Can Essential Oils Hurt Pets
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The Pet Owner’s Guide to Safely Using Essential Oils for Cleaning

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I adore my dog and the cat is okay, too. Their safety is vital to me, so I’m careful about which essential oils I use for cleaning.

If you have pets in your life, it’s important to know which are safe to use around them. Some essential oils are highly toxic to animals, even in low concentrations like those used in homemade cleaners.

How Pets Come in Contact with Essential Oils

  • Diffusing essential oils: When you add oils to a humidifier or diffuser for aromatherapy or fragrance, your pets will breathe them in, too. Only use pet-safe oils in diffusers.
  • In your bath or shower: As with diffusers, essential oils added to a bath or shower means your pet may inhale them.
  • Homemade cleaning products: Adding essential oils to cleaning products means they may come in contact with your pet’s paws or fur. Since pets lick their fur and paws, it’s vital you only use pet-safe essential oils when cleaning.

Safe Plants Don’t Mean Safe Oils

Just because your pet isn’t bothered walking near a plant doesn’t mean the essential oil made from it won’t cause a problem.

Essential oils are distilled from plants, and the compounds within them are much stronger than you’d find in the plant itself. Sometimes, this level is high enough that it can be toxic to pets.

Don’t base your decision whether to add an essential oil to a cleaning product on how your pet has reacted to the plant.

Essential Oils That Are Toxic to Dogs

Tea Tree Oil

Melaluca, or tea tree oil, is often used by humans to treat dandruff, itching, or wounds. This oil is highly toxic for dogs, though, so don’t assume that because it’s safe for you it’s safe for your pooch.

Pine Oil

Pine oil is very toxic for dogs but it’s a common ingredient in many cleaning products like Pine-Sol and Lestoil. If a cleaner ends with -ol or -oil, it probably has pine oil in it. Don’t use them if you have a dog.

Other Essential Oils Dangerous for Dogs

Many other essential oils commonly used in cleaning products for fragrance also pose dangers for dogs. Here are the ones to avoid using around your pup. If there’s any accidental contact, see your vet ASAP.

  • Anise
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Juniper
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint oil
  • Sweet birch
  • Thyme
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang

Essential Oils That Are Toxic to Cats

Cats groom themselves all day long, so they’re going to swallow any essential oil you add to cleaning products or diffusers. So be very careful which ones you use.

The Big 3: Mint, Citrus, and Pine

Phenolic acid is what gives mint, pine, and citrus that fresh, clean smell that we love so much. But cats don’t produce a specific enzyme (glucuronyl transferase) to metabolize phenols, which makes them very toxic for kitties.

More Essential Oils To Avoid Around Cats

Other oils are less toxic but can still pose a danger to your cat. Skip them altogether.

  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Pennyroyal
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea tree
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang

Symptoms of Essential Oil Poisoning

You might think buying all-natural products would make them safe to use, but natural cleaners are more likely to contain essential oils. They don’t have to be disclosed, either.

So keep a close eye on your pet any time you start using a new cleaning product, laundry detergent, air freshener, even body lotion.

Signs of exposure include watery nose or eyes, breathing problems, nausea, pale gums, shaking, lethargy, problems walking, and tremors. If you see any of those, call your vet ASAP.

What Essential Oils Can Pet Owners Use to Clean?

Always consult your vet before introducing a new essential oil to a pet’s environment and watch them closely for a reaction. Most healthy, adult, non-pregnant dogs or cats are fine when the following essential oils are used in small concentrations in their home.

  • Dogs: Cedarwood, chamomile, citrus, eucalyptus, fennel, frankincense, jasmine, lavender, lemongrass, rose, spearmint.
  • Cats: Cedar wood, chamomile, fennel, frankincense, jasmine, lavender, rose.

Is lavender Safe for Cats?

There’s a lot of confusion on the internet about whether lavender is safe for cats or not. It’s worth pointing out that several major corporations make lavender scented cat litter, pet stain spray, and cat shampoo. I can’t imagine they’d open themselves up to legal liability by using something toxic.

So, while you should draw your own conclusions, I’m comfortable chalking this rumor up to another freelance writer not doing their research or being accurately fact-checked until I find an actual medical veterinary study saying otherwise.

Now that you know which essential oils you can safely use to clean around pets, check out my recipes for homemade cleaners!

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