Essential oils can be dangerous for pets, experts say

Veterinarian offers advice for using oils in households with pets

DETROIT - Essential oils are gaining in popularity as a way for people to improve their mood and naturally detoxify surroundings.

But while users are relaxing and enjoying the aromas, their pets might be suffering.

Between working as a personal trainer and the demands of everyday life, Raquel Sasyn is all about de-stressing.

"Oh my gosh, everybody needs to relax," Sasyn said. "After a workday, traffic is bad -- just everyday stress."

Her husband thought essential oils would help ease her tensions, so he bought a diffuser.

"This particular oil was a lavender tea tree," Sasyn said.

They set it up in the bedroom and went to sleep with their dog, Mia, nearby.

"We went to bed about 11:30, and when we woke up the next morning, Mia was, like, in a full seizure," Sasyn said. "She was chasing her tail. her head was shaking back and forth. We couldn't, you know, physically hold her down. It was terrifying."

Sasyn rushed Mia to their veterinarian.

"He said it could be either intoxication or she could be going through some type of seizure," Sasyn said.

Sasyn reached out to friends on Facebook, asking for prayers. Then, a message from a stranger gave her a clue about what might have caused Mia's reaction.

"A friend of a friend," Sasyn said. "I'm so glad that she's doing better because her symptoms sound exactly like what happened to my friend's dog, and it was because of diffusion of essential oils, and, like, for me, I was, like, 'Boom.'"

"It is very irritating to their respiratory system because their respiratory system is a lot more sensitive than ours," veterinarian Dr. Jill Odle said.

Odle didn't treat Mia, but she has treated other pets who have come in contact with essential oils.

"They don't have a lot of medicinal benefits for pets," Odle said. "But a lot of people use them for themselves, and so our pets are exposed to them."

Odle said the higher the concentration of the oil, the higher the likelihood of the pet having a bad reaction.

"You would see sneezing, coughing," Odle said. "You could even see red, runny eyes, and then even -- for cats especially -- a lot of times, they'll have open-mouth breathing and they may even by hyper-salivating."

Odle warned against using essential oils, especially tea tree oil -- on pets' skin to treat itching or parasites. She said it can potentially be deadly.

"It gets absorbed through their skin, and it actually gets absorbed into the central nervous system," Odle said. "That's where you can see signs like ataxia or stumbling. They can have weakness in their hind limbs. They can have depression or lethargy."

She advises pet owners who use essential oils in their homes to do the following:

  • Check the concentration level -- 100 percent might be too strong.
  • Select one well-ventilated room away from pets to place the diffuser.
  • All natural doesn't mean non-toxic. When in doubt, ask a veterinarian.

Sasyn got rid of her diffuser, and Mia is back to normal.

"You just don't think that they're that different from us, but they really, really are," Sasyn said. "She's like my heart, my soul, you know? I don't know what I would do if anything ever happened to her."

Here is a list of essential oils that could be potentially dangerous for pets:

Cats

  • Cinnamon oil
  • Citrus oil (d-limonene)
  • Clove oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Oil of sweet birch
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pine oils
  • Tea tree oil
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang Ylang oil

Dogs

  • Citrus
  • Oil of cinnamon
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea tree (melaleuca)
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang

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