>U Mom Knows Best: Can Essential Oils Be Harmful to Pets?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Can Essential Oils Be Harmful to Pets?

 Essential oil diffusers are becoming a common household item. Since essential oils are natural, many people don’t think much of using the diffusers in their home. In fact, many people use essential oils to help them manage a variety of ailments such as colds and flu.

 Essential oils have been used by people as far back as recorded history goes, but the resurgence in their popularity is very recent. Over the past few years, more and more essential oil diffusers have been making their way into homes. According to Stratistics MRC, the Global Essential Oil Market is accounted for $5.91 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $12.85 billion by 2023 growing at a CAGR of 11.7% during the forecast period

 Originally used for fragrance or to enhance food, essential oils are now used as insecticides, antibacterials, aromatherapy, herbal remedies, and liquid potpourri. Since essential oils are used in so many applications, it is time to start thinking about how they can affect our pets.

 Often, holistic medications are considered harmless, but they can be dangerous at times. In fact, essential oils should be used with caution around pets. As essential oils become more popular, many people are using them in diffusers in their homes. Dogs and cats have a much better sense of smell than humans, and these fragrances may be overwhelming for your pet.

 On a more serious note, pets metabolize substances differently than humans. Cats, for example, are unable to metabolize some of the compounds in essential oils, which makes them more susceptible to toxic poisoning. These oils can be absorbed into your pet’s system very quickly through the mouth, nose, or skin. Exposure can lead to symptoms in your pet, and the higher the concentration of the oil, the great the risks.

Top Four Essential Oils That Are Popular and Poisons

1. Tea tree oil - is especially dangerous for our pets. While tea tree oil helps fight infections and skin conditions for humans, it can be very toxic for our pets. When owners want to take a more holistic approach to veterinary care, sometimes they use tea tree oil to treat external parasites, fleas, or skin conditions. However, just because something is okay for humans doesn’t mean it is okay for our pets. Tea tree oil can be absorbed into your pet’s body via their mouth and skin, which can lead to depression, paralysis, vomiting, ataxia, hypothermia, or skin irritation. Even with the most aggressive treatment options, these symptoms can last for several days after the initial exposure.

2. Pennyroyal - is another oil that is commonly used on pets to get rid of external parasites. Pennyroyal contains Mentha Pulegium. Unfortunately, this oil can cause hepatic necrosis and liver failure when ingested or when it seeps into the skin. Pennyroyal should be completely avoided for pets, but if your pet does get into this toxic oil, he or she will need aggressive treatment from a veterinarian right away.

3. Wintergreen - oil is typically used as a topical pain reliever, fragrance, and flavoring. It is often used around the holidays. However, wintergreen contains methyl salicylates, or aspirin compounds, that pets are unable to metabolize the way humans do. Methyl salicylates can lead to toxicity in pets that causes liver and kidney damage.

4. Pine-Sol - is a common household cleaner that has been used in homes for many years. Pine-Sol contains pine oils. In general, pine oils are considered to be a natural disinfectant and cleaner. Pine oils can also be used for massage oils. For pets, however, when pine oils are absorbed through the skin, dogs and cats can suffer from gastrointestinal irritation, skin irritation, drooling, weakness, vomiting, and ataxia.

 The previously mentioned oils are some of the most commonly encountered toxic oils for our pets according to Pet Poison Helpline. Other oils that are known to be toxic to pets include sweet birch, citrus, Ylang Ylang, peppermint, clove, cinnamon, and eucalyptus oils. Pet owners also need to remember that pets can react differently to essential oils than human do. As essential oils are becoming more frequently used in homes, veterinarians are continuing to learn how pet respond to them.

  As essential oil diffusers become more and more popular, veterinarians are starting to become concerned with aspiration and aspiration pneumonia in addition to the oral and dermal exposures. Active diffusers emit particles of oil into the air. These microdroplets are viscous. Inhaling tiny particles of oil could cause irritation, inflammation, and resultant pneumonia in pets. Another worry for vets is that pets could ingest these oils, vomit them up due to gastrointestinal irritation, and then aspirate on the vomit with the oil, which will get the oil into the lungs.

 While health problems are the main issue with essential oils, they can also cause discomfort for pets. The incredible sense of smell that pets have can be a disadvantage when essential oils are used in the home. These oils can overwhelm the senses, which can cause watery eyes, drooling, runny nose, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. Cats with a pre-existing respiratory disease are at a higher risk for respiratory irritation from essential oils.

 Prevention is the best solution to essential oil toxicity in pets. Unfortunately, many of the essential oil poisonings that veterinarians see stem from well-meaning pet owners who have used essential oils on themselves or have read about the benefits of essential oils online. However, it is important that we know about the potential side effects and dangers that these oils can cause. Contact your veterinarian before using essential oils in your home or on your pet to learn about the potential for toxicity. Anything that is deemed toxic should be avoided or kept away from your pet at all times.

 If your pet has ingested an essential oil or gotten any on the skin, you will need to get them emergency medical care. Find an emergency veterinarian in your area for help with potential essential oil poisonings. To learn more about the types of poisonous substances that can harm your pets please visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

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