Guinea pigs are very small animals, but they can produce some really bad odors.
Guinea pig owners will do almost anything to mask the bad smells coming from their pet’s cage, and some even turn to using essential oils.
Some people even use essential oils directly on their guinea pigs to get rid of fleas or keep the animal calm.
But are essential oils safe to use around your guinea pigs?
Many essential oils are toxic to guinea pigs, even in small quantities, and they should never be used around these small animals. Most essential oils are harmful to a guinea pig when ingested, and they are also unsafe to use on the animal’s skin.
Guinea pigs will also suffer from respiratory problems when they inhale the smell of the essential oils.
While some essential oils are deemed safe to use around guinea pigs, it is important to use them with extreme caution.
Guinea pigs are very sensitive animals, and even “safe” essential oils could cause health problems if used incorrectly.
Keep reading to learn more about which essential oils are safe and unsafe to use around guinea pigs and how to spot the symptoms of essential oil poisoning in your pet.
Table of Contents
Which Essential Oils Are Safe or Unsafe for Guinea Pigs?
The following tables show which essential oils are safe and unsafe to use around your guinea pig.
The essential oils considered safe to use around guinea pigs should only be used in a passive diffuser in a well-ventilated area.
Never apply any type of essential oil directly to your cavy’s skin or give it to them orally.
|Tea Tree (most toxic!)
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are created by distilling the concentrated extracts from plants.
These extracts, which contain the essence of a plant, evaporate into the air and release their scent.
The vapors from the evaporation of essential oils are known as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs.
VOCs consist of chemical compounds, such as phenylpropanoids, phenols, and hydrocarbons.
Essential oils are used in various ways, including aromatherapy, pest control, and cleaning products.
While many people use essential oils in their everyday routines, some risks are involved.
It is never safe to ingest essential oils or use them topically because they will absorb into your skin.
Not only will essential oils cause skin irritation, but some of them may also cause miscarriages, especially in early pregnancy.
Tea tree and lavender essential oils have been known to cause abnormal breast development in adolescent males.
Linalool, the active ingredient in lavender essential oil, is also cytotoxic to skin cells.
Consult your doctor before using essential oils, and do not use them near your pets as some oils are toxic to animals and may even cause death.
What About Essential Oil Diffusers?
There are two types of diffusers for essential oils: active and passive.
Active essential oil diffusers use electricity to release a cloud of diluted oil into the air.
In contrast, passive diffusers simply hold the oils and allow them to dissipate into the air naturally.
You dilute the essential oils with water with active diffusers, so the fragrance is carried through water vapor into the air.
Never use an active essential oil diffuser around your guinea pig.
Since active diffusers disperse more oil into the air, there is a much greater risk of harmful effects on your cavy.
The oils will settle onto your cavy’s fur, where they are ingested when the animal grooms itself.
Guinea pigs clean themselves quite frequently, so the risk of ingestion is exceptionally high.
Even if your guinea pig does not lick the essential oil from its fur, traces of the oil will be absorbed into the animal’s skin.
Essential oils will cause a variety of skin diseases in guinea pigs.
If you choose to use a passive essential oil diffuser with a non-toxic essential oil, you will still need to take precautions.
Keep the diffuser away from your cavy and ensure plenty of ventilation.
Guinea pigs have a very acute sense of smell when compared to humans.
What may have a light scent to you is likely overwhelming to a guinea pig’s nose.
If a guinea pig breathes in the essential oil vapors, it could suffer severe respiratory issues.
It is best to use a passive diffuser in a separate room away from your cavy, with the windows open if possible.
Further reading: How strong is a guinea pig’s sense of smell?
Are Essential Oil Scented Candles Safe for Guinea Pigs?
Essential oil scented candles need to be used with the same precautions as oil diffusers.
Only burn scented candles in a separate room from your cavy, and ensure adequate ventilation.
Aside from the toxicity of the essential oils in the candle, toxins are also released from the wax as it burns.
When paraffin wax is burned, it releases toxic compounds such as acetone, toluene, and benzene.
These toxins will cause respiratory and skin issues in guinea pigs.
Soy wax candles are much safer for a cavy, but they should still be kept away from the animal.
In addition to the toxins released by scented candles, they are also a fire hazard.
Your pet may accidentally knock the candle over or get too close and be burned.
Symptoms of Essential Oil Poisoning in Guinea Pigs
There are several common symptoms of essential oil poisoning in guinea pigs you need to be aware of, and they include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Redness on the skin or lips
If you have used essential oils in your home without being aware of the danger to your cavy, it is crucial to monitor your pet’s behavior for any symptoms listed above.
You need to seek veterinary care for your guinea pig immediately at the first sign of symptoms.
Any delay in medical care may be fatal for your cavy.
Take the bottle of essential oil with you to the veterinarian so they will be able to start the correct treatment for your pet.
Take your cavy outdoors for fresh air if it has breathed in the essential oil vapors for immediate relief.
If the essential oils have made direct contact with your guinea pig’s skin or fur, use a pet-safe shampoo to give your cavy a bath.
Fresh air and a bath are not a substitute for veterinary care, but you may be able to decrease the amount of damage done from essential oil exposure.
Are Essential Oil Cleaning Products Safe for Guinea Pigs?
Many homeowners use natural ingredients like essential oils in their cleaning products.
While they are an excellent chemical-free alternative to commercial cleaning products, essential oils are harmful to small pets like guinea pigs.
Tea tree oil is commonly used as a cleaning agent because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties.
However, tea tree oil is one of the most toxic essential oils for pets, small and large.
If you still decide to use a tea tree oil-based cleaning product in your home, it is important to wipe away any residue left on tables and floors.
Keep your guinea pig away from newly-cleaned areas of your home until the cleaner has completely dried and the smell has dissipated.
Odors from essential oils may be strong enough for your cavy to stop eating, leading to the animal starving.
How Do You Prevent Bad Smells from Guinea Pigs?
Many people assume guinea pigs are smelly animals, but foul odors have more to do with their environment.
The safest and best way to prevent bad smells from guinea pigs is to keep their cage clean.
Essential oils and scented candles will only mask the odor, and they are very harmful to your cavy.
Guinea pigs pride themselves on being clean, and they frequently groom themselves.
However, these small animals poop up to 100 times in one day.
Related: Can you put diapers on guinea pigs?
If the cage is not spot cleaned every day and the feces are not removed, a foul smell will develop.
Remove any soiled bedding and replace it with fresh bedding at least once a day.
Rotting food will also cause bad smells and bacteria in the cage, so removing any uneaten vegetables or fruit treats is best.
Food dishes and water bottles need to be cleaned every day, and your cavy should always have access to fresh, clean water.
Once per month, you need to deep clean your guinea pig’s cage.
To deep clean the cage, you will have to remove everything and wipe it all down with a diluted vinegar and water mixture.
This includes the cage, food dishes, and any accessories or toys within the cage.
Rinse everything thoroughly and allow it all to completely dry before putting it back together.
Lining the bottom of the cage before you replace the bedding will also help with odor control.
Using odor-resistant bedding is also a great way to keep bad smells from developing.
Check out our full guide on preventing guinea pig cage from smelling.