By Dr. Gerald Bellin, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
While perusing Facebook recently, I came across a story talking about essential oil diffusers being hazardous for pets. It stated that pets were almost dying as a result of diffusers used in the home. This brings us into a whole new realm known as herbal medicine, one form of alternative medicine.
Other people have seen this story and asked me if this is true. It is amazing the things we find on Facebook and the internet – some are true, several are false, but most are only partially true.
Diffusers are used with essential oils or herbal mixtures within essential oils, as an alternative to medicinal treatments to help with calming, relaxing, stimulating, soothing, preventing, and treating many health concerns or illnesses – issues such as anxiety, stress, pain, immune system stimulation, and cancer. It is best to inhale essential oils in the form of mist, so diffusers create a mist and diffuse essential oils into the air.
Diffuser themselves are not a danger to our pets. It is the essential oils used in the diffusers that determine whether they are a danger for our pets. There are some concerns with herbal medicine that make them dangerous for pets. First, it is uncertain how pets respond to these many chemicals from plants. Our pets are not like people in that they can explain to us what they are feeling after exposure to certain herbs or chemical derivatives of these plants.
Second, herbal medicine uses unpurified plant extracts, so it is not pure and has a few different derivatives. There is uncertainty of concentrations of exposure – too much is potentially toxic.
Of further concern, some herbs can have potential interactions with the drugs our pets are taking. Our pets also may not be able to process and breakdown these herbal products being used. These are the larger concerns when wondering if there is a danger.
There are several herbs and essential oils used by humans with a high potential for toxicity or irritant to your pets. Just to name a few examples used by humans, but toxic to pets are: aloe, blue-green algae, chaparral, garlic, nutmeg, citrus oils, wintergreen oil, tea tree oil, clover leaf oil, basil, and bay leaf oils.
So, as mentioned, diffusers are not dangerous to our pets directly; however, it is the herbal products or essential oils being used that has the potential for toxicity.
Wildwood Animal Hospital is not actively involved in herbal medicine. I have provided this article to address some of the questions that have arisen regarding herbal medicine as an alternative option. Please contact your veterinarian as a first source of knowledge. The key is to obtain your products from a knowledgeable and reputable source to help provide the best level of safety for your beloved pets.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.