1. Ingestion of essential oils, or dermal exposure to essential oils, may be an emergency. Contact your veterinarian immediately and provide as much information as you can about the product.
  2. Do not induce vomiting as there is a risk of aspiration and damage to the lungs.
  3. If the animal has ingested or licked an essential oil, rinse the mouth carefully with water.
  4. In cases of skin exposure, dermal decontamination can be performed, provided your pet is not showing any clinical signs yet. In general, oily or oil soluble agents can be washed out using mild dishwashing liquid and warm water [see article on Dermal Decontamination].




Clinical signs occur within minutes to two hours, depending on the type of oil, route of exposure, concentration and quantity the animal is exposed to.

  • Hypersalivation
  • Retching or gagging
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Vocalisation
  • Local skin reactions
  • Skin ulcerations or chemical burns
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Uncoordinated gait (ataxia)
  • Tremors and/or convulsions
  • Hind limb or muscle weakness
  • Recumbency
  • Paralysis
  • Behavioural changes
  • Death


Essential oils are irritants to mucous membranes and systemic effects are common. Affected animals may aspirate essential oils when vomiting so they may also directly damage the lungs.


Your veterinarian may administer activated charcoal (in the case of ingestion) and intravenous fluids. Further decontamination measures may be required. In the case of overdose, medications to protect the liver and antibiotics may be required.


BSAVA (2012) BSAVA/VPIS Guide to Common Canine and Feline Poisons. Gloucester: BSAVA.

Pumlee KH (2006) Citrus Oils. In: Small Animal Toxicology.2nd Eded. Peterson ME & Talcott PA. USA: Elsevier Saunders.

Wismer T & Means C (2012) Toxicology of newer insecticides in small animals. Veterinary Clinics of North America Small Animal Practice. 42(2):335-347