Essential oils can be great for us humans. Whether by diffusing them to release their scent into the air or by applying diluted versions to our skin, we can benefit from their properties. They have been used as medicine for centuries, and are now widely used in aromatherapy, cosmetics, and perfume.
However, essential oils should be kept away from small children and pets. Consuming them by mouth can be very dangerous, and not all of them are safe for undiluted use on the skin.
Potent and Potentially Toxic
Essential oils can be dangerous because they are very potent. They are usually made through the process of distillation using steam. It takes a whole lot of plant matter to produce a little essential oil.
When applied to the skin, ingested, or inhaled, essential oils are rapidly absorbed into the body. When they reach the bloodstream, the chemical compounds they contain can be distributed to all the tissues of the body. Even simply diffusing too much essential oil in your home can cause health problems for your pets, who have a different level of sensitivity to essential oils.
A few licks of essential oil or only a little on the skin can poison a dog. Signs of poisoning from essential oils can include:
- Smelling the fragrance in the dog’s coat, mouth, or vomit
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty walking
- Lack of coordination
- Lethargy or weakness
- Muscle tremors
- Pawing at the mouth or face
- Redness or burns on the mouth, gums, or skin
While some essential oils are dangerous, others can be used to help dogs with physical or mental illness. It’s incredibly important to consult a veterinarian before deciding which oil to use and how to use it. When in doubt, always ask your vet before trying anything.
“Good” Essential Oils for Dogs
With caution, some oils can be used on dogs. Some oils are safe for dogs to smell but not for use on the skin, and none are safe to ingest.
For dogs, essential oils can be used to complement, and as an alternative to, pharmaceutical treatment. There are 12 essential oils that can be safe for use on dogs. Keep in mind, even these beneficial essential oils are usually not recommended for long-term use:
- Sweet orange
Low-Quality or High-Strength Oils can be Toxic
If you decide to treat your dog with essential oils, make absolutely sure you are using therapeutic-grade oils from a reputable source. Companies that cut corners during the manufacturing process may add adulterants or contaminants, which can poison your pet.
Dogs have a very strong sense of smell, so if you use an essential oil make sure to dilute it in a neutral oil before seeing if your dog likes it. One part essential oil to 50 parts plain oil might be a good ratio, but again, you should ask your vet before trying anything. And if your dog doesn’t like the scent of the oil, don’t persist in using it.