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I see the essential oils craze all over social media and the internet. Main stream medicine is clearly not behind the claims of some of these products. As an integrative veterinary practitioner, I maintain an open mind, embrace proven and safe natural treatment, but still caution embracing a particular course of treatment just because of anecdotal claims of efficacy and no real study or clinical trials to prove its efficacy and safety. In the case of the use of essential oils and people I remain far from convinced, especially with multilevel marketing behind pushing it for the most part…but alas, I digress, as human health is not my expertise.
Pets, on the other hand, are my expertise and I have grown very concerned about people recommending essential oil therapy for pets only because they believe or were told it was great for people. Let me be very clear, pets and people are not the same! Case in point, essential oils in the classes of phenols, monoterpene hydrocarbons, phenylpropanes, and ketone groups are potentially toxic to dogs and cats, especially cats. They most certainly are not therapeutic and I would caution their use meant for people in households that have dogs and cats.
Below is a list of common essential oils that a consensus of toxicologists have deemed potentially harmful to pets
- Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
- Birch (Betula)
- Bitter Almond (Prunus dulcis)
- Boldo (Peumus boldus)
- Calamus (Acorus calamus)
- Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)
- Cassia (Cassia fistula)
- Chenopodium (Chenopodium album)
- Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum)
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Goosefoot (Chenopodium murale)
- Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
- Hyssop (Hyssopus sp. with the exception of Decumbens)
- Juniper (Juniperus sp. with the exception of Juniper Berry)
- Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
- Mustard (Brassica juncea)
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
- Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
- Red or White Thyme
- Rue (Ruta graveolens)
- Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus)
- Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
- Savory (Satureja)
- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
- Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Terebinth (Pistacia palaestina)
- Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
- Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
- Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
If social media is any indication with the multimedia blitz of pushing essential oils as the next an greatest cure for any number of ailments and ramping up for the gifting holiday season, please beware of that many of these oils can be very harmful for pets, especially those that are senior aged, living with chronic disease, or simply are cats (who often have much greater sensitivities to things that may be harmless to people and dogs).
With regard to treatment for pets with essential oils, there is special reason to be cautious. There currently is no consensus on their efficacy or real proof of any of the claims I have seen. Moreover, with actually proven potential for harm if the wrong essential oils are used on or around pets, I would not recommend their use until there is real peer reviewed study on their efficacy and safety, preferably untainted by the multilevel marketing industry altogether.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.