VIDEO: Essential Oils and Animals – Pharmacist Lindsey Elmore


Summary of Lindsey Elmore video from January 29, 2018

Lindsey Elmore here with Mollie Vacco. We are going to talk about pets and essential oils. I’ll bring you the science perspective and Mollie brings practical, hands-on experience as a horse trainer and dog breeder with barn cats and chickens around her house. I’ve used essential oils around gerbils, hamsters, and guinea pigs so we’ve got lots of experience between us.

It was catmageddon two weeks ago and dogmageddon last week. I want you to walk away from this video knowing that you have enough data and knowing how to exercise reason and science to feel comfortable about safely and effectively using essential oils around pets.

The sense of smell in animals is much more effective and encompasses more of the genome than it does in humans. The biggest part of the human genome is dedicated to our sense of smell. We have 950 odorant-receptive genes that comprise 3-5% of our entire genetic code. That’s sweet! But a mouse has more than 2000 odorant-receptive genes that encompasses 10-20% of its genetic code. That is one of the reasons for concern about using essential oils around pets.

It also helps to know a little about animal metabolism…how things get into and out of the body. There are three phases of metabolism…

  • Phase 1 – Oxidation reactions, reduction reactions, hydrolysis reactions, etc.—basic chemistry over and over. All animals have the ability to do basic chemistry. Think about putting vinegar with baking soda…you get bubbles due to oxidation…electrons moving around. Both humans and animals easily do these basic chemical operations. BUT, the byproducts of these reactions may not be immediately available for excretion.
  • Phase 2 – Here is a big difference between humans and animals. An example of this is a fat-soluble chemical in the body that needs to have something added so it can be transformed to water-soluble which can then be peed or pooped out. Most humans are omnivores—we eat meats, grains, vegetables…a wide variety of things. Same for dogs and bears. But cats are uniquely carnivorous animals. They live on meat. Cats don’t have the need to break down through digestion the chemical constituents found in plants. What are the chemical constituents found in plants? Essential oils. So cats lack the ability to do one of these critical Phase 2 steps called glucuronidation.
  • Phase 3 – Pulls one electron group off a molecule and put on a new one. This phase is irrelevant to our conversation.

When you hear people say, “You should never use essential oils around cats because they lack that UDP glucuronyl transferase,” that’s what they are talking about. They lack the ability to stick another group to a fatty-soluble molecule to convert it into a water-soluble molecule that can be pooped or peed out.

The other big difference between the metabolism of humans and that of some animals like cats is that the human liver has hundreds—maybe thousands—of metabolizing enzymes. These enzymes help the human body get rid of different chemical constituents. Cats, because they have that carnivorous diet and don’t eat lots of plants, have lost the ability to detoxify a lot of chemical constituents that come from plants. Their cytochrome P450 system—the metabolizing enzymes in the liver—is not as well developed.

So herbivores and omnivores—humans, dogs, horses, goats, sheep, cattle—are able to do all the metabolism phases and cytochrome-dependent reactions. But cats can’t.

8:50 Introduce essential oils to animals very slowly. We love that saying in essential oils, “low and slow.” But what does that mean for animals?

  • Sometime you might just be wearing them yourself while you are around your animals.
  • Sometimes you might diffuse them, but give the animal a way to get away from the diffuser.
  • Sometimes you might put oils on your hands and allow them to smell it.

Giving the animals options is really important…so they can leave or engage.

Never introduce an oil to a stressed-out animal. If you’ve brought in a brand new animal…maybe you’ve just gone to the shelter…certainly any animal that has suffered abuse…the last thing you want to do when they are freaking out is to introduce essential oils.

Put the oil on yourself and then go into the room with the animal so you can observe how they react. Then, hold a CAPPED essential oil 10 inches or so in front of the animal’s nose. See how it responds. If they lean in, they like it. If they back away, I typically won’t expose them any further. THEY’LL TELL YOU!

For example, if you have a horse on the end of a rope, they may back away. On the other hand, if a horse likes it, they may lick the bottle out of your hand. They’re intuitive…they’ll let you know.

If you are diffusing, be sure the animal has the ability to leave the room. This was one item of concern in the catmageddon article a couple weeks ago. It stated that the cat was exposed to the same essential oil for many days in a row, in a bedroom (most of us sleep with our doors closed), and that the cat loved to sleep under the sheets. You don’t want a cat under sheets, in a closed bedroom, with a diffuser going.

The other thing is, QUALITY REALLY MATTERS when it comes to using essential oils around pets. We really want to make sure that we are using 100% pure oils with no synthetics, no chemical additives, and no ingredients that aren’t disclosed on the label.

How do you tell? How do you know that your essential oil is high quality? Unfortunately, the rules and regulations are not are stringent as we as consumers might hope it would be. So my advice is to find a company that you believe in…their mission and vision and well as the products they product. Mollie and I are both big advocates of Young Living. If you don’t know about Young Living, talk to the person that sent you this video.

Let’s talk about specific essential oils to use with caution around animals…

Phenols have to be metabolized by the cytochrome P450 system. Oils high in phenols

Many pet parents chose to avoid these oils. Cats, reptiles and birds don’t have the cytochrome P450 system. So don’t douse your animal in in straight oregano oil! Honestly, I don’t want straight oregano oil on MY skin! IT’S HOT!

Another group of essential oils we want to use with caution around animals are those high in monoterpenes

  •  Tea tree – normally a very safe essential oil that people have been putting on their skin for thousands of years. But two things make it difficult to deal with. (1) Tea tree oxidizes faster than other essential oils. When that oxidation occurs, it can lead to the generation of more toxic compounds inside the oil. (2) Essential oils high in limonene which is converted to a phenol inside the body of pets as well as humans. So, as advocates for their pets, some pet parents chose to avoid these essential oils. Examples of oils high in limonene/monoterpenes are…
  • All citrus oils except yuzu
  • Pine
  • Spruce
  • Celery Seed
  • Fir

I’m not gloom and doom. I’m not here to tell you, “Here’s my dogmatic list of things you can never use around your pets.” I am also not the person that will panic over a blend containing a tiny amount of one of the oils listed above. I’m simply offering data and options. I want you to observe your pet and start low and slow.

If you are diffusing tea tree around your pets, make sure that it is stored appropriately—don’t put it in heat or direct sunlight and don’t expose it to extra air because those things will increase the risk of oxidation. Another option is to space things out…diffuse different oils each day. And be sure the cats have free access to leave the room. It doesn’t mean you can’t diffuse tea tree. It simply means you need to be a bit more gentle while doing it.

The third group we need to take into account around animals are those essential oils with ketones which can accumulate in cats and cause something called ketoacidosis where the blood become very acidic. So use caution with those oils high in ketones…

Again, these are just general recommendations. Just be observant and aware.

Animal skin is very different that human skin. Aldehydes in essential oils may have an increased risk of irritation. Irritation is different than toxicity. If you put essential oils on the skin and it’s irritating, that’s just irritation on the skin. On the other hand, the phenols, ketones and monoterpenes can actually get into the system through the skin and start doing their thing.

Have there been case reports of animals suffering harm from essential oils? Totally! But be aware that in some of these case reports 85 ml of essential oil was used at one time! If you put 85 ml of an essential oil on ME, I would also have an issue.

Animals, especially dogs, absorb essential oils through their fir. So it’s possible to give a topical application without meaning to.

Things to be observant for when using essential oils around animals…

  • If the skin bubbles or blisters, you want to immediately reassess. And DILUTE. Were you using a carrier oil? What was in that ointment? Your animal is going to be different based on all the things in their life.
  • If the animal becomes lethargic…excessive yawning.
  • Scratching.
  • Sneezing. When I put a bottle of essential oil in front of an animal and the sneeze, I know they don’t want that oil.
  • When dogs or cats get nervous, they’ll lift up that paw and kind of back away.
  • When goats and sheep curl their lips and back away, they don’t want it.
  • Excessive water consumption and urination.
  • Aggression.
  • Going off their food.

Young Living Animal Scents products…

I LOVE the Animal Scents Ointment. It is so multifaceted and you can use it for so many things…even yourself.

The Animal Scents Shampoo is really nice. I’ve had really good luck with it.

The Animal Scents Dental Pet Chews – OMG…the dogs go crazy over those treats!

I have a bag of the Cat Treats but haven’t gotten them to the barn yet. But people with cats tell me they love them!

All the Animal Scents oils are really nice…specific for different topics.

I cared for probably the world’s oldest Russian dwarf hamster. Normal lifespan is 6 months to one year. This hamster was 4 years old and bald. I would take a drop of Purification oil and mix it up in the hamster’s fresh bedding. I would watch the gerbils and hamsters…if they went over to the oil and then backed away…or if they walled off that section…that told me they wanted the bedding taken out.

I will use a cap full of Thieves Household Cleaner to clean a 50 gallon water trough for horses and cattle. Sometime I make a strong dilution…sometimes I even use it straight on things the horses get on their legs. Thieves Cleaner is already stabilized and gentle. I’e used it with hundreds of horses and have had really great success. Often I use one cap full in a spray bottle of water.

Horse do really well with essential oils…they do well with a ton of Young Living products. Cats are not going to be that way…you won’t be able to go up to the cat and say, “Here, have a cap full of Thieves Cleaner.”

People say put essential oils of dog’s paws? Great idea for dogs. Not so great for cats because they lick their paws and groom themselves.

I’ve heard great success stories from people using the PuriClean blend in their animals’ baths. People have used T-Away with animals from the shelter or animals that are brand new to this world…running a diffuser in a big, open space.

Just remember the science and use commonsense. If you wouldn’t put straight cinnamon on your face or your child’s face, don’t put it on your dog’s face!

NingXia Red is a product lots of people use for their pets. We’ve seen such a health boost when using NingXia Red with horses. I’ve know local dairies that have used it with their cattle. They love it. I know lots of people that give it to their dogs.

Oily animals are the best!

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