Essential Oils Toxic to Animals

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Remember that essential oils are unsafe for cats (can be lethal). Floral waters are best suited to them.

There is much literature on unsafe essential oils but only a little on those unsafe for animals. One rule that applies to all though is that if it is unsafe for humans, it is unsafe for animals as well.

It is important to know which essential oils you can use on your dog or horse and to remember that what might suit one, might not be suited for another one.

I have compiled a list and you might find different oils mentioned in various books. This list refers to the main essential oils and is from “Advanced Aromatherapy” by Kurt Schnaubelt and other various sources

Toxicity of essential oils

Common Name Scientific Name Comments
Rue Ruta graveolens Poisonous, abortive and neurotoxic
Santolina Santolina chamaecyparisius Not advisable to use, abortive and neurotoxic
Mugwort Artemisia herba alba Poisonous, abortive and neurotoxic
Thuja Thuja occidentalis In small doses only and exclusively externally, abortive and neurotoxic
Wormwood Artemisia absinthum Do not use, abortive and neurotoxic
Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis Use externally only with extreme caution, abortive and neurotoxic
Pennyroyal Mentha pulegium Poisonous in a large dose and definitely not for animals, abortive and neurotoxic
Crested Lavender Lavendula stoechas Do not confuse it with other types of Lavender. Not suitable for children and animals, abortive and neurotoxic
Sage Salva officinalis Dangerous for children and animals
Spike Lavender Lavendula latifolia Has high levels of camphor and is best suited when mixed with benign oils
Camphor Cinnamon camphora High levels of camphor. Neurotoxic and induces abortion. White Camphor is relatively safe but should be used in minute amounts
Yarrow Achillea millefolium Caution with children and animals. Blue Yarrow is safe
Rosemary Rosemarinus officicinalis Non-toxic in small doses. Use Rosemary Verbenone instead and preferably externally or in very small doses internally
Peppermint Mentha piperita Non-toxic in small doses. Caution with children
Eucalyptus polybractea Eucalyptus polybractea Must be mixed with other oils
Eucalyptus dives Eucalyptus dives Must be mixed with other oils
Atlas Cedarwood Cedrus atlantica External use only. Non-toxic
Savory Satureja spec. Not for external use
Oregano Oreganum vulgaris, O. compactum Highly irritant. Best when not used externally.
Thyme Thymus vulgaris Highly irritant. Best when not used externally.
Clove leaf oil Syzygium aromaticum Highly irritant. Best when not used externally.
Juniper Juniperus communis Kidney tissue damage. Juniperberriy oil is safe in moderation though.
Cinnamon Cinnamomum verum Highly irritant. The oil from the leaves is less aggressive
Cassia Cinnamomum cassia Highly irritant
Basil Ocimum basilicum Moderately toxic. Possible carcinogen. French Basil is known to be less toxic
The following oils must never be used with animals (and humans!):

Bitter almond, Boldo, Calamus, Camphor (yellow and brown), Goosefoot, Horseradish, Mugwort, Pennyroyal, Rue, Sassafras, Tansy (the Blue one is fine), Thuja, Wintergreen, Wormwood

Other exotic oils which have not been scientifically proven safe must not be used either.

Photosensitizing oils that must be used with caution if the animal is exposed to the sun after application:

Angelica, Celery, Parsley, Tarragon, Tagetes, Lavender, Lemon, Orange, Mandarin, and Bergamot.

Known Contraindications

The following table lists contraindications according to Dr. Jean Claude Lepraz as per Kurt Schnaubelt in his “Advanced Aromatherapy” book and from various other resources.

Condition Do not use
Abdominal pain Clove
Asthma yarrow, marjoram, oregano, rosemary
Cancer cypress, angelica, sage, fennel, anise, caraway, thyme, basil, chamomile, clary sage, coriander, geranium, pine
Epilepsy hyssop, sage, fennel, parsley, nutmeg, anise, rosemary, eucalyptus, basil
Glaucoma thyme, hyssop, cypress, tarragon
Hemorrhaging lavender in combination with an anticoagulant
High blood pressure lemon, hyssop, balsam de Peru, basil, white birch, caraway, cardamon, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cypress, eucalyptus, juniper, lemongrass, palmarosa, black pepper, peppermint, pine, rose, rosemary, sage, thyme
Low blood pressure clary sage, cypress, lavender, marjoram, ylang ylang
Pregnancy Pretty much all essential oils, especially within the first 3 months. It is best to not use any during the entire gestation
Urinary tract infection juniper, eucalyptus

15 thoughts on “Essential Oils Toxic to Animals”

  1. What oil can I use for prevention of bug bites. The gnats have caused swelling and inflammation in areas of my mares lower belly (near the nipples).

    1. Hi Louise, here are some essential oils to repel bugs: garlic, neem, cajeput & eucalyptus citriodora. To ease the swelling and inflammation, I’d use lavender, and helichrysum or German camomile. You can mix these with the repellent ones. Note that garlic is very pungent, which I guess that’s why it repels bugs, so be careful not to spill some on you as you will keep that smell for a while! Neem is more a carrier oil but it’s excellent against bugs.
      I’d use a 5% dilution in this case, but only a few drops of garlic in your mix. Hope this helps

    1. Hi Katherine, yes you can. If you are going to use it in a massage oil, make sure it’s well diluted because oregano oil is extremely harsh on the skin and must never be applied undiluted. I suggest a 1% dilution. For 100 ml bottle, use 1 ml oregano to 99 ml carrier oil. If used internally, use no more than 10 drops/day diluted in his feed and for no more than 5 days. Assess after 5 days and don’t use it internally for 2 weeks. Hope this helps

  2. Please!! essential oils should not be taken internally unless recommended by your Vet or Md who is also a licensed Registered Aromatherapist/Essential Oil Therapist. France and Australia are the only countries I know of that allow internal use of EOs.
    Maybe this website is based in Aus?

    1. Yes, I am in Australia and also French. I have a diploma in French aromatherapy and I personally have been taking EO internally since I was a child and we never had any issues. Like anything else, one needs to know how to take them.

    1. Hi Evi, yes, both oils are safe to horses. If you are using camelina oil for omega 3 supplement, please note that flax oil has a better ratio and content of omega 3. And you shouldn’t use coriander if your horse has cancer. I hope it helps

  3. What oils are good for sprains, aside from birch and peppermint? (I will use spearmint or maybe something a little less strong.) I know how it can be an irritant, but horses LOVE mints! Mine love them and on will chase u for it! Still doing research. Appreciate your help! Thanks! -Jazz

    1. Hi Jazz, there are few you can use. The main ones are arnica of course, wintergreen, yarrow, St John’s Wort (Hypericum) as a carrier oil, clove, lavender and German Chamomile etc. Spearmint and other mints are fine too. Just make sure you dilute them with a carrier oil to avoid burning of the skin, especially if you use clove oil. You can also use them in combination with clay. French green clay is very good for sprains. Again, if adding the EO to clay, only a drop of each will suffice or it will burn them. Never use hot water with clay, always cold. I hope this helps.

      1. I recently read about a equine liniment that uses 20 drops of wintergreen, 10 drops of peppermint, 10 drops of juniper, 5 drops of ginger, 2 drops of jasmine, 1/2 to 1 cup of epson salts, and a bucket of water. Is this safe to use on my horse after a workout? Thanks!

        1. We have a safe horse balm product for horses non chemicle non toxic after exausting run or raceing sprint
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