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FAQ Post: Oiling with Pets

Essential Oil Safety - or, I saw that viral FB post and now I am freaking out!

· pets,dogs,safety,essential oils,doterra

FAQ: Help! I saw a viral FB post and now I am afraid to use my oils around my pets, or use them with my pets!

Oh gosh, has this question been on the rise over the past few months thanks to the “essential oils boom.” Essential oils have become SO popular that everyone is claiming to use them and have them – from big box companies with synthetic cleaners and wall plug ins, to department and dollar stores.

I meet people all the time who got a $30 kit of 10 “essential oils” on amazon that they think they got a deal on because our least expensive starter kit is $150. Yikes. In this situation, you get what you pay for and you pay for what you get.

I also talk to people who thought they were purchasing doTERRA from Amazon or Wal-Mart online or other online sources not related to a specific wellness advocate, only to find out how easily those bottles are tampered with and that doTERRA does not have authorized re-sellers on Amazon.

So when I see a viral post about “essential oils” harming a beloved pet, knowing what I know in my years of use that essential oils haven't just been safe for my pets and fosters, but improved their health dramatically - my first thought is – do we have the whole story? Often the answer is no. We often just get a few pieces of the puzzle and a dramatic warning, which makes it hard to do anything more than serve as fearmongering.

A typical day at our house...enjoying our AromaLite diffuser!

Because we often don’t have much to go on, my second thought is that they’ve used something labelled “essential oil” which is cheap (or expensive, but actually cheap), synthetic, and/or adulterated. “Essential oils” can be perfume quality, synthetic, and all sorts of ranges of purity. They can contain ragweed and other plants from the harvest, or cheaper oils that smell the same or look the same chemically. This is not an area where you can trust a label because so many say 100% pure and have been proven to be anything but. There is no way that gallon of dollar store lavender is pure, or that $30 starter kit has medicinal value. Those synthetic essential oils can be harmful and toxic to pets, and no safety list out there will protect your animals, particularly if they’ve ingested them. This is why we avoid “essential oils” and I only make recommendations regarding use of doTERRA essential oils, which I will be the first to tell you are not the only pure oils out there, but they are reliably available, always pure, the company is ethical and morally aligns with my values, they staff an entire sourcing team and scientific team, they work hand in hand with the farmers (rather than oil brokers who often adulterate oils to cheat profits) and have a third party laboratory (Aromatic Plant Research Center - test every batch of oils in addition to their own rigorous testing. is a great place to get more information on purity and doTERRA’s co-impact sourcing. It makes oiling easy for me because I can trust the quality and get predictable beneficial results, and that is why I chose to partner with doTERRA exclusively in the work that I do, and in my family and pet use. Peace of mind and strong healthy results are priceless.

My next thought is – let’s assume these oils in the scary post actually were pure (a big assumption because there are so many cheap synthetics that have flooded the marketplace) - how was the oil pinpointed to be the problem? There is very little research on essential oil toxicity in animals, and veterinarians do not study these types of holistic natural alternatives in school. When you consider the average home and myriad synthetic and harsh chemical household cleaners, bathroom sprays, perfumes, and other possible sources of toxicity like house plants and garbage, etc., it seems astonishing that it would always be the case that the new essential oil was suddenly the culprit. Instead, I think it more likely that the “new trend” always gets the most skeptical eye.

A great resource for published medical research is What you will mostly find is articles on the many benefits of pure essential oils (indeed – almost all of our synthetic drugs are developed by studying essential oils/plant medicine). But you do find some studies – and what they tend to conclude is that the toxicity of melaleuca, or tea tree oil, for example, is due to inappropriately high dosage. (“Cases of melaleuca oil toxicosis have been reported by veterinarians to the National Animal Poison Control Center when the oil was applied dermally to dogs and cats. In most cases, the oil was used to treat dermatologic conditions at inappropriate high doses. The typical signs observed were depression, weakness, incoordination and muscle tremors. The active ingredients of commercial melaleuca oil are predominantly cyclic terpenes. Treatment of clinical signs and supportive care has been sufficient to achieve recovery…”)

JAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) published a study in 2014 entitled “Concentrated tea tree oil toxicosis in dogs and cats: 443 cases (2002–2012).” This article took all of the toxic exposures to Melaleuca that were reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center of dogs and cats over a 10 year period and analyzed them (so this information would likely overlap the above study). This included reported toxic exposures throughout the US and Canada. The article concludes by stating that use of tea tree oil in dogs and cats is not recommended, which is why your veterinarian tells you it is toxic. However, Dr. Janet Roark, DVM, does an excellent job of breaking this study down. The study, “analyzed 443 cases – over 10 years… a little over 44 cases reported each year. To put that into a little bit of perspective, it's estimated that 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States alone. Granted, not everyone uses essential oils. Of those cases, only 31 were classified as major illness. The brands of the essential oils that caused toxicity were not disclosed in this study, it is likely that they are not known. Being that different purity levels and potency exists between brands, I believe this is a contributing factor in toxicity of this oil in most cases. The amount of oils that caused toxicity was “dose dependent.” In other words, the larger the dose or amount of oils used, and the smaller the animal, the more severe the symptoms were. The animals ranged from 0.2 kg (less than 0.5 lb newborn/ juvenile kittens) to 71 kg (156 lbs dogs). The toxic dosage ranged from 0.1 mL to 85 mL – in terms of standard sized essential oil bottles, that is 5 drops to over 5 Bottles worth of essential oil. Two dogs were reported with applications that resulted in death – one was accidently given 0.4 mL of this essential oil IV (in the vein) which is about 20 drops. The other was a small dog (miniature poodle) that was given 28.5 mL (that’s a little less than 2 full bottles) topically for 3 days straight. None of the cats that had toxicity died from exposure. There were no reports of toxicity from diffusion.” You can read more from Dr. Roark in the notes section of her very excellent Facebook page, Essential Oil Vet – Dr. Janet Roark DVM.

DoTERRA essential oils are 100% pure, and very potent, and moving on to our use with pets and doTERRA oils, there are some guidelines to always remember to keep using them safely. They should be respected and almost always diluted when using with pets. Pets should be able to move to a room away from a diffuser, and I personally recommend not to diffuse in the same space as birds because of their delicate respiratory systems, though many holistic vets with experience in using pure oils such as Dr. Roark and Dr. Shelton have no qualms about it. If you are diffusing for a pet’s benefit, like if they are anxious when you are away from the home, they only need 2-3 drops in a water based diffuser. I do not use straight oil diffusers around pets, though I do have an Ace diffuser in our dining room that I keep on the lowest setting at intervals which is fine, and if company comes over I am able to ramp it up for about 5 minutes and make the whole area smell amazing as if there are no pets (score!). I do not diffuse Melaleuca regularly – not because I have concerns but because I don’t care for the smell. Given it is a “hot topic” oil, if you have pets that are pregnant, very young, very small, very old, or compromised in some way avoid this oil just so it doesn’t take the blame if something goes down, because otherwise it will. People love to hop on melaleuca/tea tree even though it’s probably the most common essential oil out there in use for shampoos, cleaners, big sprays, etc. In fact, it is probably BECAUSE it is the most frequently used that it gets more press than others.

Cats are much smaller than we are AND cats lack an enzyme in their liver that helps them break down many kinds of medication, as well as some essential oils and some other things (foods, plants, etc). When I use oils topically with cats I use one drop in 2 tbsp of carrier oil and just a dab from that. In other words, we use a very high dilution rate. YOU SHOULD NEVER USE UNDILUTED ESSENTIAL OILS ON A CAT (OR SMALL DOG/PUPPY/COMPROMISED ANIMAL/ VERY OLD/ VERY YOUNG) AND YOU SHOULD NEVER USE STRAIGHT OIL DIFFUSERS AROUND CATS (water based diffusers are fine so long as they can come and go). That’s the best safety advice you will get, and people ignoring this advice and using cheap, non-pure oils are where 99.9% of issues come from, if not 100%. Another cat consideration that is important, is that they only need oils topically and internally sporadically – not daily, to give their system time to process the oils. When in doubt, do some annual bloodwork to reassure yourself that all is well. We do bloodwork as a routine part of our pets' care and it's always good to have that information.

There are only a handful of oils I use internally with cats for very specific reasons and conditions –Myrrh and Frankincense being two of those. Cats are adversely affected by certain essential oil components known as phenols and ketones, but veterinarians have also determined through toxicology reports that cats are most sensitive to a specific group of essential oil constituents which other mammals are not --- monoterpene hydrocarbons, particularly pinene and limonene. These two substances found most commonly in citrus and pine essential oils, are common ingredients in natural flea and tick repellants and shampoos, as well as natural citrus and pine cleaners. These products can harm the liver and caution should be used in ingestion HIGH IN MONOTERPENE HYDROCARBONS: Lemon (Citrus limon), Wild Orange (Citrus sinesis), Tangerine (Citrus reticulata), Mandarin (Citrus reticulata), Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), Lime (Citrus aurantifolia), Begamot (Citrus bergamia). HIGH IN PHENOLS: OREGANO (Origanum vulgare), Thyme (Thyme vulgaris), Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata), Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia). You’ll notice that clove, for example, is in OnGuard. That said, when essential oils are blended, chemical reactions occur and you end up with different chemical profiles. Further, we are diluting to very small amounts, and so we are using a fraction of a drop and within that fraction is one part of a blend. So, we are good when using these oils with respect and care and we will see excellent benefits for our pets, which is what we want as pet owners – to give them the best care and love we can give and keep them healthy and happy.

The bottom line: use common sense, use pure oils and treat them with respect for being the powerful healing agents we know them to be. If you ever notice your pet drooling, vomiting, having tremors, ataxia (wobbliness), respiratory distress, or seeming to have a low body temperature or heart rate, absolutely take them to the vet ASAP and discontinue anything your pet may be reacting to.

Also please note that doTERRA's toothpaste, peppermint beadlets, and pb assist jr. all contain xylitol which is beneficial for humans but TOXIC to dogs and cats and should be avoided.

In my years of oiling with dogs and foster dogs, and helping over 1,000 people oil safely with their pets, we have not had one single instance of essential oil toxicity in pets and only enjoyed positive results and benefits. Follow these safety guidelines and use your doTERRA oils with confidence. If you REALLY want to do something beneficial for your pet, in addition to learning appropriate oil use, do a toxin audit of your cleaners, perfumes, room sprays, deodorizers, plug-ins and all synthetic fragrance which are most definitely harmful and bothersome, as well as any non-pure essential oils. If you need help with that just let me know.

Let me also be clear also that essential oils actually do not heal the body or cure – they are adaptogens that give you/your pets’ body what it needs so it can heal itself; they are health and wellness products that keep you and your pets’ systems strong and healthy. There are many, many amazing holistic vets who use pure essential oils with great results for pets. However, you don’t have to be a vet or aromatherapist to use essential oils, as some would have you believe. I purchased several great resource books written by vets and experts, purchased the best oils, and saw immediate benefits following safety guidelines. Of course, you can become part of my essential oils team and benefit from our private member group and training – so many of us are in dog rescue, the medical field, etc and we love working together with our members to help specific issues and problems, but if you’re already on another doTERRA team do not stress – I am happy to help you out and point you to great resources so that you can enjoy this path of learning beneficial pet uses too. We are one big family in doTERRA and learning from each other is one of the many benefits of our heart-centered, ethical and amazing community of natural health enthusiasts and experts.

I hope this article helps increase your safety knowledge and confidence in using your doTERRA essential oils so that you and your pets can enjoy many happy and healthy years together!

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