How to use essential oils safely around pets

Using Essential Oils Safely Around Pets: A Comprehensive Guide

For every home aromatherapy enthusiast, the wellness and safety of household members, including pets, is paramount. As the popularity of essential oils continues to soar, understanding how these fragrances impact our furry friends is critical. This guide will equip you with the knowledge to create a serene, aromatic environment without compromising the well-being of your pets.

Understand The Basics

Before diving into the specifics, it’s vital to grasp that while essential oils can offer therapeutic benefits to humans, they might not be as beneficial or safe for pets. Cats, dogs, and other animals metabolize substances differently, making some essential oils toxic to them.

Read here to find out if essential oils are safe for cats

Safe Essential Oils For Pets

While some essential oils can be harmful, several are deemed safe when used correctly:

  • Dogs: Carrot seed, cedarwood, chamomile, and lavender.
  • Cats: Always be more cautious with cats. Stick to diluted versions and be sure to observe your cat’s behavior after introducing any new scent.

However, always consult with a veterinarian before introducing an essential oil to your pet’s environment or topical regimen.

Essential Oils To Avoid

Certain essential oils are known to be particularly harmful to pets:

  • Dogs: Clove, garlic, juniper, rosemary, tea tree, thyme, and wintergreen.
  • Cats: Citrus oils, eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, tea tree, and wintergreen.

Methods Of Safe Application

Introducing essential oils into your home, especially with pets around, demands careful consideration. Two common methods of application are diffusion and topical application. Here’s a more in-depth look into both:


  • What It Is: This involves using a device, usually a diffuser, to disperse tiny particles of essential oils into the air, creating a fragrant atmosphere.
  • Safety Precautions:
    • Ventilation: A room where oils are being diffused should have good airflow. Open a window or use fans to ensure there isn’t a build-up of strong fragrances.
    • Escape Route: Always ensure that pets can leave the room if they’re uncomfortable. Their sense of smell is much stronger than ours, so what may seem mild to us could be overwhelming to them.
    • Duration: Limit the time of diffusion. Start with short intervals (15-30 minutes) and monitor your pet’s reaction before considering longer sessions.
    • Placement: Place the diffuser in an area that’s out of reach to prevent pets from knocking it over or ingesting any spilled liquid.

Topical Application:

  • What It Is: This involves applying diluted essential oils directly to the skin. In pets, this can be useful for specific therapeutic reasons, like easing joint pain or repelling pests.
  • Safety Precautions for Dogs:
    • Dilution: Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil (like coconut or almond oil) before applying. A general rule of thumb is 1-2 drops of essential oil in 1 tablespoon of carrier oil, but always consult with a vet.
    • Application Site: Apply on areas where the dog can’t easily lick it off, like the base of the neck or upper back.
    • Monitor: Watch for signs of irritation, such as redness, itching, or swelling. If you notice any, wash off the oil immediately with a mild soap.
  • For Cats:
    • Given their unique physiology and inability to metabolize certain compounds found in essential oils, it’s generally recommended to avoid topical applications on cats. Their skin can easily absorb compounds that may be toxic to them, and ingestion (through grooming) poses additional risks. If you ever feel the need for such an application, it’s paramount to consult with a veterinarian first.


  • What It Is: This is when pets naturally inhale the aroma from diffused oils or from an object (like a toy or bedding) where the oil has been applied.
  • Safety Precautions:
    • Use only a minimal amount of diluted essential oil.
    • Avoid oils known to be harmful to pets (as listed above).
    • Introduce gradually and monitor for any adverse reactions.
    • If applying to objects, let them air out a bit before giving them to your pet.

Spotting Adverse Reactions

Always monitor your pets after introducing a new scent. Signs of distress or adverse reactions include:

  • Excessive drooling or vomiting
  • Appearing lethargic or uncoordinated
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tremors

If you observe any of these signs, ventilate the area, remove the source of the essential oil, and consult with a veterinarian.

General Safety Tips

  • Storage: Always store essential oils out of pets’ reach. Curious creatures might ingest or spill them.
  • Dilution: If you’re considering topical application for dogs, always dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil.
  • Consultation: Always confer with a veterinarian before making essential oils a part of your pet’s routine.

Read about the use of essential oil candles for dogs

Moving On

The key to safely enjoying the benefits of essential oils in a household with pets is education and caution. By understanding which oils are safe, which to avoid, and how to use them, you can cultivate a harmonious, aromatic ambiance that both you and your pets will appreciate.

Disclaimer: This guide is meant to be informative, but always consult with a veterinarian or pet care professional before making decisions about essential oil usage in your home.

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