Tracy A. Lord, DVM
A Note About Essential Oils
*The following statement was a Facebook post we originally wrote on January 27, 2018 as a result of the numerous phone calls we were receiving about the safety of essential oils for cats. We feel it's beneficial for pet parents to be aware of the dangers, while understanding the many benefits essential oils have for pets when used properly.*
Due to concern generated by the recent viral news story regarding cats and essential oils we would like to take a moment to share our position on essential oils.
First, lets note that cats do have a decreased amount of UDP-glucuronyltransferase activity when compared to some other species and a "deficiency" in their Cytochrome p450 pathway. This all results in various liver metabolism "quirks" requiring extra caution with many medications, oils, and even household products. Second, lets recognize that not all essential oils are created equal. There is a substantial difference between a natural therapeutic grade essential oil and a fragrance grade oil. There is also a substantial difference in using a "neat" or 100% concentration vs a lower dilution of the same product.
Unfortunately, in the tragic story that has come out most recently, there are no details as to what the source or quality of the eucalyptus oil was or how it was diffused. Thus, no informed conclusions can be drawn. This results in confusion and fear, but leaves us unable to learn much from the situation. Assuming that the cats did react to the diffused oil, we do not know the strength of the oil or thus the true "dose" given. We also do not know the source of the oil or what impurities, if any, were in this oil. This is similar to a report of an animal having a reaction to a medication without knowing the dose, source or purity of the medication given.
The conclusions we feel that we can draw from this tragic situation include the following..
*Oils and natural supplements are not benign!! This is why they can be effective. They need to be used with caution as you would any chemical medication.
* Using a lesser grade oil is akin to air freshener or perfume- both of which should avoided around all pets as a general rule.
*Using essential oils as medicine or in concentrated form is best done under the supervision of a knowledgeable veterinarian.
*Generalizations can not be made to say that a particular oil is safe or unsafe to use on or around cats due to the extreme variability in the quality of oils on the market.
*The cost of an oil is not always reflective of its quality. It can be said, however, that overly affordable oils are not likely to be of the highest quality. Unfortunately, claims of "certified" quality statements should not be taken at face value as the market remains one of buyer beware.
All of this said, there are companies that produce good quality oils. We are purposefully not naming brands here as Dr. Lord does not feel that she has the knowledge to speak to ALL of the animal lines from even the top tier oil producers.
We do use and love the essential oils that we carry at FPVHS and do feel that we can prescribe them safely. Any product can produce an allergic reaction in any pet and caution is always advised whether using oils, other natural or chemical supplement, or medication.
If you have further questions or would like recommendations for your particular pet, feel free to contact us and our receptionist would be happy to set up a consult appointment for you.