(Smelly) Pets and Essential Oils

With a 14-year-old (odorous) long-haired dachshund who camps out in our main living space and a toddler who frequently leaves sippy cups of chocolate milk hidden for me to discover days-after like little gag-inducing Easter eggs, it’s safe to say odor removal is a chief concern in my home.

I discovered the miracle of using a diffuser and essential oils when I visited a neighbor with allergy problems and commented on the spa-like aroma in their home. I was hooked and started diffusing daily to eliminate stink and perk-up stale air.  My shining doorstep moment was this past fall when a neighbor stopped by to visit and when I opened my front door, she exclaimed from the stoop: “Oh! Is that eucalyptus? Your house smells so good!” #winning

What I didn’t realize is that while diffusing essential oils is perfectly safe for us, it can have mildly annoying to potentially adverse effects for our fur-babies. I lined out some of what I learned briefly below but be sure to ask your vet for the greenlight on essential oils before you diffuse with your pets.

Use Less Oil

First of all, cats and dogs’ sense of smell is on a whole other level from their human housemates: cats average over 12 times as many olefactory receptors as humans. And dogs’ sense of smell is at least 10,000 times as strong as ours. (Comparing that to vision, it’s like saying what a human sees at 1/3 of a mile, a dog can see just as well from 3,000 miles). Translation: most of us humans who diffuse around pets use way too much essential oil so consider backing off the extra drops if you’ve got pets. Or move them to a different space while you diffuse if you crave a stronger scent.

Only the Purest Will Do

Using 100% Pure Essential Oils — which are free from additives and aren't diluted with carrier oils – is safest. Not only will scents be stronger (so that you can use less oil, see above…) but also with 100% pure products you’re sure of exactly what you’re putting in your pet’s and your space – no surprise chemicals or unexpected oils.  In that same line, since oil blends may combine helpful oils with those that may be less beneficial, sticking with single essential oil scents instead of blends of multiple types will allow you to better control what your pup or kitty sniffs.

Wash Your Hands

Finally, there are a few oils to use carefully with dogs and cats to avoid things like allergic reactions or skin sensitivity. Most issues arise when oils are ingested or make contact with pets’ skin versus being diffused in the air. (For instance, if I got oil on my hands after adding it to my diffuser, and I give smelly-old-Louie a belly rub, the oil could get on his fur. Trouble may arise if he licks his fur and ingests it accidentally.)

This is easily managed by simply washing your hands thoroughly after using oils. And keep oils lids on tightly and out of pet (or pesky toddlers’!) reach to avoid ingestion accidents. More good news: some oils that have negative effects for dogs and cats are not the ones we humans use for odor elimination (garlic and horseradish are not pup friendly but they’re pretty pungent so I doubt you’re diffusing those at home).

Heads-up that cats are sensitive to oils with polyphenolic compounds, which are a type of antioxidant. Steer clear of cinnamon and oregano for example. As this is not a comprehensive list, consult your veterinarian before using any oil around your pet to ensure it is safe.

Choose Pet- (and People) Friendly Oils

Just like many essential oils benefit humans, select oils have been known to help pets too. Lavender’s calming properties have been said to alleviate separation anxiety and car sickness. Plus, it might even repel fleas and ticks in dogs. Eucalyptus is also a pest repellent and has beneficial respiratory effects for bronchitis in pups as well. Human-favorite for de-stressing and headache relief, Peppermint, also repels pests.

Life with pets means odor is inevitable but there’s no reason you can’t have your own smell-good door-step moment too with a little care: consult with your veterinarian to ensure an oil is safe. Choose only 100% pure, single scent oils to avoid unintended blend ingredients. Remember: less is more because furry friends have sharp senses of smell. Take care to wash your hands to make sure you keep unintended oils off their coats and out of their mouths. And remember: your vet knows best, so be sure to ask them about any special concerns you might have before diffusing.