The miracle of neem oil is that it can be used as an anti-inflammatory, a ringworm treatment, as well as to repel insects. Does it really live up to its claims? Is it safe for your pets?
Veterinarians agree that neem can be beneficial to some animals. However, it has its limits. Learn about the potential risks and learn how to safely use it before you try it on your cat or dog.
What is Neem Oil (Neem Seed Oil)?
The neem tree ( Azadirachta Indica)a native of Sri Lanka, Burma, and India is now grown all over the tropical world.
Ayurvedic doctors use the majority of parts from this tree for treating various ailments, according to Dr. Lisa Pinn McFaddin. She is the medical director at Independent Hill Veterinary Clinic, located in Manassas Virginia. Oil from the seeds is most often used in the United States as a topically applied oil. Cold-pressed oil, which can range in color from yellow to red to brown is preferred for oil extraction.
Pinn says that neem oil has properties such as omega-6 and Omega-9 essential fatty acids and vitamin E. However, the majority of its health benefits can be attributed to Triterpenes. Triterpenes, a chemical compound found in animals and plants that helps them manage inflammation.
She says that azadirachtin is the most common triterpene. “Azadirachtin, a strong insecticide. “Nimbin has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as antiseptic and antifungal. It also reduces fever.”
However, these benefits are not without their drawbacks. The strong smell and the difficulty of working with pure neem can make people dislike it. Dr. Melissa Shelton is a holistic veterinarian at Crow River Animal Hospital, located in Howard Lake in Minnesota. Even in its dilute form, experts compare the smell of neem to that of garlic.
Neem oil can be beneficial to our pets.
The most reliable way to use neem oil as an insect repellant is by using it topically. McFaddin is an integrative vet who says that neem can be applied topically to repel or kill biting insects such as mosquitoes and biting midges. She adds that it’s not clear whether neem is an effective repellent and killer of ticks.
The effectiveness of the oil depends on several factors. The effectiveness of neem depends on a number of factors.
Vets warn against the use of neem or any other herb as a repellant. They recommend using it in combination with preventive measures. The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine’s nutrition resident, Dr. Danielle Conway says that ticks, fleas and mosquitoes can carry dangerous diseases like heartworms, Babesia and Bartonella. They also transmit Lyme disease and tapeworm. She advises pet parents to regularly check their animals for parasites if they choose neem as the only repellant. According to Dr. Katie Grzyb of One Love Animal Hospital, Brooklyn, New York, blood testing is recommended every three-six months for pets that aren’t on monthly flea, tick, and mosquito preventatives. She says that tests will be used to monitor tick and heartworm-borne diseases. The earlier you diagnose the disease, the less costly and easier it is to treat.
Some of neem oil’s properties–azadirachtin, nimbin, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E–suggest that it might also be effective in treating ringworm, local demodectic mange, hot spots, soothing inflamed skin, and reducing itch, says McFaddin. There are, however, no scientific studies that prove the effectiveness of neem for treating these conditions.
What is Neem Oil?
Our experts emphasize that neem oil is only to be applied topically. Ingestion of the oil must be avoided. McFaddin states that it is available in commercial form as tinctures or sprays for topical use, shampoos and salves. However, not all products are created equal. She adds, “These products may not be regulated in general and the purity of their ingredients could be questionable.” It is important to buy neem from a reputable source.
You can make your solution yourself at home if you and your pets can tolerate the smell. Most vets agree that the product shouldn’t contain more than 1 percent of neem. Mahaney says that pet owners can create their own shampoo or spray by mixing neem with an oil such as olive or almond in a ratio of 1:10.
Conway suggests a DIY product that is suggested by Veterinary Herbal Medicine. This book was written by veterinarians Susan Wynn, and Barbara Fougere. Pet parents can create their own topical treatments by mixing 25mL oil with 400mL shampoo or 1 cup of neem leaves in 1 liter of water. Bring to a simmer and spray on the affected area daily.
Use of Neem Oil: Risks
Neem oil, in the right concentrations, is considered to be safe. Mahaney: “Neem Oil is not listed by the ASPCA Poison Control Center and Pet Poison Helpline as a toxin plant product in cats or dogs, but I still recommend using it with caution on all cats and dogs under the guidance of their primary veterinarian.”
McFaddin adds that neem can interfere with oral diabetes medications, insulin and thyroid hormone supplements.
Mahaney does not recommend that pet owners use concentrated products because the dangers of undiluted neem oils are unknown. If a pet parent wants to make his or her own dilution then the 1:10 ratio should be used.
He says that neem oils in their undiluted form can cause irritation to the skin. This is especially true if they are left on skin for longer than 24 hours. If a product that is not diluted is applied to a dog, and then the pet eats it, they may exhibit excessive salivation, appetite change, vomiting or other symptoms.
Shelton says that neem oil is mostly used for dogs and horses, with a relatively wide margin of safety. Cats are not as familiar with neem oil, so we still advise caution for the time being, since cats tend to groom themselves more often than any other animal (and therefore more likely to consume it). We would advise against using neem until safety and veterinary data are documented.
Conway advises that you stop using neem if your pet becomes distressed after applying the oil. Signs of distress include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and respiratory distress.
Vets warn against using neem oil as the only insect repellant. It is still unclear whether neem can be used to effectively treat any other condition. There aren’t as many data on neem oil for companion animals, just like with herbal remedies. Always consult your veterinarian if you are unsure.