Essential oils seem to be the new “it” thing in human wellness these days. This new interest has prompted many phone calls about the benefits, as well as concerns and cautions that go along with that. There is no scientifically proven evidence that essential oils provide relief or benefit to our canine and feline friends, although there is anecdotal evidence that scents such as lavender may have a marginal effect.
As far as veterinary medicine is concerned the risk, seems to outweigh the benefits. Essential oils in a diffuser are considered relatively safe, although they may be quite irritating to our pets as they have very sensitive noses. There are suggestions that these make our pets “nose blind”, which can cause anxiety as so much communication and the information is transmitted to our pets through their nose. It is never recommended to apply essential oils straight to their skin, as this can cause a burn (similar to a chemical burn). The oils you must avoid are cinnamon, any citrus type of scent, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree, thyme, wintergreen and ylang-ylang. These oils can cause a range of symptoms from vomiting and diarrhea to respiratory distress and muscle tremors.
If your pet is exposed to essential oils, the first step is decontamination. Wipe any excess oil off of your pet, then bath the area with dish soap to strip the oil off. As long as your pet is stable, you should then call the ASPCA with the specific oil your pet has had contact with. Depending on their recommendations, a veterinary visit may be required.
Written by Caitlin Johnson, RVT