Q: My veterinarian chewed me out me for putting lavender oil on my cat’s paws to relax her before our appointment. He told me essential oils are highly toxic to cats. How was I supposed to know?
A: Because owners apply them to their own bodies for minor ailments, many owners assume that such oils are safe for use on pets. Not so. Cats, in particular, lack the necessary liver enzymes to break down these compounds into manageable molecules.
Dogs may also be adversely affected. Local irritation, vomiting and weakness are common responses, and liver failure and death may follow.
Oils of cinnamon, citrus, clove, eucalyptus, oregano, penny royal, peppermint, pine, sweet birch, tea tree (melaleuca), thyme, wintergreen and ylang ylang, among others, are poisonous to pets.
Though lavender is considered less toxic, applying any oil to the paw of an animal, where it will feel compelled to lick it off, is never a good idea.
Nonetheless, these and other home remedies proliferate on the Internet. Here are five questions to ask about online advice:
• Has it been tested?
• Is a veterinarian putting his or her name behind it?
• Is the website selling something? (That’s always a bad sign.)
• Is there any discussion about adverse effects?
• What does your veterinarian advise?
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.