Using Essential Oils On Animal Companions, Like DIY Insect Repellent

Using Essential Oils On Animal Companions, Like DIY Insect Repellent
CS Sherin
April 9, 2018
Updated April 10, 2018


Our sweet little dog, Samantha, is an Italian Greyhound/Terrier mix. She is the same size as our Maine Coon cat! Photo by: CS Sherin

Whether it is for homemade insect repellent, a more holistic approach to health concerns, or simply for therapeutic reasons, it is so important to know how to responsibly and safely use essential oils for you and your animal companions. Something I noticed when I was researching this is that there is a lot of confusing and conflicting lists of what is safe and what isn’t! It takes time to sort through it all to determine who to trust, and what is fact.

For instance, lavender oil is a recommended ingredient for a DIY insect repellent on dogs, however, the lavender plant is considered toxic to cats, dogs, and horses, according to the ASPCA. Other ingredients, such as lemongrass, geranium, and eucalyptus can possibly cause a toxic response in cats. If I apply the repellent to my dog, I must take great care to see that the cats do not groom themselves after coming in contact with the dog, as well as refraining from applying it to the dog near them. I also need to make sure the repellent is diluted enough to be safe for my dog, taking into account her weight and suggested dilution. Dilution can make the difference between safe and dangerous.

All your animal companions (birds, hamsters, rabbits, cats, dogs, horses) require special consideration related to what oils are safe, and what level of dilution is needed for their size. Today we will talk about essential oils, but remember that this kind of awareness extends to other products, and house plants and cut flowers (pollen, petal, and stem), which can be deadly to your animal companions, as well. They are depending on you to research about their needs and what is dangerous to them. And, each animal can have special needs, that make essential oils needed or prohibited.

While cats (and other smaller animals) are seen as more vulnerable than dogs in some ways, it is important to make sure that you are utilizing the healing power of essential oils in a way that keeps all members of your household safe. Here is a guide to get you started:

What You Need To Know

1. Using undiluted essential oils on cats, dogs and other animals can be harmful, even fatal. Some oils are more dangerous than others. Even a safe oil can be harmful when applied straight from the bottle, undiluted. An example of safer dilution is one drop of a safe essential oil per tablespoon of carrier oil.

2. When animals groom themselves they ingest whatever is on their bodies. This includes what they walk in, what is applied to them, fabrics they lay on daily, and sprays and diffusers that place particles in the air.

3. Smaller animals are more vulnerable, like: cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, and baby animals. There are essential oils that are toxic to horses as well. It is crucial to research from unbiased sources and consult with your veterinarian before using essential oils on animals.

4. The quality of the essential oils that you use can determine whether they are safe or not, despite the oil it contains. Only use unadulterated, high quality essential oils that are verified as pure and safe by a third-party.

5. Diffusing certain essential oils can be toxic to animals (and people). Do not diffuse for long period of times. Do not diffuse in a closed room that an animal cannot exit from. Do not diffuse oils that are toxic to you or your animal companions. Research thoroughly to determine what really is safe. If an animal has respiratory problems, diffusion is not recommended at all. Diffusion is not recommended at all for birds and small animals.

6. Other remedies for fleas and other insects include: apple cider vinegar  or diatomaceous earth


An Idea of Dilution Ratios
0-25 pounds: 1 drop in 1 tablespoon of carrier oil
26-45 pounds: 1-2 drops in 1 and 1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon

Essential Oils That Are SAFE To Use For Cats Or Dogs–IF
You Dilute Well & Use On Short-Term Basis Only:

Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
Clary Sage

*Essential Oil Toxin Risk Even When Diluted:
Peppermint (the plant is okay)
Tea Tree

Essential Oils To AVOID For Dogs And/Or Cats
Basil (for cats, the plant is okay)
Citrus (for cats, and cats dislike citrus)
Ylang Ylang

Possible Symptoms Of Poisoning: drooling, tremors, wobbliness, respiratory distress: labored breathing, panting, coughing, wheezing; depression, low heart rate, vomiting.


ASPCA, Pet Care, Animal Poison Control:

Pet Poison Helpline, “Essential Oils and Cats,” by Kia Benson, DVM:

Savvy Pet Care, “Is Lavender Toxic To Cats?:”

Dogs Naturally Magazine (online), “Essential Oils For Dogs,” by Dana Scott:

Daily Treat, “Are Essential Oils Safe for Your Dog?:”

All Natural Pet Care, “30 Essential Oils That May Not Be Safe For Pets,” by Melody McKinnon:

Tisserand Institute, “Cats And Essential Oil Safety,” by Robert Tisserand:

London Alternative Veterinary Services, “The Science Behind Cats And Essential Oils,” by Dr. Melissa Shelton:

SitStay, “The 411 On Essential Oils And Your Dog:”

The Hippy Homemaker, “DIY Natural Flea & Tick Spray:”

Earth Clinic, “The Many Uses of Diatomaceous Earth For Pets:”

Earth Clinic, “How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Fleas in Pets:”

ASPCA, “Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List—Cats:”

ASPCA, “Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List—Dogs:”

Antigravity Magazine (online), “Paw Talk: Pets vs. Plants:”

The Pet Professional Guild; Blogs by the Guild, “What Does Citronella Really Do to a Dog?” by Theo Stewart:

Wagwalking, “Lemongrass Poisoning In Dogs:”

The Herbal Academy, Herbarium:

National Association For Holistic Aromatherapy:

CS Sherin, Recipe For A Green Life 2018© Please feel free to share this article–in its entirety with author, source credit, and this copyright notice–on social media and for non-commercial educational purposes only. 

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