Aromatherapy revolves around the use of essential oils in order to create blends of scents that humans might enjoy, whether simply for their scent or the wellness benefits they provide. However, it’s important to remember that these oils are highly concentrated and therefore must be used sparingly.
For humans, these compounds typically provide a range of benefits. However, they can be toxic and harmful to pets at certain concentrations. Cats, in particular, can be highly sensitive to essential oils.
Remember that just because something is safe for you doesn’t necessarily mean it's safe for use on or near your pet, because they might accidentally eat, lick, or inhale essential oils. The essential oils can also become absorbed through the skin of a pet.
Because your pet will have different reactions to essential oils than you do, consulting your vet prior to the use of any essential oil is a great idea. Your vet might give you a list of symptoms to watch out for that indicate your pet has had essential oil exposure. That list can include diarrhea, vomiting, lowered body temperature, and unsteadiness. If your usual vet isn't always open or available, know what emergency or 24-hour vet service is available in your area.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even if a scent isn't dangerous to a pet, it might still be irritating. Animals, especially dogs, have a sense of smell far more powerful than that of humans. Even if there is an aroma that makes you feel good and relaxed, it might be overpowering to your animals.
Tips for Essential Oil Use Near Pets
As a general rule, it’s best to avoid any contact between pets and essential oils, given that even less than 10 drops might create problems for your furry friend. However, you don't have to give up essential oils to keep your pet safe. Just find a safe balance where the two areas of your life can serve you without hurting each other.
For example, use your essential oil diffuser in a dedicated area that isn't accessible to your pets, and don't use it for so long that the air in your home becomes saturated with the oil and its scent. Alternatively, step outside or into another room and use essential oils through a portable aromatherapy diffuser which allows you to experience the benefits of the oil without letting it linger in the air and affect your pet.
The advice above is generally the best way to use essential oils with pets in the home, but birds are an exception. The respiratory tracts of birds are sensitive, and they can easily develop issues with diffuser use anywhere in a home.
In addition to all of the general advice and warnings already provided, there are specific essential oils you should avoid using around your pet under all circumstances. For dogs, avoid clove, juniper, tea tree, wintergreen, thyme, and rosemary essential oils. If you own a cat, watch out for tea tree, thyme, citrus, eucalyptus, lavender, spruce, peppermint, lemon, clove, and cinnamon essential oils.
For the most part, pets and essential oils can coexist peacefully and you can enjoy the benefits of both. Just be mindful of the proper precautions and limit your use to when you are in another room and avoid the specific essential oils listed for dogs and cats.