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
- 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
Citrus (including orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit)
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.
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