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The Storey of Are Essential Oils Safe for your pet dogs and cats



In memory of Jill – The Fighter

are essential oils really safe FOR OUR PETS?

We are no strangers to essential oils. Ask any pet owners about SaveMyJill Facebook and they will let you know that we were once the biggest spenders of Essential Oils. Fast forward to today, we have realized that Essential oils as a complementary modality, when used with knowledge and in moderate, can benefit animals. But it should not be used independently and ignore all other proper medical care.


Between 2014 to 2018, we have seen a huge increase in essential oils usage amongst Singapore’s pet owners. The two big brands of Essential Oils, Young Living and Doterra are very aggressive with their marketing efforts, gathering thousands of resellers (both companies are actually a Multilevel Marketing company). Before embarking on essential oils based on the advice of a reseller, particularly from MLM , do check their credentials

LET’S UNDERSTAND – therapeutic vs low grade or SYNTHETIC oils

Synthetic oils are products that are manufactured that has the same smell of essential oils. They come in packaging identical to any essential oils and you can never judge them by the prices. Depending on the company producing them, they can either be cheaper or more expensive than authentic pure Essential Oils. Synthetic oils have no therapeutic benefit for our pets, and they can be harmful when applied to the skin.

Authentic Pure Essential Oils are what we are discussing and not all Authentic Pure Essential Oils are made the same. The quality and prices of therapeutic essential oils vary, depending on the crop conditions, the type of harvesting and the distillation process.

A few essential oils are less expensive than their synthetically produced counterparts such as lemon, orange, pine and some lavender but they are also more volatile.

There are 4 different categories of essential oils and if you are using them on your pets, read the reports of your essential oils so you are aware of what you are using.

Category 1 : In this category, essential oils are pure and therapeutic quality. They are made from mostly organically grown plants, distilled at the proper temperatures using steam distillation. The therapeutic quality is dependent on environmental factors (where the crops are grown, soil type, type of fertilizers), physical factors including how the crops are being harvested, how the oils are being distilled and bottled.

Category 2 : In this category, the essential oils are marketed as Food Grade. They may contain synthetics, pesticides, fertilizers, chemical/synthetic extenders, or carrier oils.

Category 3 : In this category, the oils are perfume grade and may contain the same type of adulterating chemicals as food grade oils.

Category 4 : Hydrosols or Floral Water, is a by-product of the distillation process. It can be very high quality if the by product comes from Category 1. They are generally found in skin and hair products. This grade has some therapeutic quality.

Essential Safety ReportReputable essential oil manufacturers will release or publish full details of what is in their essential oil. Always look for essential oil manufacturers that are transparent with what goes on in their oils.

essential oil label and websiteIt is almost impossible for most essential oil manufacturers to print their reports on the essential oil labels. It would be recommended before buying any oils, check with their website. Most independent and non MLM essential oil manufacturers will publish the required information and each batch will be verified by independent chemists.


AVOID the use of the following essential oils when working with animals, pets. The list below are considered as toxic and unsafe to use with any pets.

  1. Birch Sweet* (Betula lenta)
  2. Bitter Almond (Prunus amygdalus var. amara)
  3. Boldo (Peumus boldus)
  4. Calamus (Acorus calamus)
  5. Camphor (Cinnamomun camphora)
  6. Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia)
  7. Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
  8. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)*
  9. Mustard (Brassica nigra)
  10. Oregano (Origanum vulgare)*
  11. Parsley Leaf (Petroselinum crispum) and Parsleyseed (Petroselinum sativum)
  12. Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
  13. Rue (Ruta graveolens)
  14. Sage Dalmation (Salvia officinalis)
  15. Sage Spanish (Salvia lavandulaefolia)
  16. Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
  17. Savin (Juniperus sabina)
  18. Savory Winter (Satureja Montana) and Savory Summer (Satureja hortensis)
  19. Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
  20. Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)*avoid use with cats and dogs
  21. Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
  22. Thyme White and Thyme Red (Thyme linalool is a safer version to use).
  23. Wintergreen* (Gaultheria procumbens)
  24. Wormseed (Chenopodium ambrosioides)
  25. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

Both Birch and Wintergreen essential oils contain methyl salicylate (compounds found in analgesics such as aspirin). Both of these essential oils, especially wintergreen are hard to come by, and even ‘wintergreen’ has been pulled from shelves if the proper tamper-resistant bottling and warnings required by the FDA do not appear on the labeling. Most wintergreen-type products are actually comprised of synthetic methyl salicylate.


USE CAUTION with the following essential oils when working with your pet dogs and cats. Some essential oils can cause photo-sensitivity skin issues such as dermatitis, irritation, brown spotting and even worst, photo-toxic reactions that manifest as boils and burns, from the photo-reaction caused due to a sunlight-related irritation. This is due to certain chemical constituents of specific essential oils that are considered photo-toxic.

A very important thing to keep in mind when using single essential oil or creating a blend that contains one or more of the following photo-toxic essential oils that will be used a topical application on the body. This type of reaction can occur if the pet is exposed to direct sunlight orm UV lamps over the next 12 – 24 hours.

One particular chemical component to look for is FURANOCOUMARIN (commonly found in most citrus oils, including Bergamot, Citrus Aurantium Subsp. Bergamia). FCF, also known as Furano-Coumarin-Free, essential oil is distilled from the expressed oils or whole fruit. However, in arometherapy use, most aromatherapists gravitate to the aroma and use of the non-altered pure essential oil verses the FCF version. It is suggested that pet owners should use the cold pressed bergamot oil more so for diffusing and inhalation therapy, and use the FCF version for topical use, especially with animals that will be outside for a long period of time.

  1. Angelica Root (Angelica archangelica)
  2. Bergamot (Citrus aurantium ssp. Bergamia)* cold pressed/expressed form
  3. Lemon (Citrus limon)* cold pressed/expressed form
  4. Lime (Citrus aurantifolia)* cold pressed/expressed form
  5. Orange bitter (Citrus aurantium) cold pressed/expressed form

The list of essential oils below are non-phototoxic, however, when used for topical application, use in diluted applications and check for any reactions on the skin of your pet.

  1. Bergamot (Citrus aurantium ssp. Bergamia) distilled version
  2. Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) cold pressed/expressed
  3. Lemon (Citrus limon) distilled version
  4. Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) distilled version
  5. Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) cold pressed/expressed
  6. Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) cold pressed/expressed
  7. Tangerine (Citrus reticulata) cold pressed/expressed

Additional information on photosensitivity and photo-toxic type essential oils, visit the NAHA website safety page: http://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/


USE CAUTION with the following list of essential oils when working with your pets.

Please note that all essential oils have the possibility of causing irritation in one way or another. Whether it is due to the essential oil’s actual aroma-scent, chemical composition, contraindications, poor quality, oxidized and older oils or because a pet is hypersensitive, it is important to be aware of possible irritations that can arise.

The following essential oils are known for their irritation-causing symptoms such as: dermatitis, skin rash/irritation, and sensitization, as well as those that can irritate mucus membranes. If used over long periods of time and with excessive amounts cell damage can occur causing the skin to be damaged until the ‘irritant’ is removed.

  • Bay (Pimenta racemosa): contains eugenol. Bay (Laurus nobilis) is safer species to use (however it can cause skin irritation issues with some clients).
  • Clove Leaf/Bud/Stem (Eugenia caryophyllata): Clove has historically been used for ‘tooth-aches’/infections, immune system support and deep-rooted pain (arthritis). Clove oil can be irritant-type oil to the skin and mucus membranes.
  • May Chang (Litsea cubeba): is a milder-type oil, but can cause skin irritation and sensitization issues in some clients.
  • Melissa (Melissa officinalis): can be a ‘possible’ irritant, and ‘sensitizing’ type of essential oil. Often times this is due to poor quality or fake oil being sold as pure Melissa oil. This might be advertised or listed on the label as ‘nature identical’ or a blend of different reconstituted oil.
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)*: can cause allergic reactions (some animals have severe negative reactions). Tea Tree is also known for sensitization (more so from overuse, poor quality, oxidized and older oils).
  • Thyme Oils (Thymus spp.): due to the phenol content thyme oils can irritate the skin and mucous membranes and cause sensitization issues. It is very important to ‘know’ which thyme species you are purchasing and for what use/client. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris C.T. linalool) is the only thyme oil that when cautions are followed may be used with some animals.
  • Turpentine oil (Pinus spp.) (I included this oil on the list since it is often found in equine-type hoof care products.) This oil is not used in true aromatherapy.

For additional information on an irritant type (dermal and mucus membrane) essential oils, visit the NAHA website safety page: http://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/


USE CAUTION with the following list of essential oils when working with your pets who are epilecptic or have seizure disorders.

  • Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum): both aniseed and sweet fennel are very similar in their stimulating properties. Both should be avoided in use with epileptics.
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgaris): both sweet fennel and aniseed are very similar in their stimulating properties. Both should be avoided in use with epileptics.
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis): terpene ketone components caused epileptic crises in laboratory rats (1). Highly stimulating oil not recommended for use with epileptics.
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): all chemotypes, highly stimulating oil and camphor-like not recommended for use with epileptics.
  • Sage (Salvia officinals): high in thujone content and very stimulating essential oil not recommended for use with epileptics.
  • Spike Lavender (Lavendula spica/latifolia): camphor-like odor, very stimulating essential oil not recommended for use with epileptics.

Keep in mind any other aroma-scents and smells that can trigger or add to the client having a seizure. This will be an important part of the health-history intake when consulting with client’s caretaker.

Essential oils that may be useful for epilepsy and seizure disorders:

Most of the ‘calming’ type oils and those that are not too strong in odors or camphor-type scent.

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara)
  • Sweet Marjoram (Origanum marjorana)
  • Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
  • Tangerine (Citrus reticulata blanco)
  • Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)


  1. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy; Salvatore Battaglia 2nd edition 1997
  2. National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy – Exploring Aromatherapy Safety Information
  3. National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy – Safety Dermal & Mucus Membrane Irritants
  4. Pets Poison Hotline – Essential Oils and Dogs
  5. NAHA – Essential Oil Safety
  6. NCBI Research – Toxicity of melaleuca oil and related essential oils applied topically on dogs and cats
  7. ScienceDirect – A status review on the medicinal properties of essential oils
  8. NCBI – Adverse reactions from essential oil-containing natural flea products exempted from Environmental Protection Agency regulations in dogs and cats.

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