Recently, the use of essential oils has been growing exponentially. Studies have shown that these oils can improve our mood or alleviate the symptoms of an underlying condition. Essential oils are used to freshen our homes or as aromatherapy. Whether using essential oils in a diffuser or for other personal health treatments, there has been some question about the safety of these oils when it comes to our canine companions.
Unfortunately, some of the ingredients and chemicals in these oils can be toxic to our pets. While it is widely believed that “natural” essential oils have many physical and mental health benefits, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are safe for all species.
Why Use Essential Oils on Your Dog?
Essential oils can provide many benefits to our beloved pets when used correctly. Lavender oil is one of the safest essential oils that can provide numerous perks when used sparingly. For example, it has been proven that lavender oil can reduce car sickness, help ease anxiety, and even work as a sleep aid.
Many of the benefits that humans associate with essential oils can also be extended to our pets. However, there can be too much of a good thing. Likewise, some of these oils can be downright toxic to our pets, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.
What Essential Oils Are Dangerous for Dogs?
Before delving into the safe essential oils and their benefits, it is important to make sure that you are keeping your dog safe from harmful substances. Essential oils are effective when they mix with other compounds in our bodies. While some of them may produce beneficial effects in humans, they can also produce harmful effects on our pets.
These toxic oils can be harmful when diffused, but also if left carelessly in reach of our dogs. Therefore, it is important to educate yourself about which oils can be harmful to your pets and use them responsibly.
Some Commonly Used Essential Oils That Are Bad for Dogs:
(Please note that this may not be a complete list. You should check with your vet or pet care provider before exposing your dog to any kind of essential oils.)
- Cinnamon: While cinnamon in small amounts may not be toxic to dogs, it can cause mouth irritation. If consumed in great quantities, it could lead to liver damage, digestive issues, and an irregular heartbeat.
- Pine: Whether on a Christmas tree or used in essential oil, pine can be dangerous when ingested by dogs. Pine consumption can cause a dog to be unsteady on its feet, have digestive issues, and even lose consciousness.
- Tea Tree: Tea tree oil contains compounds called “terpenes” that can help fight infection. However, these same compounds can be harmful to dogs when ingested via self-grooming. Therefore, it is best to avoid using them on pets.
- Ylang Ylang: Often used in liquid potpourri products, this ingredient can be toxic to dogs. Whether through ingestion or skin exposure, it is best to avoid using it around your pets.
Clove: Cloves contain an active ingredient called “eugenol.” When ingested in large quantities, it can be toxic to your pet’s liver.
- Juniper: When consumed in small amounts, juniper could lead to diarrhea or vomiting. When ingested in large quantities, it could lead to more dangerous kidney issues.
What Essential Oils Are Safe for Dogs?
If you decide that you want to use essential oils to help treat your dog, make sure you only buy from reputable brands that are safe for pets. In addition to researching the proper outlets, you should make sure that you also use an animal-safe carrier oil. Carrier oils are used to dilute essential oils, especially when applying them to the skin. If the proper precautions are taken, essential oils can be beneficial to both you and your pet.
As always, please consult with your vet or pet care provider before beginning the use of essential oils on your dog.
Some Commonly Used Essential Oils That Are Safe for Dogs:
- Chamomile: Chamomile provides many of the same benefits in humans as in dogs. These include lowering anxiety, easing digestive issues, and soothing skin irritation.
Frankincense: Being a less potent essential oil, Frankincense is quite safe to use. It can be used to treat wounds and disinfect.
- Lavender: As mentioned earlier, lavender can be used to help your pet cope with anxiety and car sickness. It can also be used topically to help itchiness and skin irritation.
Rose: Like lavender oil, rose oil can be used to calm and soothe your pet. It can also be applied to the skin.
- Cedarwood: This essential oil comes in handy for preventing fleas and ticks. In addition, cedarwood oil can help ease anxiety and improve sleep.
What About Lemongrass?
Lemongrass has a pleasant citrus scent and is used in many products that are perfectly safe for humans, such as candles and perfumes. It is also a popular substitute for citronella, used to repel mosquitoes and other pesky insects.
As with nearly all of the above oils, the main ingredient of the oil, and the oil itself, should not be ingested by your pet. When used topically for certain treatments, many oils can have positive effects. The same is true for lemongrass.
When ingested by your dog in large quantities, lemongrass can have several dangerous adverse effects. These symptoms include digestive issues, fever, and loss of appetite. A particular strain of lemongrass, known as Cymbopogon citratus, should be avoided altogether. Often used to cook and flavor Asian dishes, it is toxic when consumed by dogs.
On the other hand, when diffused or diluted, lemongrass oil does have some potential advantages. It is a popular option for a natural bug repellent. Remember, however, that it should never be ingested by your pet or applied directly to your pet’s skin.
Essential Oil Poisoning: Signs and Symptoms
As mentioned previously, you should consult with your vet or pet care provider before deciding whether or not to use essential oils to treat your pet. In addition, you should be sure that oils are kept in safe places where your pet will not be at risk of ingesting them.
If your pet is having adverse reactions to essential oils, you should be alert to the following:
- Gastrointestinal or digestive issues (vomiting, diarrhea, constipation)
- Dehydration and urinating too frequently
- Lethargy (unusually slow or tired)
- Loss of appetite
- Irritation or yellowing of the skin/eyes/gums
If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, you should call the vet or an animal hospital right away. Be sure to bring the oil to your vet so they can identify whether it is the source of your pet’s illness.
If your pet is suffering from mild symptoms after being exposed to essential oils, immediately get them to a place with plenty of fresh air and discontinue the use of said oils. If topical exposure is causing skin irritation, immediately wash the affected area with a gentle soap that is safe for your pet.
In short, if you are going to use essential oils around your pets or to treat them directly, there are some general guidelines that should be followed. Always be sure to consult with your vet before you begin directly treating your pet with essential oils and purchase essential oils for your pets from trustworthy and reputable providers.