Due to recent viral social media posts, many pet parents are wondering, “Are essential oils used in diffusers toxic to pets?” The answer is complicated by the varying tolerance levels of each species or breed. Some essential oils are toxic to all pets, or only some dog breeds, or species such as cats, rabbits, birds, aquarium fish and other small animals.

We don’t recommend using an essential oil diffuser with cats, rabbits, birds, fish and other small animals close by. Veterinarians don’t recommend it either.  Cats, for example, can experience liver damage from exposure to essential oils.

Veterinarian, Beth Malinich told Fox News, “They just don’t mix. The oils can cause some severe liver problems.”

Extreme caution should be used when infusing the air using oil-based aromatherapy diffusers, candles, etc., no matter what animal is in the room. If you choose to try it, use tiny, heavily diluted aromatherapy recipes, and use only for a few minutes at a time (without animals in the same room). Closely observe any animals in the home for signs of a negative reaction or symptoms of toxicity.

Pets that are most sensitive to diffused essential oils

  • Birds
  • Cats
  • Rabbits
  • Small dogs
  • Pregnant animals
  • Animals that haven’t reached maturity (Juveniles)
  • Breeds with respiratory challenges, such as “flat-faced” breeds
  • Aquarium fish

Phenols (a chemical group in oils such as those derived from Thyme & Oregano), Monoterpene Hydrocarbons (such as Pine), Phenylpropanes (such as Basil & Cinnamon), and many essential oils in the Ketone group (such as Pennyroyal and Wormwood), should not be used around or on pets. We must also consider age, illness (such as epilepsy), medication, and pregnancy when administering essential oils to any pet.

Low-quality essential oils used in diffusers may contain chemicals or unidentified oils that will harm pets, even if the purchased essential oil itself is safe. For safety and effectiveness, therapeutic-grade essential oils must be obtained from a reliable store that is committed to using only premium suppliers. We rely on Starwest Botanicals for our essential oils. As a general rule, if you find an oil at a price that is considerably lower than other suppliers, it’s probably a lower grade or at least diluted.

However, the harm isn’t always in WHAT you put in your diffuser, but how much, how long, and proximity. Even the most tolerant pets should only be exposed to diffused essentials oils for a few minutes, preferably in a different room. The oils should be heavily diluted to avoid concentrations that are toxic.

Common Diffuser Essential Oils that may be Toxic to
Dogs, Cats, Rabbits, Birds, Fish, Reptiles and Small Pets

This is not a comprehensive list of all essential oils that may be toxic to pets, but it does cover some of the most popular diffuser oils.

Tea Tree Oil
Penny Royal
Citrus (including orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit)
Ylang Ylang

For more information, read 30 Essential Oils That May Not Be Safe For Pets.

Is it worth the risk, even if it’s a small one? Unless you’re certain that your diffuser oil isn’t at all toxic to your particular pet, we suggest you don’t use them. When I say “certain”, I mean a veterinarian or recognized expert verifies it for you. Many people sell essential oils or are otherwise biased or misinformed, so please do thorough research and only trust information from reputable, unbiased sources. You can learn about the safety of essential oils for pets from respected authors like Kristen Leigh Bell, who wrote Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals.

Please keep all essential oils and your diffuser safely out of reach of pets and children!

??? Have you noticed your pet doesn’t like it when you diffuse essential oils? Or do they seem OK with it? Please share your experience in the comments below.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Is Tea Tree Oil Safe for Pets?
14 Herbs that may Poison Pets (Infographic)


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12 thoughts on “Common Diffuser Essential Oils that may be Toxic to Dogs, Cats, Birds & Other Pets ©

  1. Why are people so damn stupid? They hear something is powerful enough to heal them or disinfect their house if it’s difused into the air, but it doesn’t cross their mind that it might be strong enough to hurt their pets?

  2. Sorry, no responsible pet parent would use essential oils in the same room as their pet when they know there’s any risk at all. Why do that? It’s like sending them out to play in the street because they PROBABLY won’t get hit by a car. EO isn’t necessar and your pets life is more important so JUST STOP!

  3. I have been using Young Living essential oils in my home for 13 years with no adverse effects to my cats or dog. I do make sure they can leave the room if I’m diffusing a new oil and they rarely do or seem at all bothered by the scents. I agree that it’s important to start with a small amount, make sure the quality is therapeutic, and watch for any adverse reactions. Do not put any oils on their paws or fur, in their water, or on their foods. These oils are very intense and should not be used in those ways without direct veterinarian recommendations.

  4. I’ve used a few of those oils without a problem (or so I thought). Now I know better!

  5. Holy cat crap!!! Thanks for sharing!!! I’m not right into essential oils but I do it sometimes. Not anymore I don’t!!!

  6. Hello I’m new to EO but have been doing research, it seems that cats and dogs can be sencitive to certain oils! I have been useing candles, waxes, and Fragrent oils ( Not Essential ) for many years! I have 2 cats (9&8) and a Bullmastive that is 5. I have not seen or had any issues with these, I started to use Lavendar EO at night in our bedroom.
    Our dog sleeps in there aswell. She seems to be fine.. It doesn’t seem to bother the cats either. I have Sweet Orange in my deffusre right know they all seem to be fine with the EO’s.
    I will keep an eye on them and only use a few drops at a time.
    Thanks Shelly

  7. I only use the diffuser when there’s a medical need in the house. I have a dog that definitely doesn’t care for it but he hasn’t been sick. I don’t have cats or other animals. I used to breed German Shepherds and might get into breeding again in the future so I’m happy to have found out it might not be good for pregnant dogs. Excellent advice as usual!

  8. I have two cats and a dog. I tried a difuser once and it didn’t bother the dog or one cat. The other cat went into convulsions and the vet said she must have somehow inhaled more than the other cat. I threw the damn thing away and will never use one in my house again. It’s just not worth it!!

  9. I heard EO could be dangerous but nobody knows which ones or how much it takes to be a problem. Very helpful thank you!

  10. I wonder why it’s taken so long for this to come out? I guess essential oil is more popular now and maybe stronger too. Everyone thinks it’s OK for pets if it’s OK for humans until we learn better. We all should research more and stop listening to people trying to sell us stuff. Our babies depend on us!

  11. Our dogs and cat have been fine with lavender but I haven’t tried anything else. I think I’ll stick to that now.

  12. OMG!!! I stopped using my diffuser because my cat freaked out everytime I tried. I had a feeling it might be making her feel bad although she didn’t show anything other than avoiding the room. I’m glad I stopped…poor thing!

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