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  • Writer's pictureLisa Charity

Twelve Days of Learning: Day 1, Essential Oils and My Cats



My two girls, Taffy - left and Moxie - right, enjoying some fresh air

You know how every year there seems to be a product fad that is sold or mentioned everywhere? 2016 was Pokémon Go, 2017 was the fidget spinner and 2018 seems to be essential oils. I understand the draw to it and even went to a mini lecture on some of the human health benefits provided by essential oils when I was promised snacks. Being in a household full of pets (3 cats, 2 dogs and a ferret), I was reasonably concerned about any risk potential to my furry family members. I had also learned about potential health risks involving essential oils and pets during my two year Veterinary Technician program. So when I posed my question to the rep about the diffuser the company sold and if they were passive or active diffusers the rep looked at me like I had grown a third eyeball! She then proceeded to explain that there was a variety of health benefits for pets and she didn't know what I was talking about concerning active vs passive diffusers. I left it at that since the rest of the group were also looking at me like I was crazy and decided to look into later.


With Christmas only 8 days away and seeing essential oil bundles being sold everywhere including Facebook Marketplace, I felt it important to share some important information involving essential oils and pets.


First off lets clarify the difference between passive and active diffusers. Active diffusers emit microdroplets or particles of the oil into the air through air streams or ultrasonic vibration whereas passive diffusers simply evaporate the oil and fragrance is dispersed via air currents in the room via evaporation.


From left to right: nebulizing diffuser, ultrasonic diffuser, reed diffuser, heat diffuser

Examples of active diffusers are nebulizing and ultrasonic diffusers. Examples of passive diffusers are reed diffusers, heat diffusers, and/or personal diffusers such as necklaces or bracelets.


So where is the problem? Haven't I seen all the health benefits available to both humans AND animals with essential oils? Sorry but no, there are so many reasons I will be remaining very cautious concerning essential oils and my pets. My main concern comes from information provided on the Pet Poison Helpline which confirms my knowledge from school. With passive diffusers the main concern is respiratory irritation when the oils are dispersed. So if your pet has asthma, airborne allergies or has been exposed to second hand smoke, then they have a greater risk to develop respiratory irritation.


With active diffusers we enter a whole other realm of concern. Since active diffusers emit microdroplets of the actual oil these droplets can land on your pet or on the surfaces they walk or lay on which then are transferred to the fur. You pet can then directly ingest the oils when cleaning themselves or absorb it directly through the skin. This can lead to "drooling, vomiting, tremors, ataxia (wobbliness), respiratory distress, low heart rate, low body temperature, and liver failure depending on the type of essential oil that was used and the dose that the cat was exposed to" (PetPoisonHelpline, https://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/blog/essential-oils-cats/).


So what do you need to know? It's all about informed decisions made based on fact and evidence. Pay attention to which oils you are using from which companies, which diffusers you are using, and how determined your pets are to eat everything they aren't supposed to. There is so much misinformation out there in this age of internet and with more and more pet owners making decisions from random comments on the internet it is really important to have an open conversation with your veterinary professional as so what can pose a hazard to your precious family member. Be cautious, be safe!


Further reading for you.

https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/cats-and-essential-oils


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