Toxicity of Essential Oils for Animals

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There are many literature on unsafe essential oils but only a little on those unsafe for animals. One rule 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

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

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 large dose and definitely not for animals, abortive and neurotoxic
Crested Lavender Lavendula stoechas Do not confuse 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 Hihgly irritant. Best when not used externally.
Thyme Thymus vulgaris Hihgly irritant. Best when not used externally.
Clove leaf oil Syzygium aromaticum Hihgly irritant. Best when not used externally.
Juniper Juniperus communis Kidney tissue damages. 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, 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 track infection juniper, eucalyptus

4 thoughts on “Toxicity of Essential Oils for Animals”

  1. I’m confused. Some of the oils you say are safe, are listed as toxic? Peppermint being one of them.

    1. Hi Evi, it’s safe for both methods. Of course, topically must be diluted with a carrier oil and ingested as part of their ration and only a few drops. You could replace the oil with the actual herb though. It had a very strong smell and your horse might not like it at first.

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