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Safe Essential Oil Usage With Animals
Essential Oils History Essential Oils Science Essential Oils Application Essential Oils and Emotions Essential Oils and Animals

Optimum Choices offers only therapeutic Grade A essential oils. For more information or to purchase these oils online, contact our essential oils expert and business partner, J.R. Roessl:

  • If you have a specific essential oil question, e-mail her at J.R. Roessl.

  • For personal essential oils questions and to order, call 917-861-5247, and tell her Optimum Choices sent you.


The similarity to humans made horses and dogs ideal test subjects for essential oil research in the early 1900ís. There are more case histories and research done on horses and dogs than any other animal. Because of the resurgence in aromatherapy today, our other domestic animals such as cats, birds, hamsters, gerbils, etc. are now being treated with essential oils and our volume of case histories is accumulating. One case reported by a veterinarian was a cat found listless, unable to walk or crawl, after the owner applied just one drop of undiluted peppermint oil to the catís stomach. The vetís diagnosis was a mysterious case of poisoning and administered fluids and prescribed a two day stay in the clinic. Fortunately, the cat finally was able to go home. Another case concerned a cat that was distressed, disoriented and hypothermic after it was bathed in citronella oil. The cat was washed to remove any essential oils, given I.V. fluids but went into shock, its temperature rose, and it exhibited abnormal movements. Unfortunately, the cat had to be euthanized. Because of such extreme cases, some aromatherapists advocate never using any essential oils on cats. On the other end of the spectrum, therapeutic-grade essential oils have been credited with saving a catís life from blood clots and cardiomyopathy (a heart disease).

Kristen Leigh Bell did her masters thesis on aromatherapy and animals and wrote a book entitled Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals (2002, Findhorn Press). Kristenís book used more up-to-date case studies and practical research over the last ten years. Please do not contact Kristen as she no longer works in aromatherapy or with animals. Like Kristen, I believe in a moderate practice of using aromatherapy with animals. The following is a compilation of my research. Youíll have to form your own opinion as to what is appropriate for you and your companion animals.


Essential Oils to Avoid with Animals*





Bitter Almond












Clove Leaf and Bud


Crested Lavender













Essential Oils to Avoid with Cats*

High in Monoterpene Hydrocarbons











High in Phenols

Cassia (cinnamon)






*From Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristen Leigh Bell. Please do not contact Kristen as she no longer works in aromatherapy or with animals.


Iris eating grassWhen wild dogs, wolves, cats and horses are sick they seek out certain plants to eat in order to get well. As we domesticated these animals they lost this instinct and their access to wild plants. Plants combine minerals from the soil, water and energy (in the form of sunlight) to produce certain chemical compounds (a process called photosynthesis). These essential chemical compounds nourish the plant, protect the plant, heal broken parts, counteract infections and fungus, attract insects for reproduction and allow the plant to adapt to harsh environmental conditions. All these healing properties are encoded in the plantís DNA which is embedded in the plantís resin or essential oils. To obtain these same healing benefits animals will seek out certain plants, eat them and digest the plant material for the healing chemical compounds. Plant metabolism is a precursor to human existence. Humans have learned to ingest the same plants (or herbs) as animals to metabolize the same healing substances. This process is called the biosynthetic blueprint.

Aromatherapy primarily works on the physical level of animals since animals donít have many of the emotional connections to scents as humans do. For example, animals donít connect romance with rose oil and holidays with orange and cinnamon oil the way humans do. It is important to introduce animals to essential oils with a positive experience. Do not introduce animals to essential oils when they are fearful from people, loud noises such as storms or in pain or shock. It is always best to let the animal smell the oil first before applying. Then watch for signs of acceptance such as wanting to lick the oil, rubbing against you or wide-eye and bushy tailed. Signs the animal dislikes the oil are turning their head away, panting, drooling, pacing, whining and sneezing or snorting. Never put essential oils on an animalís nose or snout. This takes away their freedom of choice and is intrusive therapy. Most companion animals have considerably less body mass than an adult human. The rule-of-thumb I use for smaller animals is the same as for childrenóif the dosage for essential oils is not stated start with at least a 10% dilution of the adult human dose. For example, one drop of essential oil to 9 drops of carrier oil (e.g., almond, hazelnut, jojoba, olive oil).

Animal Scents OintmentMelaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree oil) has been widely used for years for both humans and pets. But there have been many reports of animals that developed uncoordination, weakness, tremors, behavioral disorders and even depression after using melaleuca oil. This was probably due to using undiluted oil or poor quality oil. The Australian standard states that pure melaleuca oil must have cineole greater than 15% and terpinen-4-ol greater than 30%. I suspect the bad case histories of melaleuca oil resulted from using oil from a manufacturer that doesnít test every batch of their oil. Melaleuca oils with chemical compositions outside the Australian standard have been known to be caustic when applied full strength. My suggestion is to always use a therapeutic grade (Grade A) melaleuca oil from a manufacturer that tests every batch of oil and always dilute the melaleuca oil before using on animals.

Dogs have a large nasal cavity and their sense of smell is 50-100 times stronger than humans. Always avoid any oils high in phenols and ketones (see chart above). Avoid stimulating oils of peppermint, rosemary, niaouli, melaleuca (Tea Tree), spearmint, ravensara and eucalyptus unless in highly diluted form. It is also recommended to avoid rosemary on dogs that are prone to seizures or with epilepsy. It is not recommended to use essential oils on medium to large breed puppies younger than eight weeks. For small or toy breed puppies wait at least until they are older than ten weeks. When in doubt use the gentler hydrosols (by-products of essential oil distillation) on puppies instead of essential oils.

Oil blends seem to work best on canines. Essential oils have a very profound effect on shelter, rescue and adopted dogs. They help the dog bond with the owner after Frankincense treesuch a traumatic experience. Veterinarians have reported success using frankincense on dogs with gum disease. Like humans, lemongrass is good for cruciate ligaments and joint injuries. Lavender and a blend of valerian, vetiver, petitgrain, sweet marjoram and sweet orange are good for calming and relieving the stress for show dogs. For arthritis use the anti-inflammatory blend peppermint, cypress, juniper berry and lavender. Dogs and horses, being similar to humans, tolerate oils better than other animals. Cats and birds are a totally different story.

Catís livers do not have the necessary enzymes to break down and excrete certain chemical compounds in essential oils. The chemical compounds, therefore, accumulate in a catís body and are sometimes toxic to the point of death. Cats are very sensitive to beta-carotene, morphine, certain sulfanomides, salicylic acid (Aspirin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), allyl propyl disulfide (onions) and compounds with the bezene ring (benzyl alcohol preservative). Wintergreen and birch oils contain methyl salicylate the same chemical compound in aspirin. It is best to avoid any oil containing phenols: oregano, thyme, cinnamon (cassia), clove, savory, birch, and melaleuca (Tea Tree oil) or ketones: sage. A third group to avoid are the monoterpene hydrocarbons pinene and limonene most commonly found in the citrus and pine oils: lemon, orange, tangerine, mandarin, grapefruit, lime, bergamot, pine, spruce, and any fir oil. Many household cleaners and even pet products have these latter substances in them to make them smell nice to the owners. Symptoms of a toxic buildup include being despondent, clumsy, uncoordinated, partially paralyzed, vomiting, drooling or in a daze. The diagnosis for toxic poisoning is a blood test that shows elevated liver enzymes. It is best to seek a veterinarianís care if toxic poisoning is suspected.

Hydrosols (by-products of essential oil distillation) are safer to use on cats. This is because the monoterpene alcohols have an affinity for water and are safe for cats. Phenols and ketones do not appear in hydrosols. There are no known case histories of hydrosols or monoterpene alcohols causing toxicity in cats. Hydrosols of chamomile and a combination of rose, lavender, geranium and neroli are known to have a claming effect on cats. Wounds can be cleaned with diluted lavender, rose, geranium, and chamomile oil or their hydrosols. Itching can be alleviated using witch hazel, rose, lavender or German chamomile.

Does this mean we need to stop using essential oils if we have cats? Since there is no scientific evidence that essential oils and hydrosols are totally safe for cats, the safest rule is not to use them on or around cats until they are proven safe. Just because they are natural, doesnít mean essential oils are totally safe for cats. If one must use essential oils, here are some suggested rules I follow. Each animal guardian must make their own decision.

1. If I choose to use any of the oils in the charts above on cats, I would always use a highly diluted formula (at least 10:1 with carrier oil or less). If I use any of the oils in the charts above  on myself or around the house, I keep the cats away for at least one hour. I never diffuse any of the oils in the charts below or blends containing these oils around cats.

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2. I never keep cats in an enclosed area when diffusing oils in the air. I always keep a window open or put the cat in a different part of the house. A safer method is to put the diluted essential oil mixture on cotton balls and leave them in the same room as the animal or on their bed.

3. If I want to use essential oils on cats, I always use a highly diluted formula with essential oils. When in doubt I use hydrosols instead of essential oils on animals. Hydrosols are water-based, gentler and much easier to tolerate.

4. When using cleaning products with the above essential oils, especially citrus or pine, I keep the animals away and off the floor until it dries. I make sure you rinse and dry the surface as thoroughly as possible.

5. Rather than assume a certain protocol or suggested oil is good for an animal I always test the essential oil first before using it. I introduce the essential oil to the animal by letting them sniff it and watch for signs of acceptance as mentioned above. I also use kinesiology with a human surrogate tester for the animal. One can also use a dowsing pendulum or one of the many electronic radionic devices for testing an oil.

Birds are even more sensitive to essential oils than cats. One owner applied one drop of Tea Tree oil to a bleeding blood feather on her lovebird. Within ten minutes the bird collapsed on the bottom of the cage. Fortunately, the vet was able to revive the lovebird. Another owner applied full strength Tea Tree oil to a minor abrasion on a cockatielís foot. The bird became depressed and developed respiratory distress. Despite all efforts by an avian vet the bird died within 24 hours. The best recommendation is to use hydrosols only and in highly diluted form in the birdís water like a homeopathic remedy. Suzanne Cattyís book Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy [see www.OptimumChoices.com\books.htm] has some excellent recipes for common bird ailments. Most of them call for using 2Ė4 drops of a hydrosol in a bowl of fresh water for the bird.

When treating small mammals such as guinea pigs, ferrets, gerbils, rabbits, mice, hamsters, etc. Kristen Leigh Bell recommends using extreme caution. She recommends using the hydrosol recipes for cats but cutting back the dilution to 50% of the feline dosage.


For more holistic heartworm and flea & tick resources, download our PDF paper below:

Heartworm, Flea & Tick Resources

Here are some good references for using essential oils
on dogs & cats:

Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals
by Kristen Leigh Bell

Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristen Leigh Bell (2002). I like her approach in that she does not say most essential oils are too strong for cats like some "experts". She tells you which oils to definitely avoid with cats, which oils she has used successfully with cats and the proper dilution to use with cats. I find Kristen's book a good, more up-to-date compilation of previous animal references. (Please do not contact Kristen as she no longer works in aromatherapy or with animals.)


Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy
by Suzanne Catty


Veterinary Aromatherapy
by Nelly Grosjean

Veterinary Aromatherapy is by a French author, Nelly Grosjean, and Kristen Leigh Bell feels the remedies are fairly aggressive. So use caution when following Nelly's recommendations. Hydrosols are gentler and very well suited for animal use.


For more holistic heartworm and flea & tick resources, download our PDF paper below:

Heartworm, Flea & Tick Resources

Below is a compilation of personal testimonies and anecdotes as compiled by Optimum Choices, LLC and e-mail messages from the Essential Oils Healthline Yahoo! Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Healthlineonline). The contents have not been verified, researched or in any other way validated. The contents have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The contents are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is highly recommended that you see your qualified healthcare practitioner for any health-related condition or concerns.

Message: 5
Date: Fri, 9 Aug 2002 05:56:18 -0400
From: "J Polansky-Personal Health Dynamics" <dynamic.living@worldnet.att.net>
Subject: Re: Dog scratches and licks

Our dog had a very bad skin rash that the local vet said he could only treat with steroids but didn't recommend that course because the poodle had cancer. I did a telephone consult with Nancy Brandt, DVM and the rash cleared up in two months, moving from his tail to his head, and never returned. I recommend you contact her for a telephone consultation to get your answers. You can contact her office at 702-617-3285. She also does consults for cats. Best Wishes, Jan Polansky

> Date: Wed, 7 Aug 2002 13:54:46 -0700 (PDT)
> They believe that the dog has allergies. The vet is giving her
> steriods,
but it doesn't seem to help much. This poor liitle dog scratches and licks herself bloody and smells like ammonia. The owner has switched her to a more natural type dog food as allergies in dogs are often related to the food they eat. Has anyone in this group had a similar problem and could give me some feedback to pass along? The owner is willing to try anything to help her dog.

Message: 7
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2002 16:14:55 -0800
From: Vanessa Hart-Denham <vanessa@bodyandcell.com>
Subject: Re: Essential oil safety in cats

>I would really like to understand whether it is safe to
>use essential oils in cats or not.
>Margaret Auld-Louie


Last summer I was able to visit with Dr. Nancy Brandt, DVM while at the farm in Utah. Dr. Brandt is a small animal holistic vet who does phone consultations. What she told me was that oils can be used on cats in small quantities, but to NEVER use an oil that has KETONES in the chemical constituents. If you would like to speak with Dr. Brandt regarding oils and cats you can contact her at: 702-617-3285. There is a consultation charge for her time, but I'm not certain how much the charge is.

Be well,
Vanessa Hart-Denham, C.M.T.


Message: 1
Date: Mon, 25 Nov 2002 13:22:27 -0000
From: "emartin_37398" <emartin_37398@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Dry skin in dogs

Hi Donna,

my dog has allergies and therefore scratches a lot. I use V6 mixing oil and add any EO that is good for the skin and rub this mixture all over him. It seems to help. (Lavender, Myrrh, Patchouli etc) If you have the EODR look under skin conditions for Dermatitis.

Edith Martin

--- In Healthlineonline@y..., "Donna" <dfletcher@g...> wrote:
> Does anyone have any ideas on what to use for dry skin in dogs? My dog does not seem to have fleas, have not found a one and have given him a flea bath, but he still scratches.
> Donna
> dfletcher@g...

Message: 1
Date: Mon, 25 Nov 2002 13:22:27 -0000
From: "emartin_37398" <emartin_37398@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: Dry skin in dogs

Hi Donna,

my dog has allergies and therefore scratches a lot. I use V6 mixing oil and add any EO that is good for the skin and rub this mixture all over him. It seems to help. (Lavender, Myrrh, Patchouli etc) If you have the EODR look under skin conditions for Dermatitis.

Edith Martin

--- In Healthlineonline@y..., "Donna" <dfletcher@g...> wrote:
> Does anyone have any ideas on what to use for dry skin in dogs? My
dog does not seem to have fleas, have not found a one and have given
him a flea bath, but he still scratches.
> Donna
> dfletcher@g...

Message: 10
Date: Wed, 1 Jan 2003 16:50:59 -0700
From: "Madeleine Miller" <greatowl@stignatius.net>
Subject: dogs itchy skin

Greetings, In the buggy season I make a spray bottle of water with purification and in the winter with the heat- we have wood heat-I make a spray bottle with water and lavender. The proportions are adjusted to the intensity of the existing condition. A little lavender undiluted on the foot pads is great too. Blessings, Madeleine

Message: 12
Date: Mon, 17 Feb 2003 21:08:35 -0800
From: "Craig Braquet" <craig@craigshouse.org>
Subject: RE: Re:Dog with growth

Did he say if it was a bursa, or a hygroma? (both kinda the same thing) I have successfully used a blend of essential oils on my Irish wolfhound and another friends wolfhound to help this condition. A bursa/hygroma is a fluid filled sac that forms near a joint due to irritation of the joint. Here is the blend I use below. Hygromas can last for up to 6 months sometimes, using this blend, they usually go away in less than 3 weeks (in my and my friends experience)


Bursa Relief:

Oil - Drops
Marjoram 10
Basil 10
Lavender 5
Black Pepper 5
Spruce 5
Fir Balsam 2
Fir Douglas 2
Fir White 2
Pine 5
Wintergreen 10
Idaho Tansy 5
Elemi 5
Oregano 10
DMSO 20 < not an essential oil >
Jojoba Oil < to top up my 10ml bottle >

-----Original Message-----
From: BZLizzie@aol.com [mailto:BZLizzie@aol.com]
Sent: Sunday, February 16, 2003 12:30 PM
To: Healthlineonline@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [Healthline] Re:Dog with growth

Hi Fellow oiliers

My border collie has a growth on her anus and before we resort to the huge expense of surgery to remove it I thought I would ask if any of you have had this problem with your dogs and if you have used any essential oils to shrink it.

It is pink in color and about the size of the tip of your pinkie. It does not seem to be giving her any trouble. The vet says it is not a cyst.

Any recommendations would be gratefully received.




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