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Essential Oil Diffusers and Pet Health- What’s the Harm?

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Essential oil diffusers are a popular home accessory. Available in stylish designs to match your home’s decor, they’re a common item purchased by people who want to enhance their home with scented oils or want to experience their benefits. Because of the heavily advertised “natural” aspect of essential oils, which may or may not be true depending on the manufacturer, people consider these essential oils to be a better choice than scented candles or incense. However, when it comes to introducing a substance into your home’s air, there may be a few members of the family that need extra consideration: your pets. So, is there a connection between essential oil diffusers and pet health?


Do Your Homework

With the large variety of oils available to consumers, it’s important to research the different oils and any correlation between essential oil diffusers and pet health. Essential oils vary from brand to brand. The concentration of the specific oil depends on the source, so each brand of essential oil will affect pets differently. Make sure to carefully read all labels as regulations vary. 


For Your Feline Friends

Several popular essential oils have negative effects on household pets. Because of their grooming habits, cats are especially susceptible to health issues with essential oils. Cats groom themselves multiple times a day. As a diffuser runs, the mist containing essential oils lands on their fur. This causes them to ingest it again and again over the course of a day. A few droplets of mist may not seem like much, but cat’s bodies are not made to process essential oils. These toxins build up in their system until symptoms become severe. 


For Your Puppy Pals

Dogs are not as diligent about keeping their fur clean, but they are still at risk of being harmed. If essential oil bottles or diffusers are within reach, they are a risk for ingestion. Although dogs can be very smart, they often follow their nose when it comes to “interesting” scents. They may try to ingest the essential oil from the bottle or the diffuser. In general, it is recommended to only use an oil diffuser in rooms that an animal does not have access to while it is running. 


Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil is touted as having a wide array of benefits, such as repelling mosquitoes, killing head lice, calming nerves, discouraging household pests, relieving stuffy sinuses, and using it as part of a household cleaning routine. When ingested, undiluted eucalyptus oil can cause severe side effects, including seizures. Many people use essential oil diffusers as a way to incorporate the scent and perceived health benefits of eucalyptus oil into their daily lives, but do not realize it can come at the price of their pets’ health.

Both cats and dogs can be hurt by eucalyptus oil diffused in the air. The ASPCA Guide to Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants states that eucalyptus can cause “salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and weakness.” Symptoms may be difficult to notice until they become severe. Any animal dealing with a toxic substance entering their system requires immediate vet intervention.


Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil, or melaleuca oil, comes from the Australian Tea Tree. It is used to reduce acne, foot fungus, dandruff, and athlete’s foot. Also a popular ingredient in many health care items like shampoos and face washes, it is a widely used essential oil. Tea tree oil gives off a clean, distinct scent making it a commonly used essential oil.

Tea tree oil is included in some topical medicines and shampoos for animals, and is typically safe at a very low concentration. Although there are some safe uses, tea tree oil is toxic to both dogs and cats if ingested. Continued exposure to mist from an essential oil diffuser carrying tea tree oil increases the risk of illness. 



Peppermint is also a popular, familiar smell that evokes memories of winter holidays. It is a popular essential oil for its clean, bright scent. It is said to provide improved circulation, stimulate your memory, and soothe headaches. Like the other essential oils listed, peppermint is toxic to both cats and dogs. It causes nausea, vomiting, and weakness among other symptoms and is fatal in large enough amounts.


A Red Flag for Feathered Friends

Essential oil diffusers should not be used in a home with birds. Birds have very sensitive respiratory tracts and can be easily harmed by diffused oils in the air. They are easily impacted by the smallest amounts of oil in the air, causing major health issues or death. It is best to not introduce such a hazard into your home if you wish to protect your winged pals’ health and keep them safe. 

Small animals like guinea pigs, hamsters, reptiles, or rabbits, are also affected. It is important to take precautions so they do not come in contact with oil diffuser mist. 


Essential Thoughts for Your Pet’s Health

If you have a pet, be aware of the connection between essential oil diffusers and pet health. The risks and benefits of using an essential oil diffuser in a home with pets can be managed with research and thoughtful use. The ASPCA offers an exhaustive list of toxic and non-toxic substances for cats and dogs. Contact your local veterinary office for further information on these. Keeping your pets out of rooms where an essential oil diffuser is in use will reduce their chances of accidentally ingesting any of the oil. A few moments of research and planning can make sure that you can enjoy your essential oil diffuser while keeping your pets safe.

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