By Wendy Dessler
Essential oils are natural substances that can be used to replace harsh chemicals in the home. However, natural doesn’t always mean safe, especially where our pets are concerned. After all, for humans a delicious chocolate truffle is a treat; for dogs, it’s a threat.
When using essential oils in the home, it’s important to be cognizant of your furry friends. Here are some helpful tips for safely using essential oils around your pets.
Avoid the Worst Offenders
While some oils are generally safe to use in a pet-friendly when handled properly, others should be avoided at all costs. Avoid using clove, tea tree oil, thyme, wintergreen, camphor, and eucalyptus near your pets. Before purchasing a new type of oil, conduct your own research to see if it’s safe to use near your animals. If you use these oils for personal application, keep them sealed and stored safely out of reach, being mindful of contact with your animal when you have oils on.
There are various types of oils that are harmless to pets and can even be helpful in some cases. For example, argan oil benefits furry friends by keeping their coats shiny and skin moisturized. Peppermint and spearmint oil can help eliminate pet odors in the home when applied topically with a carrier oil.
Never Use Around Small Pets
While cats and dogs may top the list when thinking of family pets, lots of people prefer smaller mammals like rabbits, guinea pigs, and hamsters. If you have smaller mammals, you will need to be even more cautious when using essential oils.
Smaller animals means smaller respiratory and circulatory systems, as well as very different metabolisms for processing things that enter the bloodstream. In many cases, a seemingly small amount of the wrong oil can be extremely toxic. Furthermore, these little critters are very sensitive to smells and will often refuse to eat when an overpowering smell is present. This can cause starvation leading to an untimely death.
Refrain from diffusing oils in rooms where small animals (including birds and reptiles) are kept and only apply oils to yourself after handling your little pets. If you’re using oils in other areas of the home, remember to check on them frequently and note any changes.
Be Mindful When Cleaning
Using essential oils as a chemical-free ingredient in DIY cleaning products is a great way to have a sparkling, healthy home. However, these products can be overwhelming or even tempting for pets.
Tea tree oil, for example, is a commonly used essential oil for cleaning products due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties, especially when mixed with peppermint. When using this mixture to mop the floor or wipe down your counters, take time to wipe up the residue with a dry towel before letting any pets enter the area. Keep an eye on dogs and cats who might be tempted to lick the newly cleaned spot.
If possible, avoid using any of the worst offenders in your at-home cleaning blends. Keep animals out of the area until any wet spots have dried and the smell has dissipated.
Diffuse with Care
With the exception of smaller animals, diffusing oils in a pet-friendly home is entirely safe if you take the proper precautions. Again, avoid diffusing the oils that pets are particularly sensitive to. Keep the diffuser in a place where pets can’t reach-- especially cats who enjoy knocking things onto the floor for a hobby.
Be sure to keep your diffuser in an open area where your pets can’t get trapped with it. For example, if you use a diffuser in the bedroom, keep the door closed so that your cat doesn’t get trapped in the room with it. This will help provide adequate oxygen for processing and keep your kitty healthy.
Know the Signs
While being proactive is key to using essential oils with pets in the home, it’s also important to take the time to learn the signs of essential oil poisoning in pets. The signs include:
- Becoming unbalanced
- Excessive drooling
- Sudden behavior changes
If your pet shows any of these signs, cease using oils immediately and contact your vet.
What makes essential oils so great is their naturalness and potency. However, when you have pets around, it’s important to handle the oils with care to keep your whole family safe and secure.