of your remedies here. Wish us luck.

    1. Hey, Skip,
      I hope this information has helped and is something you can use. Just be careful of the oils you use on them, and make sure you dilute. You can try some cedarwood or helichrysum oil. It’s suppose to be good for their skin. The dilution for large dog is about 3 drops to 1 drop essential oil. I’m not a vet so use at your own discretion. I would suggest using it on a very small area to see what reaction there would be, if any. Maybe rub it on your hands first and then on your dog. Just be very cautious. Talk it over with your vet so he knows and is aware of what you’re doing. Please let me know how things go. Thanks for reading!!


    1. Hi, Melinda!
      You’re right… Safety is in the concentration. That’s where a lot of issues start with oils not being safe for pets. People have used too much oil and then said oils are not safe because their pets have a toxic reaction. Since most pets are smaller than humans, common sense tells you, you wouldn’t use as much oil on them as you would use on people. The guidelines were mentioned in the article and are based on the size of the animal, not the kind of animal. So for small animals i.e., cats and small dogs, the ratio would be carrier oil to essential oil, 4 to 1, whether it be drops, teaspoons or whatever measurement is used. Medium animals, like large dogs, it would be 3:1 ratio and Large animals, such as horses and cows, would be 1:1. Anything smaller than cats or small dogs, the carrier oil could be increased, depending on how it is being measured. Obviously, all animals respond differently to oils so it is important to pay close attention to what their reaction is.

      I hope this answered your question. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask. Thanks for reading and come back soon!


  2. Very informative article!

    I have a little bit of knowledge of what essential oils to use on pets. My mother uses essential oils for many things and one of them being to help protect against fleas. I do not remember the exact combination she uses right at the top of my head but she says it does wonders.

    Essential oils in general provide a lot beneficial things – whether pet or human!

    1. Hi Brandon!
      Thanks for reading! It’s nice to hear when people are using essential oils. I would be interested to know what she uses, if you have the chance to find out. Cedarwood is supposed to be good to fight fleas. We love essential oils. It’s nice to have an alternative. And I do agree there are so many benefits. Please come back and visit and let me know what your mom uses.


  3. Thank you for this article. I’ve recently introduced two cats together. So I was looking to find something natural to relax them both. This info was really useful.

    1. Hi Louise!
      I want to thank you for taking the time to read my post. Glad you found the information useful. Just be very cautious with pets when using essential oils. I would try diffusing a drop or two of lavender oil for a few minutes at a time to see how they react. Lavender helps with nervous tension and restlessness and has a calming and relaxing effect.

      If you see any signs of reaction that I mentioned in the post, take the animal away from the room with diffuser, or if possible outside to get some fresh air. Take note of the things I mentioned in my post. If you try using essential oils, will you please let me know how it worked for those cats of yours? Come back soon..


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