Benefits from essential oils

Essential Oil bottlesMany 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

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 Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

Springtime Yard Hazards for Pets

Springtime is garden time. Spring is when we plant new plants and get our yards ready to shine. While you are preparing your outdoor areas for your family to enjoy just make sure you take the steps to ensure that it is safe for your pets to enjoy as well.

“When planting your garden it is important to note that there are numerous house and garden plants which can be toxic to animals,” warns Dr. Murl Bailey, professor of toxicology at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Several that come to mind initially are brunfelsia, lilies, cycads, kolanchoe, and oleander.”

Brunfelsia, more commonly known as the yesterday, today & tomorrow plant, causes convulsive seizures in dogs that resemble strychnine poisoning.

“We haven’t seen any problems in cats from brunfelsia, as of this date,” notes Bailey. “While this plant is mostly a house plant, it could be in sheltered gardens in the southern part of Texas.”

Cycads, low growing palm trees which are used both indoors and outdoors, are another type of plant that is toxic to dogs as they tend to chew on the roots. The cycad has a toxin in the root and stems that is toxic to the liver.

“When the liver is affected, the dog’s body stops producing the normal, endogenous clotting factors and the dogs start bleeding excessively–to the extent that they can bleed to death,” explains Bailey.

While brunfelsia and cycads may not be known to cause problems in cats, lilies are especially harmful to them. Once cats ingest lilies, they develop nausea and vomiting. Then they get depressed, and stop eating.

“Why cats like to eat them I don’t know, probably boredom, but once they do these cats must be treated by a veterinarian, preferably within 24 hours and not later than 48 hours,” states Bailey. “We do not know which toxin(s) are present in the lilies, but they are very toxic to the kidneys.”

Kolanchoe is a type of house plant that is known to be toxic. This plant contains a chemical which is similar to the human heart medication, digoxin.

“The garden plant oleander also contains digoxin-like compounds. Both kolanchoe and oleander can be toxic to all animals, including dogs and cats, if ingested,” says Bailey.

While spring is a time to plant beautiful flowers in your yard, it also brings pesky insects out in numbers. Because of this, another potential hazard this time of year is pesticides.

“All pesticides can cause problems in dogs and cats if the chemicals are stored incorrectly and misused,” warns Bailey.

Bailey stresses that labels on all chemicals should be read very carefully and followed, especially when used around pets. He notes that animals do not have to eat the toxin; they can also become exposed through the skin and in the case of volatile agents, can be exposed just by breathing the contaminated air.

“If a pesticide is not specifically labeled to be used on dogs and/or cats, the pesticide can cause toxicities,” Bailey states. “Some insecticides are labeled specifically for dogs and not for cats so it is important to read the labels thoroughly.”

While there are more and more products out there that claim to be environmentally safe or “green,” Bailey is not entirely convinced of their worth.

“Many alternative and “so-called” environmentally safe compounds are usually not very effective in controlling fleas, flies and ticks. The best thing for an animal owner to do is follow the labeled instructions,” he adds.

Spring is a great time to enhance and enjoy the outdoors. Taking the time to make sure that everything you put in and on your yard is safe for your furry friends will ensure this time is special for the entire family.

About Pet Talk

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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