Cedarwood oil is gaining in popularity as a nontoxic choice in the battle against fleas by pet owners concerned that chemical-based applications are harmful to their four-legged companions. Many manufacturers of pet products now produce anti-flea formulas containing cedarwood oil. While it is a natural substance, pet owners should not use the product without first evaluating its use for their individual animals.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, cedarwood oil has been registered as pesticide since 1960. The EPA defines a pesticide as any substance intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating the effect of any pest. Cedarwood does not kill fleas; it only works as a natural agent to repel them.
What Is Cedarwood Oil?
While the language experts at Merriam-Webster define cedarwood oil as "an essential oil obtained from the heartwood of cedars and used in soaps and perfumes," manufacturers also commonly mix oil obtained from the wood of juniper and cypress trees in their compounds.
How It Works
Fleas are pheromone addicts in that they use their sense of smell to detect a warm-blooded victim to which they want to attach. This dependence on scent works against fleas when cedarwood oil is present, because the oil itself disrupts the octopamine neuron that receives scent-based information. The octopamine neuron is what directs insects to and from appropriate food sources. The neuron interrupts the scent of cedarwood oil as indicating undesirable food. It's equivalent to the effect the smell of ammonia has on humans. It causes the insect to avoid the source of the smell.
Uses On and Around Animals
Cedarwood oil is added to a variety of pet shampoos and is available in spray compounds used to treat pet bedding. Spot-on treatments and those applied directly to the animal are also manufactured to include cedarwood oil. These types of application products are sold according to the animal's weight. As flea species vary between cats and dogs, it is imperative to purchase flea-control products specific to each species.
Some animals are allergic to cedarwood oil. As a pet owner, you will discover if this is true of your pet if he is exposed to cedarwood oil. Take a moderate approach when beginning to use cedarwood oil to determine if your pet is susceptible. Possible symptoms to watch for are watery eyes, runny nose and excessive scratching. Cats are more prone to cedar allergies than are dogs. Discontinue use of cederwood products if you think your pet may be allergic.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.