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Essential Oils that Can Be Toxic for Pets

5 minutes
Before deciding to use essential oils for our pets, we strongly recommend consulting with a veterinarian first. They will provide the best information on how to administer them and which can be poisonous for our pets.
Essential Oils that Can Be Toxic for Pets
Last update: 10 May, 2020

Some people like to use essential oils to perform relaxing massages or soothe certain ailments, such as a swelling caused by a mild blow. However, when it comes to relieving pets, some questions arise about how to use them properly and if they can be toxic for them.

Could there be some options that are better than others? Which kinds of essential oils can be toxic for pets? We’ll now answer these and other questions in more detail below.

What are essential oils?

According to a study published in 2004, we can define essential oils as follows: the “essence” of a plant, obtained by water or steam distillation, or by cold pressing (for citrus peel oils). We could also add the following to the definition: a complex mixture of aromatic substances that are responsible for a flower’s fragrance.

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When using essential oils in a pet environment, you need to be cautious, since these aromas can affect their sense of smell. This is because their senses are much more powerful than a human being’s.

You should also bear in mind that ‘natural’ and ‘safe’ are not always the same. After all, essential oils are powerful substances and it’s important to remember that. They are rapidly absorbed by the body and metabolized in the liver, so improper use can lead to serious risks for the animal’s health.

Typically, topical oils can cause skin irritation, including other problems. Therefore, experts don’t recommend using them on puppies, senior dogs, or those with liver disease or hepatic failure.

We strongly recommend asking a veterinarian to indicate which products to use, as well as their correct administration. This will help prevent adverse reactions and complications for the animal’s health.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) experts, the use of essential oils poses several risks for pets. Therefore, if you want to use them, it’s best to consult with the veterinarian and follow their instructions to the letter.

Which essential oils can potentially be toxic for pets?

Within the different types of essential oils available, not all of them are suitable for application or use in our pets.

Here are a number of oils that can be toxic for your pets:

Citrus oil

Citrus fruits contain characteristic components, such as linalool and D-limonene. These two compounds have proven to be good insecticides.

In particular, D-limonene is a component present in anti-flea products for dogs and cats. However, if pure citrus oil or some formulas are used directly on their skin, it can be poisonous for them.

Scientists have observed adverse effects when applying organic citrus oil cream on cats. Among these effects, they observed ataxia, muscle tremors causing coma or death.

Melaleuca oil or tea tree oil

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The Australian tree called Melaleuca alternifolia is where we can extract the tea tree oil from. It’s a compound that’s present in a wide variety of products, especially in shampoos.

Some products contain this type of oil available for cats, dogs, horses or ferrets. However, veterinarians have included it in the list of toxic essential oils for both cats and dogs.

Squaw Mint (Mentha Pulegium)

This kind of mint can be obtained as a volatile oil derived from two plants: Mentha Pulegium and Hedeoma Pulegiodes. Squaw Mint has been used throughout history as a flea repellent.

There’s a case in literature describing mint pollen poisoning in dogs. In this case, a dog’s skin was exposed to 2 g/kg of squaw mint.

The poisoning became evident in the dog by signs of weakness followed by vomiting and later diarrhea, among other symptoms. Unfortunately, in the end, the dog began having seizures and eventually died. The autopsy, specifically a histopathological analysis, revealed massive hepatocellular necrosis.


Wintergreen oil is extracted from the Gaultheria Procumbens plant. We can use this oil for treating muscle aches by applying it directly to the skin.

This oil contains a form of methylated salicylate, and salicylates are harmful to dogs and cats. In particular, cats may overdose by slowly metabolizing these compounds.

An intoxicated cat shows varied symptoms such as anemia, liver or gastric problems as well as depression. On the other hand, we know of other poisoning symptoms such as temperature increase above 105°F (hyperpyrexia) or breathing problems.

What does the toxicity of essential oils depend on?

First of all, we should note that not every essential oil is toxic for our pets. There are certain oils, such as lavender oil, that are beneficial for the animals. However, inappropriate use can eventually lead to poisoning.

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In addition, a dog’s sense of smell is much more powerful than a human’s. Therefore, you should be careful when choosing the natural oils you’ll use as well as the aromas that are present in your home.

The use of essential oils in flea repellent products can be problematic for our dear pets. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency considers these products as low-risk pesticides.

However, veterinarian experts have collected adverse reactions and poisoning cases in dogs that were administered repellents containing essential oils. We should also mention that most cases of poisoning were caused by misuse of the product.

In summary, and as we always recommend, you should always have the opinion of an expert who’ll indicate which oils can be used in dogs. When using these products, it’s important to know specifically which oils are toxic for our pets. Nevertheless, some holistic veterinarians actually incorporate essential oils into their treatments.

We hope you enjoyed this article and will have a pleasant experience using your favorite essential oils safely. Until next time!


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • 1.
    Peterson, M. E. & Talcott, P. A. Small Animal Toxicology. (Elsevier Health Sciences, 2006). [Online]: https://books.google.es/books?id=a36rGkkFo2IC&pg=PA1184&dq=toxic+essential+oils+for+animals+veterinary&hl=es&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj1iPe28K3nAhU74eAKHVi0AYEQ6AEIMjAB#v=onepage&q=toxic%20essential%20oils&f=false
  • Apr 03, A. B., Apr 03, 2018 | 3 Minutes & Minutes, 2018 | 3. Are Essential Oils Safe for Dogs? There Are Quite a Few Risks Involved. American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/are-essential-oils-safe-for-dogs/.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.