Adding Essential Oils to Drinking Water

Whenever considering adding essential oils to an animal's water supply - several considerations must be made.

Water Containers & Storage:

Many exotic pet water containers are made of plastic or have plastic components.  As essential oils may degrade these plastics, care must be taken only to use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel water containers with the use of essential oils.  In the situation of horses and large animals, troughs are commonly made of hard plastic or galvanized metals.  It is difficult to avoid these materials, and in practice, it appears to cause no detrimental effects.  If given a choice, I do prefer the hard plastic troughs or old ceramic bath tubs over galvanized materials when possible.  Stainless steel troughs or watering devices would be even more ideal.

Exposure of the Animal:

Care must also be taken in how the animal may interact with its water source.  For snakes who often soak in their water dishes to birds who may bathe in them - considerations must be made to the strength, oil selection, and property of the oil added to the water.  Peppermint is a nice oil to drink on a hot day, however a snake soaking in water with peppermint added may find a "cold irritation" from the sensation and contact.  animalEO products will state which species they are most appropriate for.

Ensuring Adequate Water Intake:

One of the worst things we could do is to cause an animal to avoid drinking by making an essential oil solution too strong or by choosing an essential oil that the animal dislikes.  Although many animals actually prefer water with essential oils - it is always wise to provide a plain water source while you offer the new water - until you are certain that the animal is drinking the essential oil water well, and in adequate amounts.


Unless a situation is critical, it is wise to start with small amounts of oil added to high quality water, and gradually increase the oils over the course of a week.  A concentration that is often used for animals is one drop per liter of distilled, reverse osmosis, or good quality spring water.  A glass jar is perfect to mix and store your drinking water in, and it should be rocked to mix prior to dispensing.

For highly sensitive or fragile animals - such as certain species of fish, insects, snakes, and amphibians - starting with a toothpick dipped into the essential oil, then into the liter of water is a conservative starting point.

In critical situations - adding essential oils to water is typically not a route that would be used - as often these animals may not be drinking properly.

Species Specific Instructions:

Birds:  Birds generally have a very poor sense of taste, and it is quite easy to add essential oils to their drinking water.  Care must be taken for birds who bathe in their water, and careful monitoring of water intake is important.  In general, 1 drop per liter of water is commonly used.

Chickens & Poultry:  Chickens are much less able to bathe in their drinking water based on the water dispensers used by most farms.

A wider variety of oils have been given via drinking water to flocks for various conditions.  This is likely the easiest method for

administration to flocks of chickens, turkeys, pheasants, and so forth.  Care must be considered when adding the oils to drinking water

systems, as high concentrations may may damage plastics or certain components of automated systems.  Starting with low amounts,

and gradually increasing the concentrations is recommended.  Knowing how much water your flock generally consumes on a daily

basis - BEFORE adding essential oils to the water supply is crucial.  After you know how much water should be consumed, you will be 

able to compare if the same amount of water (or more) is being consumed after the addition of essential oils.  Often, the use of plastic

or metal poultry water containers is necessary.  As with horse troughs, although these materials are not ideal, we have not seen detrimental effects.

Exotics:  For products recommended for use in drinking water, the general starting point for exotic animals is also 1 drop per liter of water.  Of course, it is always advisable to start with even more dilute concentrations (such as a toothpick dip), and gradually work your way up to the desired amount of oil.  Monitoring for water intake, and providing a plain water source is recommended for all species.

Cats:  Cats are less likely than other animals to consume essential oils within their water, although there certainly are cats that do, and sometimes with surprising oil selections.  The key with cats is to start with extremely small amounts (toothpick dips), to always offer an alternate water source for drinking, and to very gradually increase concentrations.  It is important to note that just because a cat may refuse to drink one particular essential oil, it does not guarantee the refusal of others.  Most cats are unlikely to progress to a concentration stronger than 1 drop per liter of water.  In the cases of households where water is offered to dogs and other animals, and a cat may choose to drink the essential oil water - this is fine.  Generally, if any product has been recommended for addition to drinking water, and an animal selects on its own to consume it - this will be perfectly fine, and actually beneficial!

Dogs:  Dogs are much easier to work with.  Starting with small amounts and gradually increasing the concentration is still advisable, along with careful monitoring of acceptance and water intake.  While 1 drop per liter of drinking water is average, there are many dogs who drink from horse troughs with much higher concentrations of essential oils added to the water.  Use of a ceramic, glass, or stainless steel drinking bowl is still advised, and mixing the oil thoroughly into the water is needed.  Although the oil may separate slightly with time, this does not appear to cause huge concerns.

Horses & Larger:  These animals almost prefer essential oils in their water.  Often many drops can be added to a trough.  Start with 5 drops, and gradually increase based on responses.  Agitating the water's surface after the addition of oils can help to disperse them.