Candles, incense, and simmering potpourri have been available to consumers for a long time. In recent years, these products have had some steep competition in the personal wellness department: essential oils. 

Extracted via steam or cold-pressing, essential oils capture a plant’s essence (namely their scent and flavor), in an effort to promote health and well-being. Although this sounds like a safer alternative to the man made chemicals found in other scented products, pet owners need to be aware that pets and essential oils don’t really mix.

Healing Smells for Pets?

Essential oils can be found in many products. From aromatherapy to personal care products, herbal remedies and even insecticides, more than 90 oils are used worldwide.

For use in humans, essential oils may aid digestion, improve mood, and even fight infection. However, when applied directly to pets, or used in areas shared by them, essential oils can be incredibly dangerous.


Essential oils are commonly used in diffusers of all shapes and sizes. They can be ultrasonic, nebulizing, electric, ceramic, or stone. You might also see essential oil diffusers, or notice lamp rings that heat the oil and emit it’s fragrance into the air. 

That’s Nice… That’s Bad!

Basically, essential oils attach to water molecules in a fine mist. Thrust upwards into the air, essential oil vapors can potentially purify the air of fungus and bacteria, and deliver a potent fragrance. 

Beyond just making a room smell nice, essential oils have the power to cause a serious pet emergency if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed by the skin.

Delicate Systems

The pets we know, live with and love have very delicate systems that are easily upset by even small doses of toxic plant compounds. Cats tend to have stronger reactions than dogs, and are more sensitive to a longer list of toxic essential oils. 

Either way, pets and essential oils shouldn’t overlap, and be especially wary of the following:

  • Tea tree
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Pine
  • Citrus
  • Sweet Birch
  • Cinnamon
  • Eucalyptus
  • Clove

Aside from respiratory reactions, commonly observed after exposure to essential oils, such as labored or fast breathing, wheezing or coughing, pets can experience GI problems, liver failure, paralysis, and additional life-threatening issues.

You may see behavior changes (even slight ones can be indicative of something more dangerous going on), excessive drooling, tremors, walking difficulty, and/or inflammation near the mouth and nose.

Barring Pets and Essential Oils

It is always a priority for pet owners to prevent pet poisoning. Be sure to keep your pet away from essential oils. If they happen to wander into a room where they’re being used, take the time to comfortably set them up in an area that is less risky to their health and well being. 

Similarly, if you used them as part of your body care regimen, do not allow your pet to lick your skin or pick up the oil through close contact. 

Always Here For You

Our veterinarians and staff members at Dickinson Animal Hospital & Pet Wellness Center are always here for you and your pet. If you have further questions about separating pets and essential oils, we hope you’ll contact us