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Could your pet benefit from essential oils?

Posted May 18, 2018

PetTalk051818Many people have turned to essential oils as part of their holistic approach to well-being. As the popularity of these products grows, some pet owners may wonder about incorporating essential oils into their pet’s healthcare routine.

Although essential oils may be beneficial to pets, Dr. Murl Bailey, a professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said to use essential oils with caution.

Essential oils can be a gentler alternative to traditional medicine. Applied topically, these oils quickly absorb into the skin and can help strengthen the immune system.

However, not all essential oils are safe to use on pets, and some pets may be allergic to specific oils. Additionally, the oils can be harmful if ingested or given in large doses.

“Essential oils should never be given by mouth or in the animal’s food,” Bailey said. “Oral ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and central nervous system depression, which can cause symptoms such as decreased heart and breathing rate. Seizures are also possible from large doses.”

Bailey added that oils applied to the animal’s skin may be ingested during the animal’s self-grooming. Therefore, it is best to apply the oil at the base of the neck where the animal can’t reach. Additionally, if you apply essential oils to your own skin, avoid allowing your pet to lick your skin after application.

Bailey included this list of toxic essential oils:

  • Armoise
  • Basil
  • Bay leaf (W. Indian)
  • Birch (sweet)
  • Bitter almond
  • Boldo leaf
  • Buchu
  • Calamus
  • Clove Leaf
  • Cornmint
  • Horseradish
  • Hyssop
  • Lanyana
  • Mustard
  • Myrr
  • Oregano
  • Pennyroyal (N. Am.)
  • Pennyroyal (Eur.)
  • Pine oil
  • Sasafras (Brazilian)
  • Sassafras
  • Savin
  • Savory (Summer)
  • Southernwood
  • Tansy
  • Tarragon
  • Tea tree
  • Thuja
  • Tree wormwood, large wormwood
  • Western Red Cedar
  • Wintergreen
  • Wormseed
  • Wormwood
  • Ylang ylang

If your pet displays any signs of poisoning, you can call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435. You can also contact your veterinarian.

If you are interested in using essential oils on your pet, your primary care veterinarian may be able to help. You can also search for a veterinarian through the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association at https://www.ahvma.org/.

Natural ways to treat pets, such as essential oils, are growing in availability. However, Bailey reminds pet owners that essential oils are not regulated and the concentration and safety listed on the label may be unknown in pets. As always, it is always best to consult your veterinarian before beginning any new treatment regimen.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.



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