Before you leave these lying around, ask yourself are essential oils harmful to cats and dogs?

Are Essential Oils Harmful to Cats and Dogs?


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Do you sometimes snooze with a few drops of Ylang Ylang oil on your pillow while sleeping with your cat or dog in your bed? If you haven’t ever asked yourself ‘are essential oils harmful to cats and dogs?’ then now’s the time to start.

Your aromatherapy kit and diffusers might seem harmless. But they can be poisonous for pets. Many owners are shocked to discover their beloved tea tree oil bathroom-staple could be seriously toxic to their cat or dog.

What is essential oil?

Essential oils are essentially concentrated compounds that are extracted from the bark, stems, leaves, and other parts of a plant. Each one has a distinct and powerful fragrance – or essence – from that plant.

Essential oils aren’t oils, not in the scientific sense of the word anyway. But they usually come in an oily liquid form. They’re often used for aromatherapy and can be helpful as relaxation or sleep aids. Essential oils are also found in many basic bathroom essentials, like mouthwash, skin cream and shampoos.   

But are they safe to share with your fur kids?

Why are essential oils harmful to cats and dogs?

Many of us mistake “natural” for healthy. But just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe. This goes for pets and people alike! For example, there are several poisonous plants for dogs and cats, this despite being completely natural.

For our pets, essential oils go on the ‘natural yet dangerous’ list.

These essential oils are harmful to cats and dogs

Essential oils and cats

Felines are particularly sensitive to toxicity from essential oils, though dogs can be too. This is because cats lack an important enzyme that helps the liver process essential oils. Kittens, older cats, and cats with respiratory or liver issues fall into very high-risk categories.

In both cats and dogs, essential oils can be absorbed through the skin or orally (through drinking or licking). If your pet touches essential oils with their paw, it’s absorbed and enters the blood stream.

Similarly to chocolate toxicity or xylitol poisoning, oils are harmless to humans yet can make pets sick because they can’t break them down properly. Discover which other common items can be harmful to pets, and pet proof your home like a pro.

While dogs are less vulnerable than cats, essential oils can still cause toxicity with them. If your pup is young or has liver problems, they’re at higher risk of this.

What are the effects of essential oils on cats and dogs?

Given essential oils are bad for cats and dogs, it’s important you know how to recognise symptoms. For cats, it can lead to liver damage or failure, seizures, respiratory failure, and can even be fatal. In dogs, it can cause respiratory and central nervous system issues.

These are some of the most common signs of essential oil poisoning:

  • difficulty breathing, such as panting, wheezing or coughing
  • difficulty walking or problems with balance and coordination
  • drooling
  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • muscle tremors
  • decreased body temperature
  • pawing at the face or mouth
  • burns or redness on the skin, lips, tongue or gums
  • vomiting
  • watery eyes or nose
  • low heart rate

If you use essential oils at home and suspect your pet might have been exposed to them, take them to a vet right away. If the oil gets on their paws or skin, wash it off immediately and thoroughly.

Bring the oil (or a photo of the ingredients) to the vet when visiting.

These essential oils are potentially fatal to this cat.

What essential oils are toxic to cats and dogs?

There are many types of essential oils, and it’s likely new ones will pop up after we publish this. So, bear in mind this list of essential oils that are toxic to cats and dogs isn’t exhaustive:


  • Cinnamon oil
  • Citrus oil
  • Clove oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pine oils
  • Sandalwood oil
  • Sweet birch oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Wintergreen oil
  • Ylang ylang


  • Citrus oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pine oil
  • Sweet birch oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Wintergreen oil
  • Ylang ylang

If you’re unsure whether an essential oil you have is safe for pets or not, it’s better to assume it isn’t.

Essential oils are often harmful to dogs and cats, so beware of doing this.

Which essential oils are not harmful for cats and dogs?

Most essential oils have the potential to be toxic to your pet. The ones we’ve listed above, however, are those most likely to cause serious symptoms.

And, in general, the more diluted the oil is, the less harmful it becomes for your cat or dog.

When used properly, and in small amounts with caution, the essential oils listed below are considered safe for cats and dogs. However, every pet will have their individual sensitivity levels, so you should always consult your vet first for peace of mind.

  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Jasmine

Reducing the risk of exposure

If you use essential oils, try these guidelines for pet safety. Although they may not entirely remove the risk of essential oil poisoning, they will reduce it:

  • Keep essential oils locked away out of reach
  • Use a passive diffuser, rather than an active diffuser
  • Try using oils which are more likely to be ‘pet safe’ (but keep these out of reach or in a separate room)
  • Avoid using insect repellents that have essential oils in them
  • Take note of which toothpastes, shampoos and other household items contain essential oils and keep these locked away
  • Never apply essential oil directly to your pet’s skin without first consulting your vet

Pet insurance for extra protection

Despite doing everything right for our pawsome friends, pets sometimes still get into sticky situations. Accidents, injury, non-routine vet visits and hospitalisation are all included in our easy to use online pet insurance.

This means that you can give your pet the medical attention when they need it without worrying about the cost.

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