What Essential Oils Are Safe to Diffuse Around Cats and Dogs? (Quick Facts)

When you’re a pet owner who enjoys the benefits of diffusing essential oils, you may wonder which ones are safe to diffuse around your cat or dog. 

Cats are more sensitive to the adverse effects of essential oils, but you have to be cautious about which oils you expose your dog to as well. Common oils, like eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree oil should never be diffused around your pets. 

Read on to learn how you can continue to enjoy the effects of diffusing essential oils without harming your pets.

What Essential Oils Are Safe to Diffuse Around Cats and Dogs

Diffusing Essential Oils Around Your Pets

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) alleviates some distress that you might have about exposing your pet to essential oil mist from your diffuser. 

Similar to adults, if your pet has a history of lung issues, it’s best not to diffuse oils in your home. Otherwise, diffusing essential oils in an area closed off to your pet shouldn’t cause any problems for your cat or dog. 

Where you might run into problems is when the dog or cat is in the same area of the home as your diffuser while it’s operating. 

There are three main problems that can result from diffusing essential oils around your pet:

  1. The fragrance may overwhelm your pet, even if it’s subtle to you
  2. Inhaling the oils might pose a health risk to your pet
  3. Oil droplets might land on your pet’s coat, leading to ingestion once it grooms itself

The first problem has an easy cure. Wherever you’re diffusing in the home, you can make it easy for your pet to exit the room, if it becomes irritated or overwhelmed by the scent. The last point is one I hadn’t even thought about, but we’ll save it for later.

Diffusing Essential Oils Around Cats

If you can avoid diffusing essential oils around cats altogether, I would suggest doing that. 

After inhaling the fine mist of water and essential oils from your diffuser, cats can experience aspiration pneumonia. Their already sensitive lungs and airway passage would become inflamed from inhaling the essential oil and water droplets.

Your cat might have trouble breathing, lack an appetite, have difficulty swallowing, or experience lethargy. You might notice a fever or hear respiratory sounds, like gurgling or rattling. These are just a few of the symptoms, but if you notice a change in your cat’s behavior after it’s been exposed to diffused oils, then you’ll want to take your cat to the veterinarian immediately.

Unfortunately, aspiration pneumonia is one of the most difficult forms of pneumonia to treat in a cat. Other ailments your cat might experience from inhaling essential oil particles from your diffuser are central nervous system depression, liver damage, or gastrointestinal upset. 

In more extreme cases, inhaling essential oils can lead to seizures or even death.

So, going back to my first suggestion, if you have cats, you may not want to diffuse essential oils around them at all, unless it’s specifically formulated for cats and/or is prescribed by your cat’s veterinarian.

Diffusing Essential Oils Around Dogs

Some essential oil fragrances might actually attract your dog, piquing its interest. This curiosity might lead to your dog searching for the source of that fragrance. Therefore, it’s even more important to keep your diffuser out of your dog’s reach. If your dog finds it and accidentally knocks it over, this would create a different set of problems. 

Essential Oils You Should Not Diffuse Around Your Pet

Cats don’t have the enzymes needed to process phenol compounds found in essential oils. The high concentration of phenols in plant matter is what makes essential oils especially toxic for cats. Exposure often leads to organ failure or respiratory distress.

Veterinarians point out that kittens and elderly cats are even more vulnerable and should never be around essential oils.

This Ontario pet clinic lists eleven essential oils that are poisonous to your cat no matter the age. Two were added from other sources.

Poisonous Essential Oils for Cats

  • Cinnamon oil
  • Citrus oil
  • Clove oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Oregano oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pine oil
  • Sweet Birch oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Wintergreen oil
  • Ylang ylang oil

The effects of essential oils on cats is far worse than for dogs but you have to be cautious around your dogs as well. 

It’s their nose that’s more sensitive than their organs. So always watch your pet and stop diffusing if your dog looks irritated or you notice other changes in its behavior. 

The same essential oil that might calm one dog, might cause another one to feel more stress. Dogs can also experience respiratory and central nervous system challenges.

When it comes to using essential oils around dogs, it is best to consult a veterinarian.  But there are a number of essential oils that should never be used around dogs, either.

Poisonous Essential Oils for Dogs

  • Anise oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Citrus oil 
  • Clove oil
  • Garlic oil
  • Juniper oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pine oil
  • Sweet birch oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Thyme oil
  • Wintergreen oil
  • Ylang ylang oil

Whether you’re diffusing these oils or using them topically, they are completely unsafe for your pets.

Some experts offer even more extensive lists that you might want to research.

Droplets on Your Pet’s Coat

Another danger of diffusing essential oils around your pets is that the tiny droplets can land and accumulate on their coats. The problem with that is cats and dogs frequently groom themselves throughout the day. If they ingest essential oil droplets, they can experience any of the previously mentioned symptoms. But the reaction might also be more subtle.

You might notice:

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Inflammation of the skin, lips, or gums
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Coughing, wheezing, or panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unsteady gait
  • Tremors or lethargy
  • Low body temperature
  • Low heart rate

If you notice that essential oil droplets have landed on your pet’s coat, remove your pet from that room, and then wash their coat with soap and water. If the diffuser is still operating, then keep your pet out of that room.

In cases where they’ve already licked the oils, it’s best to take them to the vet. Do not induce vomiting because it can worsen the condition. Remember to take the essential oil with you to the office or emergency clinic so that the vet will know which treatment options are best. 

Expose your pet to fresh air if you notice difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, or similar symptoms. If exposure to fresh air doesn’t help, then you’ll want to take your cat or dog to the veterinarian. 

Essential Oils Safe to Diffuse Around Pets

There are a number of essential oils that are safe to diffuse around your cat or dog. Diffusing is actually preferred over topical use of essential oils with pets. As you can probably imagine, the approved list for cats is much shorter than the one for dogs.

Essential Oils Safe to Diffuse Around Cats

  • Chamomile oil
  • Frankincense oil
  • Lavender oil

Essential Oils Safe to Diffuse Around Dogs

  • Cedarwood oil
  • Chamomile oil
  • Geranium oil
  • Ginger oil
  • Frankincense oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Myrrh oil
  • Rosemary oil

It’s best to diffuse single oils around your pets. If using blends, carefully read the ingredients list before diffusing. The oils listed here are only suggestions compiled from expert agencies. You should always have a talk with a veterinarian about which oils to diffuse around your specific dog or cat.

Here are some additional essential oil diffusing pointers: 

  • If your pet’s in the room while you’re diffusing essential oils, always add fewer drops than what’s recommended for humans. This makes the scent less strong for them.
  • Always leave a door open in case your pet elects to leave the room.
  • Make sure there’s proper ventilation in the room.
  • Use interval settings; never run the diffuser continuously.
  • Diffuse for no more than 10 minutes at a time.
  • Even if an oil is vet-approved, test a small amount first to see how your pet will respond to it.
  • Avoid using the diffuser in areas where the vapor can land on their pet bed, toys, etc.

In Conclusion

Essential oils can make your home smell nice and even eliminate pet odors, but you have to diffuse them safely around your pets. You’ve taken a big step towards creating a safe home environment for your cat or dog. Educating yourself on the topic will go a long way. 

If your cat or dog has pre-existing breathing problems, you’d best serve them by not diffusing essential oils in your home at all. Otherwise stick to the short list provided above.

But always consult with your pet’s veterinarian before diffusing essential oils around them because each species is unique. Even pet safe oils can cause your pet to respond differently.

If for some reason you can’t access medical services for your pet, you can always call APCC at (888) 426-4435.

Grace Young

I love candles! I have personally tried over 100 brands of candles. The total burn time of these candles is over 5000 hours. I also talk about essential oil diffusers and reed diffusers. Essential oil diffusers and diffusers are also an important part of the scent in my home.

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