Vets Say Widely Used Essential Oils May Be Harmful To Pets

March 7, 2018

People diffuse essential oils for health reasons and to keep their homes smelling fresh, but veterinarians warn that these popular oils may not be good for pets.

Essential oil diffusers, now made with all different colors, shapes, and scents, are filling the shelves in almost every home decor store; with different brands boasting benefits ranging from freshening the air to relieving stress.

As oil diffusers have risen in popularity, so too have the number of poisoned pets in Animal Medical Centers. A lot of people think “an essential oil is good for me, so it must be good for my dog or cat,” and that’s just not true. In fact, just breathing in the oil can make animals sick. In some, especially birds, it can be fatal.

Veterinarians say not all oils are created equal; some are stronger or more concentrated, and various ones may affect animals differently. Pet owners who choose to have diffusers should do their research. Pet safety expert and author of “The Safe Dog Handbook” Melanie Monteiro, and pet expert Arden Moore at Four-Legged Life, cautions that essential oils used for aromatherapy — including lemon, tea tree, and eucalyptus oils — can be poisonous to your pets, especially cats.

Harmful chemicals in candles, air fresheners, and essential oils include:

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
  • Naphthalene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Phthalates
  • 1,4-Dichlorobenzene
  • Artificial fragrances
  • Lead, toluene, and heavy metals

Veterinarian Bob Litkovitz of the Tremont Animal Clinic explained that new aerosolizers put out particles rather than just aroma. Essential oils and liquid potpourris contain chemicals that are rapidly absorbed orally or through the skin, and many are metabolized through the liver.

Essential Oil poisoning symptoms in your pet may include:

  • Drooling, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea
  • Lethargy, weakness, depression
  • Pale or yellowish gums
  • Excessive thirst or urination
  • Nervousness, hyperactivity, muscle tremors, seizures, coma


For pets and people alike, moderation is key. Vets recommend you only run diffusers for a short period of time each day. Keep essential oils and liquid potpourri products out of reach of pets, always. Curious animals may want to investigate the sweet-smelling liquids, so never leave opened essential oils or simmering potpourri unattended. In addition, consult a veterinarian before using any essential oils or other herbal products directly on your pet’s skin or fur (including adding to soaps/wipes/shampoos).

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any poisonous substances, contact your veterinarian or call APCC’s hotline at (888) 426-4435 immediately.