Spring 2023

Keep essential oils away from your pets

Essential oils can cause serious illness in pets, whether they're licked, inhaled or applied to the pet's skin.

Essential oils can be found in many popular products, from those for aromatherapy to household cleaning. The benefits of essential oils for humans are open for debate, but the risks to pets are not: These products pose a toxic hazard to pets, especially cats and birds.

You may already know that you shouldn’t apply essential oils to pets directly, and you certainly should not allow them to be ingested. But did you know even inhaled exposure via a diffuser may be dangerous to pets?

‘Natural’ doesn’t always mean ‘safe’

The “essential” in “essential oils” doesn’t mean “necessary,” but rather refers to these oils containing the “essence” of a plant, a concentrated form of the scent or flavoring. In addition to aromatherapy and cleaning products, they can be found in “natural” rodent and insect repellents, personal care items and diffusers, often combined with other oils. They can even be found in products meant for pets!

Cats and birds are especially sensitive, and oils sourced from trees such as eucalyptus, pines or tea trees pose a high risk. (Pet Poison Helpline’s searchable database of toxins can help you find out which oils are best avoided entirely.) For cats, the danger is higher because of the way their livers metabolize these products, and because they can consume products when they groom themselves. Birds’ lungs are very sensitive, not only to diffused essential oils but also to cleaning product fumes and smoke. (That’s why coal miners used to take canaries with them below. When the canary died, miners knew they needed to get fresh air – quickly.)

Calico cat examining essential oil diffuser

While cats and birds are at highest risk, other pets, including dogs and rabbits, can also be harmed by essential oils. Pets with asthma or flat faces (brachycephalic pets) may also be also highly sensitive to diffused essential oils, as can be pets who are older or chronically ill.

Clear the air

The best advice is to avoid using diffused essential oils around pets, especially the most vulnerable ones. If your pet is exposed to fumes, move the animal to fresh air immediately. Symptoms of inhalation toxicity include difficulty breathing, wheezing or coughing (sometimes this looks like vomiting in cats), watery nose or eyes and drooling.

Other signs of toxic exposure include skin irritation, wobbliness, seizures or staggering. Continued exposure may lead to ulcers, low blood pressure/heart rate, neurological issues and kidney and/or liver failure. If your pet is unconscious, convulsing or having difficulty breathing, go immediately to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital.

What about pet-care products?

Pet care products from reputable manufacturers that contain essential oils typically have concentrations low enough to pose little risk to most pets. But even if a shampoo or other product is considered “safe,” it’s extremely important to follow directions precisely. If you have questions about a particular product or if your pet is at high risk, consult your pet’s veterinary healthcare team before using.

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Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet
Add-a-pet

Take advantage of your multi-pet discount when you add a pet to your policy. When covering two or three pets, you can receive a 5% discount. When covering four or more pets, you'll save 10% on your base premium. Visit the member portal to add a pet. 

Enroll a new pet

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