Can diffusion cause discomfort? Certainly. What might an animal show if they are not tolerating the level of diffusion you are exposing them to? Lethargy, increased breathing rate, panting, drooling, change in breathing pattern, squinting eyes, or any other change that you would consider to be "detrimental" or out of the ordinary.
If an animal exhibits signs of distress during diffusion, simply turn off the diffuser and increase access to plain fresh air. In most cases, this is enough to stop any issues. However, if there is ever concern, or if changed behaviors are severe or last more than 20 minutes after fresh air is provided, you may wish to consult with a veterinarian.
In this situation, water-based diffusion is used in an average household room with the animal. The animal may or may not be able to leave the room, but is generally over 5 feet away from the diffuser. This method is appropriate for all animals including birds, reptiles, exotic species, and cats.
This situation may include using a water-based diffuser in a much smaller room, such as a bathroom, with an animal. This allows for greater exposure to the essential oil vapor.
With this method, I would be directing the diffuser vapors into a cage or kennel of an animal. Basically, placing a diffuser in close proximity with an animal who otherwise cannot move away from the vapor.
This method is more intense and concentrated than directing diffusion vapor into an otherwise open cage. With tenting, I cover an animal's enclosure to effectively trap the diffusion vapors around the animal, and ensure a higher level of inhalation and exposure. Placing plastic wrap, plastic sheeting, or towels over both the cage and the diffuser, creates a situation where generally the animal will be enveloped in a misty cloud of essential oil vapors. This method must be monitored much more intensely.
It is interesting to consider also - that diffusion will permeate and penetrate even fur, skin, and tissues. A vapor mist around the entire animal can impart anti-fungal benefits to conditions such as ringworm, or even anti-inflammatory actions to the swollen eyes of kittens with severe upper respiratory infections.*
Starting Points for Water-Based Diffusion:
For the H2EO diffuser, generally 1-4 drops of essential oil(s) can be added to the machine when close contact with the diffuser and an animal is planned. This includes placing a diffuser close to a caged animal, tenting an animal with the diffuser vapor, and for animals that have not had much prior exposure to essential oil use or whom are considered fragile or exotic. In this category, I would include animals such as insects (honey bees, tarantulas), Chinchillas, Sugar Gliders, etc...
Dilution of the essential oil(s) is accomplished by varying how much oil is added to the water within the diffuser. The need for dilution of the essential oils with a carrier oil (such as coconut oil), is not necessary for water-based diffusion - and could actually be harmful to the diffuser.
I always recommend smelling the diffuser vapor yourself prior to introducing it to an animal. I hadn't considered 4 to 5 drops of an essential oil to be very strong, until I put my face directly into the vapor for a few minutes. As I was intending to place this vapor into a cage with a dog - I wanted to know how it felt. It was actually quite intense.
When starting to diffuse for an animal - start with a light amount, start diffusing in an open area, and stay with the animal for the first five to ten minutes or more of the diffusion. If an individual animal can only tolerate 5 minutes of diffusion in an open room - they would likely not tolerate a tenting situation. In emergency situations, you may need to move towards more intense diffusion right away, but these situations are hopefully few and far between. And, make sure to always have the advise of your veterinarian before dealing with any serious situation.
Another method of water-based diffusion is to add essential oils into water contained in a glass spray bottle. This solution is shaken to disperse the essential oils within the water before each use, and then sprayed into the air. This method is also incredibly flexible, as anywhere from a toothpick dip to 20 or more drops of essential oil(s) can be added to varying amounts of water - allowing for incredible flexibility in the concentration of essential oils that are put into the environment. You can purchase high quality glass spray bottles along with animalEO products which have been proven over time to stand up to essential oil use for years!
With water-based diffusion, water is added to a machine along with varying numbers of drops of essential oil(s). It is generally recommended to NOT diffuse essential oils that contain a carrier oil within the diffuser, as the "fatty" oil can ruin the delicate parts and mechanisms of the diffuser. For diffusion - we recommend only animalEO products that do not have Fractionated Coconut Oil as an ingredient. Most of our products will say "NEAT" or "Diffusion Blend" when they are appropriate for use in a diffuser. Although - make sure to check the information page on the product you intend to use for full instructions.
The beauty of water-based diffusion is the variable diffusion concentrations that can be achieved. The teeniest dip of a toothpick, one drop of essential oil, or even 20 drops of essential oil can be added to a batch of water in a diffuser; allowing the utmost control in levels of exposure. Although hardly necessary - one drop or less can be added to a diffuser.
Water-based diffusion is by far the best method for all animals that are in a "home" setting. My favorite diffuser is pictured above, and is called the H2EO Ultrasonic Diffuser. In the near future, this diffuser will be available for sale right alongside of animalEO products, but for now we recommend ordering this model right from the company who makes them! Currently they offer a free essential oil with a diffuser purchase - and I recommend that you request one of the following oils: Blue Gum Eucalyptus (globulus), Eucalyptus Australiana (radiata), Lemon Eucalyptus, Lemon Ironbark, Lemon Tea Tree, Nerolina, Niaouli, Peppermint, Rosalina, Spearmint, or Tea Tree Premium Select. All of these oils are from a wonderful essential oil source in Australia, and are trusted for use in our home and with our animals. I do prefer the single oils, and do not recommend the use of the blended products for animals.
Within the mechanical category, three main styles of of diffusers can be considered. One is what I refer to as water-based diffusion (also called ultrasonic), another would be air-style diffusion, and the third utilizes a spritzer bottle. I do not recommend any type of diffusion that involves heating or "burning" of the essential oil with a candle or with excessive heat. Car Diffusers are the only exception to the "gentle heat" rule - as they often supply a small amount of heat to a pad containing the essential oil - but we have used these successfully for many years - and many animals (and humans) benefit greatly from the diffusion of essential oils during a car ride.
Passive diffusion can include the placement of essential oils onto Sniff-Its, cotton balls (100% cotton please, without synthetic materials...), tissues, cage papers, and even humans - allowing the oils to passively waft into the area around the animal.
There are several ways in which diffusion of essential oils into the air can occur. Mechanical diffusion utilizes a machine or propulsion of some sort to mobilize essential oil particles into the air. Passive diffusion is what I consider the evaporation of essential oils into the air on their own accord.
Diffusion in a water-based ultrasonic diffuser is an ideal way to expose animals to the health benefits of essential oils on a regular basis. If you think about what occurs in nature, animals would be exposed to small amounts of essential oils from the plants in their environment, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even the basic Oak tree releases essential oil constituents into the air! There is a reason we just "feel better" when we are outside. Essential oils are supposed to be part of our lives, as well as our animals'. And when we live indoors, and have limited exposure to plants and Mother Nature, our health and happiness starts to suffer. It is my theory that regular exposure to small amounts of essential oils, as nature intended, is a huge link to obtaining and maintaining health and emotional stability.