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Are Essential Oils Safe for Pets?

Essential oils are undergoing a surge in popularity recently, and many of our clients at The Animal Hospital at Lake Brandt wonder how these compound might affect their pets.  While people report relief from a variety of human ailments, and oils can make your house smell nice, we need to be careful about our ever-curious, four-legged friends.

Most of the adverse events with essential oils in pets involve an inquisitive cat or dog slurping up or stepping in concentrated oil.  Either ingestion of or skin exposure to many common oils can cause toxicity in pets.  Depending on the type of oil and the size of the animal, even a small amount can cause significant illness.  For these reasons, keep diffusers in a location where whiskers and noses won’t knock them over. 

Diffusing oils in the house can be irritating to some pets.  Most dogs and cats don’t seem to be bothered by diffusers, but pets with asthma or other respiratory issues may react poorly to airborne irritants.  Birds are especially sensitive to airborne irritants, so avoid diffusers if you have birds.  Sometimes the smell of the products might just be overwhelming as well.  Keep in mind that a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 times better than ours!  Think of that person you know who wears a fragrance you dislike.  What if it was 10,000 times stronger?

Applying concentrated oil to pets is usually a bad idea.  At this time there are very few recognized therapeutic uses for essential oils in pets.  Oils are absorbed rapidly through the skin and can enter systemic circulation.  Some of these compounds are processed by the liver. Young pets and pets with liver problems may be especially susceptible to adverse effects.

If you have specific questions about essential oil safety, feel free to give us a call.  If your pet is accidentally exposed to household toxins, we can help!

T. Queeney, DVM


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  • "I have been taking my 16 year old lab, Oscar, to this vet since he came to me in 2004, and I wouldn't take any of my dogs anywhere else! They are so wonderful with both pets and people. I would recommend any of the doctors and staff to anyone."
    Erin H
  • "We have been going to another vet for years. We wanted to have our year old Wheaten Terrier, Rylee spayed by laparoscopy so she would have less pain and be back to her usual activity in 2-3 days instead of 10-14 days. Our vet does the traditional spay. We had a consult meet and greet with Dr. Courtney Pierce. She answered all our questions and so friendly and professional. They have a state of the art OR suite. Rylee did great. On post op day three she spotted a squirrel and did an all out chase with no ill effects! All the staff were great."
    Linda A
  • "I love Dr. Jernigan at AHLB and would never take my dog anywhere else! The staff is excellent with animals and always professional, courteous and respectful to owners. I have trusted this animal hospital for all of my dog's care, including check ups, surgeries (she's had three!) and for boarding when we have to go out of town. Every experience I have had here has been wonderful and I highly recommend their services to anyone looking for a veterinary office for their furry children!."
    Avery C