Pets and Essential Oils: Is it Safe?

Hello AVNS community! My name is Abigail Paige, and I’m a ballet dancer living in Washington D.C. I’ve been many places throughout my dance journey, but I was born and raised in Lakeville, Minnesota. Living naturally was a huge part of growing up, and a lot of those principles have stayed with me through the years. I am and have always been a huge animal lover, and am so blessed to have been able to find a job at a little pet store half a block’s walk from my apartment. The company’s focus is providing 100% natural pet food and products, so I really resonate with the objective and have learned so much in my time working there.

I remember the worst thing about getting sick when I was younger – essential oils had to be diffused in my room at night. This is by no means a bad thing, in fact it’s an incredibly effective solution, however it meant my beloved little dog Pippin wouldn’t be able to sleep in the room with me as he usually did. If essential oils are a large part of your daily lifestyle, you may have heard something similar to what my mom would tell me, that essential oils are toxic to pets. This is true in some cases, but fortunately for those of us who love both our furry friends and the benefits of essential oils, not always.

There are many factors that go into how safe it is to use essential oils around your pet. As we know, dogs and cats have extremely powerful noses, so keep in mind that a scent that is just barely perceptible to us may be incredibly strong and irritating to them. The type of oil being used largely varies the effect it will have on your pet. Some oils actually have calming or healing effects on pets, while others are highly toxic. It also depends on whether the oils are being used for topical treatment or being diffused in your home. Many oils, like tea tree, are beneficial when applied topically but harmful when inhaled or ingested by the animal.

Every pet will respond differently to various oils, so be sure to always monitor your pet’s outward signs while using essential oils in your home. Essential oils should be used with special caution around cats and flat-faced dog breeds, who are more prone to respiratory issues. If you have access to a vet, ask them about which specific essential oils are safe for your pet.

Which Oils Are Safe?

In general, the most important oils to avoid with all animals are high-phenol oils and those with high concentrations of pinene. These can cause liver toxicity, skin irritation, or respiratory issues for your pet. Some of the most common include:

  • Oregano
  • Wintergreen
  • Clove
  • Thyme
  • Tea Tree
  • Peppermint
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus oils
  • Cassia
  • Nutmeg
  • Mountain Savory
  • Pine
  • Spruce
  • Eucalyptus
  • Fir

Some essential oils that are generally safer to use around pets and may actually have some benefits are:

  • Chamomile – calming, restful sleep, eases upset stomach
  • Clary Sage – calming, anti-bacterial
  • Sweet Marjoram – calming, inflammation, anti-bacterial, digestion
  • Frankincense – calming, anti-bacterial
  • Valerian – calming, restful sleep, skin soothing, digestion
  • Ginger – joint pain, digestion, inflammation
  • Cedarwood – insect repellent, calming, immune support, pain relief
  • Lavender (AVOID with cats) – skin soothing, calming, insect repellent
  • Helichrysum
  • Rose

As may be obvious, there are a plethora of essential oils out on the market. It may be overwhelming to know that no “dos & don’ts” list is completely foolproof, but rest assured that the best person to ask regarding the safety of your pet is a licensed veterinarian. Some vets are even able to do blood tests to see if your pet will have an unusual reaction to a certain oil.

Topical vs. Diffusion

Topical application of certain essential oils can have many benefits for pets, and sometimes oils that you would otherwise avoid may be recommended for medical benefits for your pet. For example, tea tree oil is often used as a flea and tick repellent or hot spot relief. However, it is incredibly important when applying any oil to a pet’s fur or skin to remember to heavily dilute the oil with a carrier oil. This brings the strength of the oil down to a more manageable level for your pet and decreases the risk of any unwanted reactions. AVNS carries a high-quality virgin jojoba oil that works as a wonderful carrier oil for topical application. In addition, it also comes with its own benefits of soothing, conditioning and healing your pet’s skin and coat. Just be sure to order the unscented one when using on pets, so there are no unnecessary ingredients other than the intended oil being applied.

Young Living Essential Oils’ website recommends using a 9:1 ratio of carrier oil to essential oil for small dogs and cats, and a 4:1-3:1 ratio for medium and large dogs. It’s best to apply the oils by rubbing them together in your hands and stroking your pet gently. Be careful not to apply oils in an area where your pet could easily lick them off, as ingesting oils may seriously harm your pet. On their back or base of the neck is usually the best place to apply.

If you’re like me and love to use an essential oil diffuser in your home all day every day, you’re probably wondering how safe that is for your pet. Like topical application, there are ways to the reduce the chance of a negative reaction from your pet and help them stay feeling comfortable in their own home.

  • Try to stick with pet-safe essential oils.
  • Use less concentration than you normally would – only add 1-2 drops to your diffuser at a time.
  • Don’t run the diffuser constantly, only for intermittent periods of time.
  • Place the diffuser high up or in an area where it’s not dispensing directly near your pet or where your pet might be able to knock it over.
  • Always be sure your pet has another area to go and leave the room that oils are being diffused in if they are uncomfortable or irritated by the scent.
  • When using a new oil around a pet, do a test run of the diffuser for 10-15 minutes and closely monitor your pet’s reaction. Watch for scratching, excessive drooling/panting or sneezing, lethargy, redness around face, or vomiting. If all seems well, continue using it in short time periods while always keeping an eye out for any of the aforementioned symptoms.

Essential Oils in Pet Shampoo

Just as is with human beauty products, fragrances in pet shampoo can be a common irritant for many pets. Fortunately for us natural-conscious pet owners, AVNS has designed a pet-safe shampoo bar packed with priceless natural ingredients specifically for your furry friend! Olive, castor and coconut oils along with colloidal oats rejuvenate, soothe and moisturize any dry or irritated skin. Shea butter does the same while also conditioning your pet’s coat for a shiny, healthy finish. Last but not least, natural pet-safe essential oils of lemongrass, frankincense & cedarwood add their own healing, calming and insect repelling benefits. This bar is more than just a bath, it’s a smorgasbord of valuable and helpful ingredients to keep your pet happy, healthy and looking beautiful.

If you’re looking for a different scent or maybe even for something you might already have in your AVNS soap stockpile, check out all the other bars that are safe for use with pets:

Pets are an integral part of our home lives. Although the responsibility can be daunting, we take every effort to make sure they have the longest and happiest life possible. When we make the choice to “go natural” in our own lives, we do it because we care about what we put in our bodies. Our pets share a home with us, so why not use the same intention with them?

Until next time,

Abigail


Puppy Love for Natural Dog Shampoo Bar

WARNING: THIS BLOG INCLUDES ADORABLE PICTURES OF DOGS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

When I was a little girl my biggest dream was to have a dog of my own.

I drew pictures of dogs, wrote stories about dogs, and owned two well-worn dog breed encyclopedias that I would spend hours paging through for fun. My obsession has since become a healthy passion, but I can still list off fifty dog breeds in under two minutes and thirty seconds.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in the company of some of the kindest, gentlest dogs I have ever known. My dad’s Vizsla Hank (looking shiny as a penny in the photo to the right) and I grew up together. Hank tolerated all of my toddler teasing and by the time I was twelve he had far outgrown me in dog years and was my faithful friend. He would follow me everywhere, limbs stiff with age. His velvety brow would wrinkle with concentration and he would cock his head when I spoke to him as if he were trying to understand me.

We also have several English Setters, who are basically giant drool babies with excellent noses and a penchant for snuggles (see the picture of my brother and his dog Lily on he left for proof).

With their stellar sniffers, English Setters are soft-mouthed dogs that are bred and trained to be fantastic hunting dogs. A soft mouthed dog is more inclined to retrieve without clamping down on prey and in order to keep this desired trait intact, I was not allowed to play fetch or tug-of-war with our Setters.

Having family dogs was not enough for me, I wanted a dog of my own. So in seventh grade I decided to take matters into my own hands and convinced my mom to take me to the Golden Valley Humane Society with the popular fate-sealer: “We’ll just pet them.”

Nico was about six months when we brought him home.

We did pet them…we also brought one home…

I quickly learned that Nico was not the noble, obedient dog I was accustomed to, but I actually love him more because of his deviant nature. Here are some of his most laudable qualities:

Nico has an adorable habit of scratching at my door when he wants to spend time with me, but the fact that he refuses to come when called is even more adorable. When I call Nico, he stands at a safe distance and just looks at me — not like he’s confused — like he’s still deciding whether or not he wants to come. I find it incredibly charming.

Nico is also a real crowd pleaser, a people-dog if you will. When Nico meets people for the first time, he puts them at ease by doing a stellar impression of a barking, growling land piranha (although he is all bark and no bite).

This is a candid of Nico making my favorite doggy-grin before he was able to go into “Alien Mode.” Nico has many nicknames including: Panini, Sneeps, Ni-ni, and Neepo. What silly nicknames do you call your dog?

Nico is remarkably adroit when it comes to non-verbal communication (although he is also an eloquent barker and can rhapsodize through high-pitched yips and grumbles about the neighbor dog’s presence in our yard for hours). Nico’s favorite pastime is trying to convince people that he is not a dog, but an uncomfortable alien who hates being touched.

My mom recently introduced Nico to her co-workers through a conference call. Recognizing that this was his time to shine, Nico held nothing back. His ears went flat against his head, his legs went taxidermy stiff, his lip stretched thin, and his eyes bulged like giant marbles. Alien dog achieved.

He makes me so proud…

Except for one thing…

I can’t stand the stink.

Nico loves stink. He loves stink so much that he wants to be stink. Nico rolls in the stinkiest things he can find and I often bury my face in his fur only to be unpleasantly surprised by a giant whiff of the dead fish bouquet radiating from his coat. Now that we’re dipping into spring, Nico finds many fragrant opportunities that are thawing and decomposing. When this happens, I pull out my secret weapon: a single word that sends Nico running for under the bed: BATHTIME!

I have to wash my hair every other day, but I have friends who only need to wash once a week. Dogs are the same way and so are other pets. According to AKC, your dog’s coat type typically determines how often they need to be bathed.

Huskies have insulated coats and over-washing will strip their fur of important natural oils. On the other hand–sorry–paw, Chinese Crested have very delicate skin and actually need to be bathed weekly.

As a rule of claw, most breeds need a bath once a month. Dogs get dirty, so dog shampoo can be packed with some pretty heavy duty ingredients and over washing your dog can lead to dry skin…which is the last thing you want for your pooch or any other pet.

Our dog Toby (Tri-color English Setter) when he was a puppy.

This poses a problem if your dog likes mud or stink. You shouldn’t keep your dog clean inside at the expense of them not getting proper exercise…so what do you do?

I used Lavender Silk. First on my own hair, and then on Nico’s. Let me tell you, we both smelled awesome.

Yes, some of our bars can be used for pets!

Because natural soap is more moisturizing, our soap can act as a monthly cleanse, but is also safe to use as a midweek emergency touch-up. While our Jojoba Silk Conditioning shampoo bar, Hemp & Honey bar, Lavender Silk bar, and Simply Shea bar can all be used on you and your pet, our Natural Pet Shampoo bar is designed specially for pets.

This bar is packed with pet-approved ingredients. When it comes to pets, lather is essential, you want physical proof that the soap is coating every inch of fur and lather helps a little go a long way. We used castor oil to achieve a fluffy lather that is effective in repelling dirt and fleas. We also added olive oil and coconut oil–oils that are known to moisturize, revitalize, and “antibacterial-ize.” The two components I’m most excited about are the essential oil blend and the colloidal oats.

Because my family has hunting dogs, they pick up a ton of ticks when they work in the fields and woods, additionally, the sheer number of dogs that we own makes flea infestations a huge potential problem. Essential Oils of Lemongrass, frankincense & cedarwood have been shown to repel fleas and ticks…and we put that blend right in the bar!

Burt working in the field.

Colloidal Oats are basically finely grounded oats. Oatmeal is a fantastic agent for soothing skin. When I was much younger my family had an English Setter who suffered from terrible dry patches and we could only bathe him with oatmeal shampoo. I also suffered from an extreme reaction to poison ivy as a child–it was miserable–and oatmeal baths were a huge factor in alleviating my symptoms.

This bar has everything you need to maintain your pet’s coat, but the best part is that it may help restore health to both skin and coat. As with our human shampoo bars, this bar needs soft water to work its magic.

During this time of physical distancing, our pets are there for us. This is the perfect time to reconnect with your adorable animal and get your kids involved! Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Rodents: if you own a hamster ball, you can train your hamster or other speedy rodent to race. Find a hallway. Put your rodent at one end and yourself at the other. Then have a simple chant (I used to do this with my “prizewinning” hamster Scooby, and I’d say “Go Scooby, Go!”). When your rodent reaches you, reward them with a treat. Eventually they’ll be tearing down the racetrack (you can line up some stuffed animal spectators on the sides for support)!

Cats: cats are mysterious creatures with minds of their own, but they seem to like feathers…

Dogs: I love playing hide and seek with Nico. I get some really fantastic snacks (let the dog know that you have these snacks), then put him in a room with a door that — if left slightly ajar — he will be able to scratch open on his own (if there is more than one human player they can take turns hiding and staying with the pet).

Since Nico and I play one-on-one, I tell him to stay and then I hide somewhere super easy (behind a chair or corner) then I yell, “Nico! Come find me!” When he finds me I instantly reward him with a snack. As the dog gets more used to the game you can find more tricky hiding places (behind a curtain, under a blanket). I love hiding somewhere where I can watch Nico look for me. He will often check all the original hiding places and will jump up on couches to get a higher vantage point (which for some reason is hysterically cute).

Horses: While nothing beats a trail ride, you can always take some time to brush your fore-locked friend as well. There is nothing more satisfying than detangling a mane!

Last but not least, every pet deserves the spotlight! Get creative and give your pet a well-earned photo shoot. Let them show their playful side with their favorite toy, or…if they are very patient, you could even try a costume or two (just make sure there are a lot of treats involved and don’t make your dog do something they don’t want to). There are so many ways to get creative! You can involve your kids, make it a contest, explore your phone’s editing options…no matter what you do, have fun!

We’d love to see your pets, so feel free to use #avnspet if you post any photos on Instagram or Facebook! If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, check out some of the results from Nico’s photoshoot below!