Over the past couple of years, it seems like essential oils and aromatherapy as a home remedy have been gaining popularity.  Essential oils are concentrated extracts from the seeds, roots, leaves, and blossoms from different plants, while aromatherapy is the general practice of using different smells and aromas to help treat different health problems. There have been many benefits associated with different oils: some have been said to help relieve stress and treat depression, while others are said to help lower blood pressure.

While some might swear by essential oils, it’s important for pet owners to know how these oils and the different ways to use them also impact pets in the house. Some essential oils have been known to cause symptoms like drooling, vomiting, respiratory distress, tremors, and difficulty walking in some animals, especially cats.

There are so many ways in which our pets can be exposed to essential oils: through the air (like with a diffuser), accidentally (like licking your skin if you’ve recently applied some), or if you decided to treat ailments with oils. The air might be one of the more common ways pets are exposed to essential oils, as there is oil in the air if you can smell the fragrance.

Some essential oils seem to be okay for different pets, while others are worse. There are some oils that contain phenols, something that’s particularly dangerous for cats. These oils include: wintergreen, peppermint, citrus, teatree, pine clove, and many more. And the concentration of the oil also plays a factor, as our pets have a significantly better and more sensitive nose than we do and applying oils directly to our pets’ skin can cause problems.

To be honest, there’s still not a whole lot of scientific research about essential oils, especially about their impact on our pets, and this topic is a bit more complicated than one might imagine. Some oils seem to be worse for our pets and more concentrated oils are definitely not okay (in large part because they have such good noses!). Small amounts of diluted lavender oil, for example, seems to be okay for dogs but very concentrated pine oil can cause some issues for cats.

From what I can tell, the best way to have essential oils in your house while also keeping your pets safe is to keep oils safe and secure so pets can’t accidentally get into them, to limit the amount of time you have a candle or diffuser on, be cognizant of the oils you are using (and avoid ones that are bad for your pets!), and don’t apply oils directly to your pet’s skin or body. I’d also recommend having an accessible space for your pets to have that’s free from the smells of essential oils in case it gets a bit much!

If you are interested in essential oils and your pets, I recommend talking to your vet about it, as my own research can only go so far. And if you’re worried that your pet might be reacting negatively to essential oils (or any other household products), you can also contact the Pet Poison Hotline 24/7 (for a $60 fee) at (855)-764-7661 or the ASPCA Poison Hotline (for a $65 fee) at (888) 426-4435. You could also contact your vet or local animal emergency hospital.

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