Essential oils are becoming more and more popular as a way to do everything from ease anxiety to treat certain health conditions. Traditionally used in aromatherapy, these potent oils are sometimes considered to be natural, alternative options to traditional medicine—and people are increasingly using them in their homes for a variety of purposes, but is it okay to expose your pet bird to these oils? The short answer is not likely, but it all depends on the oils you use, how you use them and, most importantly, what your vet has to say.
Are Essential Oils Safe for Your Bird?
Made from highly-concentrated plant substances, essential oils are considered to have an array of health and wellness benefits for humans, and some holistic veterinarians are even incorporating essential oils into their treatments. However, the use of essential oils to combat illnesses and other conditions in animals is relatively new—and there hasn’t been enough research to determine whether they are truly effective in treating, or even remotely benefitting, our pets.
Therefore, whether you share your living space with a dog, cat, or bird, there are always precautions that should be taken. For birds, in particular, you'll want to be sure to always consult a veterinarian, as caution should always be taken when using any form of essential oils around your feathered friends.
Dangers of Essential Oils for Birds
Many essential oils are volatile compounds, and thus can prove potentially toxic to birds at certain concentrations—because what’s safe for humans isn’t necessarily safe for your pets, especially when the oils remain in their original form of 100 percent concentration. The trouble is that many essential oils users rely on diffusers and warmers to release the oils into the air in their homes, which makes it impossible to completely eliminate any risks to your bird or other pets. Birds can be particularly sensitive animals, so bird owners should always use extreme caution when using essential oils. Veterinarians don't have enough studies or evidence on the safeties of using aerolized essential oils around birds, especially when using diffusers and warmers, and the damage it could do to birds can be high which is why most veterinarians advise against it.
If using essential oils carefully and appropriately, such as being sure to dilute them, never getting them into your bird’s eyes and having clear instructions from your vet, you don’t necessarily have to completely avoid the oils in your home. Some bird owners might even consider using essential oils for both cage cleaning and air freshening—anyone with a bird knows that caring for these pets can sometimes be a stinky business, and essential oils seem to offer a more natural alternative to commercial chemical cleaners with synthetic fragrances. Rinsing everything you clean with essential oils profusely is a must to ensure that your bird can't accidentally consume it or get the oil on its feathers.
Bird owners should note that there are some essential oils that are never safe for their birds (or most animals in general), such as tea tree oil, as they can prove to be very toxic to small animals. Make sure to get a list of toxic and non-toxic oils from your veterinarian or a specialist to ensure you're not accidentally poisoning your bird.
While some humans ingest essential oils for their healing properties, it’s usually not a good idea to add the oils to your bird’s water. The oils might not mix properly and remain too concentrated—this can potentially harm (and even poison) your pet.
Similarly, while you might apply essential oils to your own skin, you never want to apply essential oils to a bird unless under the strict direction and the advice of your veterinarian (which is likely never). Applying essential oils to your bird’s feathers will make the feathers heavy and most likely cause stress to your pet.
Safely Exposing Your Bird to Essential Oils
You should never expose your bird to essential oils without talking to your veterinarian first. If you are interested in doing this with your bird, please talk to your avian healthcare expert about the ways you can safely do so.