Navigating the World of Essential Oils: A Guide to Safe Use for Animals

Alison Pedler Alison Pedler
4 minute read

Throughout history, essential oils have been used in traditional medicine in various cultures, such as Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. However, animals have a much more sensitive sense of smell than humans and can be easily overwhelmed by strong scents. On top of that, some essential oils can even be toxic to animals, so it's crucial to understand which oils are safe to use and which should be avoided.

It is important to note that you utilize only therapeutic or medical grade essential oils that have undergone a GCMS test, dilute the oil accordingly, and follow the suggested therapeutic uses.


Here are some essential oils deemed safe and beneficial for use with dogs, cats, and horses.


Lavender is a popular choice for use with animals, due to its calming and soothing properties. It can be used to help with anxiety, stress, and promote relaxation in animals. 


Frankincense can be used to help with respiratory issues, such as congestion, and to promote relaxation. It has a grounding and balancing effect on emotions and is considered a natural remedy for anxiety and stress.


Copaiba has barely any scent and helps magnify the effects of other essential oils whilst providing strong anti-inflammatory components, making it easily accepted by cats.


Helichrysum This oil is a liver stimulator, acting as a detoxifier that also carries antibiotic and anti-fungal properties. It’s known also for the many benefits it provides to the skin, gut, heart, and more.


All these essential oils are considered safe to use on dogs, cats, and horses and can be used in a diffuser, added to a spray bottle with water and misted on bedding, or added to a carrier oil and used for a gentle massage. It can also be added to the animal's bathwater for a relaxing soak.


A selection of essential oils that should be avoided around animals includes:


Tea tree oil should not be used on cats as it can be toxic to them. Cats lack certain enzymes in their liver that allow them to break down and eliminate certain compounds, such as the terpene compounds found in tea tree oil. Ingestion or topical application of the oil can cause neurological symptoms such as muscle tremors, ataxia, and seizures. It can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.


Eucalyptus oil is another not to use around cats. Cats lack the necessary enzymes to break down eucalyptus oil, which can cause serious health issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, and even liver failure. However, eucalyptus essential oil is considered safe to use on dogs in low concentrations, with proper dilution, and can help to relieve respiratory issues such as congestion, coughing, and chest infections.


Citrus essential oils, such as lemon, lime, and grapefruit can be toxic to animals, especially cats. These oils contain compounds called furocoumarins, which can cause skin irritation, vomiting, and even neurological issues if ingested or come in contact with the skin. Inhaling these oils can also cause respiratory issues. It is best to avoid using citrus essential oils around animals.


Ylang-ylang oil is toxic to animals because it contains compounds that can cause serious health issues if ingested or come in contact with skin. The toxicity of essential oils can vary depending on the species of animal, the method of administration, and the dose. The exact mechanism of toxicity for ylang-ylang oil in animals is not well understood, but it is believed to be related to the chemical compounds present in the oil, such as benzyl acetate, benzyl benzoate, and linalool. These compounds can cause skin irritation, vomiting, and even liver failure.


Essential oils can be a great natural remedy for various health conditions in animals and not all animals will have the same reaction, but it is important to be aware of which essential oils are safe to use and which should be avoided. Always consult with a veterinarian before using any essential oil around animals.

If you’re worried that your pet has been exposed, monitor them for symptoms, and if they start having a negative reaction, head to the vet. Common signs of essential oil poisoning include a watery nose or eyes, lethargy, unsteadiness, tremors, and low body temperature. If the oils have been ingested you might also see drooling, vomiting and diarrhea.

Should you have any concerns the ASPCA has a 24hr helpline - Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435

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