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Using Essential Oils Around Your Pets

Updated: Oct 14, 2021

The aroma of essential oils has many positive benefits for humans – from calming us down to promoting better health. Since they are widely used by humans, you may be wondering if they have the same benefits and therapeutic effects for our dogs. Unfortunately, the risks of essential oils for pets may outweigh the benefits.

Let’s take a closer look at essential oils and our pups.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils come from plants – they’re liquids made by pressing or steaming plant parts like the bark or flowers to obtain fragrance compounds. It actually takes a large amount of plant matter to make one bottle of essential oil, so some essential oils are mixed with other ingredients to create the final product. Essential oils that have no other ingredients and are extracted from plants are labeled ‘pure’.

How can we use essential oils?

The scent of essential oils is strong and highly concentrated, which makes them great for aromatherapy use. Aromatherapy is an ancient holistic technique that uses scent to promote healing in the mind and body. Different scents can do things like soothe pain, help with insomnia, and promote better immune health. For example, the lavender essential oil is commonly used to reduce stress and anxiety. Essential oils can also be applied to our skin to promote health benefits. Take tea tree oil – it has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is used in shampoos to treat dandruff.

Are essential oils safe for dogs?

Essential oils have great benefits, so pup parents may want to use them to help their dogs with health problems. While they may have some benefits, using essential oils on dogs poses serious risks. They should only be used sparingly and with great caution. We advise talking to Dr. McMillen and doing your research before attempting to use them. Essential oils are called “natural” because they come from plants, and it’s tempting to think that “natural” means “safe.” But this isn’t the case for essential oils and pets. The first problem with essential oils interacting with your pup is that many common oils like peppermint, ylang-ylang and tea tree oil are poisonous for dogs when ingested. This means a lick of calming essential oil can cause major tummy troubles for your dog – or worse, an emergency trip to the vet. Never leave essential oils out in the open where they can be eaten, and never apply essential oils directly to your dog’s body.

Beyond this, the power of essential oils lies in their scent, which is why it’s tough to use them with dogs. Dogs have acute senses of smell that are much stronger than ours, so it’s hard for us to know how much essential oil will help them and how much will overwhelm them. Even a few drops of oil can create an overpowering smell that will agitate your dog and possibly upset their breathing or central respiratory system. This can have serious consequences for their health. Another big issue with oils is that you often have to heat them to release their scent, and burning hot oil is a big no-no around our pets. If hot oil spills on them, your pup can get a painful heat burn and/or a chemical burn. If you’re heating your oil, keep it firmly out of reach of any prying snouts and paws that could knock it over.

Which essential oils should I avoid?

Do thorough research on the safety of oil before using it with your dog. Here are some common oils that are proven to be toxic to dogs:

· Cinnamon

· Citrus

· Clove

· Eucalyptus

· Juniper

· Peppermint

· Pine

· Tea Tree

· Thyme

· Wintergreen

· Ylang Ylang

Which essential oils are safe to use?

Some pet-safe essential oils include:

· Chamomile

· Eucalyptus

· Lavender

· Lemongrass

· Rose

To use essential oils safely for aromatherapy, it’s important to dilute them appropriately. And remember: it’s best not to use any essential oils at all until you’ve consulted Dr. McMillen.

How do I know if my dog has eaten essential oils?

If your dog has eaten a toxic essential oil, there will be obvious signs. Look out for the following:

  • The smell of the oil on your dog’s fur and breath

  • Redness in and around their mouth

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Drooling

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty walking, or muscle tremors

  • Agitation

  • Pawing at their mouth or face

  • Watery or irritated eyes and nose

  • Vomiting

If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, you need to act quickly and seek medical help.

What should I do if my dog eats essential oils?

If you know your dog has consumed essential oils – or they’re showing signs of poisoning – you need to seek help immediately. Take your dog to your nearest emergency veterinary hospital or call ASPCA animal poison control (which is open 24/7). They can tell you what you should do next. Your vet may perform a physical exam and run a blood test to measure your dog’s level of a toxic ingestion. Take the oil product with you to the vet to help them understand what they’re dealing with. They may try to help your dog breathe with oxygen support, insert an IV with Fluids, or otherwise try to remove the toxins. Luckily, the faster you seek treatment, the better your dog’s chances of recovery.

How can I keep my dog safe around essential oils?

Here are some key tips for keeping your pup safe around essential oils:

  • Keep lids tightly closed on all oil bottles

  • Keep them safe and out of reach of your pet, either locked away or in a pet-inaccessible location

  • When burning oils, don’t put them on surfaces pet could easily reach

  • Thoroughly clean surfaces that essential oils have touched

  • Make sure everyone who comes into contact with your pet knows that essential oils are potentially harmful and must be treated with care

It’s possible to use essential oils safely with your dog, but there are many risks to consider. You must take extra precautions and be vigilant at all times. The absolute best thing to do is consult your vet before even attempting to use essential oils – your pup will thank you for it!

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