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Essential oil diffusers might be toxic to your pet, veterinarian warns

Posted at 12:59 PM, Dec 04, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A veterinarian in Tennessee has treated several cats and dogs for essential oil toxicity. Some of the pets became sick after inhaling essential oils from a diffuser, or consuming them after they were knocked over.

If you're eyeing one for a Christmas present, you might want to think twice if the gift recipient has a pet.

"Even though we think they’re not eating it, unless it spills, just diffusing into the air can be a respiratory irritant," Dr. Allison Fields said. "And cats it lands on their fur, and then they lick themselves, and then they’ve ingested it."

Dr. Fields is a veterinarian at VCA Murphy Road Animal Hospital. She said inhalation and consumption of essential oils can be toxic, even deadly to dogs and cats.

"A lot of problems that we see are respiratory issues. We can see drooling, vomiting, lethargy, they can also act like they’re drunk. We call that ataxia, and we can also see some that cause liver failure," Fields said. "If your pet does get into any essential oils you need to call your veterinarian, but ideally call the pet poison hotline ."

According to experts, cats lack an enzyme in their liver so they have trouble breaking down essential oils.

Essential oils known to be problematic for cats include:

  • Oil of wintergreen
  • Oil of sweet birch
  • Citrus oil
  • Pine oils
  • Ylang Ylang oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Pennyroyal oil
  • Clove oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Tea tree oil

Fields said, "They can be very dangerous to pets and cats more so than dogs."

Essential oils known to be problematic for dogs include:

  • Tea tree oil (melaleuca)
  • Pennyroyal
  • Oil of wintergreen
  • Pine oils

However, there's not been testing done on every scented oil. If you frequently use an essential oil diffuser for health reasons, Dr. Fields said make sure your pet can't inhale any of the micro-droplets.

"Cat liver failure, or essential oils for you? Lock yourself in the bathroom," Fields said. "I don’t know, but once it’s quit diffusing, then they’re on the ground and it’s not as big of a deal for the cats because it’s not landing on their fur."

If your pet gets into essential oils, visit your local animal hospital or call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680.

This story was originally published by Alexandra Koehn at WTVF.