Are Essential Oils Safe for my Pet?
This simple question requires a complex answer.
In general terms, essential oils are highly concentrated liquids distilled from certain parts of plants. The distillation process can include the leaves, bark, roots, flowers, and even the rinds of fruit in the case of citrus oils. With essential oils, a little can go a long way. They are so concentrated that one to two drops are often all that is needed to achieve a therapeutic response in some animals. That is why using proper dilution techniques are so important. This is especially true when using oils with our younger animals and in cats.
The conversation gets more complicated because not all essential oils are created equal. There is a substantial difference between a natural therapeutic grade essential oil and a fragrance grade oil. There is also a substantial difference in using a “neat” or 100% concentration vs a lower dilution of the same product.
Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils and extra care should be given when dosing to this species. Cats do have a decreased amount of UDP-glucuronyltransferase activity when compared to some other species and a “deficiency” in their Cytochrome p450 pathway. This all results in various liver metabolism “quirks” requiring extra caution with many medications, oils, and even household products.
- Oils and natural supplements are not benign!! This is why they can be effective. They need to be used with caution as you would any chemical medication.
- Using a lesser grade oil is akin to air freshener or perfume- both of which should be avoided around all pets as a general rule.
- Using essential oils as medicine or in concentrated form is best done under the supervision of a knowledgeable veterinarian.
- Generalizations can not be made to say that particular oil is safe or unsafe to use on or around pets due to the extreme variability in the quality of oils on the market.
- The cost of oil is not always reflective of its quality. It can be said, however, that overly affordable oils are not likely to be of the highest quality. Unfortunately, claims of “certified” quality statements should not be taken at face value as the market remains one of buyer beware.
All of this said, there are companies that produce good quality oils. We are purposefully not naming brands here as we cannot speak to ALL of the animal lines from even the top-tier oil producers.
We do use and love the essential oils that we carry at FPVHS and do feel that we can prescribe them safely. Any product can produce an allergic reaction in any pet and caution is always advised whether using oils, other natural or chemical supplements, or medication.
If you have further questions or would like recommendations for your particular pet, feel free to contact us and our receptionist would be happy to set up a consult appointment for you.