Essential oils have become a holistic staple in many homes around the world. They are a popular home remedy for a number of maladies including nasal congestion, anxiety, sore muscles and skin conditions, among others. However, with the increase in use in several homes, it has raised concerns for pet owners wondering how these oils may affect animals in the home.


Footnote 1

Essential oils are absorbed well both through mucous membranes and the skin. Some oils are excreted unchanged while others are metabolized by the liver. Some oils may in fact be more harmful than others, but several factors play a role. Concentration level and what the products are mixed with are two factors that decide toxicity. Oils that are at 100% concentration should be avoided since they pose the highest risk to pets.


Minimize Exposure

If essential oils are being used in the home, here are a few steps to take to minimize exposure to your pet.

  1. Avoid applying oils directly to the pet.
  2. Keep up high and out of reach to prevent potential ingestion.
  3. Use the diffuser for a short time period in a secured area- one where the pet cannot access.
  4. If your pet has underlying health issues (such as a history of breathing problems), avoid altogether.
  5. Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils so either do not use them at all or keep in an area where the cat doesn’t have access.
  6. If your pet is in the same area as the diffuser, make sure the pet is able to leave that area if the smell gets too strong for them.


Footnote 2


Pets will display different signs/symptoms depending on level of toxicity. Some symptoms include: unsteadiness on their feet, depression, low body temperature (in severe cases). As previously stated, cats are very sensitive and may show signs such as GI upset (drooling, vomiting), central nervous depression, tremors, wobbliness, respiratory distress, low heart rate, low body temperature, and liver damage. Inhalation of the oils could lead to aspiration pneumonia.




Here is a list of known oils that cause toxicity in cats and potentially in dogs:

  1. Wintergreen
  2. Sweet birch
  3. Citrus
  4. Pine oils
  5. Peppermint
  6. Cinnamon
  7. Clove
  8. Eucalyptus
  9. Tea tree

If your animals are showing any of these signs, move them immediately into fresh air and contact your veterinarian. In severe cases, you can also contact the Animal Poison Control Center for further attention. All in all, it is important to use caution when having essential oils and diffusers in your home.


1  Image credit: No alterations to original image.

2  Original image


Article written by: Lindsey G