Use caution first with essential oils

Image by Charlotte Govaert from Pixabay 

When a journalist friend shared a Snopes Fact Check piece about essential oils being poisonous to pets, I took notice.

Snopes is generally good at sifting out scams and misinformation, and I already knew cats are much more sensitive than other animals to essential oils. Its rating: True. When used the wrong way or in the wrong concentration or amount, even diffused, essential oils can be toxic.

I would never suggest a client use essential oils with any animal without first seeking reliable guidance on which oils to use, how, and with what species. First, I’m not a veterinary professional. Second, there are too many variables — species, the individual animal, the condition being treated, oil quality, and use. The following is intended only as a starting point should you want to learn more about essential oil use for animals.

A veteran physical therapist and dog parent told me about animalEO, a line of essential oils and blends developed by holistic veterinarian Dr. Melissa Shelton. Her website is packed with information and instructions, and there is a very active animalEO Facebook group hosted by Dr. Shelton herself. (Good luck keeping up with the high volume of posts.) Also see her response to the viral post that led to the Snopes piece.

I’ve used a few of these blends with my own animals, mostly for diffusion and at low concentrations. The whole household benefits from a little aromatherapy. Moreover, it gives me confidence to know that the products were created for animals by an experienced veterinarian. (I receive no compensation from animalEO.)

Speaking of oil: CBD oil and other cannabinoid products for animals merit even more caution. There is very little data on their use, and your veterinarian may be restricted from even discussing it. 

Finding reliable pet health information in a sea of social media and commercial sites can be challenging. Here are some guidelines I use, both as a journalist and an animal wellness practitioner. 

If you are interested in using essential oils — either for yourself or the animals you love — there is no harm in going to animalEO to learn before you buy. Then here are my recommendations:

  1. Don’t be tempted by cheaper, lower-quality oils, or blends not formulated for animals. 
  2. Take what you learn (from whatever or whomever) and run it by your veterinarian.
  3. If you do use essential oils for or around animals, use as directed. When in doubt, use less rather than more.
  4. Observe your animal carefully. If you remotely suspect any adverse effects from the oil — stop use and contact your vet.

Remember that “natural” isn’t necessarily beneficial. As always, be mindful, not fearful.

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