There has been a recent increase in the use of essential oils in the home. It is important, if you are using essential oils on yourself or diffusing into the air, that you are aware of the potential health risks to your pets.
Any essential oils in their concentrated form can cause health concerns in our pets. Whether they have had the oils directly applied to their coat (never recommended), had it dripped on their coat, ingested the oils or simply walked through, they are at risk. Symptoms vary depending on the type of oils but can include: skin irritation, drooling, decreased heart rate, low body temperature, unsteadiness, paralysis, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and liver failure.
One of the most common essential oil toxicities we see is from tea tree (Melaleuca) oil. Over the counter tea tree oil shampoos are often marketed for pets with varying skin conditions. While the concentrations of the oil in these commercial preparations should not be enough to cause any ill effects, it is never recommended to use pure tea tree oil directly on a pet. As little as 7 drops of pure tea tree oil can result in severe poisoning of your pet.
What about diffusers?
A diffuser should be placed in a secure area where it will not be knocked over or ingested by your pet. Avoid running the diffuser in the areas that your pet frequents. If your pet already has respiratory problems they may worsen with exposure to any strong fragrances, watch for any signs of coughing, wheezing or labored breathing including panting. It is not recommended to use a diffuser in a home with birds as their respiratory tracts are very sensitive and essential oils can cause serious problems.
If your pet encounters essential oils, immediately move them to an area with fresh air, if they have the oils on their skin, bathe them with liquid dish soap and always contact a veterinarian right away.