Essential Oils Safe for Pets

Published 22nd Feb 2024

Pets and Essential Oils – How Safe is ‘Safe’?

Lots of us love animals and choose to keep one or more as pets. From Chihuahuas to backyard chooks, our furry or feathered friends keep us company in our homes and provide a source of affection for families to dote on. 

If you’re a fan of essential oils and keep pets at home, then caution is required. Because contrary to what the human body and mind can handle with essential oils, some animals cannot do likewise.

Essential Oils and Animals: Which Are Safe?

You would be forgiven for assuming therapeutic essential oils can work their magic on your pets. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, with many oils posing a danger to animals or others deemed safe quickly turning otherwise if not used correctly. 

This makes it critical for pet owners to understand which oils are safe to use in the vicinity of their companion - directly or indirectly - so as not to risk an illness or worse. 

Before we dive into the most popular pet-safe oils, let’s highlight a few variables that come into any discussion about essential oils and pets.

Animal type:As you might imagine, animals differ from one type to the next. Just because a particular oil is considered safe for a dog, for example, doesn’t give it blanket approval across all types of animals.  

Application: Some people apply oils onto their skin after suitable dilution with a carrier oil or water. Others reap the benefits of oils via a diffuser. It’s the same when it comes to using essential oils around pets, with the application affecting animals differently – and you need to know which type of application is safest for your pet before using oils. 

Constituency:Oils are complex compounds of multiple constituents – and while some are OK, others can cause a reaction in animals that doesn’t happen to humans. So, if you’re considering using oils with pets, being aware of their constituents and chemical makeu is critical.

Best Essential Oils for Pets

Whether you’re a regular essential oil user or new to the aromatherapy world, you’ve undoubtedly seen an abundance of oils available in shops and online. While choice is great, it can also leave you perplexed about which oil does what and why you might want to buy it – and it’s the same when you’re shopping for oils for your pets. 

So, what are your best essential oils for animals? It’s time to clear away the confusion with our comprehensive review of the most popular pet-safe oils, their benefits and how to use them. 

Note: Our article discusses the two most popular pets in Australia, dogs and cats. If you keep other pets at home and wonder about the safety of essential oils around them, make sure you do your research on which are considered safe for your pet. 

4 ‘Bona-Fido’ Essential Oils for Dogs

Peppermint Oil

A member of the mint family, Peppermint oil contains a high amount of menthol, an anti-inflammatory considered a good remedy for headaches, pains and sores. It is also said to help people who suffer from digestive issues. 

Is Peppermint oil OK for dogs?  

Ingesting Peppermint oil is an absolute no-no for dogs and can cause immediate problems. It is also questionable whether this oil is safe to use topically, and as such, it is not recommended unless under the instruction of a Vet or Animal Aromatherapist.

However, when used in a diffuser, some benefits of Peppermint oil are said to carry over safely to our furry friends. In particular, Peppermint may improve your animal’s digestive system and state of mind. 

Since dogs have an enhanced sense of smell compared to humans, using a small amount of Peppermint oil in your diffuser is best – a single drop is plenty.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is a natural sedative considered one of the best essential oils for supporting rest, relaxation and sleep. This sweet, floral oil is also well-liked by many for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, used to help soothe aches and pains or skin conditions like acne and eczema.  

It’s no wonder humans who love Lavender oil are keen to use it around their doggo. 

Is Lavender essential oil OK for dogs?

Some say that Lavender oil offers multiple benefits to dogs, from calming their anxiety to relieving itchy skin or repelling insects. Others say it is highly toxic and recommend you steer clear of it.

Thankfully, Lavender oil is considered safe for dogs when used correctly. The best ways to do so are via inhalation or diffusion. While it is thought safe to apply diluted Lavender oil directly onto the skin, there is a slight risk of your dog licking and ingesting the oil, leading to longer-term internal damage.

Lemon Oil

Sunny, summery Lemon oil is refreshing and uplifting for us humans, helping improve a range of conditions from oily skin and hair to brain fog and headaches. Not surprisingly, this essential oil is considered by many a safe one to use around your pets. 

Is Lemon essential oil OK for dogs?

In general, Lemon oil is considered safe for dogs – but, as with all oils, you must take care with the quantities and application. 

Lemon oil contains a-Pinene and b-Pinene, effective antimicrobials with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Physically, it is said to be good for joint pains and inflamed paws, and it can also help dogs mentally by relieving anxiety. Yet dogs cannot take it orally, so the correct application is key to avoiding serious illness.

Due to its potent aroma, it is best to use Lemon oil in extremely small doses – one drop can amplify to a full teaspoon-worth in dog terms, overpowering their sense of smell. Once diluted, topical application is best placed behind the neck where your doggo cannot lick the oil - and well away from the nose.

Sandalwood Essential Oil

It’s one of the most expensive essential oils on Australian shelves – perhaps, for good reason. Earthy and exotic-smelling Sandalwood is said to benefit physical and mental well-being, relieving chest infections, flu and fatigue. Many dog owners are keen to know if those benefits remain intact and, more importantly, whether it is safe for animals. 

Is Sandalwood essential oil safe for dogs?

It’s thought that the benefits of Sandalwood for humans can be similar when applied to dogs. Antiseptic and soothing properties help a dog to relax and recuperate quickly from a cold or infection. Once again, though, safety comes down to application, with ingestion not appropriate for canines and topical application or diffused Sandalwood being the safest ways for dogs to enjoy its benefits.

Just a few drops of Sandalwood are sufficient and always diluted with a carrier oil before topical use.

4 Cat-Safe Essential Oils

Cedarwood Oil

From the Atlas Mountains to the Himalayas, Cedarwood oil has many human health benefits – effectively treating skin conditions, dandruff and respiratory illnesses while lifting the mood. 

Is Cedarwood essential oil safe for cats?

On the whole, Cedarwood is considered a cat-safe essential oil – but it depends on its makeup. Many Cedarwood oils are made without phenol, a component harmful to cats, meaning there is less chance of it causing serious problems if accidentally digested. That said, you would not want your cat to come into regular contact with Cedarwood without diluting it first. Mixing a drop of Cedarwood oil with a tablespoon of carrier oil and a cup of water serves as an effective misting spray to repel insect bites. 

Frankincense Oil

Despite there being different types of Frankincense - Serrata and Olibanum among the most popular - these spicy-smelling oils are appreciated worldwide for their calming qualities, used for mind focus and to reduce stress. Frankincense is also said to support a healthy immune system and help fight infections.  

No wonder, then, how many cat lovers are keen to know if these benefits apply to their pets too.

Is Frankincense essential oil safe for cats?

 In short, yes. Frankincense oil is thought to be one of a few essential oils great for the well-being of cats, boosting their immunity and relieving anxiety. It must be diluted and used in small amounts, topically or by diffusion. Just one or two drops along with a carrier oil are said to assist a cat's immunity and nerves. 

Copaiba Oil

With a distinct woody, balsamic scent, Copaiba oil is an aromatherapy favourite extracted from the gum found in this Amazonian native tree. 

Rich in the anti-inflammatory compound beta-caryophyllene, we humans use Copaiba to treat chronic skin conditions, relieve sore muscles and calm the nerves – but does this goodness carry over to cats?

Is Copaiba essential oil OK for cats?

Many aromatherapists agree this essential oil can benefit cats the same way as it can humans - and safely, too. In particular, its anti-inflammatory properties can support cats suffering from joint pain. Not to be ingested, Copaiba oil is best diluted and applied topically under the guidance of a Vet, or diffused with water in small amounts in a ventilated room.

Chamomile Oil

Chamomile has been around since Roman times. Packed with an abundance of therapeutic properties, it supports sleep, calms the mind, relieves pain and cramps, soothes sore skin and gives hair a healthy shine. With all these benefits, many wonder whether it's safe to use Chamomile oil around their cat.

Is Chamomile essential oil good for cats?

Chamomile Roman oil is typically considered safe for cats when used correctly and in small doses, and delivering similar benefits to those enjoyed by humans.

Diffusion is the safest way for your cat to appreciate the benefits of Chamomile oil, and in a ventilated room. This application disperses droplets in the air which can be ingested by your cat, so it is best to do so over short periods.  

A Final Word on the Safe Use of Essential Oils around Pets

Browse the internet for information about this topic, and you’ll find different views about the safety of essential oils for pets.  

Our comprehensive review gives you some pointers to consider before using essential oils around your pet. Just to add to this, we will leave you with a few final words:  

- Even ‘safe’ essential oils can pose a risk. All essential oils must be handled with care and caution when using them around animals. 

- Don’t leave oils lying around! Always store your essential oils safely out of reach.  

- Don’t allow pets to ingest oils. Most will cause some kind of upset when ingested even in small doses, with some being potentially fatal. 

 - If you choose to apply essential oils as part of your pet-care routine, introduce new oils slowly and keep a close watch of your pet for any adverse reactions. If you are worried, call the vet immediately. 

There are a number of essential oils not safe for dogs and cats, including Tea Tree, Cinnamon and Lemongrass. Do your research on these oils before using them and potentially causing harm to your pet! 

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