intro to essential oils and pets


The aromatherapy benefits of essential oils for humans is no secret. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that they can have similar benefits for pets. It’s important to remember, though, that pets can and will respond to them in much different ways than we will. When using oils with your pets, always consult your veterinarian and an essential oil expert.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are naturally occurring compounds found in the seeds, roots, bark, flowers, and other parts of plants. They give plants their distinctive smells, and they play a role in pollination. Essential oils have long been used for food preparation, beauty treatment, and healthcare.

Think of it this way–plants can’t run away to escape predators or environmental threats. Instead, they rely on the oils they produce for protection. Those oils can neutralize and repel pests and pathogens.

Not All Oils are Created Equal

Have you shopped for essential oils? You’ve probably noticed there are LOTS out there! They are not all created equal. Many of them have added ingredients that at best take away from the effectiveness of the oil and at worst result in adverse effects. When using essential oils (for yourself and for your pets), be sure to only choose therapeutic grade oils that go through rigorous testing. I personally use and recommend doTERRA oils.

doTERRA oils are certified pure therapeutic grade. They go through eight tests to verify purity. What does that mean? It means you know you’re getting pure, quality oils, free of additives and artificial ingredients. Read more here.

A Few of My Favorite Oils to Consider

We use essential oils for our dogs for a number of things including flea/tick repellent, deodorizing, calming, and arthritis relief. Because animals tend to have a much stronger sense of smell than humans, always dilute oils for pets in a carrier oil. The following oils are safe for use with pets:

  • Cedarwood: Cedarwood is a great all-purpose oil. It has calming effects and is a good bug repellent.
  • Fennel: Fennel helps break up toxins and fluid in tissue. It balances pituitary, thyroid, and pineal glands.
  • Frankincense: Frankincense is my second go-to oil for pets. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, making it great for aches and pains associated with injuries or arthritis.
  • Geranium: This one is a key ingredient in our flea/tick repellent collars. It is an excellent bug repellent.
  • Lavender: Often referred to as the all-purpose oil, lavender has a wide variety of benefits and uses. It is great for calming for the nervous dog and when introducing new things. It may also help with allergies, burns, ulcers, insomnia, car sickness, and more. When in doubt, lavender is often the oil I recommend trying first.
  • Spearmint: This oil can help to reduce weight. It is good for colic, diarrhea, and nausea, and it helps balance metabolism.
  • Wild Orange: The citrus aroma of wild orange is uplifting and calms the mind and stomach. I use it with lavender in my calming spray.

Specific Oils to Avoid

Because pets have a much stronger sense of smell and are typically much smaller than we are, some oils should be avoided completely. I never recommend use of the following oils with pets:

  • Basil; also present in doTERRA proprietary blend AromaTouch
  • Cassia
  • Cinnamon; also present in doTERRA proprietary blends Cheer, OnGuard, and Passion
  • Clove
  • Melaleuca (aka tea tree); also present in doTERRA proprietary blends Breathe and Purify
  • Oregano
  • Pine; also present in doTERRA proprietary blend Purify
  • Thyme; also present in doTERRA proprietary blend Forgive
  • Wintergreen; also present in doTERRA proprietary blend Deep Blue (only found in oil; supplement is safe)


Dilution is essential. Essential oils should always be diluted in a carrier oil when using them with pets. I use fractionated coconut oil as a carrier. Dilution percentages vary based on the size of the dog:

  • X-small breeds (up to 10 pounds): 2%, approx. 10-12 drops per ounce of carrier oil
  • Small breeds (11-25 pounds): 3%, approx. 15-18 drops per ounce of carrier oil
  • Medium breeds (26-50 pounds): 4%, approx. 20-24 drops per ounce of carrier oil
  • Large breeds (51-90 pounds): 5%, approx. 27-31 drops per ounce of carrier oil
  • X-large breeds (91+ pounds): 6%, approx. 32-37 drops per ounce of carrier oil

Cats, birds, and rodents are much more sensitive to oils than dogs. Personally, I don’t use any oils directly on my cats for this reason. Additionally, if oils are diffused near cats, birds, or rodents, they should be heavily diluted.

When diffusing oils, always ensure all pets (but especially cats, birds, and rodents) have an exit if needed. If the smell becomes too much for them, it’s important they can get to an area free of the aroma.

Allow pets to smell the oils by simply opening the bottle in their presence before using the oils on them. If the pet is bothered by the smell, put the oil away and try again the next day. Only use oils that are not bothersome to the pet.

Melaleuca is especially toxic to pets and should not be used on dogs or cats. I won’t even diffuse melaleuca in their presence. Some folks may disagree, but I tend to err on the side of caution; better safe than sorry.

So-called “hot” oils should be avoided for both dogs and cats. They get their nickname because they can cause a warming sensation. This sensation tends to be too intense for pets. Hot oils include cinnamon, clove, oregano, and thyme. On the flip side, peppermint is known for its cooling sensation. It should be used with caution, as the cooling sensation may also be a bit intense for pets.

Never use essential oils around the eyes, nose, mouth, or genitals, and never put essential oils into the pet’s ears.

For best absorption, oils should be applied on the skin of the armpits, between pads, or on the spine. If applying to the spine, be sure to part the hair and get the oils onto the skin.

Need Some Help?

If you want to get started with essential oils for your pets, please contact me. I’m happy to arrange a wellness consult to discuss the benefits and cautions with you.


Published by Jodi Hoyt

Jodi Hoyt is a content specialist and blogger working out of a home office in Sioux Falls, SD. Through Jot, she provides copywriting, proofreading, and editing services for any personal or business need. Specialties include digital content creation and copywriting for social media platforms, websites (with an emphasis in SEO tag words and key phrases), and print materials. Jodi has been a freelance consultant for nearly ten years, and she officially started Jot (previously Hoyt Consulting) in January 2011. She earned her Master of Business Administration in 2009 from the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND, and her Bachelor of Music in music theory and composition in 2004 from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. Additionally, Jodi is an adjunct business instructor at Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls, and she is a creator and blogger with Simple Family Remedies. Jodi and her husband, Nathan, married in 2004 and have a two-year-old son, Lincoln. They are expecting their second son in May 2018. They also have two cats. In her spare time, Jodi loves to golf, run, ride bicycle, and play sand volleyball. She is also a big Marvel fan and a self-proclaimed tech geek.

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