Almost everyone I know uses something in their home to make it smell better. Some use the plugins, others use the spray (like Glade or Febreze), scented candles have been a household favorite for a long time, and recently oil diffusers have gained popularity. I mean, who doesn’t want their house smelling amazing all the time? I love my oil diffuser, and while I know not all oils are good for pets, I just recently learned the impacts that other fragrance home products can have on our fur babies.
Recent studies have linked fragrance home products to an increase in health issues in pets. Airborne toxins accumulate in the smallest animals to the highest degree, which means while an adult will metabolize these toxins easier, a small cat or dog will build these toxins up in their bodies much quicker over time. How do these toxins actually get into your pets? They travel from the air and land on all surfaces, including floors, where your cat or dog will pick it up on their paws. Your pet absorbs these chemicals through the pads on their feet and whatever lands on their fur is later ingested, especially with cats, when they groom themselves.
Our enemy in the ingredients list of these fragrance home products is volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s. These are organic chemicals that have low boiling points and thus have high vapor pressure at room temperature. They easily evaporate from a solid or liquid form into the air. The transformation is called volatility and its exactly what we want air fresheners to do: change a scent by breaking down one form and dissolving into the air.
Sadly, this is the same process that happens in varnishes, paints, fossil fuels, and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, which is known as a human carcinogen, has been found in nearly all of these incredible smelling products. When formaldehyde is inhaled over a significant period of time it can lead to nasal cancer, throat cancer, and other respiratory issues such as asthma. Electronic air fresheners combined with sprays or other fragrance products can lead to a critical exposure limits.
Naphthalene, which is found in car exhaust and cigarette smoke, has also been found in plugins. Exposure to large amounts of this compound can result in red blood cell damage or even destruction. It is known for its use in mothballs because it is an insecticide and has actually been banned in both the E.U. and China because of its harmfulness. Most importantly, it has been found to cause cancer in the tissue of lab animals.
So, something to keep in mind, is that it is safe to assume that whatever chemicals you use to clean your house or make it smell good will end up in the bloodstream of your fur babies.
If you're tossing all of your plugins, candles, and sprays and you want to go the essential oil route, your next question is probably, so which essential oils can I use that won't harm my pets? The first step is to recognize that your pet’s sense of smell is a lot stronger than yours, so keep that in mind when adding oil to your diffuser - a little goes a long way. Another factor is the quality of essential oils you use. Just like every other product, essential oils vary in price and quality. High quality therapeutic grade essential oils are going to be the best for both you and your pet.
Essential oils that should NOT be used around dogs include: anise, clove, garlic, horseradish, juniper, thyme, wintergreen, and yarrow. These oils can not only interfere with natural body processes, they can cause allergies and skin sensitivities.
Essential oils that should NOT be used around cats: wintergreen, peppermint, cinnamon, pine, citrus, sweet birch, clove, eucalyptus, tea tree, Ylang Ylang, pennyroyal, and thyme.
The good ones?
Lavender helps reduce anxiety and nerves
Peppermint is good for circulation, arthritis pain, and discouraging pests
Chamomile helps relaxation, sleep, and healthy digestion
Cedarwood discourages pests while encouraging healthy skin and coat
Ginger promotes healthy digestion and relieves arthritis/ hip dysplasia pain
Myrrh can be used to help fight allergies and support healthy skin and coat
Clary Sage is known for its calming effects
Carrot Seed can be used as a topical treatment for dry skin
Geranium deters pests and can be used for ear infections
Helichrysum can be used topically to relieve pain relief and skin problems
Marjoram deters pests and can treat skin irritations and infections