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Did you know that your essential oil diffuser could be poisoning your pets?

Cats and dogs at risk from essential oils dog-cat-serious
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Essential oils have become increasingly popular in recent years. But you may not realise that these oils could be causing serious harm to your cats and dogs.

By Zoe Monk

Published on the 27/11/2019, 13:00, Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:36

The one time most pet owners wish their beloved animals could talk is when they are ill. Pet illnesses are not always easy to decipher and it can sometimes be extremely difficult to be able to tell the difference between what’s just a little passing bug to the start of something more serious.

Strange behaviour

Dog lover Marianne shared her story on Facebook about what happened to her dog who began acting strangely and became unresponsive even when his name was called. But when Marianne turned off her essential oil diffuser, the dog seemed to get better. She hadn’t considered there being any connection between the two until she happened to be speaking to her vet.


Dog Poisoned by the Diffuser Saturday night I got home late and my dog didn't recognize me. Being a nanny I thought I...

Posted by Marianne Whyte on Saturday, November 16, 2019

Marianne's post has already received 109K shares and 18K comments from fellow pet owners who also admitted to not knowing the risks of essential oils.

But Marianne isn't the only pet owner to have seen the effects essential oils can have on cats and dogs.

Risk to pets

Essential oils bring a number of benefits. From making our house smell nice, treating our skin, to even helping us sleep. But while they may help us, they could be doing more harm than good for our furry friends.


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Vet Zoe Costigantold Metro.co.uk: “We need to be cautious when it comes to keeping essential oils in our homes as many oils could be potentially toxic to our pets. Essential oils, as well as being used in room diffusers, are found in many products such as shampoos, air fresheners, insect repellents and may be accidentally ingested, absorbed across the skin or inhaled by animals.”

Which oils to watch out for

Essential oils that may be dangerous to cats and dogs include:

  • Tea tree
  • Peppermint
  • Citrus oils
  • Ylang ylang
  • Lavender
  • Wintergreen
  • Sweet birch
  • Pine
  • Eucalyptus
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove

How your pet can be affected

Your cat or dog, or any other pet in your home, can come into contact with essential oils from:

  • Direct skin contact. Never apply any essential oils to your cat or dog’s skin. It could cause a severe reaction and they could also lick it off and accidentally ingest it.
  • Ingesting. If your pet gets some of the oil onto their fur or skin, they could easily lick it off. There is also the risk that they could drink the liquid from the diffuser. 
  • Inhaling. We use diffusers or plugins to make our homes smell nice. But while the toxic effects from inhalation are quite rare, some animals with medical conditions such as asthma, will be more at risk.

In severe cases, essential oils can cause serious organ damage, liver failure, seizures and even death.


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Is your pet having a reaction to essential oils?

The symptoms of essential oil poisoning can vary, but generally, it includes:

  • Vomiting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Shaking 
  • Hair loss
  • Walking as if they’re drunk
  • Lethargy or depression 
  • Difficulty breathing or breathing with their mouth open
  • Collapse or seizures

Signs of toxicity vary depending on the type of oil, the concentration and how the pet has been exposed to it.


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If your cat or dog has had skin contact with essential oil, they may have a patch of sore or red skin or what could even be a chemical burn. If you think your pet might have had contact with essential oil, whether it’s skin contact or they may have eaten something containing essential oil, contact your vet straight away. Even if your pet isn’t showing any symptoms, it’s always best to be safe.

Protecting your pet

If you want to continue to use essential oils, but of course you also want to keep all your pets safe, then choose a passive diffuser. Unlike active diffusers which use vibrations and electricity to diffuse the oils, passive diffusers don’t use any stimulus and are less intense. You should also avoid using undiluted essential oils to clean with. Make sure that you store all essential oils away from your pets and always wash your hands thoroughly after touching the oils and before you touch any animal.