Essential oils around dogs

Essential oils are the concentrated liquids extracted from plants. Essential oils are popular for their use in aromatherapy and they are also used in cleaning products, food and drink flavorings, herbal remedies, perfumes, personal care products, home air fresheners and fragrances.

Many essential oils, including cinnamon, citrus, pennyroyal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree, wintergreen, and ylang ylang, are poisonous to dogs. Both ingestion and skin exposure can be toxic.

Essential oils contain chemicals that are rapidly absorbed orally or through the skin. Many of these chemicals are metabolised through the liver. Young dogs and dogs with liver disease are more sensitive to the effects. Some essential oils can also irritate or burn the skin and mouth.

Only a couple of licks or a small amount of exposure to skin could be harmful to a dog, depending on the ingredients in a specific product and how the pet is exposed.

Symptoms may include:

  • Fragrance or scent on hair coat, skin, or breath or in vomit.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Difficulty walking or uncoordinated gait.
  • Drooling.
  • Lethargy or weakness.
  • Muscle tremors.
  • Pawing at the mouth or face.
  • Redness or burns on the lips, gums, tongue, or skin.
  • Vomiting.

What should I do if I suspect that my dog has been exposed to essential oils?

Rapid diagnosis and treatment are imperative. If you believe that your dog has ingested or come in contact with essential oils, call your veterinarian.

The sooner you seek treatment, the better the prognosis and outcome for your dog.

In addition:

  • Do not induce vomiting or give activated charcoal to your dog. This may worsen your dog’s condition.
  • Put the product packaging in a sealed plastic bag, and take it with you to the veterinary clinic.
  • If any product is on the skin or fur, quickly wash it off using hand dishwashing detergent.

How can I prevent my dog from being exposed to essential oils?

Keep essential oils out of reach from dogs at all times. Curious animals may want to investigate the sweet-smelling liquids, so never leave opened essential oils unattended. In addition, consult a veterinarian before using any essential oils or other herbal products on your pet. Never apply a concentrated essential oil on your pet.