In this article, I intend to give you the basic guidelines for the utmost safety on using essential oils in your home with consideration to your pets. You will find many opinions on the internet but this article is for us to really think about how, when and what essential oils we can truly safely use around our pets.
Firstly, it is important to remember that our pets are not little humans. Their body chemistry is different, so they require different considerations than humans. Whether you have a cat, dog, bird or reptile, all are different, and will respond differently to the introduction of essential oils to your home.
*Biology basics* Most of us know that dogs and cats have keen senses of smell. But did you know that dogs have between 150 and 300 million olfactory cells compared to a humans mere 5 million? Or that a cat´s sense of smell is actually 14 times stronger than ours? So when we use essential oils, you can begin to see how powerful these amazing little bottles of essential oils are to our furry friends. By the way , if you keep rats you need to be even more aware of how sensitive their noses are, as they top the list when it comes to their keen sense of smell.
Luckily there is a researched field of study called “Zoopharmacognosmy”. This field of research shows how animals self-medicate in the wild and this behaviour has been applied to domestic and captive animals with great success. So, rest assure that using plant medicine with pets can be done safely. Salvatore Battaglia, (whom most Aromatherapists go to for much of his teachings,) goes as far as saying he is confident that using oils around pets is safe. It all comes down to how they are used and for how long.
The basic guidelines and considerations to consider when using oils around your pets:
-Only diffuse small amounts for limited periods of time. Follow general safety guidelines for using a diffuser that is 30 minutes on, 60 minutes off (if in an enclosed space) and give your pets the freedom to leave the room if they so wish. So a door ajar is the best option or for caged pets you could have a window open and observe them closely when you start diffusing oils.
-Keep an eye out for any reactions, such as squinting, drooling, scratching, an increase in their breathing and any signs of lethargy ,as these are signs that your pet may not like the smell and is being negatively affected by them. (Roark, 2020)
-Just like humans, animals have their own unique health requirements and preferences, so what might work for your friends´ pets might not work for yours.
-If you notice any strange behaviour from your pet or if a pet accidentally ingests essential oils, contact your veterinarian immediately.
*Note I have not talked about applying topically or for use of essential oils internally, as I believe this should only be done when using commercially available products or by seeking the services of an aromatherapist trained in animal aromatherapy. So here we are talking about diffusing or burning essential oils in your home. If you wish to apply topically and make an essential oil flea collar for example, Valerie Ann Wormwood in her book “The Fragrant Pharmacy” has plenty of suggestions , but again it is something I would be cautious in recommending to someone not trained in the use of essential oils.
Oils that are generally considered safe are:
Lavender, Helichrysum, Cedarwood (Cedrus Atlantica or Cedrus deodara) Myrrh, Sandalwood, Roman Chamomile, Geranium and Rose, but take the lead from your pet. They will guide you as to what smells they do and don’t like.
In the reference books below you can also read more about the topical application of essential oils on animals, but my point of view is to only do this under the guidance of your vet or an aromatherapist certified in animal aromatherapy.
Wormwood, V.A (1990) The Fragrant Pharmacy. Bantam Books, pub. Transworld Publishers.
Battaglia, S (2018). Using essential oils safely with cats, https://salvatorebattaglia.com.au/blog/15-using-essential-oils-safely-with-cats
Roark, Dr. J (2020). Essential Oils and Safety for Pets, https://go.essentialoilvet.com/safety
Tisserand, R (2011). Cats and Essential Oil Safety, https://roberttisserand.com/2011/06/catsessential-oil-safety/
Image: In memory of our beautiful and gentle family cat “Jaguar “.