Facebook sellers of the oils are now defending their products.
Essential oils have been around forever, but the craze has taken on a new fervor over the past couple of years thanks to the rise of multilevel marketing companies.
Now, it seems everywhere you look people are selling oils on Facebook that they claim can do anything from relieving stress to managing weight, to keeping your home clean.
Essential oils are also available from countless other sellers online, including Amazon.
However, people on Facebook have been freaking out this week after a mom’s viral post stating that she accidentally “poisoned” her cat by using an essential oil diffuser.
The woman, Sue Murray from Michigan, said her daughter’s cat, Ernie, is 16 years old. She said she noticed that after she started using an essential oil diffuser she got on Amazon, her cat began acting like he was ill.
Murray claimed she had used a diffuser with eucalyptus oil next to her bed because she was told it would help with congestion.
“The first couple days I didn't notice any symptoms with Ernie, but on the fourth day, he was lethargic, unstable on his feet and was drooling excessively,” she said.
Her husband googled it and read that eucalyptus oil can be fatal to cats. Murray said she rushed Ernie to the vet right away.
“The vet gave him a shot of antibiotics and another shot of vitamins to boost him and instructions to watch him over the weekend,” she said. “Ernie hasn't been himself. He is eating and drinking a little, walking a little better, has some diarrhea, but is still not out of the woods.”
She added that she had no idea the oils could possibly hurt her pets and didn't see a warning label on the product. Murray didn't return requests for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Her post has been shared over 700,000 times, with people both worried about and discounting her claims. So, BuzzFeed News turned to the experts at the American Veterinary Medical Association, who told us, yep, people need to be careful about using oils around their furry friends.
“It appears that these products are potentially toxic to pets (cats in particular) and we'd advise pet owners to be cautious in using them around the house,” said Michael San Filippo, a spokesman for the AVMA.
He added that if you choose to use the oils anyway, you should keep them away from your pets and monitor them for signs of poisoning like “drooling, pawing at the face, difficulty breathing, lethargy, vomiting, or muscle tremors.”
The ASPCA also warns against the dangers of using essential oils around animals, noting that cats are especially sensitive to them and can suffer gastrointestinal upset, central nervous system depression, and even liver damage. If animals accidentally inhale the oils, they can even develop “aspiration pneumonia.”
The ASPCA also advises that different companies and oil blends can contain different concentrations, which may lower or increase the toxicity.
“Based on this, we would not recommend using essential oils in areas where your pets have access, unless pets are supervised or the use of the oil is approved by your veterinarian,” they stated.
However, many essential oil sellers are now taking to Facebook to proclaim that their products are actually safe to use around pets. A veterinarian named Janet Roark, who is a seller for DoTerra, posted a response video saying Ernie’s symptoms could be due to many different things, accusing Murray of using cheap oils.
“We can't really say for sure that the essential oils, if that's what they were, was actually causing the symptoms because she had been using them for several weeks before he started having these all-of-a-sudden symptoms,” she said in her video.
Roark said if cat owners are worried about toxicity they should be sure to use a water-based diffuser and make sure to use a reputable oils company. She didn't return a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
Neither DoTerra nor Young Living immediately returned questions from BuzzFeed News about their products and animals. However, on its website, Young Living states that you can “absolutely” use its products on your animals.
However, the company states pet owners should start with diluted oils and see how pets react. They say pet owners can rub oils on the paws of their dog or cat.
“Every animal is different, so carefully observe how each animal responds to the oils. Use common sense and good judgment as you try different methods,” the company states.
The company adds people should take “special caution when using essential oils with cats,” which are averse to “high-phenol” and “citrus” oils.
However, when asked in the comments section what oils could be used safely on cats, the company deferred to a vet.
“If you have further concerns, we recommend that you seek the advice and recommendation of a competent, trained veterinarian with knowledge and experience with essential oils use on animals,” they wrote.